22 thoughts on “A view of the High Street, Stockton c1890

  1. Further information about poverty in Britain (and Stockton) was summed up in more depth by various writers including a German writer and philosopher named Friedrich Engels, whose book: The Condition of the Working Class in England, was written during his stay in Manchester. This famous book contains page after page of disturbing facts such as: In Carlisle 4,408 out of 10,000 children died before reaching the age of five, and 1,006 out of 10,000 adults died before reaching 39 years old. This book is a truthful account of the living conditions of the British Victorian working class during the period studied. If you care to study the working and living conditions of Durham Coal Miners, during the same period, it makes sober reading. Every one of us has ancestors whose trades, workplaces, misery and poverty, these authors are writing about.

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  2. The art of the Blacksmith was fitting iron tyres to wooden wheels. The wheel would be assembled using mortise joints and no nails or pins used, the Blacksmith measured and made the iron tyre to exact measurements it was then black heated to make it expand. The wheel would be on the big flat iron ring outside the door with buckets of water ready. The tyre was carried out, two people with tongs and dropped on the wheel they would then walk round tapping the ring on the wooden wheel with hammers, once in place you walked round splashing water on the ring with your hands as it often started to burn the wood but had to cool gently at first then into the pond for the main cooling that made the iron tyre shrink on the wooden wheel pulling all the spokes in rim and hub tight. How do I know all that, it was because I was fascinated by the way the Blacksmith Mr Samuelson in my time could make anything spent hours watching him. He mended and reset truck springs for my Father, shoed horses, repaired all kinds of farm implements and any spare time made wrought iron gates. I would take a truck spring across the Green on a sack barrow with a broken leaf, they were made up of five or six leaves of metal with one centre rivet holding them together, the main leaf had turned ends to take the holding bolts to the truck body, he would cut the rivet repair by fire weld or making a new leaf all different sizes then reset and temper reassemble and rivet. Sometimes he let me heat a bit of iron and beat it on the anvil then twist it for a gate.
    Many tradesmen still had horse wagons well into the sixties Mr Fletcher the Builder Station Road, Mr Geldart, Coalman and many of the coal men or milk men who delivered round the houses. Farmers still used heavy horses because the narrow iron wheels of the Fordson Tractor compacted the earth where horses walking in the furrow pulling a plough did no damage, Uncle Arthur had Suffolk Punch Clydesdales and Cleveland Bays. The Suffolks were very docile, the Clydesdales had a sense of humour and the Clevelands handle with care though I never had trouble with them.
    The Forge on the Green had the main doors the rings to tether horses and the big iron wheel block on the pond side, during the war Mr Samuelson’s Daughters worked with him and you would often see one of them striking for him with a fourteen pound hammer. He later got one of the German POW’s working for him who later married one of the Daughters and took over the forge.
    I left Norton in 1947 and when I came back much later the forge had been changed, later pictures show the pond side doors bricked up and new doors on the back wall facing Red house School.
    The Ferguson Tractor finished off most of the farm horses, it was light easy to drive and had all the tools that could be attached to the lifting gear on the tractor then operated from the driving seat, I drove one and found it much better than the old Fordson with the Handle start, drain the float chamber warm the plugs turn on the petrol fire it up without breaking your arm then once warm turn over to the paraffin tank, the Fergy you just pressed the button.
    Long gone days, my Sons horses were shoed by the mobile Blacksmith with ready made shoes his little furnace in the back of the van, machinery repaired by the same travelling chap with his welding machine and all the tools, I watched and missed the smells of the forge the roar of the fire when the fan went on the noise of the hammer on the anvil, the masses of different shaped tongs and tools hanging on the walls, everything had a place and a use, to me it was Merlins Cave, Magic.
    Frank.

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  3. Frank and Fred the one thing we don’t get from a picture is the smell.
    Imagine horse dung on the streets, the air smog laden the pollution from the industries and the smell of the people themselves.
    I read that around the Year 1900 each horse produced between 15 and 35 lbs of manure a day in London. There were 11,000 Hanson cabs and several thousand horse drawn buses and thousands of private horses used for transporting goods.
    Some clean up operation that would have been!
    I remember taking classes from school to the nuclear power station where they were exposed to the sounds and smells of the the 19 century, very revealing for children even those born in the 50’s!

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    • Derek, no need to imagine I was brought up with those smells. Dad had a small holding and we had stables, he started with horses and carts before the trucks, Uncle had a farm which I spent a lot of time on, the Fordson tractor stayed in the barn as he believed in heavy horses for every job on the farm.
      The Co-op coal and every coal merchant pre-war and after had horses, milk floats, Railway parcel delivery still had horses although the Mechanical Horse was becoming more used. I once delivered one of those three wheeler cabs and trailer from Middlesbrough to Darlington, pulled in alongside of a 30 ton artic and got out just as a wisp of a girl got out of the driving seat of the truck, laughs all round.
      I cleaned out stables and byres, pig sty’s and hen houses, it all went in the big midden and was turned on a regular basis you do get used to it.
      One smell that sticks with me was going into class on a wet day at Norton Board, the smell of unwashed clothes and in some cases unwashed children crammed together in the room as the clothes dried on us was a smell you do not forget. Many of the parents were out of work pre-war they could not afford food never mind coal for heating water to wash clothes with. We had a boiler in the wash house which would be stoked for the Monday wash and two of the ladies living near would come for buckets of hot water to do their washing, one a widow and the other a husband in the forces, no hand outs then, being poor now is not having a 50 inch TV and a line in for the internet, being poor then meant no food no heat and no medication, they could not afford the half crown Doctor as mother called him. He would call but only if he knew you could pay him to visit plus any medication needed.
      All horse drawn carts had a bucket and shovel on the back, if the horse got the call of nature it was in the handlers face, they would stop and clean up after all we all live for the roses round the door and you could sell it.
      Frank.

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      • I seem to remember the blacksmith on the green shoeing horses after the war (late 40’s early 50’s?) and making cart wheel tyres, fitting them and then drenching them in the pond. I also remember Mr. Stephenson at Calf Fallow farm using what I think were probably shire horses to plough, although he had a tractor (Fordson with metal wheels and tyres!). Probably cheaper than fuel in those days.
        I also remember Mr. Kennedy the farmer upon the hill across Billingham Beck taking his milk to some place at Norton Junction using a horse and trap. I think there may have been a small dairy there but I’m not sure. However the horses as you say soon disappeared giving way to the motor vehicles.

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        • Derek they were metal rings he heated and hammered onto the wheels before dipping them. The woodes wheels were made by Mr Whitehead who lived in the 1st house number 1 Oakwell Road, he also made wagons. His wife owned the little sweet shop near to the Mucky Duck.

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    • The two most interesting exhibits in a museum I have seen was in the Darlington Old Museum (100 yards down the bank from the Market Square) One was a sack hung up on the wall with a tape recorder inside it, and, you pressed the bell, and could listen to local dialects being spoken, the other exhibit was the glass beehive, you could look inside and watch the bees buzzing about, the bees entrance and exit was into the graveyard at the rear. There was also a vast collection of railwayana, and one wonders what became of it? Middlesbrough museum had the two stuffed lion’s, and a huge collection of pinned on cards butterflies and birds eggs. Both highly unacceptable items today.

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    • Heather, Stockton High Street is the widest High Street in the UK, this was well known way back in my Fathers time and taught to us in school many years ago along with tales of the sun never sets on the Empire, as a wee lad I thought that meant the Theatre at the south end of town.
      Stockton was a Anglo saxon lodge attached to the Church Manor of Norton, Ton meaning farm and Stoc meaning a manor all belonging to the main Church Lands of Durham. Norton still has land that belongs to the Church.
      The High Street was once all housing the shopping street being Silver Street, the main industry Rope Making plus some Sail making and also the export of wool and lead.
      Stockton has a long rich History well worth reading, you will find we were invaded by the Scots who held Stockton for several years, the coming of heavy industry, the battle of Stockton 1933, Fascists tried to hold a rally and the locals objected and what we did in the war years, it was all go from munitions to ship building. It is a far different place to the Stockton I grew up in although I say it is for the better, some wish for the old days, why?
      Marsay? My Uncle and Aunt were Marsay’s who had farms firstly at Goathland were we visited to pick Bilberries then Roseburry farm on what is now Roseworth then Welly Hill Hart Village, any relation? Both are now buried in Norton Church Cemetary..
      Frank

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      • There is more than likely a relationship there Frank. My husband’s family came from areas around Whitby and Great Ayton. Mostly farmers. Haven’t met a Marsay who wasn’t a relation, however distant. Even met one or two here in Australia.
        Heather

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        • Aunt Mabel nee Tighe was working in Whitby when she met Uncle Arthur Marsay from a farming family. They had a farm at Goathland when I first started to visit them with sheep on the moors. They had two Daughters and a Son, Billy (William) Betty and Kathleen. Bill and Kathleen stayed in Farming.
          Aunt Mabel would take me scouring the hedges for herbs and cures which she would make up and give out as medication to the farm workers. I once went there with a real head cold, she gave me a tot of her home made cure and I was out running around an hour or so later, it probably had something to do with the home made wine she laced her medicines with. She churned their own butter, separated cream, made jams bottled fruit and was a wonderful cook, a Typical Farmers wife. Uncle Arthur gave me lessons in animal management, I loved the big horses and could handle them from being knee high. A wonderful couple living well into their 80’s I loved them dearly.
          Frank.

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  4. It’s been my observation of human nature that people who live in poverty don’t notice it? It was the National Schools movement that brought about great change. Education. Then the Scot Andrew Carnegie Free Libraries did miracles, (Stockton and Thornaby libraries) then you had the railways and rail travel, Stephensons Rocket, then sail and steam ship’s and ocean voyages, Captain Cook, and Joseph Swan electric light bulb, and the mass production of small electric motors. Our region was out there in the forefront of this escape from poverty to enterprise and industry. There was one thing missing which the poor needed desperately, it was to be able to access a quick way to make a fire in the hearth, then in summer and winter, to be able to start a cooking pot and kettle of hot water ‘boiling, it was a portable flame, a safe burning flame and light, and John Walker the chemist from Stockton supplied that with his matches. Hot cooked food, bread, meat and soups arrived, and just think how many lives they must have saved. A box of matches was a terrific invention.

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    • John Walker Matches Invention:

      I would like to add that Stephenson’s Railway Engine the Rocket, needed a match to get it started, so did the Titanic, and the Queen Mary, and huge boilers, heating systems, millions of gas lamps worldwide, and 101 inventions relied on a simple match to get them going. People forget this.

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  5. A truly wonderful picture of the “old Stockton”, I know and realise there was poverty and terrible illness among the young ones and a high death toll because of it all, but a wonderful photo.

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  6. Frank I appreciate your comments as usual. But what I said was about the style of the buildings, not what went on there. The combination of technical change, particularly electricity, a better attitude by the Government and employers to the working man and woman, a higher standard of education are what has transformed modern living.

    In London what were regarded as near slums, are now housing millionaire couples. Even in Stockton, in my own time, my grandmother, who lived in a modern house St Annes Terrace, built in 1936, bought of the “decaying” late 19th Century houses further down the streets.

    It became in a sense what in London is described as a “town house”. That is one without a garden, having a small courtyard. That was in 1961..

    Knocking out the old cast iron range, replacing it with a modern fireplace, putting in a gas fired hot water unit and removing the 15 layers of wall paper transformed the place. There must have been generations of spiders hiding there.

    While I do not decry the beauty of the Stockton, there is little doubt that our wide high street, ringed with cleaned up buildings from the 18th, 19th and early 20th Century would have been the jewel of the North East.

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    • agree whole heartedly with your sentiments Fred I believe despite the constant banging on about how modern is best and how dire things were, yes I get it. Some thought could have been made before ripping apart the buildings along the high street that made Stockton a lively bustling town with some proper character, I am all for the progress made in the town and the benefits this has for people, I am aware as I am sure we all are that things are better now, and people are grateful for that but it was the character of the high street and the town that people look back on with fond memories, this is just my opinion and if folk disagree with this fair enough.

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    • My comments are made knowing most of those fancy facades were built onto old buildings behind, they had been Town houses and as people moved out to the outskirts away from the noise and smells the houses were taken over as Emporiums or Hotels. What was behind was really a horror story, rat infested cellars broken down out buildings and the whole river bank a mess it had to go. The pity was money was short the new buildings were functional not pretty, the Government money plus any spare from the Council went on building new estates and getting the people into the housing they deserved after the war. My memory was most wanting to get into that housing as fast as they could move, indoor bathrooms and toilets hot water as well as cold, most old houses had a single cold water tap. Electricity, some had only gas in the old houses with the big black stove for cooking. The war was over, they saw those films of American homes with all mod cons and wanted some of it. You had to live those times to see the logic of it, the feeling of we have been through hell now we want the rewards. Most people rented their houses from private land lords with the result not a lot was spent on maintenance, the odd one got an extra room plus indoor bath built on in the yard then the rent would go up, not everyone loved living in those street houses though some would.
      I read the other day Stockton had street lighting in 1824 that must have been some of the first.
      Every High Street in the UK has gone through the doldrums, some will never recover Stockton took a different path and it is working, a forward looking Council with an eye to the future, I have no doubt Stockton is on the right road, and it is now our children and grandchildren’s Stockton a far different Town from the one I grew up in, onward and up the way to go.
      Frank.

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  7. As the Art Teacher Sid…..at Stockton Grammar in 1960, used to say about when he first came to Stockton it had some style. I didn’t know what he meant until I saw pictures like this where it looks like a bigger version of Yarm. But I do also see some merit in Frank Mee’s opinion that Stockton has never looked better.

    I wonder if the groups of men might be waiting to see the first tram coming through Stockton.

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    • Fred that is an opinion a lot of people disagree with, I learned years ago in the Army nothing ever stays the same we move on and I say thank goodness for that.
      Look at the picture and imagine the poverty and degradation in those Streets down to the river in the 1890’s, the illnesses that had no cure the children who never reached school age if there were any schools and that reached into my time. Many children started school unable to read, often dressed in rags all be it clean rags, no shoes on their feet and often no food in their bellies. Do we really hanker after those times I definitely do not. Even in the early 1950’s children would disappear into the Fever Hospital for months with infections that had to be cured by old fashioned means no miracle cure back then it cost hundreds of pounds at the time for Penicillin manufactured in America. My wounds in the Middle east were treated with Sulphur Drugs as were people in the local Hospitals until well into the 1960’s lucky for me really as they later discovered I was allergic to Penicillin.

      Dad always said yesterday is History, Tomorrow Mystery so live for the day I may have laughed but he proved to be right.

      Living through the years when the Town was a vibrant bustling place then its slow run down with bad buildings going up in place of one or two very nice ones but also some facades hiding a multitude of sins that needed to be cleared.
      At last we have a nice clean open Stockton High Street with views of a lovely clean River and a Council who are looking to the future, a place to be proud of although I always was proud to be from Stockton.

      I am 88 this month and have probably outstayed my time pontificating about the Town, it has been a journey and most of the time a happy one, each time I left and returned somethings had changed, well that is progress and nothing can stop that.
      Frank.

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