As we had only been through County Durham once, we decided to head back over there to the town of Stockton-on-Tees and the major town of Middlesbrough just down the river in North Yorkshire. We changed trains at Newcastle and headed towards Stockton-on-Tees…
Status: Stockton Unitary District, County Durham/North Yorkshire (Split Geographically), Town, England
Travel: Northern Rail (Carlisle – Newcastle), Northern Rail (Newcastle – Middlesbrough, Via Stockton-on-Tees)
Eating & Sleeping: Greggs
Attractions: River Tees, Quays, Quayside Sculptures, Preston Park Museum, Victoria Jubilee Bridge, Millennium Bridge, HM Endeavour, Teesside Princess, Infinity Bridge, Town Hall, Parish Church etc
We arrived by train in the town, and walked the short distance into the town centre. Emerging into the high street, the first building of note we came across was Stockton Parish Church, which in 2012 celebrated its 300th birthday. The first settlers in the area were the Anglo-Saxons who founded the village of “Stoctun” which translates as a village belonging to a monastery. The name has survived today with only a small spelling change.
By the 1200’s there was a growing port and the Bishop of Durham invested in a shipyard for the growing town. At this point, another church, called St Mary’s, was the parish church for Stockton. This lasted until 1713, as the local community and congregation was growing.
The current building was started in 1705 when the new Reverend Thomas Rudd laid the foundation stone. It was finshed 7 years later in 1712 and opened that same year. Outside the church stands the War Memorial, the fine white columned monument that was built in 1923.
Walking down the right hand side of the church you can reach the riverside. Stockton stands on the River Tees (Cross Fell in the pennines out to sea at Redcar past Middlesbrough), with the town of Thornaby-on-Tees directly across from it on the other side of the river. The larger town of Middlesbrough is further downstream.
Like I said, if you wander past the church and head towards the riverside, you get a view of the spectacular quayside which has recently been redeveloped. The Tees snakes through it, and various bridges cross the river, including Teesquay Millennium Footbridge, the large metal structure pictured, which was built for the Millennium in 2000.
It’s a very impressive bridge, and we crossed over it later on. A plaque on the bridge reads:
“2000 AD. The Teesquay Millennium Bridge. This bridge was officially opened on 20th Decmeber 2000 by Dari Taylor, Member of Parliament for Stockton South. The bridge construction was made possible through funding and assistance from the following partners:
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, European Union, English Partnerships, One. The Bridge was designed by Birse.”
Looking the other way down the quays, another bridge can be seen, the Infinity Bridge, which was completed in 2008. We crossed this bridge and went over to Thornaby-on-Tees to get a good view back at Stockton, and had a walk around the extant quay areas, before crossing back over the Millennium Bridge which links straight into the main shopping centre, the Castlegate Centre. This in turn leads back out onto the main street in Stockton.
The views here are amazing, it was a lovely sunny day, the water was still and it was the perfect place fora relaxing walk.
The Castlegate centre sits on the site of Stockton Castle, which was captured by the Scottish in 1644, and held until 1646. Just 5 years later, at the end of the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) ordered it’s destruction, and nothing now remains of the structure.
Inside the Castlegate centre we found a bust, of John Walker (1781 – 1859) an inventor from the town who is famous for inventing the Friction Match in 1826.
We moved back out onto the high street, which at this end is in the process of being developed but in the centre stands the Town Hall, which opened as the Town House in 1735. A market is held outside the Town Hall 3 times a week. The market dates back to 1310 when it was authorised by the Bishop of Durham in a charter granted to the town.
Although it’s called the Town Hall, the local council don’t actually have any offices here, and instead meet at the local municipal buildings.
Back up the road you will find the Parish Church I mentioned earlier, and moving the other way leads to the Victoria Bridge to get back to Thornaby-on-Tees.
Heading back down to the river again via the church, we decided to to walk the length of it to the Victoria Bridge. On the way, we passed this mural, to commemorate George Stephenson’s (Famous English inventor 1781 – 1848) Stockton and Darlington Railway being started in the town in 1822, which made history as the world’s first publicly subscribed passenger railway and at the time it was also the longest railway. George Stephenson was present to run the first engine on the line in 1825. Along with this mural, there are various sculptures up and down the river so see what you can find!
Other famous people include John Warner and Sons, who cast the first bell for Big Ben in London in 1856, although this was badly damaged whilst it was being tested so the actual first bell was constructed nearer to Westminster.
Further along the river there is a full size replica of the HM Bark Endeavour, the original was launched in 1764. This was the ship Captain James Cook (Famous explorer 1728 – 1779) used on his maiden voyage, during which he discovered both Australia and New Zealand. The ship was bought by the Navy in 1768, and the voyage lasted from 1769 to 1771. The replica is permanently moored and not designed for sea voyages, but it’s open as a museum ship for visitors to go on board and explore the old fixtures.
Just past this there is also the Teesside Princess, a small river boat with two decks which is used for river cruises. There are regular tours of the tees in the area, which afford stunning views of both towns, Stockton and Thornaby.
We eventually crossed the river once again, using the Victoria Jubilee Bridge, constructed between 1882 and 1887. Before it was built, an earlier bridge from 1771, with five stone arches, crossed the river here.
The Victoria Bridge is 60 feet wide, and has a total length of 104 metres, across 3 spans, two of which are held up by pillars in the river itself. It currently carries the A1130, which links in with the major A66 road just over the river in Thornaby.
The bridge was built by the Whitaker Brothers of Leeds, and when it was completed it was the bridge furthest down stream on the Tees until the opening of the Middlesbrough transporter bridge in 1911 and of course a succession of modern bridges now occupy the gap between the two.
Stockton has regular trains to Newcastle and Middlesbrough, although the station is a few minutes walk out of the town centre, and the A1(M) motorway passes relatively close to the town near neighbouring Darlington, with various A Roads meeting in the town.
It was a lovely day and the quays looked stunning, as did the rest of the town and it made for a brilliant day strolling down the river looking at the sights. It is quite modernised here similar to Salford Quays, however there is still an abundance of history here and both old and new meet perfectly, making for a very enjoyable day. Next, we moved on to Middlesbrough…