Other Links

 Middlesbrough Station


Middlesbrough Station is the second 'permanent' one on the present site, athwart the railway to Redcar. Passengers must have used temporary premises nearby from the opening of the line, in June 1846, until the completion of a proper building - see Middlesbrough 1847 Station - 13 months later.

By 1871, the NER recognised that this building was incapable of being expanded to meet the rapidly-growing needs of the town already described by Gladstone as an 'infant Hercules'. Given Middlesbrough's S&D origins, the NER's Darlington Section directors took pride in its success and rewarded it with a prestigious building designed by their architect William Peachey and opened in December 1877. It was the first major station in the North East to be designed in a robust, up-to-date gothic manner. This was a very different gothic from that essayed by Sir Gilbert Scott at St. Pancras, but there were points of similarity between the two stations: the trainshed and its elevated site. The need to bridge Albert Road placed the station well above street level, so it was approached by a carriage ramp with shops under the forecourt, as in London. The trainshed boasted the lattice girder principals and pointed arch of St. Pancras but had a much more vertical aspect, being only 76 feet in span (245 at St. P) but 60 feet to the apex (100 at St. P), taken a further 12 feet by the gabled ridge ventilator. The historian Carroll Meeks called it the most Gothic of trainsheds.

Although the surviving drawings emanate from Peachey, he will have collaborated on most aspects of the structure with the Darlington Section engineer, William Cudworth, who had devised the basic layout of platforms and tracks. The two men had already worked together for over a dozen years before Peachey was asked to prepare plans in the latter part of 1872. The most significant hurdle the scheme faced was its scrutiny by the Engineer-in-Chief, T.E. Harrison, but he gave his approval in August 1873. The next stage was to construct an alternative station to serve during the building campaign. Normally this would have been a temporary affair but the directors opted for a substantial island platform structure, near Wood Street, which could afterwards continue in use as an excursion station. This opened on 16 December 1874 and work then began on demolishing the 1847 station.

The new station had two generously proportioned through platforms, with an additional bay at the east end. Middlesbrough Dock traffic was catered for by a pair of tracks behind the trainshed, while there were three lines between the platforms. Four were probably intended at first, providing a pair of freight tracks between the platform roads, but the NER scaled things back a little to avoid the need for compulsory powers of land purchase, which could have been contested in Parliament. Access between platforms is by a spacious subway, far more welcoming than those commonly provided in NER designs.

Peachey made a point of breaking up the office range externally to give a distinct identity to each major part. So, approaching the station from the present town centre, one first becomes aware of the tall wing reaching forward along Albert Road and designed to house the refreshment rooms. Left of that is the bold mass of the booking hall, originally fronted by a glazed iron porte-cochere. Entering, one comes into a lofty hall with an arch-braced hammer-beam roof lit by bold dormers. This was the first of three increasingly large spaces: the second was the concourse, framed by the wings of the office range and originally covered by a smaller edition of the trainshed roof. From here one passed through a cast-iron arcade into the main shed, an arrangement which replicated on a much grander scale Peachey's 1863-4 enlargement of Barnard Castle station. The latter has, sadly, been demolished while a bombing raid put paid to the Middlesbrough roofs.

The Middlesbrough trainshed differed in one major respect from William Henry Barlow's at St. Pancras. The latter has ribs springing from ground level and tied by the deck girders bearing the platforms and tracks. Thus the great iron shed forms a structural entity and the brick side walls are essentially a screen. The Middlesbrough arches sprang 12 feet above platform level, perched on masonry piers, and they were not tied. Thus they relied on the abutment provided by the buildings on either side. Cudworth and Peachey no doubt felt that the verticality of the arches made this a reasonable choice and Harrison clearly endorsed this. They could not envisage the events of August Bank Holiday Monday, 1942.

The air raid which then took place devastated parts of Middlesbrough. One bomb fell just west of the trainshed, doing little serious damage to that structure but wreaking havoc with the parcels office. Another, however, destroyed a stretch of the north-side offices; as a result, several bays of the trainshed collapsed, bringing down parts of the iron arcade between shed and concourse, so that the western third of the concourse roof keeled over as well. The wreckage was speedily cleared, to get trains running again, and a new roof was built over the west end of the concourse. The west end of the trainshed was demolished and temporary low-level canopies were installed, but the skeleton of the east end was retained to brace the concourse roof. All of that was removed in 1954, making way for the present concrete roofs over the concourse and platforms. Designed by a York consulting engineer, John Dossor, these form an interesting work in its own right.

The 1877 trainshed ironwork was supplied and erected by the Derby firm of Andrew Handyside, who were simultaneously engaged on the much larger shed at Glasgow's St. Enoch Station, one of the saddest losses of the 1970's.

Middlesbrough still displays some of their work in Peachey's low-level canopies at the east end. Though their original ridge & furrow roofs have been replaced by something simpler, the supporting structure, with its very elaborate spandrel brackets, remains unaltered.


During 1959-60, British Railways replaced the bomb-damaged west end of Middlesbrough's main office range by a four-storey office block with a wing striking forward to bridge the cab road. 'Zetland House', overseen by the North Eastern Region architect, Albert Newton Thorpe, was built to house a devolved management team and made ingenious use of the limited site. However, it made a rather overbearing and lacklustre companion to Peachey's vigorous design. The last few years have brought its replacement by a modest pastiche in the 1877 style, which keeps to the footprint of the original station.






 Contact us at:


© W. Fawcett, 2011