Doing The Dresser Trail

Ever wondered what Linthorpe was like before it was almost swallowed up by the sprawling metropolis Middlesbrough? Exactly what still remains from the time of the pottery that spread the name Linthorpe far and wide across the globe?

We stepped back in time this week embarking on the Linthorpe Art Pottery Trail for Discover Middlesbrough. Sue Sedgwick, Education Officer from Dorman Museum guided two parties through the streets of leafy Linthorpe pointing out landmarks and buildings that would have been contemporary with the Linthorpe Pottery.

Set up in 1879 by the great Victorian industrial designer Christopher Dresser, his designs and their impact are now celebrated in a new gallery in the Dorman Museum. Although Dresser’s designs are still manufactured in Italy by Alessi he is no longer as well known as William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. Yet in Victorian England and in fact around the world Dresser was a pioneer of industrial design. That was affordable design that percolated far further down the society than the somewhat elitist hand made crafts of Morris and co. The Dresser Gallery is of international importance celebrating the creative talent of someone that helped shaped the world of everyday objects, the things that make our houses into homes.

Even though it was not opened until 1904 the Dorman Museum and the Dresser Gallery make for an ideal starting point for the trail that is only just over a mile long.

Passing along Linthorpe Road we turned at the corner of St Barnabas Road, formerly New Cemetery Road and the route to Linthorpe Cemetery where many of the great and the good of Victorian Middlesbrough were buried. St Barnabas church was originally opposite the present grand red brick structure, built in 1892. Across Linthorpe Road the Albert Park Hotel would have been standing in Dresser’s day. It was built by William Oliver in 1868 taking its name from the brand new park. Oliver was a bit of a pioneer running the first single horse tram from here to Middlesbrough in 1871. A nearby street is named after Oliver.

Along St Barnabas Road we passed early Victorian terrace housing recognisable Sue pointed out because the front doors are not next to each other. A sign that the houses are not sharing internal plumbing. No internal running water.

The small park known as the Rec is a relic of one of the many clay pits serving up to 30 brickworks in the Linthorpe area. Although filled in many years ago, movement and possible subsidence meant it was never built over. Today the paths are tarmac and not paved because it is easier to repair after cracking. It was this proximity to clay that was utilised for the Linthorpe Art Pottery.

At Burlam Road corner the old Industrial School built in 1875 has now been converted into flats and the lovely Linthorpe Tea Rooms, I would recommend a tea, cake or even meal stop at this point. Inside the tearooms there are printed guides telling of the history of a building originally built for boys from destitute families.

On the opposite side of the road is the quaint Rose Cottage, a single storey building when erected in 1863 by local brickworks owner, Joseph Hodgson. This was once the centre of the village of Linthorpe. There was a village green on what is now the cemetery edge here. Now a local nature reserve and looked after by the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery it is a fascinating place to explore and maybe work up a thirst for a cup of tea and some food in the vintage Linthorpe Tea Rooms.

We then turned up a terrace street, Kings Road and on towards its modern extension, Patey Court named after a manager from the pottery. Close by is the commemorative wall with Linthorpe Pottery designs and a display board telling the story of pottery that produced over 2000 designs in its ten year existence. This is the site of the former buildings and the end of our trail.

We then returned back to the Dorman Museum to use our tokens for a free scone with a cup of tea in the newly opened Dresser’s tearoom. It is run by three generations of the same family and already popular with all that enjoy the atmosphere of a vintage Victorian tearoom and lovely homemade cakes.

You can pick up a free printed guide from the DormanMuseum and take your own Linthorpe Art Pottery Trail. Remember to look around the unparalleled collection of Christopher Dresser’s designs in the Dresser Gallery. The trail is just over a mile long and a pleasant walk through leafy Linthorpe with the chance for refreshments at either end. A refreshing step back into the past and a celebration of a great man forever connected with Middlesbrough and Linthorpe.





Phil Philo Message in a Bottle: Communication at Sea in the Time of Captain Cook

It was an anniversary of the Bottle of Notes statue last year and like Phil Philo, Senior Curator of Middlesbrough Museums, I was asked to speak a few lines on film about the statue. The statue that stands titled in the ground outside mima was created by internationally acclaimed artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s. It captures some of the spirit of Middlesbrough’s history by evoking the voyages of Captain Cook and capturing some of the words from his ship’s logs in Teesside’s industrial lifeblood, steel.

But for all their research Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen appear to have been totally unaware that Captain Cook actually used a bottle of notes to communicate whilst at sea. And amazingly enough it worked.

Last week Phil Philo delivered a lecture on Communication at Sea in the time of Cook for Discover Middlesbrough. In this lecture Phil revealed the incredible story of the message in a bottle but first transported us back to the 18th century and the terrible difficulties of communication at sea. For his voyages of discovery Cook was going off the charts, he might as well have been going into space as he would be totally on his own, without back up and outside any means of communication. When Cook rounded the southern tip of Africa on his second voyage he sent a letter back to England by frigate, the only means for possible speedy delivery of news. It would be his last communication for two full years.

Phil told us that ship to ship communication could be just as fraught with difficulty. Simple messages and commands could be transferred by use of flags, such as Nelson’s famous message before Trafalgar. What I didn’t realise was that Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory was already the pride of the navy that Cook served in with such distinction.

Yet flags were far from foolproof as there were several different languages and they would be no use at all in foggy weather. This would be a real difficulty for Cook when he used two vessels in his second voyage of discovery. In the month’s they explored for a southern continent they needed to resort to cannon fire and the lighting of fires on deck to keep in contact in the ice strewn and stormy waters of the southern ocean.

Phil explained to us how Cook and the commander of the Discovery Lieutenant Furneaux arranged a rendezvous at New Zealand should they become separated. This worked once but on the second occasion Furneaux failed to show up and so Cook buried a bottle with his exploration plans in a bottle beneath a tree. The tree was scratched with advice to look below. Wouldn’t you just know it but the Discovery finally arrived just after Cook and the Resolution had given up the ghost and Furneaux did indeed look below the tree to find the bottle of instructions.

This was such an entertaining talk by Phil, painting a picture of a Royal Navy that was a huge organisation. Far bigger than today. One warship alone could carry 800 men on board. The navy at that time had a massive fleet and manpower would be massively boosted up at times of war. In the 18th century the next naval conflict was never far away. You really have to wonder just how a pre-industrial economy managed to finance it.

This was a fascinating afternoon in one of my favourite buildings anywhere, The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. Having been brought up at Marton and taught at Captain Cook Infant and Junior schools Cook is in my blood. Thanks to the work of Phil Philo and his faithful museum crew the great explorer will continue to find a place in the heart and minds of many more citizens of Middlesbrough and those that sail here from far beyond.

As for Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen their choice of a Bottle Of Notes was more symbolic of Cook than they could ever have imagined. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.




A hat trick of top Teesside football writers will be holding an entertaining discussion on the beautiful game and their writing ahead of this Saturday’s Boro match.

The trio of authors – Harry Pearson, John Nicholson and Daniel Gray – are taking part in the talk at the invitation of Boro fanzine Fly Me To The Moon, whose editor Robert Nichols will play host.

The Three Boro Writers event will take place in the Reference Library at Middlesbrough’s Central Library on Saturday, October 25, from noon-2pm before Boro take on Watford at the Riverside Stadium in a 3pm kick off.

The talk is part of the wider Discover Middlesbrough festival taking place in the town which includes open days, walks, talks, exhibitions and all manner of other activities until Saturday, November 1.

For those unfamiliar with their work, Great Ayton-born Boro fan Harry Pearson is best known as the author of The Far Corner, a book about North East football which has been named as one of the 50 Greatest Sports Books of all Time. He is also a former sports columnist with the Guardian and When Saturday Comes.

Football365 columnist John Nicholson, from Stockton, is the author of Who Ate All The Pies and also Teesside-based crime novels, the popular Nick Guymer series.

Fmttm’s own Daniel Gray recent masterpiece Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters is a travelogue through the football towns that make up the life blood of English football.

Robert Nichols said: “Although Harry, John and Daniel have given different takes on the game through their writing they all share a good sense of humour and the ability to tell a story.

“I’ll be posing a few questions and encouraging them to spout off about football and their take on the Boro.

“They are all local and big Boro fans so it should be the perfect start to a Saturday before the top of the table clash with Watford at the Riverside.”

In their own words the Boro gentlemen writers will tell you a little more about themselves.

Daniel Gray’s writing career began with pieces in Fly Me to the Moon fanzine, and a decade on he still occasional recycles jokes for them. Just skip a couple of pages further on in this issue for proof. His most recent book Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters (Bloomsbury) is a journey through the towns and teams of England’s nether regions, and When Saturday Comes magazine called it ‘Wonderful’, which was nice of them.

Harry Pearson was born and brought up in Great Ayton when they still grazed cattle on the High Green. After many years working in jobs that required disposable paper hats his life was altered forever by reading an article about Alan Foggon in When Saturday Comes. The Far Corner his book about North East football has been named as one of the 50 Greatest Sports Books of All Time by both The Observer and The Times. He wrote a weekly sports column in The Guardian from 1997-2012, and won the 2011 MCC Prize for his cricket book Slipless in Settle. He is not as tall as he looks, you are just standing closer to him than you think.

Johnny (Nicholson) has written a widely read column for Football365 for 14 years, often deliberately avoiding mentioning much football. Some people love his work, some hate it, none are slow to tell him. In 2010 he wrote We Ate All The Pies – How Football Swallowed Britain Whole, which was Long Listed for the William Hill Sportsbook Of The Year. In the last two years he’s turned his hand to writing Teesside-based crime novels, the first of which, Teesside Steal is set against Middlesbrough’s epic UEFA cup campaign in 2006. The fifth in his Nick Guymer series, ‘Teesside Blues’ has just been published and instantly devoured by his many fans.

  • Tickets to the Three Boro Writers event at Middlesbrough Reference Library on Saturday, October 25, from noon-2pm are available on 01642 729001 and cost £2.



Cafe Bahia – Lunchtime Retreat

There is nothing I like better than sitting gazing out of a window onto a street scene, especially when that view is accompanied by delicious food and soothing music. During Middlesbrough Restaurant Week I paid a lunchtime visit to Café Bahia and sheltered from the breeze whilst watching the last of the late summer rays reflect of passing cars.

A visit to Café Bahia during Middlesbrough’s Restaurant Week was a lunch time break to savour. The menu specially prepared for a week that threw a spotlight on many of the town’s quality eateries contained plenty of choices. I was drawn to the soup for starters, an exquisite vegetable blend. The vegetables were creamy, light and deeply delicious.

The soup was accompanied by two crispy French stick slices nice and warm, crackling under the melting butter.

For my main course I fancied an omelette and there were two different options everyday. The recipe I selected was unusual including a chicken fajita within the omelette. It was absolutely gorgeous.

The service was speedy and extremely courteous.

It was a restful break from the hustle and bustle relaxing to the gentle rhythms of the salsa music whilst gazing out of the window watching the traffic and people breeze past the fine red brick Edwardian bakery of former Mayor of Middlesbrough, John Forbes.

And the food was absolutely exquisite. I will be returning for sure.

Cafe Bahia – 300A Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 3QU


The North East Film Archive is back with Middlesbrough on Film – Take 2

The North East Film Archive (NEFA) have teamed up with the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation to bring to the Town Hall big screen another evening celebrating Middlesbrough’s rich film heritage.

Middlesbrough on Film Take 2 is a completely new screening of archive film from the NEFA collections and will be the opening event of the Discover Middlesbrough Festival 2014 on Thursday 16th October at 7pm.

The archive clips have been specially selected and curated to give a window onto Middlesbrough and Teesside of old, reflecting the town and its people from the 1930s through to the 1970s. The new screening will feature an early local Cleveland Cine Club production, 1935 Silver Jubilee celebrations, 1960s Tyne Tees News items, and a number of films exploring the local industries of Smith’s Dock and the Lackenby works of Dorman Long, plus the social activities of the ICI Billingham employees. Throw in some 1950s holidays at Redcar and Saltburn, footage of the river Tees and the iconic Transporter Bridge and its set to be another nostalgic evening at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

NEFA Manager Graham Relton said “We’d love to emulate last year’s event which packed out the Town Hall and if you came to that screening I’m pleased to say the content this time round is very different. In contrast to the river and industrial focus of the 2013 show this time we have unearthed previously unseen material that will bring to life not only the working life of the area but also reflect how people lived, went to school and spent their much earned leisure time.”

The audience will see many new unseen films including an 8mm amateur film donated to the North East Film Archive by a lady who came to the 2013 Middlesbrough on Film screening. The film, found in drawer at home, was made in 1964 by teacher training students and shows everything from dilapidated streets still supporting thriving communities to unique footage ‘over the border’ with the then recently built flats near the old town hall.

The film archive, based at Teesside University, have also partnered up with the Teesmouth Field Centre, who have recently donated their cine film collection. Extracts from a 1966 ‘Birds of Teesmouth’ film produced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Film Unit, shot by local filmmaker James Monro will show the wealth of bird life and other wildlife living in close proximity to some of the largest chemical and heavy engineering industrial sites in Europe around the mouth of the River Tees.

NEFA are also delighted to present some classic Jack Clarke Tyne Tees News reports including a School Strike in May 1964 at St Anthony’s Catholic School, where pupils, led by tearaway Jimmy Dover, go on strike over harsh discipline and strict rules.

Thanks to support from Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation the North East Film Archive have digitised rare footage of Marton Hall in Stewart Park. Once a monument to Middlesbrough’s industrial revolution, the film shows the poignant footage as Marton Hall is demolished in 1960. To coincide with the screening the Marton Hall Demolition film will be available on NEFA’s website at

Nigel Willis, managing director of Redcar’s First Choice Labels, who are patrons of the Philanthropic Foundation, said: “The North East Film Archive is bringing our history back to life through their brilliant work – and it’s fantastic that they are then sharing the footage with the public in this way.

“I’m sure I can speak for all the patrons when I say that the Foundation is proud to be involved in such a wonderful project.”

Middlesbrough on Film Take 2 takes place on Thursday 16th October at 7pm and will last approximately 2 hours including an interval. Tickets are available from Middlesbrough Town Hall at £2.50 plus booking fee, to book call 01642 729 729 or visit the Middlesbrough Town Hall website.

A trailer of the screening can be seen on the North East Film Archive website at