The historic environment includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time. It is a non-renewable and shared resource, which is part of Middlesbrough’s identity. It contributes to a sense of place and a quality environment.
The historic environment can play a key role encouraging economic growth, by creating successful places for businesses to locate and attract inward investment, driving regeneration. In turn, a strong economy can help to sustain and enhance the historic environment, including enabling sustainable uses for historic and traditional buildings.
The speed of Middlesbrough’s development from the early 19th century is unique. It grew from Middlesbrough Priory (a middle point between Durham Cathedral and Whitby Abbey), founded in 1119, to rural areas with tiny populations mostly owned by the Hustlers of Acklam and the Pennymans of Ormesby until 1801.
In 1829, Joseph Pease and other Quaker businessmen purchased land in the area for 'Port Darlington' on the banks of the Tees. A year later, a branch railway line was brought in from the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). The construction of the branch line was the trigger for the S&DR to commission the first ever locomotive designed purely to haul passenger traffic. A town was planned to supply labour to the new coal port, and Middlesbrough was born.
The early town, called St Hilda's after the parish church that stood there until 1969, was centred on a market square, where the first town hall was built in 1846. This area was planned along a grid pattern, which was replicated across the town as rapid expansion continued up until the 20th century. The industrial revolution and John Vaughan and Henry Bolckow's discovery of iron ore in the Cleveland Hills in 1850, led to iron and steel gradually replacing coal. South of the old Town Hall and St Hilda's, a new town centre was laid out, again on a grid pattern, around what is now Centre Square, with some of Middlesbrough’s most significant and prominent buildings built there over the last century. The Town Hall was built by 1889 and the Transporter Bridge in 1911, showcasing Middlesbrough’s Victorian power and vitality.
Some of Middlesbrough’s historic environment is designated as Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Registered Parks and Gardens. Some are identified (but classed as non-designated) because of local significance, such as those buildings and sites found on Middlesbrough’s Local List.
There are key buildings and sites that are particularly representative of Middlesbrough’s history, including early industrial and railway heritage. And there are other buildings and sites that are rare survivors of an earlier time, including rural and agricultural heritage, including:
- land and heritage assets around St Hilda’s (Middlehaven) the world’s first planned railway town
- land and heritage assets around the 1830 Middlesbrough branch line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and related heritage assets
- buildings related to people who made substantial contributions to Middlesbrough’s history and development, including Henry W.F. Bolckow, Captain James Cook, Dorman Long, and John Vaughan
- buildings designed by architects who made substantial contributions to Middlesbrough’s historic environment, including Sir Walter Brierly, G.G. Hoskins, R.R. Kitching, Gustav Martens, Robert Moore, John Ross, and Sir Alfred Waterhouse
Our Conservation Officer oversees change in Middlesbrough’s historic environment. This is done by managing proposed changes to, or within, heritage assets, and by managing the location and form of new developments, aiming for high quality, good design which respects the character and appearance of the area.
Good conservation planning decisions make good places. Good places are places where people want to live, and economically successful places.