River Tees History

The River Tees has lots of history with most modern day locals not realising that the river Tees was the major reason for heavy industry. Originally the region around Teesside was a rural community until the industrial revolution meant massive expansion downstream toward the river mouth. The river helped so much in the development of Teesside but at a cost, heavy industry left the river tees heavily polluted with many locals staying away.

Before all historic English counties were reorganised, the river formed the border between County Durham and Yorkshire. On the lower reaches of the river it now separates County Durham and North Yorkshire with upstream separating historic counties Westmorland and Durham.

As mentioned on the home page the history of the wildlife has changed dramatically over the last three decades. The heavy industry cost this region many of its local wildlife species. Thankfully after a period of river regeneration we are starting to see places like Seal Sands abundant in common and grey seals.

A change in direction?

The river flowed differently before the 19th century, the industrial revolution brought costs and overheads and the river was straightened to cut travel time between Stockton on Tees and Middlesbrough. Before the alteration the river would flow south and then north compared to today’s flow. The alterations in river flow were known as the Porttrack and Mandale cuts. Tidal times and weather could sometimes mean that before the alterations sailing time between Stockton and Middlesbrough could take as long as traveling from the mouth of the Tees to London.

Since the cuts changes have still been made on a regular basis to improve navigation of the river. Dated pictures clearly show the passage between Middlesbrough and Stockton was up to 300 meters wide, compared today were the channel is between 100 and 200 meters wide. The narrowing off the channel was achieved with the dumping of ironworks and ship ballasts along the riverbanks.