The Teesside conurbation is famous for its extraordinary Victorian growth, but that is not to say there was nothing in the vicinity before the Industrial Revolution. One of many modest settlements along the course of the old river in the days before the masses arrived was Cargo Fleet, a name which can still be found amidst Middlesbrough’s surburbia.
It sat (and indeed still does) on the outside bend of the River Tees little more than a mile to the east of the present-day Middlesbrough Railway Station. Historical sources place its habitable history back at least as far at medieval times, when it was a little fishing village known as Kaldecotes (a name which is Anglo-Saxon for ‘the cold-shelter cottages’) located where the Marton and Ormesby Becks joined the Tees.
In time, its name became corrupted to ‘Cawker’, ‘Caudgatefleet’, and then ‘Cargo Fleet’ – or so the story goes. Though it seems more likely that the ‘Cargo’ element came from settlement’s role as an off-loading point for large vessels during the 18th and 19th centuries, when cargo would be transferred to smaller boats for onward journey. Additionally, two-thirds of Middlesbrough’s exports at one time passed through its busy little harbour. Old maps show that it was at this time also know as Cleveland Port – indeed both names are shown on the 1856 OS map. ‘Fleet’, in case you’re wondering, comes from the Anglo-Saxon fleot, meaning ‘stream’.
As industry saturated the area, Cargo Fleet lost its sense of isolation and identity. As the years passed it came to be known, unofficially, as ‘Claggy Foot’, presumably on account of its muddy expanses.
That last bit is just a guess.