Lost Thornaby Riverside c1990

This picture is looking up river from the Victoria Bridge. I think that the bridge in the distance is the new A66 bypass around South Stockton. All the industrial buildings and warehouses on either side of the river have been replaced. The brick building on the right has a sign which seems to say WLFURN Engineering. The one on the left, close to the road bridge also has a sign, but I cannot make this out. However, judging by the funny chimneys on the crown of the roof, it looks like it was doing metal work. Hot forging or casting?

Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

8 thoughts on “Lost Thornaby Riverside c1990

  1. During WW2, 1939-1945, if the German Secret Service or Luftwaffe had been “on the ball “, they would have realised that this railway bridge over the River Tees was one of the most important targets in Britain, if they had of destroyed it, they would have crippled steel deliveries out of Dorman & Long Steelworks and prevented iron ore, Durham coal and coke deliveries being made to them and also halted bomb casing deliveries by rail from Head Wrightson. What a target this rail bridge would have made, thank God they overlooked its importance?


  2. Certainly Wilfurn Engineering on the right. Also on that side of the river as far as I can recall were Foster Brotherton (timber), Tomlinson Hall (engineers), Amos Swift (brush manufacturers – still in Boathouse Lane I believe), George Fordy, (building contractors), North Eastern Electricity Board Depot (now Arriva), and, the reason Boathouse Lane was so called, the boathouse of Tees Rowing. The club occupied this site from 1864 until they relocated to the River Tees Watersports Centre in 2001. Their boat launching steps can just be made out a little downstream of the railway bridge. To the right is the former Vulcan Foundry which was later converted to small light industrial units. Occupiers included Hadrian Caravans, Begg’s Coaches and Beacon Waste Disposal. Turnbull’s scrapyard near the railway bridge used to have a Scotch Derrick (crane) – the photo may have been taken after this was removed pending closure of the yard.

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    • I was with a gang of four playing near the Sea Cadets boathouse mentioned. Ray Costello, Terry Morgan, Denis Green? (R.I.P died young) and myself, Ray shouted out that there were dozens of fish floating upside down in the River Tees, but we did not believe him, we had never heard of a fish floating upside down and we were too young to know that only dead fish did this. *Ray insisted we come and look for ourselves. True enough there were hundreds of them, most dead but some still alive and struggling to keep that way, we caught these and did not know what to do with them, so decided to put them back but took the very largest of them home with us thinking wrongly they were trout. Trout for tea was on the cards. Getting home my mother soon chucked them in the dustbin – they smelt strongly of the River Tees – we learnt later that a chemical spill had occurred and had poisoned the river. There was no Blue River Agencies in those days and people accepted that industrial spillages and accidents in an area like Teesside would occur. A fact of life. What needs to be mentioned is at one time the Tees beat the Tweed for the size and quality of the salmon caught there. It was Britain’s number one game-fisherman’s river.


  3. This photograph certainly triggers of old memories, I used to work in the Bowesfield Lane offices of Tarslag Limited (a Tarmac Homes Ltd, Wolverhampton subsidiary) highway surfacing contractors, to get there each day I walked from the Five Lamps to Thornaby road via George Street, then vaulted over the stone wall surrounding the Co-op coal yard premises in order to get on the railway sidings path leading to this bridge, by using this shortcut I saved 1- hour travelling time a day, but all good things have to end and one day I got warned-off by the Railway Police for trespassing. I can still remember those metal railway signs that said No Trespassing, Penalty £5.00. Because of this warning, I packed the job in. In those days Bowesfield Lane was surrounded by open fields used for rough grazing with no bus service to it. I seem to recall some allotments to the right that contained the usual collection of wood and corrugated steel sheds, whilst further on there was the very impressive office buildings and works belonging to Ashmore Benson and Pease? after walking past them there was a 1/2 mile straggle of poor quality terrace houses and shops ending at Parliament Street, turn right and Bainbridge’s scrapyard and the ancient Stockton railway goods yard was there. Miles Turnbull and his brother scrapyard was situated on the left of this photo, I am related to Miles and named my own son Miles Wilson after him.

    The most important building in this area was Stockton and Thornaby Hospital, whose nurses wore those long peaked hats that stood almost a foot above their heads, the uniforms were blue, they wore belts with silver buckles and the Ward sisters badge of office was in the form of a small silver/chrome watch suspended on their shoulders by a 3 inch strap and used for taking patients pulse rates. The amount of respect the Matrons and Nurses commanded was unbelieveable by today’s slipping standards, stopping the Matron in charge of Hospitals system was the biggest mistake the NHS ever made. God Bless them all, tireless, fearless workers, many of whom had served throughout the war with great honours.


  4. It’s the Tees railway bridge in the distance – must have crossed it over a thousand times between 1966 and 1971. Bowesfield Junction would be off to the right, much-simplified compared to then. There were all sorts of small foundries in this area at that time, instance when I was making sound recordings in the final days of steam traction, there was a constant background hum of fans/ blowers to contend with. This particular shot takes me back a decade or four, to when I was working for BR on Thornaby station, not as a ‘lad-porter’ please note, but as a ‘junior’ technical officer in the prefab building on the East end of the island platform. During a detailed inspection of Tees Bridge, on which the trains were passing almost past our ears, I was supposed to be taking notes for the Area Assistant Engineer, a John Deacon who lived near Yarm. As the inspection took some time, I became bored, so wandered-off down to the river bank and found the mandatory ‘safety boat’ – it was a long drop into the water and the currents could be quite strong. I got in (no life-jackets in those days, plus no objection voiced by the oarsman) and rowed right the way across and back again, learning quite a bit about tidal flow… (Said John Deacon NOT impressed of course, but THAT’S work-experience!)


  5. The complex on the left hand side near the bridge with the sign last incarnation was I think Turnbull’s steel and scrap metal on Wedgwood Street, Thornaby. Not sure about the one on the right which looks like it’s next to Parkfield Foundries.


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