Visitors to Middlesbrough can enjoy a whistle-stop tour of its history through a new timeline hoarding unveiled around the Town Hall.The Town Hall recently celebrated its 128 year anniversary since officially opening (23rd January 1889) and now residents can discover more about the history of the venue and the town.
The hoardings have been erected as part of the Middlesbrough Town Hall Refurbishment and Restoration Project. The ‘My Town Hall’ hoardings stand at 2.3 metres tall and 29.5 metres long and tell the story of modern Middlesbrough’s expansion from a small hamlet in 1801 through to the refurbishment works of the Town Hall.
The temporary display forms part of the perimeter of the contractor site on the corner of Albert Road and Corporation Road whilst renovation work is ongoing at the Grade II* Listed venue.
The hoardings have been developed by project staff and Town Hall volunteers and chart historical events in the town and venue’s history including the story of rapid Victorian expansion, iron manufacturing, opening of the Transporter Bridge and David Bowie’s performance as Ziggy Stardust at Middlesbrough Town Hall 1972.
The timeline also features artist impressions of the completed works alongside reproductions of unique historic plans, photographs and newspaper snippets from the collections of Middlesbrough Libraries, Teesside Archives and The Gazette.
Cllr Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “We hope the hoardings whet the appetite of passers-by for the Town Hall restoration project which is now underway. They present a whistle-stop through the ages tour of where Middlesbrough has come from and ends with the question ‘What’s Next?’.
“The town is undoubtedly enjoying a huge upturn with new cultural, retail and leisure opportunities arriving all the time and the Town Hall when it reopens, restored to its former glory, will be the jewel in the crown of a hugely re-energised Middlesbrough centre so that is just one answer to the question.”
Tosh Warwick, Middlesbrough Council’s Heritage Development Officer, said: “The new hoardings capture key moments in both the story of Middlesbrough and the Town Hall spanning over two centuries and highlight the important part the venue has played in the history of the area.
“We have already had very positive feedback on the timeline and hope it generates further interest in Middlesbrough’s heritage, the history of the Town Hall and the fantastic renovation of one of the region’s leading landmarks.”
I chatted with Tosh about the illuminating time trail on the hoardings.
Q: Tosh tell me about the new town timeline outside the Town Hall.
T: The new timeline is there to celebrate key points in the town’s history. It has been produced as part of the Heriage Lottery Fund Town Hall Refurbishment project. It is going to be there during the course of the renovation work which is currently ongoing.
Q: It is very attention grabbing. I notice people are stopping to look as they walk past.
T: Yes it is very exciting. We have had the volunteers that work on the project, the project staff and I did a lot of the history research on it. It is great when you see kids walking by having a look at it and their parents pointing it out. Even people having a bit of a glimpse when they are stopping at the traffic lights. It is good and it is a way of celebrating not just the Town Hall’s history but the wider history of the Boro/borough.
Q: It starts at the beginning of modern Middlesbrough as Port Darlington and then we see the present Town Hall being built 50 years on. So I guess it puts the building in context.
T: We are aware that Middlesbrough dates back further than that but it is there to capture the modern Middlesbrough that led to the building of the Town Hall, the churches, the Transporter, Dorman Museum and the main library, just over the road.
So we have tried to capture that a bit more and show how the Town Hall reflects the wider heritage of the town. We have included things such as the opening of the Transporter Bridge and how they had the celebration at the Town Hall. How they had celebrations for other landmark events such as the end of the War and announcing of the Armistice at the Town Hall. So, how the Town Hall is part of the wider story of Middlesbrough.
We have also got information of where the town and Town Hall has been in the national spotlight as well. So I managed to get my reference to David Bowie in there, the Ziggy Stardust tour.
Q: There are two different sides to the Town Hall, as well as council offices most people will know the other side, going for gigs, such as Bowie, comedy and classical concerts.
T: As far as I am aware my first time in the Town Hall was either my graduation from Teesside Uni or I went to see Morrissey a few years ago. Yes it is venue but it is also part of the wider town so it has got multiple uses and I hope the time-line captures that.
Q: You touched upon the War and there is a map on the time-line with an X marks the spot. Could you tell us about that.
T: There was a bomb dropped. The people at Teesside Archives have given us the Air Raid plan no, 4 and it shows where the bombs were dropped. So the night the Transporter Bridge was bombed during 1940 there was also a bomb dropped at the gas works, roughly where the new Transporter Park is now. But also on the corner near the town hall of Corporation Road/Albert Road, opposite where Hintons would have been. The bomb caused a bit of damage. I think it captures how the Town Hall was part of the wider story. Stuff like that is interesting and it is perhaps stuff that people don’t know.
Yes we have tied into information from Middlesbrough Reference Library collections. The Gazette as well has been very supportive. It is trying to showcase some of the historical parts of the town and some of the heritage resources and materials that we have that perhaps we don’t get out there as much as we might do.
Q: I love that illustration of Locomotion no.1 steaming past the early port. That takes us right back to Stockton and Darlington railway and I imagine a lot of people won’t know about the significance of that first railway to Middlesbrough’s founding. Locomotion no.1 is steaming past Middlesbrough farm house with the original Eston Nab (Napoleonic Signal Station) in the background. It is an incredibly evocative illustration is it not?
T: It shows the place before the iron and steel came in. The sketch dates from when Middlesbrough was a coal export town rather than this booming iron and steel town. It shows the Tees and the coal staithes and the farm house. People are perhaps not familiar with those images.
I have also managed to put a plan in of the old Town Hall and the grid plan of the original Middlesbrough. It all ties in to the story of why we have the Town Hall we have today.
Q: Of course this all leads to the future of the Town Hall and there are panels showing the new developments from the HLF project. It looks as if there will be more of the Town Hall opened up to more of the public.
T: On the hoardings we state ‘Find out more about the Town Hall’s history’ but we also ask the question what’s next? We have some of the computer generated images of how we expect the Town Hall will look once we have finished the work.
It is going to be fantastic. The old police cells will be opened up so people can learn about the criminal aspect of the Town Hall. The old court room where people were tried, it was later a refectory. That is going to be renovated so kids can go in there and learn about law and order in Middlesbrough and visitors too and even TV crews will be able to use it. It is brilliant. That is a fantastic resource for the town.
We are also doing some work on the main hall itself and making it a much more attractive, visitor friendly, venue. Making it a real hub for not only the town but also the region. It will be really exciting and in doing so as well we will get people interested in the area’s heritage and the stories and links to the Town Hall. Maybe people will even discover their links to the Town Hall that they weren’t aware of. So it is exciting.
Q: I believe that part of the project is to collect people’s memories. So people might have been to that Bowie/Ziggy gig or 1988 when we had the victory parade and reception for Bruce Rioch’s top flight promotion team.
T: You might have been standing in the crowd when Bruce Rioch came out onto the Town Hall steps with two arms aloft with the lads that had got us promoted.
Q: In their blazers.
T: Yes, in their Boro blazers. You might have been there for Ziggy, or for Oasis or Stone Roses, all of which are referenced on the hoardings. So it is about getting those memories. The My Town Hall strand of the project is trying to capture those memories, the photos, even the ticket stubs. Any of the ephemera people might still retain. We would love to hear from people at firstname.lastname@example.org
And we also have the Middlesbrough Town Hall facebook, instagram and twitter accounts too.
But it is all about bringing the Town Hall back into the community rather than it just being a building that sits in the centre of the town open occasionally for concerts. It is about making it a venue that people relate to on a daily basis and feel a sense of ownership and place.
Q: As you say daily. It will have been far more a night time venue.
T: We do open for education sessions already and we have been doing this for years daytime as we have things like Classical Cafe, we have tea dances and all kinds of events but perhaps not as high profile as what we are doing now. We are going to make it an education destination for example. We will have provision where the kids can learn about and read about and engage with digital and interactive interpretation about the story of the town and the Town Hall.
There will be similarities with what we did at the Transporter Bridge even dating back to 2000 and the more recent works. Rather than being just a functional venue or crossing in the case of the Transporter we have made it a Visitor Centre, a Visitor Experience. We are making it a place where you can actually do something and it can serve multiple functions and that will be across generations and not just for people from Middlesbrough but anyone. Which is great. END
The Middlesbrough Town Hall Refurbishment and Restoration Project is supported by a £3.7m Heritage Lottery Fund award, a further £3.6m from Middlesbrough Council and £500,000 awarded by Arts Council England (ACE).
Once complete it will result in the Town Hall being restore the iconic Grade II* listed building back to its full 19th Century glory.
It will see parts of the building, currently inaccessible to the public, being opened up, including the Victorian courtroom, cells and fire station which would be made into heritage attractions in their own right.
The plans also include the restoration of the carriage driveway with original glass roof which will become the main box office and circulation area, an external lighting scheme, the development of new café and bar facilities, and a new community space.
Further information on Middlesbrough Town Hall, including details on ways to get involved in the project, can be found at www.mytownhall.co.uk, on the official Facebook page www.facebook.com/MiddlesbroughTownHall, Twitter @mbro_townhall and Instagram at www.instagram.com/middlesbrough_townhall/