Local History Month highlights

As a Love Middlesbrough Lass I get to do and see some amazing things, and Local History Month was no exception. A month long celebration throughout May of Middlesbrough heritage, with a programme packed full of events, I  was so excited to decide where I would go first!

Middlesbrough’s Theatrical History held at Middlesbrough Theatre was presented by self-titled, local time traveller Martin Peagam and the Chair of Middlesbrough Theatre Ltd, Ray Burton. Martin started the evening with a fascinating insight into the theatres of Middlesbrough – I had no idea there had been so many or that they went back so far in history! His passion for the subject was evident right from the start and everyone in the audience was totally enthralled. Ray followed this with the history of Middlesbrough Little Theatre, as it was originally known, including how it was funded, a potted history of the group and some brilliant anecdotes from all-nighter dress rehearsals! The evening ended with a fab presentation, made by the Theatre technicians, of some of the famous names that have graced the stage over the years. The icing on the cake was when members of the audience were allowed to go on the stage and have a good look behind the scenes. All round, it was an excellent beginning to my first Local History Month!

Middlesbrough Theatre exterior 1957

Next up was the unveiling of the Tom Dresser statue in the grounds of the Dorman Museum. Strolling through Albert Park to get to the museum, I was amazed to see the size of the crowd, and it was particularly heartwarming to see lots of local school children there too ❤️ The event, held on the centenary of Tom Dresser’s winning of the Victoria Cross during the First World War in 1917, was really very moving from start to finish. The speech from Tom’s grandson particularly had me welling up and I might even have shed a tear or two… I was lucky enough to be given access to the statue close up to get some photos for Love Middlesbrough and it’s truly stunning – so much detail! The sculptor, Brian Alabaster, is a wonderful artist and I can highly recommend taking a look next time you’re at the Dorman Museum.

The following day, there was more history to come – this time a hard hat tour of the Central Lodge, Askham Bryan College, in Stewart Park. I have to admit I’m beginning to develop a bit of a fondness for wearing a hard hat – until becoming a Love Middlesbrough Lass I’d never worn one in my life, and since then, I’ve had one on loads of times!

An absolutely cracking tour, we got to see so much more than I had anticipated and there was loads of fascinating facts to go with it all from our wonderful tour guide, Francine Marshall. I don’t want to give too much away as you can request a tour for yourself (which I would highly recommend) but safe to say there are some real beauties along the way from tiles to doors to the graffiti…oh! Honestly, it was brilliant, and even Mr Love Middlesbrough Lass gave it a solid 10 out of 10.

 

My final event of the month was Putting Ladies on a Pedestal, presented once again, by our beloved time-traveller, Martin Peagam. I was introduced to some ladies of Middlesbrough that I had never heard of, and my history-loving head is intrigued and wants to find out more. As with all of Martin’s talks that I attended, it was highly entertaining and once again his passion and enthusiasm shone through. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak I absolutely insist you should go – Love Middlesbrough recommends for definite!

Local History Month 2017 was presented in partnership with Ageing Better Middlesbrough, and facilitated and supported by Middlesbrough Council, and coordinators Rob Nichols and Tracy Hyman from Discover Middlesbrough. I want to extend my thanks to them all – this Love Middlesbrough Lass loved every moment of it and I can’t wait for the next one!

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Tom Dresser VC statue unveiled

The newest statue to a local Victoria Cross (VC) winner has been unveiled outside the Dorman Museum.  The statue was commissioned to mark 100 years since Private Tom Dresser was awarded a VC for his heroic actions in a battlefield in France, and was created by sculptor Brian Alabaster, who also created the amazing Stanley Hollis VC statue which stands opposite the Dorman Museum.

Tom Dresser was born in Yorkshire, around the beginning of the 1890s.  There are conflicting accounts of where, specifically, he was born, and in which year – it varies between 1891 and 1892.  According to the Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, which claims to have a copy of Dresser’s birth certificate, he was born near Easingwold on 9th April 1891, so hopefully this is a reliable record!

We do know that Tom was educated at Hugh Bell school here in Middlesbrough. He worked for Dorman Long, both before and after the war, before taking over his father’s newsagents, which stood at 65 Marton Road.  Many older residents of Middlesbrough still remember him, and the fact that he kept his VC in a tobacco tin behind the counter!

Tom Dresser’s VC was awarded for his actions on a battlefield near Roeux, France, on 12 May 1917, when he was aged just 24 years old and a Private with the 7th Yorkshire Howards Regiment.

His official VC citation gives more information:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Private Dresser, in spite of being twice wounded on the way, and suffering great pain, succeeded in conveying an important message from Battalion Headquarters to the front line of trenches, which he eventually reached in an exhausted condition. His fearlessness and determination to deliver this message at any cost, proved of the greatest value to his Battalion at a critical period.

Private Dresser was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 21st July 1917.

A fun fact for you: Tom Dresser VC is distantly related to Christopher Dresser, the visionary Victorian designer, to whom a fantastic (and extensive) gallery in the Dorman Museum is dedicated.

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These websites were super helpful while writing this post:

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