On the 27th December 1830, the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company formally opened their new port, sometimes referred to as Port Darlington with its associated planned new town of Middlesbrough. The port was opened with a train of passenger coaches and waggons hauled by The Globe – a new locomotive designed by Hackworth specifically for hauling passengers. The new staithes with coal drops were tried out then 600 entertained at dinner in the specially decorated gallery of the staithes (it must have been freezing!). There were free rides, refreshments, the firing of guns, and ‘great demonstrations of joy’. The staithes were lit by portable gas – the first ever burnt in Middlesbrough.

The creation of a port at Middlesbrough also served to improve communications between London and Durham. A month before the branch line formally opened, local merchants and businesses resolved to provide a weekly steam boat service linking the rivers Thames and Tees so that horses, stock, farming produce and other perishables could supply the London market. Furthermore, ‘Handsome accommodations are also intended to be provided for passengers”.  The vessels would be stationed at the new S&DR facility at Middlesbrough so that the creation of this port had a much greater impact than if it served the coal trade alone.

Eight coal drops at Port Darlington (after the first phase of expansion). Timothy Hackworth designed the first set of four coal drops. From the Tomlinson Collection.

It was clear that housing and other facilities were going to be needed for the workers now required to operate the port and the branch line. The site of the existing farmhouse, already known as Middlesbrough,  was the best and driest location for building as it was positioned on higher ground (this raised ground can still be seen today). Plans were set out by the Railway Company’s surveyor Richard Otley in 1830 to demolish it and the associated buildings and replaced them with building plots set in a grid pattern of streets around an open square.  The bones of former parishioners in the old churchyard were carted away to make room for the new town.

The building plots were offered for sale prior to the staithes being built in February 1830. Consequently, when the new branch line was opened in December 1830, the new railway town of Middlesbrough was already growing. The first house was built by a joiner Mr George Chapman on West Street in April 1830 and the first child to be born in the new town, John Richardson Chapman, was born there on the 22nd August that year.  The new town was provided with a design brief in 1831 setting out the dimensions of the houses, doors and windows with the purpose ‘of preserving some uniformity and respectability in the houses to be built’.

By 1841 the population had soared to 5,463 with 877 occupied houses, 62 uninhabited houses and 36 in the process of being built. The wider parish also included people living in barges and tents. Of this population, 2,272 had come from outside the county attracted to the new town by work created by the S&DR and growing industries.

The old farmhouse was demolished in 1846 by the new owner Robert Manners, an innkeeper. During the demolition, fragments of the Norman Priory that once occupied the site were found.  The site was then used for the Middlesbrough Hotel.

Along the northern edge of the street pattern between the town and the railway leading to the staithes, the Middlesbrough Owners laid out a road called Commercial Street. North of this, development was designed to be industrial in nature and businesses were sought which would increase the demand for coal and the need to export and import at the port. This area remains industrial in character today.

The industrialisation of Middlesbrough extended along Commercial Street eastwards and a new major development would result in shifting the core of the town to the south. This was the construction of a new dock in 1842 necessitated by the tidal restrictions of the Tees and the overwhelming demand for port facilities that had arisen since 1830. Due to limitations on the S&DR company’s powers, this was carried out by the Middlesbrough Owners, and the dock opened in 1842 with the S&DR purchasing the docks on completion. The new dock required the branch line to divert south eastwards and this Middlesbrough Branch Railway opened in 1842 too and terminated in ten sidings leading to the loading facilities. This attracted considerably more development to the south east of the planned new town including the burgeoning iron industry which now had access to a sophisticated port. The new railway formed a barrier between the 1830 town and the post 1842 town. From that time onwards, the railway was referred to as the ‘border’ and the centre of Middlesbrough gradually shifted southwards away from the 1830 planned town at St. Hilda’s.

Browse our Hackworth Collection here.

Read our full report (by our sister company Archaeo-Environment) on the Middlesbrough branchline and the creation of Middlesbrough, carried out for Middlesbrough Council, here.https://www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Planning-Middlesbrough-branch-line-report-2018.pdf