Excuse me but where is Middlesbrough?
Walk from North Ormesby
Sources and Resources
Only a Short Time in History
Memories of Parliament Road
Football on the Roof
St Patrick's Church
The Tees (Newport) Bridge
Don't Mention the War?
Laws Street Block
Albert Park and 'Owld 'Enry
An Ayresome Childhood
St Paul's School
Victoria St/Greta St Now
The 'New' Newport School
Newport Bombing 15 April 1942
Closing of St Paul's School
More Memories of Parliament Rd.
Round and About King George Street
Memories of Duncombe Street
Honeymans of Cannon Street
Sun Sea & Sand
Fox Heads Page 1
Why DOGGY Town??
Fox Heads Page 2
Memories of St Paul's
A Mohawk in Middlesbrough
Remembering Craven Street
Marsh Road School
Luftwaffe Over Middlesbrough
First World War Shell Explodes in Middlesbrough
Queries:Can You Help?
St Columba's Parish in the Sixties
More Street Games
Memories Baxter Street
Judith's Middlesbrough Childhood
Links for Newport, Middlesbrough
|For me the U.K.'s best Rock singer/musician is Chris Rea. Like me he is from Middlesbrough and, I concede, this may have prejudiced me in his favour initially.
Although Chris Rea grew up a few years later than me,our Middlesbroughs were still the same as it was before the widespread clearances of older housing in the 1960s. So, you would expect us to share some experiences, but we seem not share memories. He often sings about Middlesbrough but for him it is "Windy Town". It is as if his Middlesbrough was in a time warp of permanent November evenings. Pavements are always wet and constantly swept by cold north winds. One theme in his epic work 'La Passlone' is perhaps a compensatory fantasy of an Italy, where his father’s family originated, where the sun always shines and skies are always blue.
I was born in 1943, on a typical terrace of two up/two down houses in Newport Middlesbrough and , in my childhood, the sun always seemed to shine. My memories are of playing on sun soaked pavements; the west side of the street on the morning; the east side on the afternoon. Of course it's a selective memory.It must have rained some times on my Middlesbrough but the sun must also have some times shone on Chris’s Middlesbrough. Such is perception.
In 1907 Florence Bell in her book At the Works:A Study of a Manufacturing Town wrote
“It (Middlesbrough) is obviously not a place that people would be likely to settle in unless there were very practical reasons for their doing so. There are no immediate surroundings ,either of buildings or country, to appeal to the aesthetic side of the imagination, although five or six miles south of the town the beautiful Yorkshire moors begin
Looking at photographs now ,the streets do look grim and grey but I do not remember grim and grey. I remember only a happy contented childhood, secure in a loving extended family within a wider close-supportive community.
Cannon Street and Newport
|The street I grew up in ran, more or less, north to south, it was Croft Street in the Newport district of the town. It was one of the many streets running at right angles north from Newport Road up to the railway. Halfway it was intersected by Cannon Street. Cannon Street has given its name to the whole area.
Now, the mention of Cannon Street to any Middlesbrough person not actually brought up there, summons up images of deprivation, lawlessness and even squalour. (I remember later at secondary school, a teacher pontificating that not everyone on two legs was a human being and if we didn't believe him we should take a walk down Cannon St some time.) I cannot deny the deprivation in the pre-war years but this had ameliorated considerably by the time I was born. I would, however, refute absolutely the allegations of lawlessness and squalor.
Most of the folks I remember, including my own family, were fastidiously clean. The women seemed to wage a constant battle against dirt both inside and outside the house. The front step was constantly scrubbed. Backyard walls inside and outside were swilled down and the front walls also. The pavement in front of the house, even though not part of the property, was swilled or even scrubbed on hands and knees. I can remember unwittingly walking on a newly washed pavement which hadn’t yet dried and being shouted at by an irate housewife for doing so. Talking to my Mam about this she explained ."You had to. For one thing that was where you kids used to play."
I don't remember window cleaners. The women did it themselves. The windows were the sash type and they would clean the upstairs by sitting out on the window-sill. legs inside jammed by the sash pulled down on them.
My memory is of matronly figures always dressed in pinafore aprons (pinnies)just like the 'Norah Batty character in the TV comedy 'Last of the Summer Wine.'They were forever scrubbing, swilling and sweeping, and, just like Norah, chiding. But when you talk about community these were the ones who held the community together. The men had hard gruelling jobs but, at least, at some point in the day it ended.Then it was home to a meal waiting on the table and, for many it was then an escape down to the pub or club. Yet, to me, it seemed the women worked all the time. Whoever coined that phrase 'the weaker sex' had no knowledge of women like these. They were the ones who had brought the families through the wars and the great depression and, somehow, against all the odds, held things together despite everything an often cruel fortune had thrown against them.
I’ve read that in the 1940s about 450 tons of soot per square mile fell on Middlesbrough each year. But was this any worse than anywhere else in industrial Britain? This was not solely due to the iron and steel works but also the rows of terrace house chimneys pouring out smoke from coal burning fires. This was particularly bad in the post war years because the U.K. was bankrupt having to pay off crippling war debts. Good quality coal was exclusively for export leaving only the poorest smokiest grade for domestic use. (In London, at this time, thousands choked to death in the dreadful smog created by millions of coal fires).
Anyway I was blissfully unaware of snobbery,that besetting sin of the English, and also unaware of the smoke and dirt but, then I would be. I suppose ,to some extent, for my mother and grandmother, I was just one more thing to be kept clean!
Can You Help?
The Middlesbrough terrace street world of my childhood in the 1940s and 1950s was still, in many ways, a continuance of the working class culture of the industrial Britain of Queen Victoria. We still played the games of 19c children. Girls chanted , as they skipped, “England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Russia, Prussia, Ger-mah n—ee. Prussia, as a separate entity from Germany, ceased to exist in 1870.
The end came in the late ninety fifties and sixties not particularly with the clearance of many of the terraced streets but more with the advent of working class ownership of motor cars and television., the more obvious facets of a more materialistic way of living and, perhaps, a more materialistic way of thinking. There was a social revolution in the late fifies and sixties. Much of my childhood way of life would have still been recognisable to my great-grandparents but my own children grew up in a radically different culture from me. Even my brother who is eight years younger than me grew up in a different environment. His world is shaped by the council estate not the Victorian terraces.
Croft Street in Newport, Middlesbrough, the street I grew up in, was built some time in the 1890s and in the 1960s was destroyed. It lasted barely three generations. It is gone. It isn’t just the bricks and the mortar which have disappeared. It is a culture which has gone and , unless those of us who grew up in the last days of that culture record our memories, it will be forgotten.
I started this site with memories of my own childhood in the Newport area of Middlesbrough. It has developed a bit wider than that to include memories of Ayresome, Parliament Rd and North Ormesby for example...so I'm not drawing boundaries.
So if you grew up in Middlesbrough in those times, if, as Dennis Norden said, you remember when the only people who had frozen peas were Eskimos, if you remember the milkman’s horse leaving deposits in the street , if you remember ‘itchy bay’ ‘checks’ and the zebra being forever eaten by the lion in Dorman Museum then you have something to record on this site. Photographs of the older areas of Middlesbrough as it was before ‘re-development’ would be particularly welcome. Please get in touch via the email form or the guestbook.
I thank the people who have contributed so far.
especially Tony from Welford St whose memory is so much sharper than mine.I'm delighted to have the contribution of Fred's sketches. Fred is a true Newportian living in the area all his life. And there's Albert better than all the street maps I have...Ask where such and such street is or was and he can tell as quickly as it takes to return the email.
I must also acknowledge the help of Geoff Braddy of the Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society especially for putting me in contact with local historian Paul Stephenson whose knowledge of Middlesbrough is quite simply encyclopaedic. Bill Norman who specializes in the history of the air war over the North East has also been unstinting in his help.
Here,on Teesside, we don't have many folksongs from 'way back when' but, since the 1950s, a fine tradition of local song writing and singing has been established. One of the best exponents is Richard Grainger. Richard has kindly let me use the lyrics of one or two songs from his CD Town in Time . This Album does in music what I aim to do on this site in print and photos. I cannot recommend it too highly for anyone wanting to get a feel for the character and history of Middlesbrough.
And then there's one ultra important resource -'Our Mam'- born in Newport,Middlesbrough in 1917. .
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