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.