Victoria Buildings c1895

t14857A view of the “Victoria Buildings” – it is a crying shame such a beautiful building should be knocked down. The architect has ranged far and wide for his ideas, some of the windows have Greek style arch decorations above them others have Roman style, the facade is topped off with Dutch style gables, these appear to be purely decorative because there doesn’t seem to be any structure behind them, if this is so then presumably the windows in the gables are false as well.

The two octagonal corner towers flare out from the building in a similar fashion to the castles seen in Hungary and Bavaria, the two domes don’t seem to be the normal copper clad variety as they seem to have a slight sheen as if painted instead of the matt look of the copper types. The shop fronts are terrifically high by modern standards, they are at least twice the height of the people in front of them, this would make them at least 12 feet high and possibly higher, I remember the frontages being made with highly polished dark wooden frames and glass which on the odd occasion would be curved.

Other things I have noticed are, directly behind the main building is a hip roof with a chimney stack, to my eye this doesn’t seem to be part of the main building but another building behind it, the chimney stack doesn’t have the black decorative band around it that the main building has and also the chimney pots vary in size unlike the main building.

Slightly to the left of the building is a bay windowed building with words across it just below the eaves, are there any sharp sighted visitors that can make out what the words are?.

The house behind the church has a strange looking object that appears to be perched on the top of the chimney, I have no idea as to what it could be, if it had been 50 years later I would have thought it to be a telegraph pole. Slightly to the left and in the distance is a curved roof box van of the type often seen being towed by steam rollers, these vans carried the tools and equipment used by road repair gangs, they were still in use when I was a child in the 1950s, this one appears to be horse drawn.

Some of the lamp post have cast iron bollards around them, were they hitching posts for the many horses to be seen in that era?, I have seen similar hitching posts in Europe and America where they often have a cast iron horses head perched on top of the post.

In the foreground is a young boy with another child on his back, I remember carrying my many brothers and sisters around in that fashion.

Just in front of the canopy of the leftmost shop is a black sign with two white ovals on it, surely it’s not ‘Specsavers’ circa 1895?

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

11 thoughts on “Victoria Buildings c1895

  1. Looks like the “strange looking object that appears to be perched on the top of the chimney” could be a telegraph pole, as the system was well established by this time.

    You can see another one at roof level on the left in this photo:


  2. The demolishing of old building to make way for the new, happens in all countries and usually divides the final result equally as “..And Good Riddance” or “Fantastic architecture just shovelled away”
    Here in Sweden in the 1960’s, whole slum areas of inner Stockholm were bulldozed and modern housing replaced those that never had water and sanitation or decent heating. Pictures taken during the demolition show fantastically tiled and decorated entrance halls and impressive staircases.
    Its all a matter of economy – as most things are really – its much cheaper to demolish than to upgrade. Whereas the older buildings had lasted 200-300 years, those that replaced them will not usually be expected to survive more than 50.


  3. How many people I wonder have expressed the views posted on here over the Centuries, Stockton once cultivated land until the Bishop 0f Durham decided to rent out plots to Burghers in 1189.
    Stockton became the collecting point for shipping food to London and its burghers became better off working as Sail and Rope makers of which there were several factories in Stockton, the well off built good sound houses on the High Street with the shopping area’s being Silver Street and Bishop Street, Ships Chandlers along the River to service the many ships loading there. Do we go back to that time then? It was obviously idyllic for some.
    The rich people moved out of the handsome houses on the High Street to the outer area’s of Town and the big shops took over altering the look of the street, did those owners leaving moan, maybe.
    The Victorian build up was the end of garden Stockton the small holdings and market gardens moved out to the suburbs, did they bemoan the ruination of Stockton? Probably.
    I knew Stockton prewar during the war and after, so not wearing rose tinted specs realised its faults, it needed a lot of work after years of neglect and some area’s could never have been saved.
    Every town in the UK has the same problem as Stockton and the only way forward is to take drastic action which Stockton council has done. I like it my Grandchildren love it and it is their time not ours.
    I would not want to go back, my Grandchildren have no idea of what it was like back then and do not want to know, there is a saying “you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs” and yes one or two eggs got broken though to me the omelette they left suits my palette.
    Onward and upward Stockton.


    • Stockton had the beginnings and makings of a famous Old English town with York, Guildford, Norwich and Oxford being fine examples. Over the border we have Edinburgh, Dumfries and Perth to show us what we lost . It needed a man with the qualities and determination of Capability Brown to oversee it’s layout and obvious capabilities. The design of these Victorian buildings show us that such grand thinking people did exist. Victorian man was a giant of industry, a few examples, Sir Titus Salt, W H Lever at Port Sunlight, the Cadbury family, I K Brunel, and Robert Stephenson, between these people and the poor – was a great gulf which only good work habits and thrift could overcome. Like you I am mindful of the fact that in many homes tea, oatmeal, bacon and potatoes were the daily fare, the life of the poor was ruled by factory laws and their prosperity depended on them, so Stockton became symbolic of the industrial way of life, and not the market town of old.
      Admittedly it was the invention and greater use of Portland cement, concrete, plasterboard, plastic gutters, PVC doors and windows, concrete roof tiles, kerbs and buillding materials which played a huge part in altering the landscape of our cities, but none more so than the greater use of machinary and steel. Machines need to be housed and steel making needed its attendent middlers, puddlers, jiggers, turners and moulders, Stockton was moulded and the chimney stacks grew taller and plywood replaced oak and the River Tees smelled of chemicals and oil slicks of many colours shone on its surface, and no one said stop.


      • Bob many will agree with you some will not but here is my take on it from memories of the good and bad years yet always a proud Stocktonian.
        All the places mentioned had benefactors very rich people who put their money into the town, Stockton had Burghers better off than most not rich enough to donate anything too large. They were also started long before Stockton’s small Castle. Cambridge and Oxford had Colleges from the 12 to 1400’s York its Minster or St Peters as we knew it from 600’s not in its present form of course. Edinburgh Castle 12th Century and the Ashmolean Library 1600 all those places had more than a head start on Stockton where the power came from Durham and still does.
        Stockton did not even have a Parish Church the old Churches being Norton and Billingham, Stockton had a small Chapel of rest called St Thomas, people call the Stockton Parish Church St Thomas though it never was Consecrated as such.
        I have often been asked how could you let the town be ravished, they do not understand how the Stockton people felt after going through what had been a time of misery for many from 1930 to 1950 twenty years of austerity and war was enough, time to shake off the old with its connotations and bring in the new.
        There was also the films, we went usually twice a week and saw Americans living in lovely houses with baths and modern furniture and kitchens, those living in two up two down and a tin bath on the wall wanted some of that, the only showers we saw were at the local baths and I for one loved them even if they did run cold.
        So new estates went up, people got their at the time ideal homes with shopping parades, the old house clearances and out of town markets meant the town centre would and did suffer, what else could you expect? Stockton Council had to rely on Government handouts which went on new housing for the Forces returning from the war, they deserved and got better living conditions.
        The story of Stockton could never be any different, Victorian was not classed as old sixty years ago, our outlook was bright new places to shop and work, I would never swap my new build bungalow for the 1850’s house I was brought up in.
        It is definitely a mindset that changes with the generations, my parents and my generations wanted a break from the past some of the moderns wish for the past, why I ask from memory the times were awful for a lot of the Towns people.
        We all have our own thoughts on it Bob though for me Stockton is a vastly improved Town to what I grew up with.


        • Well said Fred. My views on Victorian Stockton and elsewhere, are clouded by the thought that children were taken into Police Courts charged as lawbreakers, transportation went on until 1846, public hangings ceased in 1868, education was for the moneyed classes and teachers openly treated the sons and daughters of workers and farm labourers with snobbish disdain – evidenced by the fact that in many villages the only educated man was the Squire or Parson. The building of the railways, the widening and lengthening of the major highways and the introduction of the motor car brought great change. For most citizens the railway line to the nearest large city was a shortcut to better things. During his/her journey they overlooked the fact that railway carriages (then) were segregated into 1st, 2nd and 3rd class.

          How many people in Stockton who were badly off is impossible to say, but all are agreed it was considerable with 1 family in 3 being totally destitute. Trade skills, rank or money could not protect a man from sickness, old age or premature death, and any of these could bring his widow and children to the workhouse door. Poverty was so widespread that only 40% of newborn babies could expect to survive to age 20. Most homes had no fire because they could not afford the coal bills. Money was the workers greatest need without it he could not buy food, bedding, clothing and shoes, and it was the lack of money that fuelled the industrial age and the growth of Stockton.


  4. This picture is a wonderful remembrance of things past. Every person named on the War Memorial erected in front of St Thomases Church unveiled May 1923, walked these pavements, crossed this road and passed these buildings. When this picture was taken in 1895 they were babes in arms, also our parents and grandparents, our school pals and friends all walked across this scene at some time in their lives …… the lady in the black dress or the boy pushing the barrow, we, meaning each of us are them and they are us.


  5. The principle was that if it was Victorian or even older knock it down and put up some cheap and nasty building from the 50s onwards. Take the Empire building, the Lit & Phil building and the whole of the SE part of the High Street. No amount of money poured into plazas etc is going to restore the High Street.. I had a walk round this past summer – charity shops, pawnbrokers, bingo parlours and the like. Little or no chance of recovery to the state of my parent’s time.


  6. Apart from the obvious horse droppings .it looks so spacious clean and tidy compared
    to the cramped hustle and bustle of today messed up high street.


  7. What was done to Stockton was a crime against architecture and history. The 60s was a great time to live but, modernization for the sake of it was bad. Memories and these pictures are all we have now.


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