Port Clarence changes

port clarence, high clarence, haverton hill

High Clarence was really an extension of Haverton Hill - situated just across the Tees from Middlesbrough - separated only by a small park with a recreation ground behind it which was known as the 'Bendy'. All along Clarence Road on the right-hand side was an embankment for the railway line which ran from Haverton Hill to Port Clarence. 

The houses at High Clarence were all terraces named after universities and schools such as Eton, Oxford, Harrow, Cambridge and Rugby, and others were named after trees. They were built by Billingham Council in 1927. Although much of the main shopping was done at Haverton at the larger shops, they had their own smaller ones such as a sub post office-cum-general dealer, a fish and chip shop, a draper's and a homemade bread shop. Old Mr Patterson was a well known character, seen riding around on his bicycle which had a huge basket on the front to hold the loaves of bread he was delivering. Then came the school with its gardens and playing fields at the back. Just past the school there was the Cenotaph which had been built to commemorate all the men who had been killed in the First World War and later the Second World War. There was always a great procession on Remembrance Sunday made up of church choirs, the Mayor and all the Councillors, and the veterans of course. The service was always well attended.

Opposite the Cenotaph in the side of the embankment there were big double doors which when opened led to the fields which ran alongside the river. There must have been some sort of building here at one time as it is said that this was where they kept the prisoners from the First World War, and that they built the road from Port Clarence to Seaton Carew. When the Second World War started a dug-out was made in the same area to house the air-raid wardens.

We are now entering Port Clarence, which was much older. Here we had St Thomas's Roman Catholic Church and school and very near to it was the Royal Hotel. There are lots of street houses here which were built by Bell's Ironworks belonging to Sir Joseph Bell, with allotments at the back to grow their produce. As well as the ironworks there was Anderson's Foundry who built railway equipment.

In the area at the back of the houses of High Clarence and Port Clarence there were many fields, which housed Saltholme Farm and the salt works with their many derricks which pumped the brine to the surface. A lot of land was reclaimed in the area of the river mouth. They used to tip great slag boulders and waste to stop the sea taking over and in so doing created an area of water which came and went with the tide. It was known as the 'Lido' and lots of the younger people used it for swimming. The 'Saltflats' attracted a lot of waders, great for wild-fowlers. This is now known as Seal Sands and attracts many species of wild birds. On the reclaimed land one of the biggest chemical industries in the world has been built.

In 1906 a decision was made to build a transporter bridge to cross the river Tees from Port Clarence to Middlesbrough and on 4th July 1907 a Bill was passed in Parliament giving authorisation. It was built by Sir William Arrol & Co Glasgow; the time allowed for completion was 27 months, the cost was ?68,026. It was opened on 17th October 1911 by Prince Arthur of Connaught and was acknowledged as a remarkable piece of engineering. It takes two minutes to cross and carries 750 passengers and 600 vehicles a day. It was used a great deal by the people of Haverton Hill, and people from High Clarence used to walk there by way of a sub-way under the embankment. At one time it cost a penny to cross the bridge. Saturday night was a popular time to use the bridge to Middlesbrough because there was always a good market held in Sussex Street. If the bridge happened to break down there was a choice of two evils, you could climb up the side of it, walk across the top and down the other side, or otherwise take the ferry!

The village information above is taken from The Cleveland Village Book, written by members of the Cleveland Federation of Women's Institutes and published by Countryside Books. Click on the link below to view Countryside's range of other local titles.