Film ID:
NEFA 8856



Visitor Tabs


 An edition of the About Britain series first broadcast on 16 December 1981 in which South Shields-born actor Berwick Kaler plays Francis P. Cockshott, in a part-dramatised travelogue following in the footsteps of the 19th century wagonmaker who walked the length of the River Tees and recorded his observations in a diary back in 1848.

Credit: Tyne Tees TV ident

Title: About Britain

Aerial view of the River Tees meandering from its source in the remote,  snowy North Pennine landscape of Teesdale, in the border country between Cumbria and County Durham, on its 85 mile journey to the industrial complex of Teesside. Aerial of the industrial landscape towards Teesport. Stills of the diary of a local wagon maker and lecturer called Francis P. Cockshott who travelled the length of the Tees and recorded his observations. The commentator says that ‘That diary has just come to light in a County Durham Record Office.’

Title: Mr Cockshott’s Journey Down the Tees

Aerial of Berwick Kaler holding onto his hat in the winter moorland landscape on Cross Fell. He looks lost on the desolate snowy moor. He tramps across the moorland in his top hat. Aerial fly through following the rocky, twisting stream. Further on, the hills recede, and the Tees becomes ‘a deep lethargic lake’, which was transformed into the Cow Green Reservoir (opened in 1971) to serve industrial Teesside. Sheep graze on its banks in the snow. A dramatic shot of water pouring into the reservoir over the dam wall follows.

Buildings and a tunnel entrance to lead mines remain in Teesdale. Photographs of the miners near their dormitory buildings and underground illustrate their harsh life.

Kaler arrives at a chasm through which the Tees flows, Cauldron Snout, Britain’s longest and largest cascade. The Tees flows through the lower slopes of the Pennines over its uneven, rocky bed. He now approaches the majestic High Falls, a powerful waterfall in a wooded landscape. Kaler scribbles with a quill in his diary beside a roaring fire at the end of a walking day.

It is snowing outside in the wood as Kaler continues his ramble to the breathtaking beauty of Low Force, also called Salmon’s Leap. A (modern) suspension foot bridge crosses the Tees at this point. The older Wynch Bridge once stood at the site. Cockshott’s diary records the history.

General view of the village of Middleton-in-Teesdale, once the headquarters of the London Lead Company, with its rows of workers’ cottages, just the other side of a stone wall beside the footpath along the Tees. A fountain stands in the town, built in 1877 to honor Robert Walton Bainbridge, superintendent of the London Lead Mining Company. General view of Middleton House, Bainbridge’s grand home, the clock tower and weighbridge, which marked the entrance to the lead company. A photograph follows of the men who originally worked for the company before cheap foreign imports were blamed for its bankruptcy. The men from Middleton would seek work in the coal mines of South West Durham. The bridge at Middleton crosses the Tees, growing wider here. Close-up of the bore holes in the bridge.

General views of the quieter River Tees at Barnard Castle. Kaler looks around the ruins of the castle overlooking the Tees Gorge, including Balliol’s tower. The commentary explains some of its history. General view of the town, the Market Place with Market Cross, or Butter Market, cobbles and road glistening with rain. [Charles Dickens and his illustrator Hablot Browne (Phiz) stayed at the King's Head in Barnard Castle while researching his novel Nicholas Nickleby in the winter of 1837–38, when Cockshott was a lad.] A sheep auction takes place in the town.

Further downstream, the ruins of Egglestone Abbey stand on the precipitous north bank of the Tees, lined by tall trees. Kaler walks down the banks to view the river, flowing beneath a stone bridge.

Kaler stands on the elegant iron suspension bridge at Whorlton, designed by architect Mr Green of Newcastle. He walks down to a popular picnic spot of the day near a weir.

Aerial shot of Piercebridge where the Romans crossed the river and of the stretch of the Tees to Yarm with its two bridges, where the river doubles back on itself. Close-up of a plaque on the Town Hall commemorating the height of a flood on September 17th, 1771 when the whole High Street was under water.

General view of the wide High Street at Stockton. First, the commentary speaks about Yarm’s historic role as a port. Shots of Yarm Viaduct follow. An overhead view follows onto Stockton High Street and market in snow. People browse a stall in the market. Panorama of the river from Stockton where now only a few pleasure boats are moored. Travelling shot downstream, sun shining into the lens. The boat sails along the straightened channel of the Tees, passing the spot where the old course feeds into the river. Aerial shot of the huge railway marshalling yards and then the chemical industry. The boat passes ICI Billingham works and the two cooling towers billowing steam at ICI Wilton.

The boat approaches the Newport Bridge (painted red at this time) and passes underneath. Aerial shot of industrial Middlesbrough. An old illustration and photographs show Middlesbrough during Cockshott’s days, and then in its early boom town days as a commercial centre, and the opening of the Transporter Bridge in 1911. General view of the Transporter Bridge between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence. Various shots show the architecture of the bridge and the gondola in motion. Cranes and warehouses line the south bank of the Tees after the Transporter Bridge. Ships are docked at the large port. Tug boats pilot tankers from the Tees. In the last 14 miles of the river oil depots and factories cover part of the reclaimed Seal Sands. Aerial shots show the mouth of the Tees at South and North Gare. The chimneys smoke at Redcar steel works and the coast stretches out towards Saltburn and North Yorkshire.  Travelling shot on the Tees of the industrial complex at sunset. A flare shoots from an industrial chimney in the dark.

Birds stroll on Seal Sands. A map is used to illustrate the history of reclamation at the mouth of the Tees, with industry built on sand banks. Only 430 acres remain for the birds. Interview with Angela Cooper of the Teesmouth Field Centre (Secretary of Teesmouth Bird Club until 1981, the club founded November 1960) who describes the importance of the habitat for birds as a resting place for migrating flocks. Further views of the industry that now stands on the reclaimed land are intercut with feeding birds.

Kaler emerges from the sand dunes at the North Sea just down from the mouth of the River Tees.

  Credit: Francis Cockshott played by Berwick Kaler

Credit: Reporter Paul Frost

Credit: Executive Producer Peter Moth

Credit: Graphics Keith Dover

Credit: Film camera Fred Crone

Credit: Film Sound Julian Scott

Credit: Research Gillian Peart

Additional Research Malcolm Parker

Credit: Editor Eric McGuffog

Credit: Director John Eden

Credit: Producer Clive Page

Credit: Tyne Tees TV Colour ©Trident Television Ltd. MCMLXXXI