Ironmaking History in Manhole Covers and Grates

The continuing lockdown has allowed me to walk the streets of Redcar in more detail than ever before. Whilst there are many modern replacements, the story of our areas ironmaking past is still all around us.

Redcar Manhole
Borough of Redcar, Anderston Foundary, Middlesbrough
Redcar Grate
Borough of Redcar, Anderston Foundry, Middlesbrough, 1934

I have previously described the two Anderston Foundry example immediately outside my house. Manufactured in Port Clarence at the far end of the Transporter.

W. Richards & Sons Middlesbrough

W. Richard and Sons were based at the Britannia Foundry, North Ormesby Road.

Pease and Partners, MIddlesbrough
Pease and Partners

This Pease and Partners cover is likely to have originated somewhere in the Tees Iron Works site at Cargo Fleet.

Zetland Foundry, Loftus
Zetland Foundry, Loftus

The Zetland Foundry at Loftus despite its small size is still in existence today !

This final one is still confusing me, it appears to say Robinson and Bradley, Middlesbrough. But I can’t find any references to that company and its got the same logo as the one I assumed at the beginning to be Anderston Foundry !

Back to the drawing board perhaps ?

Robinson and Bradley, Middlesbrough

Borough of Redcar Grate and Manhole Cover – Anderston Foundry

I don’t think it’s possible to stay any closer to home as this is outside my house and I had never noticed it. Most grates have been changed and modernised over the years, but I seem to have an original from the Borough of Redcar. The 1934 date ties in with the construction of my street in Redcar East.

Redcar Grate
Borough or Redcar 1934

Anderston Foundry was based in Glasgow, but expanded to Middlesbrough in 1874, being based at Port Clarence on the North bank of the Tees, next to the Transporter Bridge.

Anderston Foundary

A couple of steps further away is a Borough or Redcar manhole cover, presumable also an original from 1934, i’m going to hazard a guess that the central AFC logo is for the Anderston Foundry Company.

Redcar Manhole

Robert Watson Boyd – Champion Skuller of England

At a time when the ‘Boro’ were yet to turn professional, Middlesbrough already had a sporting superstar capable of drawing crowds of thousands to watch him compete. Yet today the name of the champion rower Robert Watson Boyd is virtually forgotten.

Robert Watson Boyd was born in Gateshead on the 20th September 1854, the son of a wherryman (a coal carrying tug on the Tyne) he was already known as a talented rower by his teenage years.

Robert Watson Boyd

The World Sculling Championship had existed since 1831 with the champion taking on a challenger. This continued on the Thames and Tyne until 1876 when Australian born Edward Trickett returned home and took his title with him, leaving much confusion as to who was the English Champion. The Newcastle Daily Chronicle held an open regatta in March 1877 on the Tyne to decide, the event was won by Robert Watson Boyd who was crowned ‘Champion Sculler of England’

Ex – Champion Sculler of England

In May 1877 Boyd defended his title and defeated John Higgins on the Thames by nearly a quarter of a mile. Higgins however took the title away from him just a few months later in October 1877.

Boyd moved to Middlesbrough in 1878 when he married Hannah Bell, whose parents ran the Alexandra Hotel. Boyd became the landlord when her parents retired.

In February 1880, Boyd raced William Elliott on the Tyne for £400 a-side and won easily. This would later emerge to be Boyd’s final win, but at the time his good form allowed him to challenge the world champion Edward ‘Ned’ Hanlan. This match happened in June 1880 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. He was unfortunately defeated, however this must still have been a huge event for a man from Middlesbrough in 1880.

A further match against Hanlan was arranged on the Tyne in April 1882. Press coverage was intense, with the Evening Gazette recording a crowd of 2000 at Newport in February just to watch him train, then giving daily updates on his progress in the paper. Despite the months of training Boyd was again defeated and announced his retirement.

Race of the Tees

However he seems to have had a change of heart and the ‘Race of the Tees’ is arranged for July 1882 against Australian Elias C Laycock for £400 (this is something like £40,000 today). The event drew thousands of spectators with excursion trains running to Middlesbrough from Sheffield, Whitby and Newcastle. Sadly Boyd lost again in front of the home crowd and this was his final race.

Boyd became landlord of the Shakespeare Hotel on Linthorpe Road, but his intense training which involved rapid weight loss seem to have taken a heavy toll on his body. He died on 1st July 1887 aged just 33, his cause of death was said to be ‘Brights Disease’ an old term which implies kidney failure. His grave can be found in Linthorpe cemetery carrying a pair of oars and his champions title.

Robert’s widow Hannah stayed on at the Shakespeare Hotel and remarried Samuel Suffell in 1889. So she lost two husbands within three years. Perhaps a little unusual that they are buried together without her !

Cleveland Salt Company – Vulcan Street

In 1859 a borehole was started at Bolkow and Vaughans’ Middlesbrough Ironworks in search of a clean water supply for use in their boilers, instead of dirty water from the Tees. By 1862 at a depth of 1200ft a bed of rock salt was discovered that was almost 100ft thick.

Local geology

The Cleveland Salt Company was formed in 1887 to exploit this resource for the
fledgling chemical industry, Carl Bolckow nephew of Henry was one of the first
board members, fresh water was pumped down into the salt bed which it dissolved,
brine was then pumped out and evaporated in large pans to drive off the water and
extract the salt.


The six original pans were initially fired by waste hot gas from the Middlesbrough Ironworks blast furnaces, this was expanded to thirteen pans in 1889. In 1920 the blast furnaces were blown out and the pans had to be converted to run on coal.

Brine Pans

A total of four wells existed in the companies’ lifetime, The original No.1 was
abandoned in 1893 due to a roof fall, No.2 and No.3 from 1888 and 1893 respectively
operated until around 1938 when they started to become choked. So No.4 which had
been an incomplete well started in 1896 was re-started, but was not completed until
1941 due to drilling problems and the outbreak of the Second World War.

Well section

In 1945 and 1946 there were roof falls in the remaining No.4 well after which the evaporation pans were never restarted. The company wound up in 1947 having produced 879,972 ton of salt in 59 years.

Well section after collapse

Making a few calculations, that suggests a volume of over 400,000 cubic meters, or
165 Olympic Swimming Pools. It’s an interesting thought that there must now remain
a huge water-filled void under the area, most likely under the river and Transporter
Bridge !

Vulcan Street

Today all that remains is the impressive red brick boundary wall on Vulcan Street
dating from 1887. This became a listed building in 1988, however it’s not totally
original as it was rebuilt from other interesting sections of the original building by the
Cleveland Community Task Force, Middlesbrough Council and the Davy Corporation
in 1982.


Listen with EKCO Radio Ghostsign, Middlesbrough

EKCO (Eric Kirkham Cole Limited) produced TVs and Radios from 1924 until 1960 although the brand name lived on into the 1970s. This shop on Parliament Road was once an electrical shop.

Ecko Ghostsign, Parliament Road Middlesbrough

The advert was revealed by the removal of a billboard around 2016 when it first appears on Google Streetview, it has visibly deteriorated since that point.

2016 Google Streetview

A complete copy of the same advert existed in Southamption, but this has since been hidden by a new building.

PC William Henderson Plaque – Binks Street, Middlesbrough

The plaque funded by the Police Memorial Trust was recently unveiled to commemorate PC William Henderson, who died on 14 April 1893 when he was shot at close range by a man he was trying to disarm while trying to take into custody.

Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough - Saturday 15 April 1893


On 9th May, the verdict on John Harry Gould (33) was :- Wilful murder whilst insane. Prisoner to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Old Brickwork Ponds in the 1890s

Murders were very rare at this time and news reports suggest it was only the second in Middlesbrough, after Mary Copper in 1884

P.C. Henderson and family

Tom Dresser V.C. Memorial

Geotag Icon Show on map

A memorial to Private Tom Dresser was unveiled on 12th May 2017 to mark the centenary of the actions that saw him awarded the Victoria Cross.

Tom Dresser Memorial, Middlesbrough

The sculptor of the memorial was Brian Alabaster and it stands outside the Dorman Museum.

Tom Dresser Memorial, Middlesbrough
this stone is incorrect it should read Princess of Wales’ Own Yorkshire Regiment not Prince.

Tom Dresser was serving as a private in the 7th Battalion The Green Howards in the Battle of Arras and despite being shot twice, conveyed an important message from battalion headquarters to the front line trenches.

Tom Dresser being awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V on July 21st 1917

As well as the V.C. Tom was presented with a gold watch and 100 guineas by the people of Middlesbrough, he died 9th April 1982 and is buried in Thorntree Cemetery,