Local History Month


Hi, my name is Kingsley and I design t-shirts for Tourism Teesside. I was born in Stockton-on-Tees sometime between the invention of the railway and the construction of Wellington Square shopping centre. From the dark distant days of my childhood in Teesside I remember my mum once lost me in Marks and Spencers, numerous trips to Leslie Browns and going to the Cannon cinema to watch a Star Wars double bill. I studied Fine Art at Cleveland College of Art and Design in Hartlepool, University College Salford and Sheffield Hallam University before embarking on a career as front man in art rock bands THE CHAPMAN FAMILY (2006-2013) and KINGSLEY CHAPMAN AND THE MURDER (2014-2017), a venture which allowed me to perform in places as far flung as Texas and Tokyo, as well as feature in publications like NME and Artrocker, and be lucky enough to appear on MTV and BBC national radio stations. I’m currently in a band called BENEFITS. Don’t let any of that put you off though, it’s nothing to do with my t shirts. However, here’s a pic of me doing rock star stuff ages ago which is pretty cool.

Tourism Teesside came about from an art exhibition I did at the House of Blah Blah in Middlesbrough in 2017 called Trashterpiece. The centrepiece of the show was an altar (made of wooden pallets) where visitors to the show were invited to bring mementos and symbols of Teesside that they’d like to get rid of – a bit like the TV show Room 101. The exhibition was supposed to culminate in a ceremonial burning of all the objects on the altar, a fiery process to cleanse the good people of Teesside of their unwanted memories and hopefully to symbolically allow the region to move on and grow, to stop looking at the past with rose tinted spectacles.

However, as the show went on, the whole concept of the show flipped on its head. I found myself having conversations with visitors about the objects on display and instead of being embarrassed by them we talked honestly instead. A bit of rose-tinted specs, a bit of blood and guts. It became apparent from talking to people across a variety of age ranges that there were huge gaps from what older people knew about the cultural history of Teesside to what younger people did. If I mentioned the Terry Scott Transporter Incident to people of a certain age, they knew immediately what I was on about but anyone under 40 (or folk who didn’t have an interest in old Carry On stars) would look at me blankly. They seemed to know a lot about Juninho and could hum the tune to Pig Bag but were blissfully unaware that the Sex Pistols had played near Cannon Park in 1977 or that Middlesbrough once had a national title winning speedway team.

I set about doing some t shirt designs that tried to celebrate Teesside. However, the intention was to not do so in a stony faced historical manner that simply regurgitated the same old things that people had seen a million times before, but to try and create things that celebrated the underappreciated aspects of the region, or to reimagine old ideas in a contemporary (and maybe tongue in cheek) way.

My first ever design was a pastiche of the famous Ramones t-shirt (that’s already been pastiched to death by everyone from One Direction to the Wiggles) and it was an attempt to celebrate as much as I could about Teesside onto one tee. There’s lemon tops with UTB written on them; an ICI emblem; Phil Stamp’s “Yer jokin arn yer” quote written on a scarf; the Bottle of Notes opposite John Walker’s match; railway tracks; cooling towers; the span of the Transporter bridge taking the place of eagle wings from the original tee; and the names of six parmo restaurants in the centre piled up like pizza boxes. Surrounding everything are the names of four relatively modern Teessiders: Chris Rea, Jet from Gladiators, Bob Mortimer and finally (honorary Teessider) Juninho. It would have been more appropriate to use the names of the historic icons of Teesside: Bolckow, Vaughan, Pease, Ropner etc but nowhere near as much fun. Plus, the intention back then (as it still is now) was to try and connect with a generation that are a little historically disconnected from the regions past. The idea is to reel people in with the jokes and contemporary famous folk but then try and provide them with a snippet of cool information that they maybe didn’t necessarily know.

So, in short, Tourism Teesside is intended to reimagine and celebrate the forgotten histories of Teesside. By redesigning achievements, brands, and iconography I hope to reinvigorate a sense of pride in our region. It’s as simple as that.

There seems to be a feeling that nothing ever happens here. Teesside doesn’t get “the big names” coming up to perform; we’ve never won anything apart from the Carling Cup and all that we’re really known for is the bridge in Auf Wiedersehen Pet and a flat piece of deep-fried pork or chicken covered in orange cheese. Because people believe, rightly or wrongly, that nothing happens, there’s also a new generation that believes it’s always been that way. At a push they probably know that the Beatles famously played in Teesside the night JFK got shot but they maybe don’t know that Jerry Lee Lewis played in Stockton … as did Stevie Wonder … and Diana Ross … and Smokey Robinson … and Tom Jones … and Bowie in Boro … and Iron Maiden in the Rock Garden … and Take That in The Mall … and Killing Joke in Gaskins … and Ella Fitzgerald in Ayresome Park … and Iggy Pop in Redcar … and the list goes on.

We had cool nightclubs with awesome names like “The Electric Onion,” “Superstars” and “Mandys” too – it wasn’t always brilliant micropubs, megaclubs and Wetherspoons. There was an amazing looking sports stadium in Middlesbrough with a velodrome; a national championship winning speedway team in 1981; and a Nissan car garage on the trunk road that used Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” to awesome effect in a radio advert. It’s these pieces of relatively recent history that I want to research and promote and to get the message across in the simplest possible way that because brilliant things have happened here in the past they can happen again.

The Redcar Bowl which once graced Ozzy Osbourne on Majuba Road has been levelled; The Mall is an empty gap in Stockton High Street; the old Radio Tees studios on Dovecot Street have been divided into flats; the old speedway is now five a side football pitches; and Ayresome Park is a housing estate. There are no blue plaques in Stockton to tell people that Tony Hancock did a set at Titos on Brunswick Street or that the Arctic Monkeys played in Ku Bar but maybe there should be. Maybe we should shout about this stuff more. The Tourism Teesside tees are my way of keeping these memories alive and an attempt to kick people into action because I fear if we stop talking about them – if we stop celebrating them – then they’ll disappear just like the buildings that housed them.



Local History Month


The 1852 OS Map of Middlesbrough with the locations of railways and stations in Middlesbrough

The Coming of the Railway to Middlesbrough

Railways were very much a key part of the birth of Middlesbrough and it’s quite possible that the industrial town may have remained an isolated farmhouse for some years if the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company had not extended the railway along the southern banks of the Tees from Stockton to Middlesbrough in 1830.

Eighteen months before Joseph Pease and business partners bought the 500-acre (202 hectares) site. The Stockton and Darlington Railway Company because of the navigation issues along the Tees between Newport and Stockton, had petitioned Parliament to extend their line to Middlesbrough, where coal shipping staithes would be built to facilitate the export of coal. It would never have occurred to the business consortium that the railway would be anything other than a transport medium for the conveying of goods traffic thus facilities for carrying passengers in the early days were very few indeed.

In the early years when there was no direct road, a coach drawn by a horse along the railway and driven by coachman Jim Brown linked Middlesbrough to Stockton. It is recorded that Jim would walk along Stockton Street blowing his horn when departure time approached, any passenger who looked as if they were going to travel would be encouraged to board the coach. Often the journey to Stockton would be made behind a fleet of empty coal wagons whilst it wasn’t unknown for passengers simply to walk along the railway line on foot!

In 1834 the Railway Company announced that horses would largely be replaced by locomotives with a wooden hut close to Watson’s Wharf (later Dent’s Wharf) becoming the first railway station in the town. As passenger numbers grew the shed was removed and a new site found. The second railway station was located opposite the Custom House building and was used for 10 years.

Why did William Taylor organise a petition?

In 1847, a year after the new railway to Redcar was completed it was decided to move the station for a third time to a new location south of the town at a site close to Sussex St. There was great amazement amongst the people living in Middlesbrough that anyone could consider placing the new station so far away. Led by local businessman William Taylor, inhabitants signed a petition to the railway company asking them not to place the new station out of town where it would be most inconvenient for businesses. At that time only fields and farmhouses such as Dairy Knoll and The Grange, lay beyond the railway line. There was also a feeling that the new station was too large a concern for a small place like Middlesbrough.

10 August 1868; Prince Albert’s carriage leaves Middlesbrough Station for Marton Hall

Not another railway station!

3 December 1877; the fourth and still remaining railway station opens in Middlesbrough

When Middlesbrough experienced increasing economic growth after 1850 through the iron and steel industry it soon became necessary to consider a new railway station for Middlesbrough – one that would reflect the growing status of the town.

The third station to be built in the town (and the one which still remains today) opened in 1877 on the site of the 1847 building and this time there were no protests as this magnificent new building took its place in the business centre of the town. With its long arch and glass roof and imposing entrance it was indeed a great improvement on the wind-swept location of wooden hut which was Middlesbrough’s first railway station.

Today it still serves passengers travelling by rail to destinations within the region as well as further afield.

Paul Menzies

Local History Month


In 1933 steel erectors were working on the construction of the Newport Bridge, Bill Canwell from North Ormesby, became the first person to cross the new Tees Bridge when he walked along a 9-inch-wide (23cm) girder ….180 feet (55 metres) above the River Tees as if he was walking calmly along Linthorpe Road.

“Heavens above, what nerve! But what on earth is he doing that for?” exclaimed a spectator, craning his neck at the human fly high up above the murky river.

Make no mistake this was an amazing feat as he walked along the narrow girder between the tops of the towers! It must have been very scary for him as he walked along that narrow girder with the wind buffeted by the strong wind and the River Tees far below! But Bill showed no nerves as he made his crossing. A workmate joked that he had gone to borrow a light for his cigarette from a fellow worker on the Durham side on the north bank! 

The gathering crowd soon nicknamed Bill the ‘Teesside Blondin’ after Charles Blondin the world-famous 19th century French tightrope walker and acrobat, best known for crossing the 1,100 ft Niagara Gorge on a tightrope.

Why was Bill up there?

Work had begun on building the new bridge at Newport back in 1931. Good progress was made so by early 1933 the two lifting towers on either side of the river were ready to be joined.

In order to take the strain from the two towers during the construction of the main span in position, two false spans had to be flung across the river joining the tops of the towers.

The first was put into position on 25 January 1933 – it was a lattice girder span weighing about 30 tons (27 tonnes) and measuring 250 feet (76m) in length. Good weather helped as not a breath of wind ruffled the water enabling the lift to be carried out without any complications of a span blown out of position.

Floated on a barge, the span was towed to a position directly under the bridge and river traffic at the bridge was suspended for six hours to enable the work to be carried out. the lifting gear was already in position and when the huge steel girder work was manoeuvred into place and attached to the lifting cables the actual hoist did not take very long.

There was apparently a slight hesitation at the beginning, when it was noticed that a plank gangway on the span was incorrectly balanced, making the lift hang unevenly. However, this was quickly rectified and slowly and carefully the sun began to ascend watched anxiously by engineers from Dorman Long & Co., who were the contractors for the bridge, and also engineers on the job, from Mott, Hay & Anderson.

Many cameramen clicked their shutters recording the various stages of the lift and cinema newsreel photographers rushed around to get unusual views of what was a unique bridge. They got a ‘human touch’ when Bill Canwell did his tight-rope act. As the metal girder approached its position at the top of the 180 feet high towers, erecters swarmed like ants over the girder work to secure the span. Someone dropped a wrench which felt with a splash into the River Tees far below bringing the comment from one spectator ‘That’s christened the bridge!’

The second false spun was erected in a similar fashion one week later and Bill made his walk again!

Paul Menzies

May 2021

Local History Month

Middlesbrough Rock Garden 1976 – 1981

IT’S the back end of 1976 and the owners of a failing Bierkellar situated on the outskirts of a provincial north east town based on Teesside contemplate turning it into a music venue. They were keen to explore the possibilities of this new music that was gripping the country. The Sex Pistols had garnered most of the tabloid headlines and punk rock was all over the news. It’s unlikely looking back with hindsight that the owners would ever have imagined 45 years later that people who attended the venue, played in bands and published their own fanzines would form their own page on social media dedicated to Middlesbrough Rock Garden. Like many small businesses working in the entertainment sector they probably had an idea it would make them money very quickly without any real timescale for longevity.

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The Rock Garden would go on to champion the latest in punk rock, post punk, heavy metal, ska, reggae and various other genres that remained outside the mainstream. It was probably just as well it was situated in an area of town that had seen the wide scale demolition of hundreds of back to back street houses in the Cannon Street area a few years earlier to be replaced by a grim industrial estate and eventually a dual carriageway.

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The Sex Pistols

A veritable A – Z featuring Acne Rabble (aka Sex Pistols), Adam and the Ants, The Adverts, The Clash, The Cramps, The Damned, Dire Straits, Girlschool, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, New Order, OMD, The Police, The Pretenders, Psychedelic Furs, The Selecter, Simple Minds, The Stranglers, Squeeze, Tom Robinson Band, The Tourists, UB40, Ultravox and The Undertones would play. Or obscure bands that featuring the likes of Mick Hucknall (The Frantic Elevators), Martin Fry (Vice Versa) or Roland Gift (Akrylyx). Local heroes included Basczax, Blitzkreig Bop, Discharge, The Filth, No Way and The Vultures plus many more. Bands forming and then splitting up in their dozens. Fanzines would include Gabba Gabba Hey, Protesting Children Minus The Bondage, Street Level, Strictly Rockers, Teesside Public Address (TPA) and Teesside Smells,

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The Adverts

A brief period followed when the venue featured regularly in the tour itineraries of bands and published in the established music press of the day: Melody Maker, NME and SOUNDS. Being a punk on Teesside came with consequences mainly hyped up by the daily tabloids who rejoiced in any negative press they could find.

In 1977 we had ‘No More Heroes’ by The Stranglers and The Clash singing, ‘No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones’ on their self-titled debut released in April. The Stranglers had already made their sole Rock Garden appearance in February though they played Middlesbrough Town Hall not long after. The Clash turned up in May on a nationwide UK tour just six weeks after releasing their debut. It was to be a monumental evening at the Rock Garden. Even lights failure for several minutes couldn’t deter them. Bands were forming locally after this appearance as punk rock spread into the provinces and created its own local scenes. Even in places like Middlesbrough & Stockton, usually they would take place in run down pubs like The Albert, The Teessider and The Wellington that struggled for business during the week but punk rock found a place to grow and an eager new audience to experience everything it offered. Of course there were people who jumped on the bandwagon wanting their own taste of the action but the Rock Garden managed to last from the back end of 1976 through to August 1981. Music seemed to be moving so fast in those days. My own experiences provided opportunities to witness people changing from punk to skinhead to mod in a matter of months.

It would be easy to think of the Rock Garden just as a venue that held punk bands but it also ran heavy metal & rock evenings that featured the likes of Def Leppard, Dire Straits, Girlschool, Motorhead, Saxon and The Scorpions. Yes, for a brief time you couldn’t pick up a music paper without some band being announced as playing the Rock Garden as part of their tours. Whilst it would be easy to single out the Rock Garden other local venues like Middlesbrough Town Hall, the Coatham Bowl in Redcar and Teesside Poly also played a part too. The Rock Garden originally had an agreement in place that would see Teesside Poly hosting events there which was the best of both worlds as the Poly also used the Town Hall to stage bigger events too.

One of those artistes that made a huge impression was locally educated Tom Robinson from Stokesley who had several top 30 hits and for around 18 months was courted by all the major music press. When Tom brought his band to the venue nobody batted an eyelid when they all joined in the chorus for ‘Glad To Be Gay,’ which in an industrial town like Middlesbrough was quite an achievement.

I would be lying if I said I was there at the beginning. I simply wasn’t but I have friends who were. My Rock Garden baptism didn’t actually take place until the night The Skids were due in town in March 1979. I had heard stories and rumours about the Rock Garden’s reputation which had all been based on hearsay and no actual experience of it. It was enough to put me off for at least six months but then I thought I would throw caution to the wind. What could possibly go wrong?
In those far off days a trip to Middlesbrough was seen as something exotic. I had no experience of any other nightlife. Nobody where I lived in Stockton was into punk rock except a guy called Stephen Jennings who liked Eddie & The Hot Rods and lent me their second album ‘Life On The Line’ with a 12” single by The Ramones accidentally wedged between its gatefold sleeve. ‘Rockaway Beach’ it was called but the b-side caught my attention on my Mono record player. ‘Beat On The Brat with a baseball bat, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah oh huh’ sang Joey Ramone. It was so dumb yet so catchy. If this was punk rock then count me in!

At the time I worked with a colleague who was a huge Skids fan his name was Neville King and The Skids from Dunfermline were due at the Rock Garden on Satuday, 24th March,1979, just as ‘The Saints Are Coming’ crashed into the top 30 charts. They had previously had ‘Sweet Surburbia’ out as a single and their debut album ‘Scared To Dance’ was being promoted on the tour and unbeknown to me at the time the band were doing a ‘Matinee Show’ for kids under 16 and then a later show for 18 and over. The problem was that the venue was tiny and at a push probably held around 300. I’ve read from various sources that the capacity was 250 but another one said they had 450.

On the night there was a large queue forming round the side of the venue and where The Acklam pub across the road was situated. Unfortunately it hardly moved and on the night like dozens of others we ended up taking in a Rock Against Racism event at Teesside Poly featuring a reggae band called the Barrie Ford Band; a local band called The Barbarians who had such a profound effect on the local scene and two other bands from further afield in the Leyton Buzzards and The Piranhas. The experience only made me want to explore more so when it was a reformed Damned appearing at the Rock Garden the following week I was determined not to miss out this time by arriving earlier.

The Damned I knew from their early singles ‘New Rose’, ‘Neat Neat Neat’ and ‘Problem Child’. They were the first major punk band I ever saw at the Rock Garden and though they have changed line-ups periodically I still hold some genuine affection for them though their main songwriter Brian James had gone from their line-up and they had signed to Ted Carroll and Roger Armstrong Chiswick independent record label. They both ran a record shop in London at the time. Other notable bands on Chiswick included a very early version of Motorhead and the Radio Stars. With The Damned, Captain Sensible moved from bass to guitar and Algy Ward was brought in on bass duties from a latter day version of Aussie punks The Saints. Dave Vanian and Rat Scabies were still there too. Ward would later feature in a rock band called Tank.

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PIcs – Matey (No Way), Acne Rabble (aka Sex Pistols) and Paul Callan from No Way

It wasn’t long before they experienced commercial success with ‘Love Song’, ‘Smash it Up’ (which was banned by BBC Radio 1 for inciting violence) and ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’. On the night Dave Vanian just looked so unique and although the night remains a blur the reformed The Damned made such an impression on me, I started going to the Rock Garden regularly. 1979 would prove to be a successful year for The Damned as they returned in December to a full house promoting their third album ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ which for me has stood the test of time. The Damned were never seen in the same light as punk heavyweights like The Clash, the Sex Pistols or The Stranglers, more the jokers in the pack but they actually could play their instruments. When they played live Captain Sensible was always good for a wind – up. ‘The Captain is a wanker’ repeat ad infinitum was a regular chant at the live shows I caught them at.

Life would never be quite the same for me again. Live music became a staple diet of my obsession. Some weeks a decision had to be made, should I buy two albums for £3.99 or go to the Rock Garden instead? Money was tight and sadly choices had to be made but the weekly music press kept me going. I had a regular order for SOUNDS music paper. I couldn’t afford to buy Melody Maker and the NME too, though sometimes I would read the latter.