From Jude Murphy, Heritage and Culture Development Co-ordinator at Washington Heritage Partnership
We’re starting to build a series of oral histories of people’s memories of life before, during and after the New Town era and we’ve uploaded our very first one: Bob Hope (and his wife Maureen) recalling his days at the Washington Development Corporation (including fascinating memories of sewage lagoons – don’t say I don’t give you appetising teasers!) .
These can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAF76RKVACqidyDilbBa0OImt7QTUJNSx
Congratulations to the Battle of Stockton Campaign Group which has won the inaugural Archie Potts founders’ Award. There were five excellent submissions for the award, and Stockton’s was successful. Many thanks to the others who took part.
Here is The Stockton Group’s entry.
Fascism started to take hold across Europe in the early 1930’s. In January of 1933, Hitler was elected as Chancellor of Germany. Not long after this, the divisions that fascism brings became apparent. Looking to Germany and Italy as inspiration, Oswald Mosley established the British Union of Fascists. He hoped to appeal to the working class who were disillusioned with the lack of economic solutions posed by The Labour Party and The Conservatives to combat the effects of the Great Depression. The Battle of Stockton took place on 10th September 1933, when members of the British Union of Fascists (also known as Blackshirts) marched on Stockton High Street in the hope of recruiting new members. For the Blackshirts, Stockton was seen as an ideal town to recruit new members as it had been hit especially hard by the of the 1930s and they expected little, if any, resistance.
Instead, they were met with resistance at The Market Cross by 2,000 local people, including members of the National Unemployed Workers Movement, The Independent Labour party, Trade Unionists and members of the Communist Party. Those resisting forced the Blackshirts down Silver Street, back across The River Tees to Thornaby where their buses were waiting for them No further attempts to carry out a march or rally in Stockton were ever made by the fascists.
Despite the number of people involved, the Battle of Stockton is little-known and rarely talked about, something which the Battle of Stockton campaign is beginning to change. Formed in January 2018, this volunteer led social history project aims to raise awareness of the battle using a blended approach that engages people in a many different ways.
Working in partnership with Stockton Borough Council a plaque was laid as part of a heritage trail. This trail is 1.3miles and fully accessible and the Council explains that it ‘takes people around some beautiful buildings and streets that some may not even know exist. A walk for all ages with plenty of places to stop for a lunch or a quick refreshment break’. It is not possible for BoS to quantify the impact of this trail but the plague – see photo – is the centre piece for activities that commemorate the Battle of Stockton.
There is an annual fundraising concert, based in the Georgian Theatre, featuring local musical acts, spoken word, guest speakers and arts and crafts for children. Word of the event has spread far and wide and last year one the performers travelled from Milton Keynes to take part. In his words to be part of radical heritage. BoS estimate that over 500 people have attended the event since it started in 2018 – even reaching people online during the covid lockdowns.
As part of the work BoS has engaged with local choirs. A song has been written by a local artist and its has performed in the town, firstly as part of a ‘flash mob’, then at the Georgian Theatre and in finally front of a packed house at the Globe Theatre. During lockdown the 1933 Choir performed – socially distanced of course and this was shared on Facebook. In the words of the sog, ‘the Blackshirts came and we drove them all away, back to their fascist homes’
With our local partners – a brewery and a micro pub – we created a Battle of Stockton beer, selling it in the Golden Smog. We estimate that this reached over 250 local people, encouraging some discussion over a welcome pint.
We have sponsored two Basket Ball trophies; competed for by the world’s first micro pub basketball team with community and inclusivity ‘at the heart of our game’. Raising awareness with participants and spectators alike.
Supporting events such as the Durham Miners Gala and local book fairs has helped us spread the word to a wider audience whilst merchandising has seen Battle of Stockton T-Shirts at a number of places including Glastonbury.
This year the group was chosen to host the AGM of the International Brigades Memorial Trust and we were able to use this to not only showcase the Battle of Stockton but also the take pride in the wider history of Stockton on Tees.
Perhaps most importantly the events of 1933 have been brought to life in a film featuring artworks by a number of local Teesside artists. Narrated by actor Marlene Sidaway, this dramatic documentary explores the events of the day, the actions of local people and a sample of life in 1930s Stockton. It premiered in 2021 and won an award at the Tees Valley Film Festival in 2022. We estimate that it has been viewed by over 1,000 people.
So what has been the overall effect? At its most simple we know that many more people are aware of what took place in 1933. Both locally and nationally. At the last event volunteers set out to engage with people on market day. The first question they asked was ‘do you know about the Battle of Stockton?’ Many did and were proud of what had happened all those years ago. Those who did not know have embraced their newly found knowledge of a significant part of Teesside’s proud history.
One of the most significant outcomes of the work the Campaign Group continue to do, would be something our grandfathers who stood against the Blackshirts in 1933 would be proud of. Communities of Teesside are brought together to remember and stand united against the forces that seek to divide us.
Further details about the work of the Battle of Stockton Campaign can be found on Facebook at