36 thoughts on “The demolition of Stockton Gas Works. 1985

  1. I remember going to get coke from the gas works in an old pram, I would have been about 11 at the time 1956. My reward was the money to go to the Saturday morning matinee at the Odeon. Mary Nevens

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    • Mary I did the same thing, old prams and almost any thing that had wheels would be used to go and get bags of coke, me and my Swainby and Danby Road mates would form a little convoy to go to gas works, we would laugh all the way there and back, happy days.
      All the best.
      Derek

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          • Yes Jim, that’s me, used to go with a lad called Graham Cod. Remember going for a hike up to Roseberry Topping with the youth club, that was hard, or was I just a wimp…

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        • You are right Mary, most folk I remember from being a young kid were all in the same boat, poor but salt of the earth, great times, I remember the swings we made on the old gas street lighting, just the most simple things you did playing all day, any one else ride on cycle with no tyres, playing all day with a stick and a wheelie, fishing in the beck (Lustrum beck) for sticklebacks. In our roads Swainby and Danby Road, all kids no matter their ages played together, I think Mary we were truly blessed to be born in those days, hard but fun, give me a bank full of laughter and wonderful memories.
          All the best.
          Derek

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          • Hi Derek, I broke my front teeth on a bogie. That we had put together from old pram wheels and bits of a orange box, remember them? Apple’s wrapped in paper that were gathered for use in the outside loo, along with newspaper. I lived in Charge Place just behind St George’s Church, closed now and my street is Lawson Street health centre now. Mary

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  2. My father worked for Stockton Corporation Gas Department for forty five years, retiring in 1957. He died in 1985 the year the works were demolished. We lived in Saton Carew and he travelled in by train to Stockton every day. As a child in the nineteen thirties a special treat was to see the Gas Works locomotive “Buller”, This engine was named presumably “Buller” after Sir Redvers Buller VC. a Boer War veteran.

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    • James, Redvers Buller was awarded the VC during the Zulu wars, a brave man who some historians claim did not perform with same zeal during the Boer war. Never knew of the locomotive Buller.
      All the best.
      Derek.

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      • What a coincidence, Only yesterday (13th) my wife and I were looking at the grave (crypt?) of Sir Redvers Buller in Winchester Cathedral. How bizarre !!

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        • Jeff, Sir Redvers Buller practically lived on the back of his horse, his journey up and down Holbane mountain is legendary.
          As a young lad in the 60s I went to see the great film Zulu, about rorkes drift, never lost my love for the Zulu campaign, Henry Hook played by James Booth was seen as a drunk and a skiver, he was just the opposite, a model soldier, colour Sergeant Bourne played by Nigel Green a big strapping actor a good 6ft+ in fact colour Sergeant Bourne was 5ft 4″ and was know to the men as the “kid”
          A number of years ago mid-90s I was down visiting our son at RAF Northolt, he took me to St Marys Church in Kensal Rise, west London, buried there was surgeon Reynolds VC, he was the doctor/surgeon at Rorkes drift, his grave was very modest, same day I went and visited St Nicholas Church, right on the Thames, a massive graveyard, it took ages to find the grave I wanted to see, it was Fred Hitch’s grave, was about to give up searching for it until I saw a very large rock, ran up to it and carved on top of the rock was the helmet the soldiers wore, it was Fred Hitch VC.
          My brother Leonard before he passed away visited both John Rouse and Merriot Chards grave at Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset, then went on to visit Henry Hooks grave, Hook was buried at a little church in Gloucester, and so from going to gasworks for bags of cinders then onto the film Zulu and a little train called Buller we all come together (so to speak)
          And just to finish I’ve a great collection of Zulu war books and just goes to show how going for a bag of cinders would open our world.
          All the best.
          Derek

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  3. Does anyone remember the Wilberforce’ of Airton St? The family lived there for many years. Hugh Wilberforce was the foreman at the gas works when he died in 1898. The next foreman was also a Wilberforce.

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    • I am researching Wilberforce ancestry. My great grandfather was Richard Newstead Wilberforce and he was foreman stoker at the gasworks around this time. He lived on Raglan Terrace and Stamp Street. Can we share our knowledge?

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  4. The minutes of the Gas Committee and the Gas Works Manager’s reports are contained within the bound Stockton Council Records on the shelf at Stockton Reference Library. Although mainly concerned with technical details about the performance and running of the Gas Works, they sometimes record employee details, especially when appointments, promotions, salaries, grievances, accidents, health and housing are concerned. No details about the Gas Works appear in the Council Records after the gas industry was nationalised post World War Two, but the 1920’s are certainly covered. I went through all the Gas Committee reports (as the main source) when researching Stockton Gas Works locomotives (most of it put on Picture Stockton). Interestingly Ashmore, Benson, Pease Co., sometimes used Stockton Gas Works for experiments to test out their new technology.

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  5. My wife’s grandfather William Straughan worked at the Gas Works in the 1920s. He was a plumber but I was led to understand that he was a foreman or manager there. The family lived in a house just outside the gate. We have no other knowledge of him or his wife apart from her maiden name being Margaret Jane Russell Smith. They had a son, also named William (my wife’s father) who went to sea about 1933 and a daughter Gladys. Are there any records of the gas works or its employees? Or is there anyone out there who knows anything of the Straughan family? I gather it is a common name in the Durham area.

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  6. Does anyone remember Maria and Henry Irish and their children who lived in Shakespere Street? They were my Grandparents. I think it was about 1944 when I used to go but they lived they for years before that. I have fond memory’s of going there to sleep with my many Auntie’s and Uncle’s in this tiny two bedroomed house. If I remember rightly there was 3 boys and four girls living there at the time. The girls slept in one bedroom and the boys in the other whilst my grandparents slept down stairs, and no one grumbled about it.

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  7. This is just to confirm that there was never any gas works in Portrack. The site was just a “holder station” equipped with gas holders for storing gas. At the time that the gas holder in Portrack was built, the Gas Industry was in decline. It had to use special types of coal that were becoming more and more expensive. And as people have mentioned, coal based gasworks were an environmental nightmare. The Gas Industry began to revive in the 1960s when it adopted the steam reforming process developed at ICI Billingham to make “towns gas” rather than hydrogen. These processes used a petrol-like liquid called naphtha. The steam reforming plants produced gas at high pressure, so one plant could serve a large area via high pressure pipelines. The one that was built for North Teesside was at Hartlepool. But in the Middlebrough area quite a lot of gas came from the coke ovens of Dorman Long, although I think that there was a coal gas works at North Ormsby.

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  8. These Gas Work gates were at the top of Thompson Street & not the Black Path, Portrack as shown on the location map. When we got hurt as kids the Gas Works gateman always patched us up.

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  9. My great grandfather john edward whitmore (known as edward) worked at the gas works.he died aged 45 in 1914, it was probably the work that killed him.he lived at 18 milton st. presumably i could view the personnel records in the above accounts

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  10. The reports of the Gas Works Manager to the Gas Committee are available for public viewing in the bound Council records at the main library. From memory, these numerous and detailed gas works records go well back into the 19th century, but stop upon the formation of the Northern Gas Board soon after WW2. Many topics are covered including wages, accounts, recruitment, employment, expenditure, maintenance, gas quality and output, and day-to-day running of the Gas Works. Employee names, numbers, appointments/resignations, promotions, trades and wages are usually given. The Gas Works Manager is often named and questioned, he submits answers, requests, information, plans, and advice to the Committee. Ashmore, Benson, Pease Co. Ltd seem have used the Gas Works to evaluate new technology and equipment at times. In writing about the Gas Works locomotives back to 1870″s I used the Gas Committee records as a primary source, although I have not completely finished this task for/on Picture Stockton.

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  11. My Great-great uncle William Ford was the Gas Works Manager and I also belive my Great uncle worked there until just before WW1. William Ford retired to Vancouver Island and Robert William Ford to Vernon, BC. Doing a bit of family history and came apon your site. Thank you and keep up the good work.

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  12. My husband’s grandfather Edwin Teasdale was doing demolition work at Stockton gas works in 1922 when the wall fell on the workmen. Sadly he was killed in this tragic accident along with 2 work mates. I think one was seriously injured but survived. This information is in the newspaper archives.

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  13. My grandfather, Robert Weighill, worked here, and lived in Tilery (Seaham Street). He probably retired in the late 50″s early 60″s – perhaps one of the younger workers remembers him? I can remember that awful sulphurous smell when walking down towards the railway footbridge that went across the north end of the station. Not a favourite route…

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  14. my dad was born in thompson street. he was called eddie reeves born 1928. has anyone got pics of the street or anything to do with my dad? thanks for taking the time to comment on this wonderful site .

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  15. I lived in THOMPSON STREET and there were no back to back housing in the area around the GAS WORKS just great people I remember it to this day and I was about 9 years old when we went to live at ROSEWORTH ESTATE central heating, bathroom, and my own bedroom, heaven. Also I remember taking my dads Sunday dinner into work because in worked in a place called the BOG

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  16. The Gas Works trips to get coke to heat the house during the 1940s were also familiar to me from both Parkfield and Tilery. In my early days at St. Mary’s I remember going with my grandfather, mainly during school holidays, because in term time he would drop me off at school before heading for the Gas Works to get fuel for the black-leaded kitchen range in Compton street. My transport would be his barrow made up of a large wooden box with wooden handles attached to the sides and mounted on a pair of pram wheels with a couple of “clean” sacks for me to sit on. During the late 40’s I occasionally went with my father on his bike from Mitre street, but he normally collected our coke on his way home from a shift at ICI.

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  17. I go around local schools doing “Victorian-Day Classrooms ” have found that most children when shown a knob of coal have no idea what it is or what part of history it played, especially in the N.E, this site shows the past as lived by ordinary folk. Two answers :- Clarence Pottery was opened in 1877, Prospect House on the corner of Prospect Place , was at one time the home of Major Fairfax-Blakeborough , later it became St Gerard”s Convent, when the nuns moved from the convent nr St Marys. I agree with Brian Swales on the WW 1 Celebration photo, that is Clephans ornate brick building in Norton Road in the background

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  18. Like Jim McCurley ,I too remember in the fifties,aged about five or six, going with my father on his bike to the gasworks, sat on a “croggy seat” on the crossbar, between his legs, with two little foot rests for my feet. He towed a home made cart, made from two bike wheels, axled together with a platform, designed to take two bags of coke. We biked from Newham Grange. I remember you stood in line while they filled sacks from a big hopper. We were lucky , we could ride back, a lot of people biked there but had to walk back with the sacks slung across the bike somehow. Womens bikes were best for holding a sack, no crossbar. In our house we had one coal fire exclusively for heat, located in the living room. There was nothing better than a couple of shovels of coke on the fire, when it got going. The heat was tremendous. One of my fondest memories as a child was the treat of getting up to a roaring coke fire on a morning, which dad had lit coming off night shift at Billingham ICI. I remember how good we were at lighting a coal fire, fast, on those cold winter mornings. We used tightly rolled newspapers,tied in a knot, onto which we placed some of the remaining partially burned coal from the last fire. We never used wood kindling. Cost too much! Sometimes we used a “gas poker” which we lit ,under the coal,there was a small gas line spiggot next to the fireplace for this. Then we used a newspaper backed up by the coal shovel,as a “blazer” to draw the air in over the coals for fast ignition. It was a skill our mothers were best at. Coal fires were central to the way we lived in those days, it was the only source of heat, it heated the water for a bath so bath night was once a week. It involved waiting for the water to be hot, then usually one parent would bathe followed by the kids, in the same water. It was done quickly with the least amount of fuss. There was also a “pecking order” of seating around that living room fire. The best seats, close to the fire ,were reserved for dad and mam. If you were sitting in their seats when they entered the room you got up straight away. It was usually the older kids job to “go and get a shovel of coal” to keep the fire going, usually with “niggle” involved with “Who got the last one” ! We were always fascinated when the coal man came, with his jaunty cap and his leather harnessed back protection, as he lifted the coal sacks off the lorry and delivered it to your coal house, tipping it over his shoulder to empty the sack. Coal was a way of life which has disappeared forever now, although it wasn”t the most efficient way to heat a home, it helped with a kind of togetherness in the family which I”ll never forget.

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  19. Hi Harry and Bob! I too used to trail, with my mother, from Parkfield to the gasworks for a bag of cinders, but we were still doing it into the late fifties. It seems we went every week or so because she could never afford a real bag of coal. We used an old pram that was so dilapidated we had trouble pushing it with the bag in it. Whenever we crossed a road we would each take an end so we could lift it back onto the pavement. I liked the cinders better than coal because they would smoulder away for hours and I didn”t have to go out in the cold to the coal house as often. A friend of mine told me his parents lived in Thornaby during the war. One day his dad came home from the navy and found the house so cold he went straight out to the gas works for a bag of cinders. He carried the bag on his back and had to stop quite often for a rest. On Victoria Bridge he leaned the bag on the rail and all the cinders fell in the river. Maybe my friend was having me on!

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  20. Nice piece of word painting Bob with your description of the mid 1930″s queue of folks at the Gas Works Gate waiting for a couple of bushels of cinders that would help to keep the home fires burning through the bitter days of Winter. I do remember riding on the crossbar of Dad”s bike from Parkfield to the Gas Works to join the queue of shivering hopefuls. Somehow, the saddest memory is of those broken springed, splay wheeled prams. I do not think that we were ever able to transport three bags of cinders, but maybe my memory is a little blurred as to details.Although the smell of Sulpher in the Air remains with me to this day, and perhaps the description of a Satanic Mill is not so wide of the mark. The walk back to Parkfield would have taken quite a long time and I suspect that, for me, much of the walk would have been on Dad”s shoulders. The prize cinders would be dumped into the almost empty coal house in the back yard where the larger pieces would be broken into more manageable bits. And the fire! Ah! How those hard won cinders glowed in the grate. There was a spin off in the form of “Cinder Tea”, in which a hot cinder was dropped into a pan of water. This water was then strained into a glass or bottle and was used as a very effective “Gripe Water” to ease Babies upset tummies.Sometimes, Grannies do know best.

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  21. My great grandfather, Thomas Burton and his family (wife Harriet and children Leonora , William and grandaughter Ida, lived in 27 Ewbank Street, Stockton on Tees in 1901 which, I think, no longer exists. He was a “Lamplighter Gas Works” by trade. I think his son in law (Leonora”s husband) may have followed him into the trade after he left the Navy.

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  22. I lived in 10 Federick street from 1955 to 1960 and my Grandad – Gordon Burn and my dad – Peter Burn – both worked at the gasworks. Our houses were not back to back as we had a yard and back street separating our house from those behind us in Byron Street. I have not been able to find anyone to substantiate that any back to back houses existed in the Thompson street area. I do remember the lightman extinguishing the gas fed street lighting in Federick Street.

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  23. Demolition of Stockton Gas-Works. If ever there were  Dark Satanic-Mills, this was one of them. The 1850s Victorian back-to-back housing around Thompson Street abutted the 10ft wall of a roaring, steaming flame-flaring smelling industry, which at times covered the housing in a gray mist. Pride kept St John”s Church and the houses round about clean. With the ritual of sweeping and swilling the pavemment routine. The gates are the most evocative.  During the 1930s depression queues of folk stood around  from 6-30am in all weathers with their wheel-barrows, broken prams and bicycles for a sack or bushel of cinders. A bike could take 3 bags 1 through the “croggy” cross-bar, 1 across the seat and  the third along the handlebars

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