In the 1960’s Middlesbrough and Stockton had grim old town centres, years of atmospheric pollution had turned all the buildings black and the pubs were generally named after kings, queens and the lords of the land.

Billingham was a futuristic place. It had a modern shopping precinct, a wonderful leisure centre complete with a huge swimming pool, an ice rink, a theatre and shiny new pubs built of concrete and steel with names like The Astronaut and Telstar. They even had a football team named after an ICI product, Billingham Synthonia (Synthetic Ammonia).

A Teesside First – Billingham Branch Bridge

Much is made, and quite rightly so, of the bridges of the Tees, however we have another historic bridge on Teesside that is often overlooked. The Billingham Branch Bridge was built in 1934 by Dorman Long to carry the northern approach road to the Newport Bridge over the now-disused Billingham Branch railway. The Grade II listed bridge is reputed to be the first welded steel bridge in Britain.

Historic Britain Listing

Sunshine and Rain – Billingham to Haverton Hill

The last time I walked this route with my camera I ended up with detective constable visiting my house.

The weather changes every 5 minutes.

This is one of the most extraordinary of experiences, a sight almost unique in England. On either side of the road are the works, steaming and sizzling – tall steel chimneys, great cylinders, pipes everywhere. The road goes on and on, to Haverton Hill and Port Clarence: there are acres and acres of this remarkable landscape.

County Durham. A Shell Guide. Henry Thorold. 1980

Billingham & The Atom Age

During WWII Billingham was one of the sites chosen for the world’s first atomic weapons project codenamed Tube Alloys.

Development work for the top secret project took place at Billingham and a number of shadow factories in the Teesside area. Due to high costs, and the fact that Britain was within bombing range of its enemies, Tube Alloys was eventually absorbed into the USA’s Manhattan Project, which led to the development of the world’s first atomic weapons.

In the 1970’s ICI purchased and installed a TRIGA Mk1 nuclear reactor at Billingham. The reactor produced radioisotopes for industrial use until it was decommissioned in 1988.

PRI 90

Haverton Hill


The Haverton Hill shipyard first opened during the First World War to replace ships that had been destroyed by German U Boats. The first ship built at the yard was named War Energy and launched in 1919.

In the 1920s a model village called Belasis Garden City was built at Haverton Hill to house the shipyard workers. After the Second World War, ICI built a number of chemical plants around Haverton. the pollution from these plants was so great that in the 1960s the majority of the houses were demolished and the population moved to Billingham.

Today the yard is owned by a Danish German consortium and builds structures for offshore wind farms.