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Stockton History 16th – 19th Century

Stockton on Tees 1500-1800

In 1642 came civil war and in 1644-46 Stockton was occupied by the Scottish army. After the civil war the Bishops Castle was destroyed by parliamentarians to prevent it ever falling into royalist hands.

However in the late 17th century Stockton On Tees began to flourish. There had been a shipbuilding industry in Stockton since the 15th century and in the late 17th century and the 18th century the industry prospered. There was also a sail making industry and a rope making industry. Another industry in 18th century Stockton was brick making.

The port of Stockton also flourished. However much of the trade was coastal. In those days it was much cheaper to transport goods by water than by road and so many goods were taken by ship along the coast of England from one port to another. Goods imported into Stockton included wine and raisins, coal, glass and household goods. Goods exported included wool, butter, bacon and lead.

In the early 18th century the writer Daniel Defoe said that Stockton On Tees had greatly increased in size lately. It probably had a population of about 2,000. Another writer said that ‘Stockton was a few years ago all thatched houses, now of brick with sash windows. It has a spacious, paved High Street, very clean.’

The Town House was built in 1735. About 1760 another writer described Stockton:¬†(I have changed his words slightly to make them easier to read)¬†Stockton is finely situated and most beautifully laid out. The principal street is about 50 yards broad with a town house and market in the middle of it and it is a quarter of a mile long. Two streets are parallel with it from the east for about two hundred yards and there are three or four streets, which lead from it to the quays. Beyond the church (handsome and well built) is a bowling green with buildings on three sides of it.’

Yet another writer described Stockton On Tees as ‘a neat, well built market town with a considerable trade.’ The first theatre in Stockton opened in 1766 and the first stone bridge across the Tees was built in 1769.

Then from the end of the 18th century the industrial revolution changed Stockton from a small and quiet market town into a flourishing centre of heavy industry.

Stockton on Tees 19th Century

From the late 18th century there was an iron working industry in Stockton. In the 19th century it boomed. Shipbuilding also prospered. A large engineering industry also grew up in the town. Stockton grew rapidly. By 1851 it had a population of 10,000 and by 1900 of 51,000.

Industry in Stockton On Tees was greatly boosted when the Stockton and Darlington railway opened in 1825. It made it easier to bring coal to factories in Stockton. However the port declined as business now moved down river to Middlesbrough.

Like all 19th century cities Stockton was unhealthy. In 1832 there was an outbreak of cholera and 126 people died. Another outbreak in 1849 killed 20 people.

However conditions in Stockton improved during the 19th century. In 1820 an Act set up a body of men called Commissioners with responsibility for lighting and cleaning the streets. From 1822 Stockton-on-Tees was lit by gas. Preston Hall was built in 1825. Furthermore a hospital opened in Stockton in 1862. A public library opened in 1877.

Steam trams began running in the streets of Stockton On Tees in 1881. In 1897 electric trams replaced them. Ropner Park opened in 1883. Victoria Bridge was built in 1883.

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