Head Wrightson: A Virtual Tour

Take a virtual tour of what was the site of Head Wrightson, in the company of Albert Roxborough. Using photographs and other material from the Heritage Lottery funded Head Wrightson Photo Archive Project, we can see what life was like at the company which was one of the industrial giants of Teesside engineering.

Thursday 6 May, 2021 at 2pm: Free online event which will be shown in Stockton Libraries Virtual Local and Family Facebook Group. No need to book, all welcome. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/246080663250652 to watch the video and ask Albert any questions.

Davy United. Appeal for information!

From Sue Parker at the Cleveland Institution of Engineers:

Do you have any information on Davy United who used to have offices in Bowesfield Lane in Stockton?  There is going to be an exhibition of paintings by Kenneth Steel in Sheffield (where he was born and lived), and the organisers are trying to find original paintings that he did for Davy’s.  This one was done for Davy United in Stockton in 1954.

Does anyone recognise what it is a painting of, and if it was an actual plant? If it was an actual plant, does anyone know where it was?

Kenneth Steel is alleged to have done quite a few paintings for Davy’s at Stockton.  Six are known to have hung in the Boardroom at Bowesfield Lane, and I know where three of them are, and these are scenic views of Teesdale.  The other three may also be scenic views of Teesdale.  The organisers of the exhibition are keen to find any paintings of steelmaking plant.

Someone somewhere will know someone who knows about these things, it’s just a case of finding them!

Goliath Crane, Middlesbrough Dock Point Facility

During the 1970s, engineering companies were manufacturing the oil platforms for the North Sea. A pride of accomplishment when the finished modules were sent out on barges down the River Tees and out to sea. The workers involved in the construction of the rig and the movement of the parts by the crane “Goliath” to where they were needed. You might say that my passion for Goliath when I worked there and it’s sad to what it looks like now – reminds me of the song “Big River” by Jimmy Nail.

Photographs and details courtesy of Michael Hymer.

Portrack Ironworks

Here’s a photo of men at the ironworks in Portrack.

My grandad 3rd row from front, 2nd right. His name was Robert Bryant and he lived in Portrack all his life. I believe they loaded scrap metal into the furnace. I never understood why they wore white scarfs in what must have been a dirty environment.


Photo and details courtesy of Mike Ranson

In 1964 Power Gas Ltd and ICI Led the World

This is an advert stating that Power Gas Ltd, in Bowesfield Lane, were the leaders in designing and building a new type of steam reformer which could be made to produce either hydrogen or town gas. The basic process had been developed by ICI Billingham, using naphtha, a kind of cheap low grade petrol. ICI had needed to invent a new catalyst to cope with naphtha as steam reformers, up to that time, had used natural gas as a feedstock. Indeed, before the discovery of North Sea Gas, ICI were going downhill as they had had to rely on coal to make hydrogen. Billingham, in a sense, was a glorified gas works with all that this implies in terms of filth and expense.

Being in the same area there was a close relationship between ICI Billingham and Power Gas, so it was an obvious step to get Power Gas building the new type of steam reformer. Steam reforming using naphtha saved the ICI and also saved British Gas. The advert shows that Power Gas was the first to build steam reformers in a number of places and countries. One picture shows the overall advert, the other picture, plants that Power Gas had built.

Pictures and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

ICI Salt Division Roll Of Honour, 1939 – 1945

This ICI Roll Of Honour was reported to have been recently found dumped in Saltburn but fortunately saved from the scrapman or worse and is now being held in safe keeping pending its future. The Salt Union at Port Clarence was taken over by ICI in 1937 and the Clarence Salt Works were closed by ICI in 1952 followed by the Tennants Works in 1956 . The salt or brine fields extended from Port Clarence across to Greatham were the Cerebos Salt Factory was and between the two was the aptly named Saltholme Farm now a thriving nature reserve but once an active ICI farm .
It would be appropriate and fitting if the plaque could be placed alongside the ICI War Memorial in Memorial Park on Station Road in Billingham which was itself moved from its site outside of the former ICI Headquarters in Chilton Avenue in 1996.

Photograph and details courtesy of David Thompson.

Women Workers at Furness Shipyard

The first photograph from 1918 shows a group of women laying a rail track, I think this may be the track that ran from near to the fitting out basin along the river bank toward the perimeter fence near to the Transporter Bridge. The second is a photograph of that track with a steam crane on it, I remember seeing the same crane on the same track in the late 1960s, it was still working even then.

This photograph is from a newspaper cutting in my late fathers belongings, the text under the photo says “Dinah Carline and some of her mates, Furness Shipyard 1953”, unfortunately the article itself has been cut off. It may be possible that somebody will know Dinah Carline or even spot their mother, grandmother or great grandmother in this photograph. My father was a riveter and my mother was a burner in the Furness yard during the Second World War, my father never talked about his work but it must have had a great influence on his life as we found a number of books and photographs about the Furness Shipyard amongst his belongings.

Images and details courtesy Bruce Coleman.

Working Offshore on the Brent Delta

In 1977 I had a year offshore working as a materials controller on the Brent Delta oil rig. The company I worked for was called Vauldale Engineers based at Portrack in Stockton. They had the contract to supply the Electrical installations for the oil rig. Many of the chaps I worked with came from the Stockton area.

Turn the clock forward 40 years and the now redundant Brent Delta was towed to Hartlepool to be scrapped at the Able Wharf facility. All 24000 tons of it. They were saying there would be a 97% recycling rate for this tonnage. These two pictures show the rig in position in the North Sea. Moored next to it was the accommodation barge the Nortrym. Normally attached to the Brent Delta by the clearly seen bridge the Nortrym only moved away during stormy weather. I recall spending a night or two sleeping on the floor of the Brent Delta. You had to use your boots as a pillow or they could ”walk” during the night.

Photographs and details courtesy of Martin Birtle.

Harkers Engineering, Church Road, Stockton

The sad demise of a once long standing family company in Stockton-on-Tees. These are some of the last known images of Harkers Engineering taken around 2006, when the machines were being dismantled prior to being shipped to new owners. I worked there from 1987 until 2006. Excellent company to work for during the 80’s and 90’s.

Photograph and details courtesy of Derek Proctor.