Author Archives: Peter Nicklin

Podcasts: Lives on the Left: A Labour History Project hosted by Paul Simpson, Academic Tutor in History at the University of Sunderland

Each episode features a guest discussing the life of a key figure in labour history and those of specific regional interest include: John Tomaney on Peter Lee, Lewis Mates on Will Lawther and Sarah Hellawell on Marion Phillips.

Other talks in the series are on: Clement Attlee, Fenner Brockway, Jennie Lee, Keir Hardie, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Sylvia Pankhurst, Mick McGahey, James Maxton, Will Thorne and Peter Kropotkin.

You can access these talks at – an excellent series, essential listening.

New Articles and Reports on This Site

We have recently added a couple of new articles on our Articles and Reports Page:

So Much has been Lost; Change and Continuity; the NUT in 1970 and the NEU in 2020. Peter Sagar contrasts the state of the education system in the 1970s to the current commodification and rigid control of the curriculum. He discusses the perversions caused by the league tables such as exclusions of weaker pupils to improve exam grade averages. The late 19th century serves as a benchmark for a narrow, arid view of the role of public education, a place we are being taken back to.

In The Newcastle Sailor Who Ended Up An American War Hero Thomas Bagnall tells the story of Sunderland born George H. Bell who served in the US Navy during the American Civil War and, injured in the line of duty, was awarded the United States of America’s highest military honour.

There are also reports on last year’s Peterloo commemorations,  John Charlton’s excellent pamphlet on the Great Newcastle demonstration that followed Peterloo and Dave Temple’s history of the miner’s struggles “From Jarrow to Orgreave”.

History For Change Network

The ‘History for Change’ conference took place in 2018 as part of the Heritage Lottery funded ‘Homeless History of Newcastle’ project. The event celebrated local history projects with a ‘radical’ aim or theme, bringing together speakers from a range of projects across the North East and beyond.

Many attendees expressed surprise about the breadth and diversity of projects happening across the region and the social relevance of many local history projects, as well as regret that they often had been unaware of other groups’ work.

Northern Cultural Projects has been active in the fields of community history and heritage in the North East for over a decade.

In 2020 we want to set up a network of like-minded groups, organisations and individuals with an interest in community-driven history/heritage projects that challenge existing perceptions and focus on ‘hidden’, contentious and diverse histories in the North East, including projects that use history to shed new light on current social issues and to gain a better understanding of the present.

Membership will be free, and meetings will take place in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The network wants to

• Act as a hub and offer regular meetings to share ideas and exchange knowledge.
• Foster new collaborations.
• Invite experts from universities, funding bodies etc. to provide advice.
• Provide mentoring for groups and organisations to develop project ideas and funding         applications.
• Encourage the use of unused public and private space for events and exhibitions.
• Share findings and stimulate exchange and dialogue through a conference.

At this stage we are trying to establish if there is enough interest to go forward.

Please let us know if you / your organisation would be interested in becoming involved by replying to this message or by emailing <>.

We have also put together a short survey at
to find out in more detail what people would expect from this network.

Please feel free to share this information.

The Unite Oral History Project

Have you or someone you know been active, even for a relatively short time, in UNITE or one of its legacy unions?

Interested in having your experience recorded?

The Unite Oral History project would like to hear from you. Click here for more information.

Contact at this address:

New Book: Professor Kenneth Warren, A Victorian Powerhouse

In mid-Victorian years, the development of Teesside and the associated boom in the coal and iron ore economies of south west Durham and the Cleveland Hills were wonders of an era of great achievements. This book examines this expansion in the basic industries of the North East and the accompanying transformation of the areas society and landscape.

The author lived in the North East for 14 years. Earlier on in his career he lectured in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, before moving to Jesus College, Oxford. He is an acclaimed authority on the steel industry of the United States as well as having written on various aspects of North Eastern economic development, including Armstrong Whitworth, Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, and the Consett Iron Company.

Underlying this book, and all his work on the North East of England, has been a deep love for the people, places and history of the region.

The NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives – Peter Mitchell

From Peter Mitchell,

I’m writing to you about NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives, a national programme of work supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our aim is to capture oral  histories of and about the NHS from people – employees, patients and others – whose lives have been affected by it across its 70 year history, and preserve them in an online archive where they’ll be publicly accessible and available for use by heritage organisations.

I’m co-ordinating the project in the North East, and at the minute I’m not only searching for likely participants, but recruiting volunteers to undertake the bulk of our interviews. We have previously worked in Manchester and Wales – see our website for some stories we have collected so far

I wondered if NELHS members and supporters might like to be involved in this? We are open to partnering with local organisations, especially those who would like to conduct more oral history research and lack resources; all materials produced in partnership are considered co-owned, and all the interviews we upload to the public archive (i.e., almost all the ones we undertake, subject to ethics procedures) are licensed for free use.

We provide all our volunteers with three days professional oral history training (from the same providers the British Library use), currently scheduled for January; volunteers can do as few or as many interviews as they like, and will be appropriately supported and safeguarded throughout. The project legacies will hopefully be 20 or 30 more people in the North East trained and experienced in oral history work, and a couple of hundred fully annotated and searchable interviews, plus artefacts and photos, gathered from people in the region, hosted at the expense of the HLF and free for use.

If any members or supporters would like to get involved they can contact me by phone or email – my usual working days are Wednesday to Friday, our current callouts for both interviewers and interviewees are attached.

Dr Peter Mitchell
Oral History and Public Engagement Officer – North East
NHS at 70: The Story of Our Lives
Mobile: +44 7768226650

Fifteen Past Issues of the Society’s Journal Now Available on this Website

You can now download the whole of issue 1 (1967) and issues 36 (2005) though to 49 (2018) from our Journal pages. This is the first fruit of a decision by the Society to make as many past issues of the Journal available. To access these downloads go to and click on the image of the Journal you wish to read.






Grants to Support the Creation of Catalogues for Archives

In October 2018 the National Archives will be calling for applications for grants of up to £40,000 to enable archives to create catalogues of archival collections.

These grants are designed to help archives improve access to collections and increase public engagement with history and the UK’s documentary heritage.

One criterion for winning funding will to demonstrate excellent potential to engage people and communities with archives and heritage.


More details can be found at: the National Archives’ Cataloguing Grants page.

The Battle of Stockton: Campaign Commemorates Town’s Historic Refusal of Fascism

A new community group has been set up to commemorate a historic episode in the life of Stockton-on-Tees. The Battle of Stockton Campaign (BoS) aims to immortalise the events of September 10th 1933 in the imagination of the town. On this day, local people repelled the infamous British Union of Fascists (BUF). Their foot soldiers, known as ‘blackshirts’ marched on the town in a bid to recruit new members.

BoS Chair, Sharon Bailey explains; “Stockton was an ideal town for the BUF to target as it was hit particularly hard by the 1930’s Great Depression. In Germany, similar towns had fallen under the sway of the Nazis so the BUF expected to be met with a warm welcome.  

Instead, they were met with resistance. More than two thousand local people were waiting by the Market Cross for the BUF activists – who had been bussed in from around the country. Fighting between the BUF and the people of Stockton ensued. The blackshirts were forced down Silver Street before being ordered by Police to leave the town. They fled to their buses across the river and never returned.” 

Stockton was by no means unique in attracting the attention of fascist activists during the pre-war years. However, the significance of the “Battle of Stockton” was largely forgotten, unlike the now legendary “Battle of Cable Street” in London which took place 3 years later and is regularly commemorated by residents.

The Battle of Stockton Campaign has been set up as a social history project and aims to have physical memorials of the event placed around the town – such as a mural and a plaque. Plans to host a yearly event on the memorial of the battle with performances, local bands and speakers are already taking shape. An educational outreach is also planned, it aims to disseminate knowledge of the BoS to students and the wider community.

Sharon continues; “The Battle of Stockton is an almost forgotten part of our towns history that local people today can feel proud of. We’ve already been contacted by a number of residents telling stories of how their older relatives took part on the day.

 “Everyone knows what impact fascism had on Europe during the 30’s and 40’s – and how our country stood up to it. This project will show how Stockton-on-Tees was at the forefront of Britain’s resistance.”

Campaigners have been making considerable progress towards their goals.   Text for a plaque has been finalised and artists for a mural are currently being spoken to. Educational activities about the Battle of Stockton will be presented at the Schools History National Conference this year. Public meetings continue to be held and there are even plans to brew a special ‘Battle of Stockton’ ale by the local Three Brothers Brewery to be sold in local pubs.

Anyone wanting to attend a meeting or join in with the campaign can do so by emailing and more details of the campaign can be found on the group’s Facebook page at

The Battle of Stockton Campaign committee can be reached at: