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‘Racing Ahead’

When I lived in Stockton, this life-sized sculpture by Irene Brown stood outside M&S. The sculpture was removed in 2013, when the High Street was being spruced up. M&S closed in 2018.

The sculpture isn’t really my sort of thing, but it is enormously popular with Stocktonites. There was great fanfare when the refurbished sculpture was repositioned outside the library in 2016, and where I took this photo yesterday.

This post was filed under: Art, Photos, , .

Bridge to nowhere; not for everyone

Just along the River Tees from the Princess of Wales Bridge, one finds the Teesquay Millennium Bridge—locally known as the ‘wobbly’ bridge. I trudged across this many times when I lived locally.

At its northern end, the bridge used to give onto the Castlegate shopping centre. The bridge was accessible to pedestrians, but not to wheelchairs, when the shopping centre was closed. This gave rise to the above unusual sign, roughly 250m away from the south end of the bridge, directing those with disabilities to use the aforementioned Princess of Wales Bridge.

These days, the Castlegate centre is no more. While the new Stockton Waterfront is under construction, the northern end of the bridge is disconcertingly dangling. Once it’s complete, the bridge will be extended to join it, and will—for the first time—be fully accessible at all times.

It was always the bit over the road that wobbled. I wonder if it will still wobble after the extension is constructed, or whether a new moniker will be needed.

This post was filed under: Photos, , .

Council of Europe Boulevard

Council of Europe Boulevard is a road running between Stockton-on-Tees and Thornaby. It runs over the River Tees via the Princess of Wales Bridge, still locally known as the Diana Bridge. I had always assumed the bridge was named as a posthumous tribute, but in fact, it was named in 1992 and opened by the Princess herself.

But it’s the road I want to write about today. Until the late 1980s, it was called Trafalgar Street, but as the area began to set its sights higher and wider, it was renamed to reflect the spirit of European co-operation exemplified by the Council of Europe.

Over the coming years, the acknowledgement of Europe co-operation in a road name became ever-more relevant: Teesside became a huge net beneficiary of European Union funding, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent in the area even as national Government funding for the area dwindled. Indeed, the bridges immediately up- and down-stream of the Diana Bridge—the Millennium Bridge and the Infinity Bridge—were both built with European funding.

Yet, current Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has said:

There is hardly a more prominent, but inappropriately named road in Teesside than ‘Council of Europe Boulevard’.

I struggle to follow his logic as to why the name is inappropriate. Given that the UK remains a member of the Council of Europe, the specific choice of name remains apposite even post-Brexit. Houchen has spoken at length about the importance of protecting Teesside’s heritage, and European co-operation remains a key plank of that heritage. One can’t even make a post-rational argument that the name was inappropriately ‘bought’, given that the Council of Europe and the European Union are entirely distinct entities.

Nevertheless, Houchen would prefer the road to be renamed again, this time after Stanley Hollis, a war hero with no connection to Stockton or Thornaby.

The Mayor of Thornaby, Steve Walmsley, disagrees: he has observed that a different war hero—Edward Cooper—was born in Stockton and lived in Thornaby. Cooper might therefore be the more obvious choice, but as Walmsley has acknowledged:

We should recognise these people, but this just seems a bit silly.

It’s hard to disagree.

This post was filed under: Politics, , .

Disassembled Rocket

Twenty years ago, this piece of land near Thornaby station was home to The Rocket. This was the Students’ Union associated with Stephenson College at Durham University, where I started my medical degree… and where several of my fellow students performed a ‘full monty’ striptease for the local mayor. I’m not sure that would be a University-sanctioned activity in 2024. It feels more like an event that could lead to a political scandal.

I’m not certain when The Rocket closed, but it had been long abandoned and had suffered a large fire by the time it was torn down in 2021. It could hardly be called a rapid unscheduled disassembly.

It’s surprising how quickly things change, and also how quickly time passes.

This post was filed under: Photos, University, , , .

Hi, Stockton

It’s been way too long…

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .

Across a crowded room..


Here, I’m outside the Wolfson Building at Durham University’s Queen’s Campus in Thornaby – just a short hop across the river from Stockton.

This is a very important building. It is not only home to the North East Public Health Observatory, it’s also the building where an informal reception for new medical students was held (at least in my day!). It was at that very reception in this very building that Wendy remembers first seeing me across a crowded room… although we didn’t formally meet until a couple of days later.

The rest, as they say, is history!

This post was filed under: Scrapbook, , .

Photo-a-day 228: Depressing trees


About nine years ago, I was living in these halls of residence and watched through my window as these trees were planted. This is a curse. I feel as if my first year at uni wasn’t very long ago, but every time I drive past these trees I’m reminded that it was longer ago than I imagine! At least they still look fairly young!

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, University, .

Photo-a-day 184: Trinity Green


This is the ruin of Holy Trinity Church, which stands in Trinity Green in Stockton. I used to walk past this every day when I lived in Stockton and walked into uni.

Holy Trinity Church was an Anglican church consecrated in 1835. In the 20th century, it suffered a series of unfortunate events.

Those of superstitious mind might date the start of the troubles to 1955, when the church decided to remove all of the headstones from its churchyard, and convert it into an open space for fun and frolics. Perhaps eerily, one of the final headstones to be removed carried the prophetic inscription

Death to me little warning gave,
And quickly called me to my grave

Just a year later – 1956 – stone began to fall from the church’s steeple, and it was soon found to be structurally unsound. The congregation failed raise the £20k needed to repair it, and so, in 1958, the steeple was dismantled.

A decade on, the Anglican congregation dwindled here as elsewhere. The vicar launched a “getting to know you” campaign in which he went door-knocking in the local area, which did enough to keep the church going for a while.

But 1979 brought another huge blow to the church after its organ – worth some £100k – failed. The church could not afford to repair it, and over time, the congregation and the collection plate shrank to an unsustainable level. The church was forced to close in 1982.

Respite in prospect appeared in 1985, as the Greek Orthodox Church took over the building and spent £30k on overhauling the organ. But not long afterwards, the church was ransacked by vandals who stole candlesticks and communion wine – and destroyed the newly repaired organ.

In 1991 – just six years after its reopening – the church was burned down in a fire, the cause of which was never discovered.

Since then, the church has stood as a landmark ruin. The ex-churchyard, now known as Trinity Green, is used for all manner of cultural events. But with its grim history, how long can it be until another disaster befalls the Holy Trinity Church?

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , , .

Photo-a-day 180: Springs


Abandoned buildings always pique my interest: I always wonder what’s inside, and quite often find myself looking, with fascination, at the blogs and forums of urban explorers.

This gym is just round the corner from the halls I lived in during my first year at uni. Back then (2003), this gym seemed popular, and the car park was often busy. Clearly, somewhere along the line, something went wrong: it’s now an abandoned and increasingly dilapidated site. This seems bizarre given that it’s part of the thriving Teesside Retail Park, where new buildings are being added all the time. Why hasn’t this one been refurbished? Why hasn’t it been flattened and some much-needed car park spaces added? What went wrong? And what’s left inside?

All interesting questions… though the answers are no doubt prosaic!

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , , .

Photo-a-day 174: Welder


This is a little welding shop across the river from work. I don’t know any more about it than that: I’d never really registered its existence until today!

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, .

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