The Norton Magical Mystery History Tour, 26 May 2018

Roll up, roll up, for the Mystery Tour, step right this way… and we did as we crossed Norton High Street to our Cleveland Transit double decker bus time machine in the company of our Time Lord for the tour, Martin Peagam. Our first stop was to Norton Road to what most people will have known as Hill’s but which was originally a flour and saw mill until it was bought by Thomas Hackworth and George Fossick and made into an engine works were they built steam locomotives, one being named ‘The Stockton’. They also built ships steam engines and eventually marine engineering became their main line of business. It then became Blair’s Engine Works and with Hill’s now long demolished it is now the site of a new housing development opposite the North Shore Academy, itself built on the site of the former Tilery Sports Centre.

We went to Alberto Street next and heard the tale of a ‘lady of the night’ and her death in a boarding house which once stood there although the area is now a large car park and only the street name remains!

The Daylight Bakery was our next stop and little did Ralph Spark and Sons know that some of Stockton’s greatest footballers would train and hone their dribbling skills under the floodlights at the front of this superb art-deco building . Apparently the bright lights at the front of the building would attract youngsters from around the area so that they could extend their playtime hours in near daylight all year round such was the brilliance of the lights but whether or not this accounts for the ‘Daylight’ title I’m not sure but it certainly was an illuminating tale!

Mr Fossick got his second mention of the tour just a little bit further up the ring road at what is now known as the ‘Blue Bridge’ because simply put, it’s painted blue. This new bridge was built to allow the then new ring road to go under the railway line but at the same time the original Fossick’s Bridge was filled in and buried under the railway embankment leaving no trace at all except for the road to nowhere which still remains Darlington Road while the ring road became the Ring Road or if you prefer, the A1027?

Our next and last stop was to the site of the former Norton Iron Works on Calf Fallow Lane were the original ‘Big Ben’ bell was cast. Sadly though it’s not the Stockton bell which now rings out from the Houses Of Parliament today as our bell cracked when a larger than required clapper was used and a new bell was recast by another company. Perhaps that story chimes with you?

On the way back to Norton the bus took a short detour through Stockton High Street and so fulfilled it’s mystery tour billing much to the amusement of both it’s passengers and the public it passed who rarely if ever these days see a double decker bus, not even a green Cleveland Transit one. Roll up for the Mystery Tour, roll up, satisfaction guaranteed…. and indeed it was.

Photograph and details courtesy of David Thompson.

7 thoughts on “The Norton Magical Mystery History Tour, 26 May 2018

  1. The pictures and comments make interesting reading to some one who saw it all as it was. Our Magic bus would be a red Daimler preselector gear box, open platform a conductor with bag and ticket punch the driver in his little cab in smart uniform collar and tie and considered a tradesman as few could drive anything, as he drove his “0” bus from Norton Green to North Ormesby Market Place.
    Past the Tram sheds in Norton High Street with the lines still leading into it though they had gone from the main road. The huge building with Blairs still written on it and Harkers Marine Engine works on Danby Road, the Conductor shouting every stop name as we got to it Harkers would be Lustrum Beck. Hills where as a young apprentice up on the high crane track with my mate Steve Small I saw him touch a wire and collapse then start to roll under the single hand rail, I grabbed his legs and hung on until men got up with ropes and lowered him down. Three of us in a little room sniffing Sal Volatile the cure for all ills, Steve for electric shock me for shock and the man working on the machine below when the piece of metal I was carrying went flying down hitting the floor besides him then gently leaning on him, he had fainted. The crane driver had removed the do not use notice from the main switch and turned it on.
    Under the Tilery Rail Bridge you could not get into Stockton without passing under or over a railway. Up Tilery Bank and into Town passing Maxwells Corner and into a busy High Street stopping at the Town Hall to debus and walk down Silver Street to the River and watch the Boats being loaded and unloaded. A busy bustling Market, small factories down every side street the Shipyard with boats on the Slipways, The Empire Building as you went into Bridge Road, the newly opened Globe and Cinema’s the Hippodrome where we saw live shows.
    All long gone and some of it needed to go, Stockton High Street now bucking the trend of other towns and still having a lively High Street, M&S closure will not kill the town as my children and grandchildren tell me, life will go on.
    Stockton has different memories for all of us through differing age levels, the point being we remember it mainly through the times and things we enjoyed at the time. My age was the Dancing Stockton. Three main Dance Halls and the Corporation Hall, Co-op Dance Halls Norton and Billingham, School and Church Halls all had dances for young and old we had entertainment for all, things change, we cannot live in the past so move on. Long live our memories.


  2. The ‘blue bridge ‘ on the Ring Road A1027 was put in place in 1965. However, the old bridge – Fossick (Fussick) Bridge – was still usable by foot or bicycle for very many years and it survived until the early years of this century, before being filled in by Network Rail and becoming part of the railway embankment.


  3. Thanks for all the happy memories you brought back to me. I originally lived in Norton and worked at Hills Joinery, spending many lunchtimes playing bowls on what was then Tilery Rec. I now live in Spain but follow your page avidly, thanks once again for all the photos.


    • My stepfather, George Jones, worked at Hills. He died in 2005, 2 days before his 92nd birthday. He’d started smoking at the age of 15 and stopped suddenly at the age of 70.


  4. 26 May tour – sat in Glasgow enjoyed seeing the Sparks bakery and M&S Stockton (due to close) where I had my first job prior to working in an office. Where is the fountain?

    Pam Painter (nee Dinsdale)


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