This film is part of Free


An affectionate portrait of life both sides of the border in a thriving Middlesbrough of the 50s.

Amateur film 1957 9 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


From farm to industrial powerhouse, Middlesbrough developed its urban identity in double-quick time. In the 50s, Boro-born Raymond Kitching captured the legacy of the town’s founding fathers on film, in the still-smoking industries on the River Tees, the fading commercial centre and market of St Hilda’s, the grandeur of its Victorian architecture and magnificent bridges, and bustling Albert Park, gifted to the town by iron and steel magnate Henry Bolckow.

The rise of Middlesbrough was dramatic, from a cluster of four farm houses to a coal and port town, dreamt up by Quaker businessmen, Joseph Pease and Partners, and built from scratch on a grid-iron pattern. It soon became the prosperous iron town dubbed ‘Ironopolis’ and has been compared to the gold rush towns of California. In Kitching’s film, the poorer historic centre north of the railway, dominated by the striking, black gothic church of St Hilda’s and the old town hall’s clock tower, was declining. Once affectionately known as “over the border”, the term became suggestive of slums. Max Lock’s 1944 Middlesbrough Survey envisaged a sympathetic future redevelopment, but the church was demolished in 1969.