Whose heritage is it anyway? Teesside’s contested industrial legacy

Whilst many former industrial sites in Europe, the US and even China are being preserved, reimagined and repurposed, the North East of England’s are being demolished and cleared at an alarming rate. Nowhere is this more apparent than Teesside.

Why not preserve and repurpose our industrial sites? Why demolish instead? In this talk Dr Jon Warren (author of Industrial Teesside Lives and Legacies) will focus on the demise of iron and steel on Teesside and how questions of heritage have been dealt with.

  • Whose heritage is it anyway?
  • Stockton Reference Library (Stockton Central Library)
  • Friday 26 May, 10.30am – 12pm
  • Free event, booking essential. This event can be booked online ‘Whose heritage is it anyway?’ or by calling 01642 528079. Light refreshments will be provided.

8 thoughts on “Whose heritage is it anyway? Teesside’s contested industrial legacy

  1. Perhaps because Teesside was a very late comer to the Industrial Revolution, only really getting going with the invention of the basic Bessemer process in the 1870s, almost all of its industrial buildings have been recent. It has led to an attitude of, “If it is the way, get rid of it”. It isn’t important. The same spirit led to the destruction of Stockton Town Centre.

    Old buildings and the remnants of key industries can help turn towns and cities into major tourist centres. This has been realised in other parts of the country and in this respect the Dorman Long Coke Ovens and the Redcar Blast Furnace could have become tourist magnets. This could have been done without impeding the development of the former South Durham and Steelworks sites.

    To Town Planners and Developers, please be more careful in future.


    • Hello Fred I always enjoy reading your comments and believe we are very like minded, but I would like to add an aside and fuel the debate on the preservation of Stockton’s industrial past. Stockton was not the late comer to the industrial revolution you might believe. the main impetus to the industrialisation of Teesside was the discovery of ironstone in the Cleveland Hills in 1854. In 1854 Bell Brothers opened an iron works at Port Clarence – Bell Brothers Clarence Iron Works would go on to be one of the most productive and longest lived iron works on Teesside. In 1855 an iron works opened at Portrack. The Portrack works would progress to become the Malleable, a major employer in Stockton.
      But if you class the industrial revolution as beginning with the advent of the steam engine then Stockton’s industrial past goes even further back.
      I believe Blair Brothers which was situated on Norton Road and who were manufacturers of marine engines can be traced back to the 1840’s to a company who manufactured steam locomotives. Shipbuilding in Stockton was in existence in the early 1800’s, eventually leading to the building of iron ships in the 1850’s.
      Sadly the depression of the 1930’s led to the demise of many big industries in the Stockton district. Some of the buildings though lived on until fairly recently. A building on Norton Road that became Hill’s door factory I believe was the offices of the Blair’s Engine works. West Row and Bishopton Lane in Stockton seem to be the last remnant of what were smaller, but equally important industries.
      I realise any preservation projects need to be funded and to be self sustaining but if Stockton has the money to demolish old buildings to create car parks and roads as they have done in recent years. Roads which allow people to drive through the town quicker than ever to the next town. Car parks that may only be full when it’s the Stockton Riverside Festival. Wouldn’t some creative thinking be able to regenerate the few remaining old buildings.
      As a final comment the main museum for Stockton-On-Tees is about four miles outside the town centre. Why should anyone interested in the industrial past of Stockton-On-Tees bother coming to the town?


  2. A nostalgic comment: Alas the famous 30 foot road in Middlesbrough is long gone, this road was named because it could roll the longest steel beam in the world; how long – you can guess at 30 foot or about 10 metre. I have seen their produce in various places, from near Belo Horizonte, the mining capital of Brazil to India and Malaysia. We can afford to recall the past and use the memory to move forward; but I agree that because we led the world in so much is no reason to be physically swallowed it. The libraries and the archives etc need the past; the land and our brains has use for the future.


  3. My father, sister, sister in law, brother in law (2) all worked on Teesside, mainly the ICI chemical side. I went abroad with the armed forces and didn’t get back to “home” for many years and OMG what a change, what a difference. Initially outraged I then gradually came round more to the thoughts of Philip McNeil and have to agree 100% re the government and industries going abroad. Though the idea of preserving these old sites is OK, are we not creating a living museum here in England with so much history being preserved visitors can be forgiven for thinking we live in the past, or do we?


  4. Lots more navel gazing and how great the good old days were, they weren’t. Having worked in this industrial era I have experience of how the status quo had to be maintained but no one had the willingness to look to the future and ask “what next”. Now we have politicians dabbling in things they don’t understand and wanting to level up something that is already broken. So don’t hang on to the past by keeping these old relics. Think to the future and what the area needs now and in 50 years time and take action not building another museum.


  5. I see no point in preserving old industrial buildings. Too many people want to keep them, but too few of these same people are prepared to put their hands in their pockets and maintain them. Far better to clear and if necessary decontaminate to repurpose the brown field sites, that demolition makes. These site can but used creating a new industrial base. But alas our successive government masters have by design neglected to do. Allowing companies to flee to cheap near slave labour lands, at the expense of our diminishing individual purchasing power while the bankers and industrialists get richer. If the government, bankers and industrialist, aren’t the solution to reversing the demise of the U.K., they must be the problem. It’s all very well to preserve these places and reflect of what as a nation our ancestors DID. Instead we should be showing the world what we in the present can DO.


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