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!

Share

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:

Share

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s adventures in Middlesbrough!

If there’s one thing the Love Middlesbrough Lasses love (other than food), it’s the Very Hungry Caterpillar! (We’ve been really subtle about it, haven’t we?)  So when we were asked by Middlesbrough Theatre to make a video promoting the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s theatre show, we were absolutely on board!

The brief was to film the Very Hungry Caterpillar in different famous places in Middlesbrough and make a video of it, so off we went (with not one but two caterpillars!) on a trip around the town.  The video will be appearing on your screens very soon, but we thought you’d love to see some of our behind the scenes pics.

We started off at the Transporter Bridge, because there’s nowhere more iconic!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying the Tees Transporter Bridge

Meanwhile, the baby Caterpillar who’s scared of heights visited Transporter Park, and then they met the dinosaurs at Teesaurus Park.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying Transporter Park The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying Teesaurus Park

There was a lot of climbing around, especially on the Bottle of Notes…

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying the Bottle of Notes

The Very Hungry Caterpillar(s) enjoying the Bottle of Notes

We also stopped for a snack break in Stewart Park, for very good ice cream!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying ice cream

It’s a hard life going on adventures, so we had to give the Caterpillar lots of time to rest.  You know what they say – never work with animals!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying the Tees Transporter Bridge The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying Stewart Park

As well as getting to explore loads of fantastic places like the top of the Transporter Bridge, the Dorman Museum, and getting fed ice cream, the Caterpillar also got into some trouble, like getting stuck down a chair at Middlesbrough Theatre…

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying Middlesbrough Theatre

…and climbing into the Albert Park cannon!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying Albert Park

And of course, because it wouldn’t be Love Middlesbrough without cake, we took our two hungry caterpillars (and hungry Lasses) for some amazing cakes made by the fabulous Songbird Bakery!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar enjoying Songbird Bakery cakes

And the Caterpillar(s) didn’t get around by themselves – there was also heaps of work done by the Love Middlesbrough Lasses (and honorary Love Middlesbrough Lass, Matt!)

Love Middlesbrough Lasses (and Lad) Love Middlesbrough Lass (and Lad) 

In case you missed it the first time we put the link in, you can book your tickets for the Very Hungry Caterpillar show via Middlesbrough Theatre.

Share

Murder comes to Middlesbrough on World Book Night

We are delighted to publish a guest post from writer, blogger and all-round literary fan Amy Lord of Ten Penny Dreams.

Amy Lord is an award-winning writer and blogger, who writes about books, travel and life in Middlesbrough on her blog Ten Penny Dreams. You can also follow @tenpennydreams on Twitter and Instagram.


World Book Night came to Middlesbrough with a murderously good evening at Acklam Library, as two northern crime writers popped in to talk about their work with a crowd of enthusiastic readers.

AA Dhand and Kathleen McKay are currently touring the North of England as part of Read Regional, a scheme run by New Writing North to bring new books to readers across the region.

They shared extracts from their work and talked about their journey to publication, as well as discussing their novels in detail.

While Kathleen McKay’s novel, Hard Wired, was inspired by her sister’s work at a Newcastle bail hostel, AA Dhand writes about the Bradford community he grew up in.

Streets of Darkness is already a best-seller and is on its way to our screens, with the author currently working on the script for the BBC, alongside his day job as a pharmacist.

He spoke eloquently about his love for crime fiction and how it developed from childhood, when he used to sneak downstairs in his parents’ corner shop and watch the 18 certificate videos when they went out. It was an evening spent watching The Silence of the Lambs that so terrified him and made him want to pick up the book instead. From then on he was hooked on crime and became eager to write his own story.

But it took a decade of work to bring Streets of Darkness to readers, with an unenthusiastic agent, a competition win and a completely different novel all part of his fascinating journey.

Kathleen McKay had her own success in writing competitions, winning the Northern Crime Competition in 2015. When she submitted her entry, she hadn’t even finished writing the book. Despite having published poetry, short stories and another novel previously, this was her first foray into crime fiction.

Both authors were happy to answer questions from the audience, revealing more about their writing process and the ideas behind the books, before signing copies of their novels.

And as it was World Book Night, the audience were encouraged to bring along one of their own books to exchange for something new. It was an idea that was really well received, with the swap table full of interesting novels that had nearly all gone by the end of the night.

So not only did I get to chat to two incredibly interesting writers, I also got to add two new crime fiction novels to my to-read list.

Read Regional at Acklam Library


More events for local book lovers are coming up as part of the Crossing the Tees festival in June.

Read more about the fab Read Regional project.

Share

#ETW17: Middlesbrough’s museums and culture

Dorman Museum

Middlesbrough’s first museum, the Dorman Museum, tells the fascinating history of our wonderful town.Dorman Museum in the spring
As well as local history, the museum has the world’s largest public collection of Linthorpe Art Pottery (world-renowned in the Victorian era and produced just a mile away from where the museum now stands), and an internationally-significant collection of items designed by the surprisingly forward-thinking Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser, who was for a time the Art Superintendent at the Linthorpe Pottery. (Sorry, geeking out a little over the Dresser collection here!)

Plus, Dressers Tea Room at the museum is adorably cute and very traditional, and does amazing cake (I should know, I’ve eaten a lot of it!)

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Middlesbrough’s second museum is dedicated to one of the world’s greatest navigators, Captain James Cook.Pacific Predators at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Cook was born in a cottage which once stood close to where the museum stands today – a granite urn, placed there by legendary Middlesbrough industrialist Henry Bolckow, marks the spot.

After a £500,000 government grant, the museum, which is in the heart of the beautiful Stewart Park, is being transformed, with refurbishments to the first floor and the creation of a new temporary gallery space – which means even more Cook for your buck (sorry)! After the epic Pacific Predators exhibition last year, we can’t wait to see what 2017 brings at the Cook!

Middlesbrough Town Hall

If you’ve been checking our Instagram, you’ll have seen that we recently got a sneaky behind the scenes tour of the multi-million pound renovations currently taking place at the Town Hall. Middlesbrough Town Hall sneak peekBeing a bit (okay, a lot) of a history geek, I’m super excited that they’ll be restoring some of the most historic areas of the building, like the old courtroom and police cells.
But it’s not just the heritage which will benefit; the main concert hall is also being completely refurbished, and work is taking place which will help visitors to have an even better experience when they go to massive concerts and gigs with comedy legends. (We’re talking about boring but essential things like toilets, and exciting and very essential things like the bar!) As Sarah Millican would say, champion!

Middlesbrough Theatre

Middlesbrough Theatre was opened by Sir John Gielgud in 1957 – so happy 60th birthday for this year! – and was one of the first theatres built in England after the Second World War. The theatre plays host to a packed programme of productions, from unique shows by local playwrights to crowd-pleasers like The Ladyboys of Bangkok – not bad for a theatre was originally named the ‘Little Theatre’. With over 450 seats, it’s not really that little!

Galleries

You’d be forgiven for wondering where all of Middlesbrough’s galleries are, because we have some little gems which are hidden away off the beaten track.Neon and That by Stuart Langley
The House of Blah Blah lives in what was Victorian Middlesbrough’s post office, neatly tucked away in Exchange Square right by Teesside Archives. Hosting everything from exhibitions of neon artworks to Christmas markets to warehouse parties, it’s definitely one of the town’s most unique spaces.
In contrast, the more traditional gallery spaces, Python Gallery and the Heritage Gallery at Cargo Fleet, exhibit paintings, photography, and other works from local artists. mima brings things up to the minute with modern art, discussing themes including housing, migration, inequality, and regeneration through their exhibitions.

Transporter Bridge

A blog about Middlesbrough wouldn’t be a blog about Middlesbrough without a mention of the Transporter Bridge.Transporter Bridge on a sunny day

Our beautiful blue dragonfly isn’t just a handy way to cross between Middlesbrough and Stockton, it’s also one of the country’s premier extreme sports venues (abseiling or bungee jumping, anyone?) and an attraction in its own right.  Standing over 150ft above the River Tees, the views from the top are pretty magnificent, and the new glass lift is the perfect way to get up there and see them. You can book a glass lift tour online.

Middlesbrough skyline from the Transporter Bridge

Love Middlesbrough Lasses
x

Share