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The Birth of Middlesbrough

Home > History > The Birth of Middlesbrough

Mydilsburgh is the earliest recorded form of Middlesbrough's name and dates to Saxon times. 'Burgh' refers to an ancient settlement, or perhaps a fort of pre-Saxon origin which may have been situated on slightly elevated land close to the Tees. 'Mydil' was either the name of an Anglo-Saxon or a reference to Middlesbrough's middle location, half way between the Christian centres of Durham and Whitby. In Anglo-Saxon times Middlesbrough was certainly the site of a chapel or cell belonging to Whitby Abbey but despite this early activity, Middlesbrough was still only a small farm of twenty five people as late as 1801.

In 1829 a group of Quaker businessmen headed by Joseph Pease of Darlington purchased this Middlesbrough farmstead and its estate and set about the development of what they termed `Port Darlington' on the banks of the Tees nearby. A town was planned on the site of the farm to supply labour to the new coal port - Middlesbrough was born.

Joseph Pease, `the father of Middlesbrough' was the son of Edward Pease, the man behind the Stockton and Darlington Railway. By 1830 this famous line had been extended to Middlesbrough, making the rapid expansion of the town and port inevitable. In 1828 Joseph Pease had predicted there would be a day when;

"..the bare fields would be covered with a busy multitude with vessels crowding the banks of a busy seaport".

His prophecy was to prove true, the small farmstead became the site of North Street, South Street, West Street, East Street, Commercial Street, Stockton Street, Cleveland Street, Durham Street, Richmond Street, Gosford Street, Dacre Street, Feversham Street and Suffield Street, all laid out on a grid-iron pattern centred on a Market Square.

New businesses quickly bought up premises and plots of land in the new town and soon shippers, merchants, butchers, innkeepers, joiners, blacksmiths, tailors, builders and painters were moving in. Labour was employed, staithes and wharves were built, workshops were constructed and lifting engines installed. Indeed such was the growth of this port that in 1846 one local writer observed;

"To the stranger visiting his home after an abscence of fifteen years, this proud array of ships, docks, warehouses, churches, foundries and wharfs would seem like some enchanted spectacle, some Arabian Night's vision."

By 1851 Middlesbrough's population had grown from 40 people in 1829 to 7,600 and it was rapidly replacing Stockton as the main port on the Tees. An old Teesside proverb had proven true; -

"Yarm was, Stockton is, Middlesbrough will be "