Middlesbrough’s story began in 1829 when Quaker Joseph Pease purchased a small farmstead by the River Tees. A year later, the trailblazing Stockton and Darlington railway had been extended to run to Middlesbrough, in part helping to make its exponential growth possible. The town was originally built to house labour needed for the new coal port nearby on the banks of the Tees, but in the following years the industries based in the town grew and changed.
In 1841, Bolckow and Vaughan opened the first ironworks in Middlesbrough. By 1875, the number of blast furnaces in the area had increased to 100, and the town was producing two million tons of iron per year. Such was Middlesbrough’s ironmaking prowess that the town was nicknamed ‘Ironopolis’.
In 1862, the politician William Gladstone said of Middlesbrough, ‘This remarkable place, the youngest child of England’s enterprise, is an infant, but if an infant, an infant Hercules’.
Alongside the production of iron was steel, with steelmaker Dorman Long established in 1875. It was a world-leading company, with bridges from London to Egypt, and China to Denmark, forged in Teesside steel. The most famous Dorman Long bridge is the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, which proudly bears the stamp ‘Made in Middlesbrough’.
With industry came people, and with people came culture. The Dorman Memorial Museum opened in 1904, a gift to the town from Sir Arthur Dorman, in memory of his son George Lockwood Dorman, who died in the Boer War. The museum originally showcased the impressive personal collections of notable local figures, including Ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, and the extensive T. H. Nelson ornithological collection, which was bequeathed to the museum in 1914. Today, the museum holds the largest public collection of locally-produced Linthorpe Art Pottery in the world, and a large, highly impressive collection of items designed by the visionary Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser.
The Transporter Bridge, an engineering marvel which spans the River Tees, was opened in 1911 to connect the boroughs of Middlesbrough and Stockton. Today it is the longest, working transporter bridge in the world, and is considered the area’s landmark.
From a tiny collection of no more than four farmhouses in 1801, the town’s population had expanded to 90,000 people less than one hundred years later in 1890. The new town of Middlesbrough chose ‘Erimus’, meaning ‘we will be’, for its motto, a sentiment which set the tone for the town’s irrepressible march forwards, a march which continues today.