Friday, 9 December 2011

The Building of Grangetown, 1881-82 (NZ547210)

The original ‘eight streets’ of the settlement of Grangetown were built during the early 1880s. Named Bessemer, Vaughan, Stapylton, Laing, Holden, Wood, Vickers and Cheetham (plus the main thoroughfare of Whitworth Road), the Victorian layout has now all but disappeared.  Here is the almost complete transcription of a contemporary ‘interview’ of the time (full text at

From The Daily Exchange, 1st November 1882

Building a New Town

On Monday afternoon last our reporter had an interview with one of the firm who have contracted to build the new town of Grangetown, a place which for rapid growth is probably without equal. Perhaps it would be more interesting to give the result of the visit in American fashion. Having had a walk round the place we adjourned to what was termed the office, but which would have been better named had it been called a wholesale ironmongery store, the following dialogue took place: 

When you started this town were there any buildings? 
Yes; 23 cottages. 

These were of the same kind as those you are now building? 
Yes; these were our pattern to go by, but we improved on them. 

How many acres of land did you purchase? 
We purchased about 22 or 23 acres, which does not include the brickyard. 

What was the immediate reason for building this place; was it for the men employed in the steel works of Messrs Bolckow, Vaughan, and Co.? 

Where had the people come from? 
They came from Middlesbrough, North Ormesby, Lackenby, Normanby, and South Bank district. 

When you have completed your undertaking how many streets will there be? 
Well, there are only eight streets, or 16 half streets, with a main street running through the centre. 

Containing how many houses? 
Seven hundred and sixty-eight houses, exclusive of the shops. 

When you commenced you were aware that it would be one of the largest building undertakings in England. And you are going to accommodate how many? 
Between 5,000 and 6,000 people. 

You commenced the building about when? 
On the 1st of April, 1881. The first houses we built in Vaughan-street.

I did not observe any horses or carts? 

No; a remarkable feature in this large concern is that we have not a single horse or cart; lines of rails being laid in the streets, everything is brought to the door by the steam engine. 

Have you any gas? 

No; nor any arrangement been made for the place to be supplied with gas. 

(I have since learnt that the Normanby and Eston Gas Company, has received an order from the Eston Watch and Lighting Committee to supply Grangetown with gas, it being in their district)

Where do you get your water from? 
That is supplied by the Stockton and Middlesbrough Water Company. 

I notice you have raised the cottages above the street. 
Yes we put a two-foot foundation in, which we fill up with ashes and then they raise the floors about another foot from the street. 
What institutions have you? 
We have none; neither a chapel nor a church, although the Primitives and Wesleyans are holding services in a cottage. There wants to be a Church, Primitive chapel, Wesleyan Chapel and a Roman Catholic Chapel. 

At present you might call it a godless town then? 
Yes, for we have no place of worship, reading room or school. The School Board however have a site at the south side for which plans have been prepared and are at present in London awaiting the approval of the Local Government Board. 

You have no railway station? 
No; but we anticipate having a station this side of the steelworks, to be called Grangetown. 

There is no public house, I think? 
No, but there will be one shortly. 

Yet men, they can get drink, and are often seen reeling about the place. 
A great amount of shebeening takes place. 

How do they spend their Sunday? 
By drinking and lounging about. The children are allowed to do as they would any other day. Of course there are exceptions. 

How many policemen have you? 
We have three; two have been here about three months, and one has just come; but this is not sufficient. 

About how many bricks have you made here yourselves since you came? 
Five millions at our brickyard in addition to those we have had to buy. We have got our ironmongery wholesale, the woodwork we have got from the lessees of the Cargo Fleet Timber Yard. 

Of what nationality are the inhabitants? 
They are principally Irish, but there are a great number of English and Welsh. Some of the inhabitants have gardens in which they devote their leisure time, others keep pigs, while one man, more given to saving than his fellow-workmen, has rented a small piece of land, and bought a couple of cows. I might say that in the original plan there is a church shown, but the land has not yet been allotted. 

The access to the place is not good? 
No; but they are making some plans for a sub-way, and another for a bridge. I do not know which will be adopted, but one of them is sure to be adopted. 

What kind of drainage have you? 
The place is well drained, the main drain emptying into the Tees. The drainage cost £2,000. We have a Post-office and a money-order office but no telegraphic communication. 

This was the end of the conversation. If any of our readers would like to know anything further, we would advise them to visit this wonderful place for themselves. 

As well as the complete ‘interview’ at, there is much else to be found concerning the town via the link.

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