Ashtree Farm, Stockton-on-Tees c1940’s

Ashtree Farm was off Oxbridge Lane accessed by a lane between Raby Road and the Ashmores recreational ground. My family had owned the farm after moving from The Grange Farm. Ashtree farm comprised of a strip of land which ran between the back gardens of Raby Road houses and Ashmores and Grangefield School with a farm house and out buildings and stables at the top of the lane. There was a cottage halfway up the lane which was originally a market garden, not to be confused with Dixon’s market garden which was on the other side of Ashmores path.

My Grandparents, who owned the farm, had purchased the cottage with some land bordering Oxbridge Lane. My Grandmother eventually moving into the cottage when my father took over the farm. It was originally a dairy farm with a small herd of cows which grazed on land that was compulsory purchased and became part of Grangefield school and then on land that was on the other side of the Cuckoo railway at the top of Grosvenor Road. There was a strip of land that ran between Ashmores playing field and Grangefield and a bridge over the railway where we would walk the cows in for milking. Milk was pasteurised in a small dairy on the farm, hand bottled and delivered to surrounding houses by horse and cart. The herd eventual having to be sold off in the late 50’s when the owner of the land on the other side of the railway, a Mrs Fenney, sold the land to the council.

We continued with the milk business now motorised and buying milk in from Northern Dairy’s and went into pig farming this continued until the early 70’s when the farm was sold after the death of my father. My mother not wanting to continue with the farm and moving into the cottage down the lane. The first photograph of the horse and cart was taken in the farm yard with stables at Ashtree. In the second photograph my father is on the right and I believe the man on the left was a German prisoner of War that was seconded to work on the farm during the Second World War, the third photograph shows my father at the wheel of the old Lanchester.

Photographs and details courtesy of Stuart Kidd.

Newcomen Society Visit to Billingham Branch Bridge, July 2018

These pictures taken during a visit to the Billingham Branch bridge by the Newcomen Society, comprising people dedicated to the history of engineering, show that the track bed of the link from the Swainby Road area round to Port Clarence and the south part of ICI Billingham had long been removed. Charles Morris, from Eston, who had been active in getting the bridge preserved, is seen describing the bridge to the group. He was a senior figure in the Institute of Civil Engineers and also chairs the local Cleveland Industrial History Group.

A clearer picture shows Charles along with Dr Jonathan Aylen, of Manchester University, on the left and myself, Dr Fred Starr, the two people who had organised the Newcomen visit to Teesside. Coming from Portrack, I used to wander along this track on many occasions, without understanding the historic importance of the bridge.

Photographs and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

The Odeon, mid 1960s

In this photograph the film being shown was released in 1966, this may be a pointer to the year the shot was taken. It looks as if there is an empty plot beyond the cinema, this may be the time between the pub being demolished and the insurance office being built, another pointer to the year.

In the 1960s I was a regular and frequent cinema goer, I also went to many pop shows in both the Odeon and the Globe, in earlier times I also visited the other cinemas in Stockton.

The Empire, The Hippodrome, The Essoldo and even the Turner, these are the names I knew them by, I believe that some had changed their names over the years, The Hippodrome was always at Christmas to see the pantomime on an ICI trip.

Billingham Picture House was our main venue for the Saturday morning matinee throughout the 1950s.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

Bridge Street Doctors Surgery

Thought I’d send a recent picture of the old doctor’s surgery on Bridge Road, before it’s gone! It’s always surprised me how this building has survived while those around it have come and gone. It even survived having the rest of the adjoining terrace demolished.

Sadly, its time is up, and being considered of little importance, this and the surrounding buildings are now fenced off awaiting demolition.

Shame the developers couldn’t be stretched to a bit of “facadism” (

Also going is… the SoTBC training centre next door (previously the site of Thirlwell photographers, Martins garage, Archon 2000)…

No.27 (formerly Bridge Street Motors, Chaplin’s bar, L’Allegria restaurant.)

No.33 (Riverside House) won’t be missed 😊

Photograph and details courtesy of Jonathan May.

Aerial view over Billingham

t13668An aerial view of Billingham and the surrounding area. What can you see? Date unknown.





Image and information courtesy of Bruce Coleman…

The nearest I can get to dating this image is after 2006 because the La Ronde nightclub is missing, if the small section of white building to the very right centre of the image is part of the old ICI office block then it is before 2012, if it is not the ICI office then it is after 2012.

1: St. Cuthberts Church

2: The Smiths Arms

3: Wolviston Village

4: Dawson House

5: The Green

6: Town Centre

7: North School (Pentland Primary)

8: John Whitehead Park

9: The Picture House

10: Forum

11: “Billingham Stores” (Stockton Co-op)

12: Kennedy Gardens

13: Billingham Town Football Ground

14: Old Police Station ( Now a residential home)

15: South Modern School

16: “Tin Lizzie” footbridge

17: St. Johns School and Church

18: Billingham Baths

19: Synthonia Cricket Ground

20: Roseberry bridge

21: Synthonia Sports Stadium


ST Cervia and John H Amos – River Tees, Stockton

ST Cervia was built in 1946 as a seagoing tug for use as a fleet auxiliary by Alexandra Hall & Company Ltd, Aberdeen, Scotland. She is the last seagoing steam tug to survive in UK waters, and she was also the last to work commercially. Today she is a floating Museum still undergoing restoration in Ramsgate, Kent. Alonside it is the steam paddle tug John H Amos built in 1931. Taken c1970s.

Photographs by Len Toulson, courtesy of Neal Toulson.

Fife and Drum Band, 1/4 Battalion. Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment c1914

This photograph shows my Great Great Grandfather, Sidney Alfred Duckett. He lived in Henrietta street in Thornaby and he was in the 1/4 Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales”s Own  Yorkshire regiment. He is at the very front of the photo in front of the drum. Sydney was the oldest person found to date to have served with the 4th Yorks Battalion during the War. His Battalion number indicates that he was among the first to join up when War was declared and probably sailed with them to France in April 1915. He suffered Injuries in WW1 and was brought home but sadly died. He left a wife and 10 children, one of which was my nana.

Photograph and details courtesy of Sue Horn.

Ruston, Lincoln at ICI Billingham c1930s

ICI Billingham in the early 1930’s as the factory was being expanded at a huge pace. I originally thought that this was Oil Works in the south west corner of the site and very close to the area bounded by New Road and Mill Lane,
the tank farm was in that area although what looks to be the twin towers of Newport Bridge in the distance now makes me less certain?
The columns were built by Ruston of Lincoln, a long established heavy engineering company whose factory stood for over 100 years before being demolished earlier this year and the site cleared for new housing. The gable wall carrying the company name became something of a local feature but a local campaign to keep and preserve it failed and it too was demolished.
The name of Kellogg Coy on the column refers to the American engineering and construction company who were still associated with ICI in the 1970’s and built their pioneering and then world leading ammonia production plants.

Details courtesy of David Thompson. Photo credits to the ICI Archives and Kevin Turner.

William Henry McDonnell, H.M.S. Calliope 1916

t14949This photograph shows my Grand-Uncle William Henry (Ernie) McDonnell in a Dunfermline Photographic Studio, before he joined the Light Cruiser H.M.S. Calliope in July 1915.

Ernie born c. May 1897 at 30 Maritime Street in Stockton-on-Tees, was the first son of George and Maria McDonnell. 5′ 4″ William Henry grew up in the old Quayside district of Stockton, living variously at 12 Smithfield, 26 Garden Place, 8 Commercial Street, 10 Tees Street and by 1914 at 3 Paradise Street.

He was a Stoker in the Royal Navy during the Great War; he served from July 1915 aboard HMS Calliope, a modern, oil fired, light cruiser, which was hit by shellfire from German battleships at The Battle of Jutland in May 1916. He was awarded chevrons for his part in the battle and was granted his 1st Good Conduct Badge in July 1918 for 3 years ‘VG’ conduct in service.

Photograph and details courtesy of Anthony Pearson and the McDonnell family of Stockton.