In praise of Stockton

A New Song in praise of Stockton, in the year 1764

by Mr William Sutton


On the banks of the Tees, at Stockton old,

A castle there was of great fame we are told,

Where the Bishops of Durham were wont to retreat,

And spend all their summers at that gallant retreat.

Derry Down & co.


‘Twas once a time, that King John being there,

The chiefs of Newcastle, did thither repair;

Humbly prayed that his Highness would deign for to grant

Them a charter, of which they were then in great want.


The King highly pleas’d with the Bishop’s grand treat,

Abounding in liquors and all sorts of meat

Their prayers comply’d with, the charter did sign,

Owing then, as ’twas said, to the Bishop’s good wine.


From Northern Garlands. Published 1810

Gibbo is God

Bobby Benjamin has an exhibition of his work at Arc in Stockton. The exhibition runs until the 7th of August.

GIBBO IS GOD is the keenly anticipated solo exhibition from Tees-based artist Bobby Benjamin. The collection comprises a series of new, previously unseen works reflecting on themes of class and place.

Working in found paint and video, Benjamin will present a body of work that addresses concerns of class appropriation and that explores poverty as a cultural currency.

This collection of paintings – his largest to date – represents an idiosyncratic response to his lived experiences while paying homage to some of the artist’s favourite pieces of graffiti from his home region.


Flying Freddie Dixon & Cleveland Precision Motorcycles

Cleveland Precision Motorcycles were built in Middlesbrough by William Egerton Price, who later became the town’s mayor. The bikes were sold through Pallister, Yare and Cobb of Linthorpe Road. The company offered 3.5 hp and 4.25hp models fitted with Precision engines, Druid forks, belt drive and options of a Villiers free-engine clutch or a  Sturmey Archer three speed. Sadly the cost of shipping the various parts used to assemble the bikes proved uneconomic and only 14 bikes were ever built.

In 1912 one of the bikes was loaned to a young Stockton-born motorcycle racer called Freddie Dixon. Freddie took the bike to the Isle of Man to compete in the annual TT. Sadly, the bike performed poorly in the race but this just the start for young Freddie.

During the First World War Freddie served in the Motor Transport Department of the Army Service Corps rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant Major. On returning home Freddie opened his own garage in Ayresome Street, Middlesbrough, he later moved to larger premises at the Park Garage on Linthorpe Road.

Freddie continued to race motorcycles and won a number of Grand Prix & TT races both at home and abroad and broke many speed records (30 in total). Freddie’s success earned him the nicknames, Flying Freddie, Fearless Freddie, The Wild Indian and Win or Bust Dixon. Later in his racing career Freddie switched from two wheels to four and continued to win races, including the famous Brooklands 500 miles event.

In 1937 Freddie retired from racing and moved to Reigate in Surrey, leaving his brother in charge of the garage business. Freddie was regarded as a world expert in engines and worked on the development of new engines for the automotive industry. Freddie died 5th of November, 1956 aged 64.


British Motorcyles

Heritage Stockton – Flying Freddie Dixon

Teesside Sporting Greats. Eric Paylor & John Wilson 2000

Sparks’ Daylight Bakery


Designed for Ralph Spark & Sons by Kitching & Co of Middlesbrough and built on Bishopton Lane in Stockton in 1938.

I took these photograph in the mid 1980’s. The Bakery had closed, the Grade II listed building was awaiting redevelopment into residential properties.

Wilderness Way pt.2

I recently visited the Wilderness Way exhibition at MIMA.  In the exhibition are two huge images of Margaret Thatcher walking across the post-industrial wastelands of Teesside. The photographs were taken during her 1987 visit to endorse the work of her pet project, the newly formed Teesside Development Corporation (TDC).


The TDC was the largest Development Corporation in England, covering some 12,000 acres in the North East of England. Established in September 1987 and wound up on 31 March 1998, it received total government grants of £354 million and generated other income of £116 million, including income from the sale of land and property. Over its lifetime the Corporation helped attract private sector investment of £1.1 billion into the area, created over 12,000 new jobs and brought 1,300 acres of derelict land back into use.

Teesdale v

From 1987 onwards the TDC were more or less given carte-blanche to regenerate a number of former industrial sites around the River Tees and Hartlepool areas. The Corporation was not popular with the local councils, it was accused of being secretive and autocratic, spending vast amounts of public money with little or no public consultation.

One of the development sites was an area of industrial land on the banks of the River Tees at Thornaby called Teesdale. The history of the Teesdale site reflects the industrial history of the area. In the mid 19th century, the area was known as South Stockton. The land was largely open fields with a couple of small ship building yards.

S Stockton

By the beginning of the 20th century South Stockton had merged with Thornaby to form the municipal borough of Thornaby on Tees. The shipyards had expanded and three large iron works had become established, The Thornaby Ironworks, The Union Foundry and the Teesdale Ironworks.  By the mid 20th century the whole site was being operated by Head Wrightson.


The area thrived and by the 1960s the site employed 6000 people, specialising in heavy engineering projects. In the mid 1970s the site was bought by The Davy Corporation. Foreign competition led to dwindling orders and a general decline, the site finally closed in 1987Head


I decided to have a wander around the site and reflect on the changes that had occurred over the past few decades.

I’m guessing that Thornaby railway station fell outside of the TDC development area boundary.  If you are travelling along the Tees valley railway line, this station is the only access to Thornaby and central Stockton, it does not make a good first impression. The world’s first passenger railway ran within a short walk from the station yet the only reference to this is George Stephenson House, home of HM Revenue & Customs, a building located some distance from the railway station.

The Teesdale development is a mixture of commercial buildings and housing, It is a triumph of the bland, an example of off-the-shelf hive architecture, most of the buildings have nondescript, unimaginative names or no name at all. A number of the buildings are empty or partially occupied, To Let signs litter the area. The call centres that once occupied the buildings have moved to places where labour and rents are cheaper.

Teesdale viiMy impression of the whole Teesdale site is that the planners took a year zero approach. There is no evidence or acknowledgement that this area was once a thriving, prosperous part of industrial Teesside, the land here is historically sterile.

Teesdale viiiIn other parts of the country, you can find clues to a site’s history by looking at the names of the roads and buildings, that is not the case here. The roads have all been named after prominent foreign universities; Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Fudan, Sabatier, and bizarrely, West Point Military Academy.

The two saving graces of this site are the riverside frontage, which is extensive, and the fast growing vegetation which manages to hide much of the architectural blandness behind grassy banks and thick foliage.

The road that used to run across the site was called Trafalgar Street, a new road now runs along its most northerly section, this road is called the Council of Europe Boulevard and leads to the Princess of Wales Bridge. I’m guessing brexiteers may lobby to restore the name Trafalgar in a year or two.

Teesdale i

During the election campaign of 1997 Margaret Thatcher returned to the site with John Major. They unveiled a plaque and planted a tree at Dunedin House, the TDC building, before Baroness Thatcher and Mr Major headed for lunch at Marton Country Club. Dunedin house is mostly unoccupied, I could not find the plaque.

The TDC was wound up in 1998. Initially it was thought to have left a surplus of £14 million. In reality, it left unaccounted debts of £40 million and allegations of secret accounts and shredded documents.Teesdale ix


A few years ago I bought a copy of Max Lock’s Middlesbrough Survey & Plan. I went to collect the book from the seller who turned out to be Sir Ron Norman, former chairman of the TDC. One of Sir Ron’s hobbies is bookbinding. I managed to get a small discount on the book as Sir Ron had mis-spelt Max Locks name.



The operation and wind up of Teesside Development Corporation. The National Audit Office

Evening Gazette


I arrived home on Tuesday after three weeks offshore. I was keen to get out and have a walk so a friend and I met up for a traipse around the whinstone quarries at Preston on Tees. It rained solidly throughout the morning, we went our separate ways at midday by which time we were both soaked to the skin. I decided to head into Stockton town centre to hopefully dry out a little, have a beer and get something to eat.


My first stop was the Wasp’s Nest, I was the only customer so after a nice pint I moved on to the Hope & Union. A couple of pints and a delicious sandwich later I walked over to the Golden Smog.


The Wasp’s Nest and the Hope & Union are lovely bars, with great beers and friendly people, the Golden Smog is my favourite.


It’s about 18 miles from Stockton to my home and I have very little recollection of leaving the pub or travelling home on the train.

This morning, on checking my camera I found these photos.

On checking my bag I found these two bottles of beer.


On checking my notebook I found these scribblings.

If you only went out in the sunshine you’d never smell the woods

R Platforms 1 & 2 – why

Black Mass