Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Story for Boys - Anent the Proposed Tees Bridge. Elizabeth Tweddell 1871

This wonderful story by Elizabeth Tweddell in 1871 shows that the idea of a Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge began much earlier than suspected by William Lillie who says discussions began in 1872 and she outlines the opposition of Stockton in the process. The Transporter Bridge was finally built in 1910. 


Councillor Dave Walsh has sent an article from the Evening Gazette 1871 which gives some background to the story and it seems the proposal at that time was for a Swing Bridge like the one in Goole but according to William Lillie a transporter bridge was a proposal a year later in 1872. More details below after the story!

Elizabeth Tweddell aka dialect poet Florence Cleveland was wife of poet, printer, author George Markham Tweddell and although from Stokesley, lived in Middlesbrough in the 1860's to about 1872 when they returned to Stokesley. They lived in Commercial Street, St. Hildas and George ran his print shop Tweddell and Sons at 87, Linthorpe Rd. Middlesbrough (now part of the new Maplin store near MacDonald's). 

William Lillie, Middlesbrough librarian and historian 1926 - 1951, after outlining the problems of ferrying people across the Tees near Port Clarence, tells us on page 134 of  his History of Middlesbrough that "The question of a horse and cart ferry and that of a transporter Bridge were discussed in 1872 under the chairmanship of Sir R. Dixon and the horse and cart ferry won" Elizabeth Tweddell's story, published in 1871, shows that it was indeed discussed earlier and that the sticking point was Stockton. Admin

A Story for Boys - Anent the proposed Tees Bridge
Elizabeth Tweddell 1871
aka Florence Cleveland

Published by Tweddell and Sons
Cleveland Printing and Publishing Offices
No 87 Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough
Price One Penny (1871)

"In a country such as Britain, full of running streams, bridges form the essential part of every system of roads connecting the various districts of the Kingdom with each other....The great conveniences of bridges gradually led to their erection along many of the principal fords ; and when the art of Bridge Building became more advanced, they superseded ferries - always an inconvenient, and often a dangerous method of crossing rapid rivers. The bridge brought the inhabitants of certain districts into immediate connection with those on the opposite bank of the river flowing between them, and enabled them freely to hold intercourse and exchange produce with each other." Dr Smiles - Lives of Engineers.

A Story for Boys
Anent the proposed Tees Bridge

There once lived on the banks of the river Tees (and does yet) an old fashioned petted boy called STOCKTON. He was the biggest and most favoured son of old Father Tees ; and he had been allowed so much of his own way for so many years, that he could not bear to be contradicted in anything. He always thought his will ought to be law. And sorely grieved he was when a younger brother was born unto him. He was afraid that old Father Tees might favour his younger son more than he did him., and this made him more unhappy and discontented than ever.

Meanwhile, the young stranger (whom we will call Middy, by way of a pet name) grew beyond the expectations of anyone ; and STOCKTON said, that he was sure his brother Middy was going to be a great rival to him ; and he determined to try and keep him back as much as ever he could.

Now some of the friends who were well acquainted with STOCKTON, and wished to show him some mark of their favour, presented him with a very large top, which gave him a great deal of pleasure and profit too. And the top used to spin away daily, to the great delight of  STOCKTON ; who felt very proud of being the possessor of such an article as very few had got. But his brother Middy had seen it, and thought that he was big enough to have one too ; and the gentlemen who had given the top to STOCKTON were of the same opinion.

But oh ! had you seen the rage of STOCKTON, when they proposed to give Middy one too. He stormed no little. And then showed his selfish nature. he said, that if Middy had a top, there would be no room for him to spin his, that the top which they had given him had been of very great service to him ; but if they gave one to his brother , he and all his belongings would be quite ruined.

Middy and the gentlemen tried to convince him that it could not possibly do him any harm , but would be a great benefit to them both. But STOCKTON  could not see it., and he wrote a letter to the Big House  where they gave the orders who should have tops and who should not ; and he set his grievance forth in the most abject manner, - he and his belongings would be ruined forever (the same story he had told Middy and his friends).

But they of the Big House could not see it in the same light, and they agreed  that Middy should have one also. And Middy got it and was thankful. And didn't he learn to spin it too ! And how the fellow grew and prospered ! And still had a kindly feeling for his brother, although he had used him so unkindly !

But STOCKTON  always kept sulky, and looked with jealous eyes on Middy, although he never did him any harm at all.

A few years after this happened, a great friend and benefactor of Middy's made a wonderful discovery. One day, when he was out on the moors, he found a great mass of stone contained iron, and he and another benevolent gentleman, who was a connection by marriage, set to work in good earnest, and erected blast furnaces and made iron in such large quantities, that it would have made teeth for all the peg tops in the world.

And now Middy grew apace, and spun his top so valiantly that the buzzing of it could be heard for miles.
When STOCKTON saw all this, he set to work and built some furnaces too, and derived a great deal of good by the discovery of Middy's friends. And Middy was delighted to see his brother flourishing so much, and hoped that STOCKTON had quite got over all the angry feeling he had shown towards him. But in this Middy was mistaken.

In the course of a few years, when Middy had got to be a great deal bigger and stronger than his brother, some gentlemen proposed to make a Bridge over the river Tees, so that the two could visit each other more easily ; and they thought it would confer a great benefit on all the people on both sides of the river : And Middy was quite pleased at the thoughts of it.

Not so, however, with STOCKTON. He began to grumble the old way again. MIDDLESBROUGH, as he chose just to call him (giving him his name in full because he was vexed), would get all the good of it. It would do him no amount of harm. He didn't see why his younger brother should be favoured more than him. However for his own part, he should do all in his power to oppose the Bridge !

Middy tried to reason with him ; but it was all of no use. he had got into the his old stupid ways again, and there was no getting him out of it.  Middy told him, that they ought to consider themselves Siamese Twins. That whatever materially affected one, must of necessity affect the other. That he thought they could walk better both together than either of them could do alone. That he had no wish to sever the connection ; but that if it really had to be done, why, as he was strongest, he would have the least to fear about it. That if they got the Bridge, he should be very glad. he did already spend a great deal of money every week on STOCKTON, and he had no doubt that he would spend a very great deal more if the way between them was shortened. But it was like casting pears before swine talking to STOCKTON on the matter.

A lot of Middy's friends got up a public meeting about the Bridge, and it was highly satisfactory. Only Middy thought that one of his friends made a slight mistake at the meeting, in a remark that he made. But as he knew that it was kindly meant, he did not like to say anything about it at the time. What his friend said was, that Middlesbrough was the place to no place : But Middy says that it both was and is the road to Fortune ; and that it has been a right royal road to a great many, and he hopes that it will still continue to be so. Some people, of course, get muddled in the throng,and cannot find the right track.

I suppose, after a while, there will be a great fuss made by STOCKTON about sending another letter to the Big House, begging of them not to let Middy have the Bridge. How it will end ; remains to be seen. meanwhile, STOCKTON has gone back in it's corner again, to have his sulk out : and there stands, a warning to all selfish naughty boys.

Middy says, that he will certainly go in for the Bridge, and would very much like to get it ; but if he should not be successful, he will not fret about it as he has so far got along without one. As however, he always likes to encourage all improvements for the general good, he hopes the Bridge will be built whatever STOCKTON may say to the contrary. And he thinks that in the end STOCKTON will find unity is strength.

Elizabeth Tweddell (Mrs G.M. Twedell) Middlesbrough 1871.

Since posting this story, Councillor Dave Walsh has sent me this article from the Evening Gazette 1871 which seems to provide the background to the Elizabeth Tweddell's story - it looks like the proposal was for a Swing Bridge although William Lillie says that discussion of a transporter Bridge took place a year later in 1872. Here's the article - 

Accreditation the Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea 28/04/1871 Gazette. Dave Walsh and


Accreditation the Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea 28/04/1871 Gazette.


This measure, which has been for the last few days under the consideration of a Parliamentary committee, of which Mr Cross, the member for S. W. Lancashire, is the chairman, was presented by the company in order to obtain powers to construct various short lines and a bridge across the Tees near to Middlesbrough, thus affording a direct communication between Newcastle, the Caulfield of S. E. Durham, and the Cleveland iron district. The only part of the bill objected to was that in which it was proposed to unite the North and South banks of the Tees by means of a swing bridge, which it was contended would almost totally destroyed the trade of the places higher up the river stop the opponents were the corporation, merchants, shipbuilders, &c., of the town of Stockton, whose plea was that the structure would put an impediment to the navigation the river; and the Middlesbrough are corporation who desired to have a roadway in connection with the bridge. The specifications stated that the bridge was to be constructed on the principle of the one at Goole, and was to have the centre opening 130 feet in width, but to accommodate the Stopped and traders, it had been increased to 160 feet, with headway of 30 feet. It was proposed to work it by hydraulic machinery, capable of opening it in a minute and a half stop Mr T. E. Harrison, the engineer to the company, Mr Hawkesley, Mr Fowler, Mr Abernethy, Mr Randall, and other eminent engineers, were examined, and all concurred in stating that the contemplation structures would not effect navigation for ships could be seen when half a mile off, and the bridge opened in time, but that for most of the vessels plying on the river. It would not need opening. It will shown that the only direct means of communication at present existing between the Durham coal field and the Cleveland iron district was by means of the all bridge at Stockton; and if anything should happen to that, the trade of the locality must necessarily be seriously injured, as it would be almost impossible to convey the minerals round by other routes, because of the steep gradients and sharp curves. MessrsI. Lothian Bell, H. W. F. Bolckow, J. G. Swan, W. R. I. Hopkins, and other influential members of the Cleveland iron trade, gave evidence as to the absolute necessity for additional and more direct communication; after hearing which the chairman, said the committee were quite satisfied as to the need of a connection, but wished to confine their attention to the depositions as to the impediment that would be placed in the way of the navigation. Mr Harrison on the part of the company, agreed that the demand of the Middlesbrough Corporation relative to the footway should be acceded to; and their petition, which had only been filed in order to secure what they had thus obtained, was withdrawn stop Mr Dixon, shipbuilder, Middlesbrough, supported the measure, though his firm often sent large vessels to Stockton to the engined; and he made it appear that if the trade of Stockton were injured that of Middlesbrough would be similarly affected, and the prestige of the river would be damaged. Several pilots and ship-owners spoke in favour of the bill stop for the opposition Stockton Corporation said that the bridge would cause a serious decline in the trade of their port, and that if one accident happened there, the ship-owners would leave the place, as the rates of insurance would be so heavy stop if the centre pier were built as proposed, in the middle of the river, a strong current would be formed, and it would be difficult to steer a large ship through in safety, particularly if the wind was unfavourable stop. They made it appear that a tunnel, which would be no obstruction to the navigation, could be made for £50,000, whilst the bridge would cost constantly more. The company, however, stated that if a small tunnel was constructed. They could not in the short distance between the mainline and the right bank of the river get a game on a level with the former, so as to make it useful. Mr Jos. Dodds, M. P., Mr G. N. Duck, Mr Lockwood, Mr Anderson, and others spoke as to the danger of the direction; and several pilots and ship-owners from Goole showed that the trade above the bridge had materially decreased in consequence of the accidents that had happened. On Wednesday, the committee decided that the bridge scheme would not be approved; but it is understood that if the company should undertake to make a tunnel, according to suitable plans, no opposition would be put in the way by the corporation or traders of Stockton. The Tees Conservancy Commissioners will also agree to the proposition, but it has been stated that the company cannot under any circumstances accept the alternative of a tunnel.


Councillor Dave Walsh further comments

"Interesting too, in that the new "Combined Authority" for the Teesside Boroughs has, as one of its infrastructure proposals, a new Lower Tees Crossing to take pressure off the A19,...............

You can see, in the line up of the pros and antis that it was the massed ranks of the ironmasters against the Stockton port interests,

I don't know, but will assume the HoC Ctte di#; not approve the private bill. Looking at the map, I guess the NER proposal was for a line diverging from the existing Durham Coast line south of Seaton Carew and following the route of today's A178 road to a crossing point near where the transporter now is and from there straight into the ironmasters district. The topography would not allow for a high level bridge, and so a swing bridge was the logical solution from a railway point of view. A tunnel would have been difficult too, given the high water levels around the area and the fact that the area is based on slippery boulder clay, and would have meant building in substantial and expensive cuttings on both sides."


  1. Love this, I never seen this before. I wonder how many have seen this?

    1. Councillor Dave Walsh has just provided an article from the Gazette 1871 that might explain the background to the story. It seems a Swing Bridge was proposed although a year later Lillie said there was discussion of a Transporter Bridge too. I've added the article to the bottom of the post if you want to see it.

  2. Love this, I never seen this before. I wonder how many have seen this?

    1. Not many I suspect, it was in the Tweddell family personal archives and various local reference libraries archives. Elizabeth Tweddell's Rhymes and Sketches in a Cleveland Dialect is still known, with the popular Stockton folk duo Megson setting two of her poems to music but this story was lost in the annals of time! Some research is indeed needed on those early discussions!