Middleton in Teesdale is the major town in Teesdale’s upper dale where the Hudeshope Beck flows under Hude Bridge, just off the town centre, to join the River Tees. The town is a major stopping off point for walkers on the Pennine Way and Teesdale Way and, in spite of the economic pressures that often dog rural economies, it continues to boast a plentiful range of facilities for its visitors.
Despite c12th origins and many medieval characteristics (the c19th church of St Mary the Virgin stands on the site of a medieval church and chapel) its lead mining legacy is most prominent historically. In 1815 the town came to prominence as the northern headquarters for the Quaker-backed London Lead Company where it continued to operate until it wound up at the beginning of the c20th. The town developed significantly during the period when California Row, Masterman Place, New Town and Middleton House (the superintendent’s impressive residence), as well as a school and Mechanic’s Institute, were built by the company for its employees who went as far as to engage the services of celebrated architects like Ignatius Bonomi.
A particularly eye-catching example of the mutual respect between the company and its employees is the cast iron drinking fountain erected by subscription in 1877 to honour Robert Bainbridge, the retiring Superintendent who lived in Middleton House. A major contributor to the town’s prosperity and commercial viability in its early years would undoubtedly have been the Tees Valley Railway which opened on the 12th May 1868 linking it with Barnard Castle at Tees Valley Junction, primarily to transport stone and lead but also passengers. The line lasted for almost 97 years until its closure on 5th April 1965.
The London Lead Company eventually withdrew from the town in 1905 with the lead industry in terminal decline. Large scale lead mining was replaced by smaller scale zinc prospecting and quarrying which ultimately became the predominant industry taking dolerite from the numerous exposures of the Great Whin Sill on both sides of the dale.
Location NY 947254
Northern Mine Research Society. “North Pennines.” Northern Mine Research Society, https://www.nmrs.org.uk/mines-map/metal/north-pennines/. Accessed 21 October 2020.
Hoole, Ken. A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. The North East ed., vol. 4, David & Charles, 1978.
Wikipedia contributors. “London Lead Company.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 30 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Lead_Company. Accessed 21 October 2020.
Wikipedia contributors. “Middleton-in-Teesdale.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 30 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Middleton-in-Teesdale&oldid=975851875. Accessed 21 October 2020.