Stockton Town Centre’s historic Dodshon’s Fountain has now been repositioned closer to its original location at the southern end of the High Street. The repositioning of Dodshon’s Fountain – erected by public subscription in 1878 to commemorate the work of John Dodshon (1811 – 1875), a local Quaker and philanthropist – marks a key milestone in the transformation of Stockton Town Centre.
Stockton’s population is presently about 178,000. Most of these people live in the four principal towns which make up the Borough – Stockton, the largest, with Billingham, Thornaby and Yarm.
The Borough covers an area of 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres).
The River Tees flows over 85 winding miles (140km) from the Pennine Hills to its wide estuary where it meets the North Sea.
Stockton retained its Borough status in County Durham until being absorbed into the County Borough of Teesside in 1968. This authority was abolished by the inauguration of the new County of Cleveland in 1974. This established a ‘two tier’ system of local government under which Stockton regained its separate identity as a town within a County. Further Local Government reorganisation abolishing Cleveland County, restored full independence and responsibility for all local services to Stockton Council as a Unitary Authority on 1st April 1996.
The first specific reference to Stockton occurs around the 12th Century in the Bolden Buke – the palatinate of Durham’s equivalent to the Doomsday Book. An ancient castle, once associated with King John (1199 – 1216), but destroyed on Cromwell’s orders around 1652, used to stand at the Southern end of the High Street. Stockton’s original charter as a borough was granted by King John around 1201 and a Chapel of Ease was built at Stockton in 1235, in those days part of Norton Parish. Stockton was granted its Market Charter by Bishop Beck in 1310 and still has one of the largest markets in the North, based in the broadest High Street in England.
Dominating the High Street, the Town Hall, built in1735, still serves its original purpose, where Council Meetings are held in its elegant Council chamber. At the northern end of the High Street stands Stockton Parish Church, built 1710 – 1712.
Heralding the dawn of the railway age and ensuring the town’s place in history forever, the first rail of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was laid 13th May 1822 near St John’s Crossing on Bridge Road. Hauled by Locomotion No.1, manned by the great railway engineer, George Stephenson, the first train made its historic inaugural journey form Etherley to Stockton to mark the official opening on Tuesday, 27th September 1825. In addition to being the first passenger railway in the world, it was also the first to use locomotives to haul both goods and passengers.
Thomas Sheraton, the furniture designer, was born in Stockton in 1751. A Baptist Minister and journeyman cabinetmaker, he moved to London in 1790, where his elegant designs brought him fame and fortune. Stockton chemist, John Walker, 1781 – 1859, holds the distinction of inventing the world’s first friction match.
In the Borough’s industrial past the River Tees nurtured trades and industries of all kinds, providing countless merchants, shipbuilders, labourers and their families with work and food. A significant port of the Tees since the17th Century, Stockton’s 19th Century industrial expansion quickly established the town as a leading centre in the North East. By the end of the 20th Century, heavy engineering industries had almost disappeared, employment being found mostly in service industries, retail trades and local government.
Annually since the early 1960′s, the Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) in the Town Centre has attracted visitors from around the region and performers from all over the world.
Within minutes of Stockton’s bustling heart, lie many pretty villages such as Carlton, Heartburn, Egglescliffe, Wolviston, Wynyard, Elton, Yarm and Longnewton.
The innovation of the Tees Barrage by the Teesside Development Corporation has provided a unique opportunity to establish an impressive array of water based leisure facilities. Recent advances have brought tremendous benefits for the Borough and its people. With Britain’s newest University College, high tech industries winning fresh markets worldwide, superb cultural facilities located at the ARC, an extensive arts centre opened in January 1999, the annual Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) and much more, massive regeneration has taken place.