In its short history, Middlesbrough has gone from quaint farmland to the post industrial cultural melting pot it is today. During those times it has seen a lot of hardship but also a lot of perseverance, booming industry and abundant change in just 200 years.
Dr Tosh Warwick is a local historian who grew up in the area and knows all too well about how the town has changed in so little time. His new book, Memories of Middlesbrough in the 1970s and 1980s, encapsulates both through pictures and writing how the town was during one of its hay days when heavy industry employed many locals. Alongside books, Dr Warwick also runs Heritage Unlocked, a local initiative to get people back in touch with their heritage.
Tell us a bit about what it was like growing up in Middlesbrough – what’s some of your fondest memories?
I was born at Parkside Hospital in Middlesbrough and in the 1980s and 1990s I grew up in South Bank – an area built around the iron, steel and shipbuilding industries along the River Tees. The area had a very strong, working-class identity with generations of the same family working in the nearby industries. I’ve always been proud of my South Bank roots and Memories of Middlesbrough in the 1970s and 1980s photographs of the area reflect that by capturing places associated with my formative years including Hampden Street where my home was and South Bank Market which I’d visit on a Friday.
What first inspired you to write about local history?
Our area’s history is a combination of fascinating local history and connections to wider global narratives. There is a strong sense of pride in Middlesbrough’s heritage and it often prompts lots of emotional responses, has deep meanings for people and can sometimes be divisive. Writing about local history provides an opportunity to appreciate, explore and re-evaluate the places, people and events that have shaped our everyday lives. One of the beauties of local history is that it can empower people by encouraging local communities to share and value their place in history and I hope Memories of Middlesbrough in the 1970s and 1980s has helped do that by bringing together and sharing memories and photographs with hundreds of people across our area.
Why did you write the book in the first place?
I have authored a number of books and academic articles on Middlesbrough’s history and my PhD focused on the town’s steel magnates. In recent years through social media communities such as Memories of Middlesbrough and the popularity of Heritage Unlocked’s content, it became apparent that there was a strong appetite for sharing memories of Teesside’s heritage.
After meeting photographer John Severs at a history talk at the Dorman Museum and John sharing his collection with me, alongside material from Middlesbrough Libraries, Teesside Archives and a number of other contributors I felt these historic resources combined with local memories would make for a unique publication. In particular, by focusing on the 1970s and 1980s the book provided an opportunity to share local history relevant and within living memory of today’s communities – history often overlooked and even dismissed as not ‘proper history’. The book has proven incredibly successful with over 1,000 copies sold and moreover has now also been used in schools and in libraries to share our heritage in new ways.
Tell us a bit about Heritage Unlocked
I established Heritage Unlocked as a heritage consultancy in 2018 with the vision to help business, education, local authority and regeneration projects to enhance their heritage by delivering positive, lasting legacies for the wider community. We have worked on a range of fantastic projects already including the Middlesbrough Women’s History Project with Ageing Better Middlesbrough, rediscovering Gresham’s history with Thirteen Group, exploring the origins of industrial Middlesbrough with AV Dawson, digging into Teesside and North Yorkshire’s mining heritage and exploring iron and steel heritage.
What’s your favourite thing about the book?
One of the favourite things about writing the book was moving away from looking at Victorian and Edwardian historical records and instead turning to and empowering local people to share their stories and discover histories that aren’t featured on the history books. The photos and stories shared are not found in the standard history books and it has been great hearing from people who have seen the book and subsequently shared their memories.
What do you enjoy most about connecting with readers through your work?
The most important aspect of many of the history projects I work on is getting people involved and provided opportunities for people to feel part of the project. Memories of Middlesbrough in the 1970s and 1980s and the forthcoming Memories of Stockton in the 1970s and 1980s connect the readers by providing a platform to celebrate and share their history all whilst discovering and inspiring people through local history and heritage.
Memories of Middlesbrough in the 1970s and 1980s is available to order at www.heritageunlocked.com/shop and a number of local independent shops and galleries and we are also planning some talks, book signings and exhibitions. Local stockists include Café Etch, The Chairman, MIMA Shop (Middlesbrough), Chapter One (Loftus), Guisborough BookShop, Drakes (Stockton), Book Corner and Holly Blue Cards and Gifts Shop (Saltburn).
Those interested in stocking the book can contact firstname.lastname@example.org