Behind the scenes of the Town Hall renovation

If you didn’t already know, the Love Middlesbrough Lasses are suckers for history; so when we were asked to tour Middlesbrough Town Hall whilst it’s under renovation, we donned our hard hats and high vis jackets and turned up with our cameras and smiles on our faces.

With the Health and Safety briefing over we went in – Friday afternoon wasn’t too busy luckily – and climbed right to the top of the building. This meant we were in the roof of the old courtroom.

The builders had discovered some amazing windows and have had them cleaned up and reinstalled – we’re slightly in love.

Just below this they were testing out new paint for the ceiling and walls to better match the original colour scheme, but also to look good in the modern world of colour matching. They had all the colours sat next to each other to compare. Does anyone remember the red from before the renovation?

The main hall turns out to be stunning from a height and there’s so much in the ceilings you’ve probably never looked at – the band is what you paid for though, right? We happened to find some dragon style gargoyles whilst a little higher than normal – they also happen to be holding the Middlesbrough Crest.

The cells must have been creepy back in the day with no modern lightbulbs, they’re a little creepy even with the modern strip lights installed down below. Could you imagine spending the night behind this door?

You might be impressed by the windows in the courtroom’s ceiling, but the windows in the main hall are also pretty beautiful. They must have taken ages to make and have a lot of skill behind them. We are stunned.

It’s not just the history we were interested in, the new boiler room looks like something off a Steampunk set and LM Lass Emma is super impressed. Also, would love to know how that works! Could anyone explain?

That’s all from our tour so far. Be sure to follow Middlesbrough Town Hall on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with what’s going on. We really enjoyed ourselves and would like to thank the Town Hall staff and Kier for letting us have a nosy into what’s going on in the Grade II listed building. And of course, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the funding support they’ve given to the project.

We can’t wait to get back in again and see how the work is coming along!

#tbt: Acklam Hall Tour – Local History Month 2014

As we’re making plans for our beautiful new blog, we thought we’d throw back to some of our favourite posts from the past… ❤️

On Sunday May 4th, Acklam Hall in Middlesbrough threw open its doors to the public as part of Local History Month 2014. Modest expectations for the visitor numbers were spectacularly shattered when over 1000 people arrived to view the 17th Century building which for generations was the home of the eminent Hustler family, passing down through the generations in one of the longest periods of continuous ownership in history.

The building, which was sold to Middlesbrough Council in 1928 and has since offered its awe-inspiring surroundings for use as various schools and colleges, still retains all of its beautiful period features, including an ornately carved pine staircase. The building is Grade 1 listed – only 2.5% of all listed buildings can claim this status, and puts Acklam Hall in an enviable position alongside Westminster Abbey and York Minster.

Perhaps unusually for a tour, a large amount of time was spent looking up, rather than around, as some of the most spectacular features of the building were the beautiful ceilings.

Acklam Hall Ceiling

Another of the features which gives Acklam Hall its Grade I status (as well as the staircase), is the magnificent ceiling above the staircase.

Acklam Hall Ceiling

The ceiling bears the date 1683 and is another of the original features of the house. During the Victorian era, when another floor was added to house servants’ quarters, the entire ceiling was lifted from its original position to make way for the building work, before being installed in its new position, a floor higher, where it hangs to this day, supported by unseen hessian straps.

Acklam Hall Ceiling

At this time, the staircase was also extended to serve the new floor, and it is possible to see subtle differences between the two parts of the staircase, including that the posts (or balusters) are only a single twist in the newer part, as opposed to the higher quality double twists in the original part.

Acklam Hall Staircase (original)

With the project to restore the hall having just begun, it is reassuring to know that this jewel of Middlesbrough’s history, which bore witness not only to a family’s history, but also the growing up of Middlesbrough during the Victorian era, will be preserved for future generations to appreciate.

Acklam Hall Stairs

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! 😎