Let me describe the Middlesbrough of the 1880s as I remember it……
Linthorpe Road started from Bridge St level-crossing, but for business purposes it practically terminated at Newport Road. Beyond was of little consequence. A residence occupied the "Tower House ", another the site of the present Sparks Cafe where lived the late Dr Veitch.
The area beyond Southfield Road was undeveloped - principally fields. The village of Linthorpe lay far out, and Linthorpe beyond was country, absolutely undeveloped. An odd isolated gentleman’s villa might be met with and that's about all.
Albert Road was residential, along which horse drawn trams rolled. The Wellington Hotel was its terminus. At the top of Albert Road stood the High School as it does now. Its headmaster was Mr Sewell, best known to the pupils as "Baggy Sewell", a nickname given him on account of the very baggy trousers he invariably wore. Some of the teachers I remember were Mr Thomas, Mr Dixon, Mr Hewitson, and Mr Brown.
Marton Road from the General Post Office to Corporation Road was middle-class residential. The road then lay about 3 feet below the pavement and was reached by a tier of stone steps placed at intervals along the route. The late Dr Samuel Walker had his residence and surgery here. It is used as a surgery by his son Dr Harold. The house is easily identified by its pillared stone portico.
A statue stood opposite the General Post Office and if I remember rightly it was that of Sir Raylton Dixon, now transferred to Victoria Square. The site is the present Bus Station and beyond was the Royal Exchange, now Dorman's Offices.
The Late Dr Hedley had his residence and surgery at the apex of Cargo Fleet and North Ormesby roads. It stands majestic and proud much as it did in his day, but is now occupied by The Sadler's Social Club.
There was a Toll-Bar on the North Ormesby Road near the railway-crossing and another on the South Bank Road at the corner of Cargo Fleet Lane. The Toll cottage stood until a few years ago. St John's Church on the Marton Road and St John's School in Bright Street are much the same. This was the first school I was sent to as an infant. How well I remember, when my mother took me along and left me screaming and wailing.
Grange Road East was middle-class residential and undeveloped with many vacant plots about. Dr Kitchen's large villa standing in its own grounds occupied a considerable portion on the south side. Mr Bruce-Smith had his grammar school at 37 Grange Road West. The Drill Hall opposite at the corner of Head Street is now The Labour Exchange.
In Woodlands Road lived the elite, and the large villa adjoining the present Gazette Office was occupied by the Stevensons. The few villas in Southfield Road on the north side from Linthorpe Road to Woodlands Road were occupied by the select.
Newport Road stretched to Samuelson St, along which rolled horse drawn trams to this terminus. Here one crossed a wooden bridge that led to a landing-stage where one boarded a small paddle-steamer that plied regularly to the quay-side at Stockton where one disembarked.These little trips were very enjoyable. A blind musician discoursed music on a small harmonium, and trippers spared a coin. This was prior to road service to Stockton and one often took the trip on a fine day for the pleasure it afforded, but principally for the Stockton Market and on that day the deck was crowded. Here one could buy a hen for 1/-, or a dozen eggs and one pound of country butter for 9 pence.
The site on which the present Town Hall stands was originally a cattle market covered with pens, and Alvo’s Circus erected. The Victoria Park in Albert road was a vacant plot, bare and desolate, known as the “Dark Continent” on account of its cindered surface and dreary outlook.
These were the days of the penny-farthing bicycles that whirled through the streets and along the country roads at an alarming speed, with their riders equipoised in their seats at a dangerous angle! and the days of the Edison phonograph with its ear phones and wax cylinders. They were first exhibited in empty shops, and the charge for hearing a tune was a copper or two, and it was in empty shops where the popular penny-gaffs were held.
Here for a few coppers one could see sensational plays such as: "Sweeney Todd the Barber", "Maria Marten or The Murder in the Red Barn" and so forth on an improvised stage and by impecunious actors many of whom were worthy of more glamorous environment.
I think I have given the salient features of the town at that period, anyway the best I can remember. I was a boy in those days and to carry one's memory so far back in advanced years is no easy task. So for any anachronisms or inaccuracies I hope to be excused.