"The iron of Eston has diffused itself all over the world. it furnishes the railways of the world; it runs by neapolitan and papal dungeons; it startles the bandit in his haunt in cicilia; it crosses over the plains of Africa; it stretches over the plains of India. it has crept out of the Cleveland Hills where it has slept since Roman days, and now like a strong and invincible serpent, coils itself around the world"
Sir H.G Reid
Middlesbrough might be well known as the North East's 'infant Hercules' of industry, but few people fully appreciate the sheer enormity and scale of the town's industrial legacy. There aren't many other towns in the world that can lay claim to coating half the planet in steel and metal. In fact, Middlesbrough's rags to riches transformation in the industrial period is unparalleled by any other English town.
Before the 1800s the town was little more than a truck stop for travellers and traders moving up and down the country in search of better things. The earliest recording of the town's name is 'Mydilsburgh' which alluded to the town's middle-journey status on the famous Christian Durham to Whitby route. In 1801, there were no more than four farmhouses marking the territory of the town.
"Middlesbrough Will Be". In the early 1800s, one very forward sighted entrepreneur, Joseph Pease, decided to nurture Middlesbrough's much overlooked potential. Pease used his influence to establish a rail connection from Darlington and develop Middlesbrough as a port for coal. He famously predicted that "Yarm was, Stockton is, Middlesbrough will be". Indeed, the motto chosen by the first body of town councillors was 'Erimus'; Latin for 'We will be'.
In 1841, some more enterprising industrialists, Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan of Wales, discovered ironstone deposits in the Eston Hills. This triggered an overnight commercial metamorphosis; within no time, foundaries, mills, steel manufacturing companies and engineering works had sprung up across the town and the population multiplied tenfold. By 1890, the population had increased to 90 000 - the growth was unprecedented in England.
World class manufacturing
It was in this heyday that Middlesbrough established itself as a world class centre for steel construction and metal manufacturing. The signature of local companies like Dorman Long is engraved on bridges and landmarks all over the world, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Tyne Bridge Newcastle, and Bangkok Memorial Bridge in Thailand. No surprises that Middlesbrough earned itself the nickname, Ironopolis or 'Iron Town'.
In time, Middlesbrough's reputation for innovation and manufacturing supported the growth of other industries such as shipbuilding, offshore fabrication and chemical production. These have contributed in no small measure to Britain's prosperity.
Bridges Built By Dorman Long, Middlesbrough
- New Lambeth Bridge - London, England
- Tyne Bridge - Newcastle, England
- Bangkok Memorial Bridge - Bangkok, Thailand
- Menai Suspension Bridge - Menai Strait, Wales
- Strostrom Bridge - Denmark
- Chien Tang River Bridge - China
- Otto Biet Bridge over the Zambesi River - Zimbabwe
- Khedive Ismail Bridge - Cairo, Egypt
- Dessouk Bridge - Lower Nile, Egypt
- Limpopo Bridge - South Africa
- Omdurman Bridge - White Nile, Sudan
- Sydney Harbour Bridge - Sydney, Australia
- Newport Bridge - Middlesbrough, England
- Birchenough Bridge - Zimbabwe
Fun facts: did you know?
A town in Kentucky (United States) was named after Middlesbrough when they discovered ironstone deposits in the region!
Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge is a Grade II listed building.
The Little Theatre in Linthorpe was the first new theatre built in England after World War II.
The Dorman Long office on Zetland Street is the only commercial building ever designed by Philip Webb, the great architect who worked for Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell.
Middlesbrough's Truefitt Brewing Company brews drinks inspired by Middlesbrough's history with names like Erimus Pale Ale and Ironopolis.
North East Film Archive Calendar
Middlesbrough is a proud part of the North East of England. Below find historical footage from the North East courtesy of the North East Film Archive.