A fabulous visit to William Lane Foundry!

Last week, the Love Middlesbrough Lasses were super excited to be invited on a tour of William Lane Foundry.

It’s safe to say that we totally fangirled about it (I feel like not a post goes by without me saying I/we fangirled about something but we literally do, over just about everything), and there may have been a lot of squealing and giggling going on. 

William Lane Foundry was founded in 1862 by the three Lanes: William, a brass finisher, John, a brass moulder, and James, a blacksmith. There was once more foundries in Middlesbrough than you could shake a stick at, but William Lane is the only one left today.

The business has diversified in recent times, and alongside producing industrial parts and ongoing commissions for local authorities, they also work on heritage projects for historic venues like Beamish, and make bespoke plaques and signs like the Harry Potter ‘Platform 9 ¾’ one in our gallery below (this caused a previously-unheard of level of fangirling! 😳).

We absolutely loved our trip, and we’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in anything Victorian, industrial, or just likes seeing really cool things being done in Middlesbrough. You can get in touch with them by phone (01642 242871) or email (info@williamlanefoundry.uk) to ask about visiting.

It’s amazing and fascinating to see that such a Victorian industry is alive and kicking in the town today, in an area which is now much more known for advanced manufacturing and engineering (Riverside Park) and digital business (Boho Zone) than it is for industry.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at William Lane Foundry for having us – we’re counting down the days til we can go back! ☺️☺️

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum reopens!

As I said in my last post, the last few weeks have been a total treat for lovers of history and museums, with the reopening of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum after its renovation, and the launch of the Tokyo to the Tees: Middlesbrough and Japan 1877-1939 exhibition at the Dorman Museum. So, having covered the new Dorman exhibition in my last post, today I’m going to talk about the Cook!

After a period of renovation during the winter, the museum reopened on 1st June with its new exhibition Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Natural history collecting on Captain Cook’s voyages.

A lot of the renovation work has involved the education facilities, so it’s not something that everyday visitors will notice, but it’s no less important – the museum provides fabulous education opportunities for local schools, and the new ‘mess deck’ area will really improve the experience that children get.

Plus, with the education area newly refurbished and increased in size, it also now includes last year’s super popular Walkabout exhibition.

Education sessions are now fully booked, with the first school group having visited this past week, and we’re sure they’ll all have a Cook-tastic time! (Cook-tastic is a word, honest… 😌 #cheese)

Now onto the new exhibition…

With the internet at our fingertips, it’s almost impossible to imagine a situation in which we might see an animal we don’t recognise and know nothing about, but that was the reality for the crew on Cook’s voyages – no checking Wikipedia or Snapchatting a photo and asking for help! Because of that, it was important to have people recording all of the plants and animals they saw, both in words and by creating detailed drawings. Imagine being an explorer and coming across this strange-looking creature (a Flying Fox), with no idea what it was or whether it could bite and poison you… 😱

Not only that, but explorers also bought unusual and exotic specimens home with them, sparking a craze for collecting animals which continues today (as the exhibition name suggests, just look at Pokémon Go!)

The exhibition also includes a breathtaking replica of the type of cabin which would have been used for the examining and recording of specimens collected by the scientists aboard the Endeavour. We don’t want to give too much away, so we’re not showing you the inside of the cabin, but here’s the outside – even that is stunning, and is based on historical references of ships from the time.

Last but not least, you all know that it’s (almost) impossible for a Love Middlesbrough Lass to write a post without some mention of food and/or cake, so here it is! We were extremely excited to hear about the newly opened Cook’s Cafe, and of course had to try it out when we visited.

 

We weren’t disappointed, especially with the ice cream (salted caramel 😍😍). There’s a mega range of sandwich and panini fillings, plus breakfasts (you can never go wrong with a cooked breakfast), sausage rolls (gotta love a good sausage roll), and cake (goes without saying that the presence of cake makes us very happy).

We can definitely vouch for the deliciousness of the quiche, and Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire, who is a connoisseur of sweet potato fries, was very impressed with the bowl we shared (plus you get an absolute heap of them so great for very hungry people like us!)

The pricing is really good too, fab if you’re taking a family there.

We’d definitely recommend it – a perfect end to a fantastic morning or afternoon exploring the museum ❤️

Tokyo to the Tees at the Dorman Museum

Last week was a total treat for lovers of history and museums (luckily I’m a total geek over both), with the reopening of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum after its renovation, and the launch of the Tokyo to the Tees: Middlesbrough and Japan 1877-1939 exhibition at the Dorman Museum.

Of course, the Love Middlesbrough lasses had to get themselves to the Dorman for the official opening day on Saturday – not just because there was cake there, although that was a motivating factor too, so let’s get the cake pic out of the way to begin with!


Soooo preeeeetty! 😍

A lot of people are surprised to hear that Teesside had such strong historical links with Japan, but it’s probably less surprising when you think about Middlesbrough’s importance as a port. The NYK Line ran cargo services between Middlesbrough and Japanese ports, and at that time, Middlesbrough was one of the few towns to have its own Japanese consulate!

Even more interesting than that, the shipping links gave the opportunity for Japanese nationals to settle in Middlesbrough – and descendents of those families still live in the town today! So many feels when people were looking at the photos in the exhibition and talking about which of their family members they were! 😭

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dorman exhibition without a mention of Christopher Dresser – in fact, the exhibition is celebrating the 140th anniversary of his visit to Japan. Not only was Dresser the first European designer to visit Japan when it reopened trading links with the west, but his adventures also had a big influence on the designs which were subsequently produced by Linthorpe Art Pottery.

Luckily, the Dorman has absolutely bucketloads of beautiful Linthorpe pottery to look at in the exhibition! If you’ve seen the poster for Tokyo to the Tees, you’ll recognise this yellow wave Linthorpe bowl.

Please excuse the fact that my photos aren’t up to their usual standards – it’s hard to take good photos through glass-fronted display cases!

We don’t want to spoil the exhibition for you by telling you everything about it before you go, but trust me when I say this – you really need to go! It’s an amazing exhibition with heaps to see, including some beautiful artwork and exhibits which really help to bring the historical details to life.

Convinced? Good! We’ll see you there – sayōnara! 😎

We love International Museum Day!

Happy International Museum Day!

Given that museums are so full of history, and the fact that I just can’t stop myself being a history geek, I thought today was the perfect opportunity to talk about some lesser-known local museum history.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve only ever had two museums in Middlesbrough, but in fact, there was a second museum which opened after the Dorman and before the Captain Cook Birthplace.

Exhibiting a collection of mammals and birds, and local bygones, a relatively dinky museum lived in rooms in Marton Hall (a beautiful building located in what is now Stewart Park, which was unfortunately lost to fire).  The museum opened on June 18th 1931, but closed in 1939 when the outbreak of WWII required the Fire Brigade to take over the space it was occupying.  Sadly, it never reopened.

This fab little titbit came from The History of Middlesbrough by William Lillie, Borough Librarian (1968).

The Museum, Stewart Park, Middlesbrough
(Postcard from my own collection)


Delving even further back into history, a forerunner to Middlesbrough’s museums opened in 1859.  On Monday, 18 April, the Middlesbrough Polytechnic Exhibition opened at the Oddfellows’ Hall on Bridge Street West.

It was a great collection of objects, some of which fell into neat categories like watercolour paintings, but by far the biggest category was ‘miscellaneous’, so it was probably best described as items from people’s personal collections!

Contributors included HRH Prince Albert, the Earl of Zetland (the Second, Thomas Dundas), local notables HWF Bolckow and messers John and Henry Pease, current and future mayors of Middlesbrough, William Fallows and Edgar Gilkes, and prestigious manufacturers including Minton and Coalbrookdale.

This exhibition was four years before the Middlesbrough Athanaeum – a society organised for the cultivation of literature, science and the arts – was inaugurated (also at the Oddfellows’ Hall), and thirty one years before Middlesbrough’s first ‘museum’ opened to the public in the Town Hall, so it was probably only open to a select group of people.

Pages from the Polytechnic Exhibition programme
(From the Dorman Museum’s collection)


We couldn’t have a blog post about museums without mentioning our two gems.

The Dorman Memorial Museum opened in 1904, a gift to the town from Sir Arthur Dorman, in memory of his son George Lockwood Dorman, who died in the Boer War.  Dorman Museum The museum originally showcased the impressive personal collections of notable local figures, including Ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, and the extensive T. H. Nelson ornithological collection, which was bequeathed to the museum in 1914.

Today, the museum holds the largest public collection of stunning locally-produced Linthorpe Art Pottery in the world, and a highly impressive collection of items designed by the visionary Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum opened on the 28th October 1978 Captain Cook Birthplace Museum – the 250th anniversary of Cook’s birth. Its site in Stewart Park is close to the granite urn which marks the site of the cottage where Cook was born.

The galleries tell the story of the world-famous navigator, from his birth in Marton to his voyages.  It also has fab temporary exhibitions on Cook-related themes like seafaring, Pacific animals, and Australian Aboriginal life.

So there you go, a full on history geek post for International Museum Day!

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.

Credits
These websites were super helpful while writing this post: