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  Middlesbrough 1847 Station

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Middlesbrough's first passenger station of any architectural pretension was the building which opened on 26 July 1847. It was an elegant design, by the Darlington architect John Middleton, but did not lend itself to enlargement to cope with traffic growth. It lasted barely a quarter century, closing from 16 December 1874 so that its site could be cleared to make way for the present station.

Middlesbrough had been granted a new station as recently as 1840 but this was a modest affair situated down by the Tees, in Commercial Street. The catalyst for renewal was an extension of the Stockton & Darlington Railway network to the coastal town of Redcar, a task undertaken by the satellite Middlesbrough & Redcar Railway. This branched off the line serving Middlesbrough Dock, leaving the 1840 station on a dead end (the Old Town Branch) down by the riverside. The Dock/Redcar line passed along the south side of the early town and offered a new location for the station which would be central to Middlesbrough's future growth. The Redcar line opened to passengers on 3 June 1846 but the foundation stone of the new station was only laid three weeks later, on the 26th. Thus temporary premises had to suffice for some thirteen months.

Hitherto, S&D stations had not been noted for their architectural ambition. However, Middlesbrough and its counterpart at Redcar were stylish buildings, designed by John Middleton, an architect then in private practice in Darlington but retained by the S&D as its architect. Middleton did equally attractive work, in a Tudor-Revival style, for another satellite: the Wear Valley Railway, opened in 1847.

In some ways the new station bore a family resemblance to recent designs by the architect George Townsend Andrews, whom Middleton, born and trained in York, will have known. Like Andrews' Durham and Filey stations, it had a hip-roofed trainshed fronted by a one-storey office range in which a prominent central pavilion was framed by lower wings with a regular rhythm of arched openings. Middleton gave his facade a distinctive focus in the form of an ambitious engaged portico,  with a pair of arches framing an Ionic porch. Construction was in buff brick with stone dressings, e.g. columns, architraves and cornice, a harmonious combination also adopted on the Wear Valley. The brick probably came from colliery ovens owned by the Pease family, leading figures in the S&D.

Normally, the S&D opted for just a single through platform at its more important stations, the idea being to provide all passengers with ready access to the waiting rooms and other facilities. This was the intention at Middlesbrough, but after letting the contract the directors decided to include a second platform. This was quite narrow, compared with the main platform, and every effort was probably made to concentrate services at the latter. Despite the trainshed's outward resemblance to Andrews', it seems to have had a timber-trussed roof rather than his wrought-iron 'Euston' trusses.

The original platforms were 200 feet long, which was typical of their period, but by 1863, when the S&D merged with the NER, the main platform had been lengthened to almost 500 feet. However, site constraints made that extension awkwardly narrow towards its east end, while there was no space to lengthen the office range. In 1871 the NER Darlington directors considered options for enlargement but these could only have been makeshift measures, unable either to cater for future growth or to meet the aspirations of the rapidly-growing town, by then capital of the North-East iron industry. So, in July 1871 the directors began looking at schemes for an entirely new station. After examining an alternative site further east, they eventually decided to develop the existing location. This meant providing an interim station elsewhere while work was underway. However, work on this Wood Street Station only began towards the end of 1873. It came into use on 16 December 1874, whereupon the demolition of Middleton's building was put in hand.






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© W. Fawcett, 2011