Stockton Sledging

Since the snow is with us I’d like to show you a picture from the early 1970s. It is of a group of friends from the Newtown area (photo actually taken in Mellor Street with the Rocket public house in the background) sitting on probably the largest sledge in the North East.

There is actually room for six kids on there. I remember once dragging it all the way from Newtown along the black path and on to Newham Grange park. It was an epic journey for us young’un’s as like now the sun beat down from a cloudless sky. When we eventually got there the sun had started to melt the snow and not more than two of us at any one time could ride it otherwise it just sunk. After about half an hour it was a mush fest so we left the park and trudged back home. It only ever came out once more when we persuaded my dad to drive us on the moors Road (A171) to that big hill a couple of miles past the Lockwood Beck Reservoir. That lasted even quicker than the park trip when the farmer came out and politely asked us to leave. So back under my brother’s bed it went never to see any more snow. It went for scrap sometime in the late 1970’s. When I see kid’s with their plastic sledges they don’t know the half of it.

Photo and details courtesy of Michael Bellerby.

Roseworth – A Winter Wonderland

Thanks to Richie Bateman for allowing use of this photo.

Richie is not sure about any of the people in this photo apart from himself, he is the leftmost of the children, between Richie and his sister they believe that the girl second from left is Mary Thompson and the fourth to be their brother John.

They think it would have been taken in the late 1950s but can’t imagine who by as they didn’t know of anybody who owned a camera.

Their only certainty is that it was taken in Ruislip Close in Roseworth.

This is how I remember my childhood, sometime in the late 1950s the kids in our close built what started out to be an Igloo and finished up looking like a Tepee, we rolled large snowballs into a circle and added more on top until we had an Igloo shape, we then threw piles of snow on top to give it height, two things I remember about that edifice were Herbie Ollett trying to run over the top and falling and breaking his leg, and the fact that the heap of snow was still evident long after the thaw.

If anybody recognises any of the people in the photo please let me know and I will sent the information to Richie.

Photo and details courtesy of Richie Bateman / Bruce Coleman

Thornaby Aerodrome

The shot is dated 1934 and shows the layout of what was to become RAF Thornaby.

The information I received with this picture says that the cluster of buildings disappearing off the top of the picture belonged to Stainsby Grange Farm, I think this places it at the top of the Acklam Road area of Middlesbrough.

The area at the bottom shows the river and Thornaby Village, complete with The Green and The Church, it is still a very pleasant enclave to this this day.

Also in the picture is Millbank Lane running along the left hand side of the aerodrome, backing on to this road are a series of buildings that as far as I am aware are still there.

One of the buildings became the Thornaby Conservative Club (Non-Political), that sign always amused me, I had a number of pleasant evenings there on concert nights, another building is the Green Baize snooker hall, I have had many equally pleasant afternoons in there, it may even be the same building, does anybody know?.

The aerodrome its self had a very short concrete area, I presume it was for taxiing before take off and the grassed area was the runway, there are a few aircraft dotted about the area, all relatively small as was the case in the 1930s so grass runways were not unusual.

My Grandfather was stationed at RAF Thornaby during the Second World War, he had been in the RAF in the 1920s and was a reservist, even though he was over 40 at the time, he was a non combatant and my Aunt tells me he was involved in making dummy aircraft for standing around the airfield to give an impression of strength, I know this did happen but don’t know for sure it happened at Thornaby, he also served in Italy very late in the war after the Italian surrender.

Photo and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman

Portrack Ironworks

Here’s a photo of men at the ironworks in Portrack.

My grandad 3rd row from front, 2nd right. His name was Robert Bryant and he lived in Portrack all his life. I believe they loaded scrap metal into the furnace. I never understood why they wore white scarfs in what must have been a dirty environment.


Photo and details courtesy of Mike Ranson

In 1964 Power Gas Ltd and ICI Led the World

This is an advert stating that Power Gas Ltd, in Bowesfield Lane, were the leaders in designing and building a new type of steam reformer which could be made to produce either hydrogen or town gas. The basic process had been developed by ICI Billingham, using naphtha, a kind of cheap low grade petrol. ICI had needed to invent a new catalyst to cope with naphtha as steam reformers, up to that time, had used natural gas as a feedstock. Indeed, before the discovery of North Sea Gas, ICI were going downhill as they had had to rely on coal to make hydrogen. Billingham, in a sense, was a glorified gas works with all that this implies in terms of filth and expense.

Being in the same area there was a close relationship between ICI Billingham and Power Gas, so it was an obvious step to get Power Gas building the new type of steam reformer. Steam reforming using naphtha saved the ICI and also saved British Gas. The advert shows that Power Gas was the first to build steam reformers in a number of places and countries. One picture shows the overall advert, the other picture, plants that Power Gas had built.

Pictures and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

He left Stockton a young lad and came back in uniform.

A little bit of Stockton history. In 1928 a family emigrated from Stockton and they were hoping to start a new life in Canada. The head of the family was Bill Hall with his wife Mary (nee Connor) and their young son called Billy. They finished up in a town called Sawyerville in the French speaking province of Quebec.

Billy wasn’t an only child for long as between them Bill and Mary had 11 children. In the 1980s we were told that family members could be found in every province of Canada. Before she left Stockton in 1928 Mary had her photograph taken with two of her sisters. Facing the camera on the left is Nora, Mary is in the centre with Betty sitting down.

The girls never expected to meet again but they did as Mary visited the area many years later in the 1960s. Mary was a great crafter and won many prizes in the local Cook County show.

The years went by and in 1944 young Billy Hall returned to the UK but this time in uniform. He must have cut a dashing figure as a member of the Royal Canadian Airforce . He was determined to do his bit for the old country.

In 1969 Billy, his wife and youngest daughter made a visit to this area. I met them and they all seemed very pleasant. We made several trips to the Billingham Bowl with them as they were very keen on ten pin bowling.

Photos and details courtesy of Martin Birtle.

William Coleman

This is the only photo I know of which shows my paternal Grandfather William Coleman, he is at the front centre of the main group, he has his foot on the support timber and his hands on the brake rope.

Group of manual labourers on a cable pulling job

I never knew my Grandfather, he died in 1941, before I was born, my Father never spoke of him and my Mother never met him.

In the 1939 Register his occupation was given as ‘General Labourer & French Digger’. I Googled French Digger and it is somebody who specialises in digging trenches, that would follow as the cable looks to be going into a trench.

30 years or so after this picture was taken I was part of a gang doing the same job, excepting the cable we pulled in went up and across a roof in a steel mill in Scunthorpe.

30 years on again I was once again involved in a cable pulling job, but this time I had commissioned the job and I stood and watched, much better.

These lads wouldn’t win any prizes for sartorial elegance, but I wasn’t dressed any better when I was involved in my cable pulling experience.

I was wondering if this cable was a new feeder for the upcoming electric welding, it would need a cable of that size for such a job.

My Father started work as an apprentice riveter in the shipyard in 1939 and moved into steel erecting in the early 1960s as the need for riveters waned.

Photo and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman

John Nicholson, Norton Rd, Stockton.

I have just found this photo of my dad, Roy Miller with colleagues. He is on the bottom left. I’ve tried to find out when this grocery warehouse closed down. I was told he was transferred to Leeds when he moved there in 1965 from Norton, but I suspect it may have been a porkie!


My dad was a manager there – this photo is obviously a Tobler promotion – he used to get perks from reps like boxes of free wagonwheels! But the days of supermarkets were taking over so small grocery warehouses faded away.

Can anyone supply names of the others on the photo? The warehouse was next to Major St. The Edwardian terrace is still there. They used to have a separate ‘Sweet Warehouse’ near the Commercial Tavern, and staff sometimes had a ‘liquid lunch’ there!


I don’t know if any of the men on the photo was John Nicholson himself – I do remember one the men he worked with was Mr Blenkinsop – known as ‘Blenk’.

Photo and details courtesy of Mandy Wood