Film ID:
NEFA 19361



Visitor Tabs


A documentary in two parts that covers the life and industry on the River Tees, with footage of Middlesbrough, Stockton, the Transporter Bridge, Furness Shipyards and aerial shots of the Tees from Stockton to the river mouth

Footage includes scenes filmed at Smiths Docks on the South Bank of the Tees at Middlesbrough. The ship "Arvidsjaur" is pictured in dry dock, goods are unloaded at Tees Wharf, a large Head Wrightson shipbuilding component is floated out onto the river at either Stockton or Thornaby. Other shots include High Force waterfall on the River Tees, Middlesbrough market, the Transporter Bridge.

The second part of the film documents the history and contemporary life of tugboats and their crews. Includes footage of paddle steamers on the River Tees.

Title - 'A Thirlwell Production'

Opening shot shows one of the Tees Towing Company tugs towing a ship along the Tees.

A map of the Teesside area appears on the screen. Commentary and a pointer placed on the map describe the location of the Middlesbrough.

A brief history of Middlesbrough follows illustrated with early pictures and drawings showing how the town looked from the early to the mid 19th century. An aerial view of Ayresome Park football ground follows, with the commentary stating that the current population of the town is now 180.000. Aerial views of the town centre, the Tees, and Transporter bridge are shown, and in order to emphasise the importance of the railways in the development of the town a diesel passenger train pulls into Middlesbrough station.

Views follow of the country town areas a short distance from Middlesbrough. These include Stokesley showing the town hall and market place. Great Ayton is shown from a shot near the River Leven and also near the famous Suggitts ice cream shop and cafe in the village. The weir on the river is also seen. Guisborough views include the High Street and market cross, followed by a view of Roseberry Topping.The commentary explains that ironstone mined locally in the hills helped to create a thriving steel industry in Middlesbrough. The film moves to a shot of the entrance and general views of Cargo Fleet steelworks.

The film continues with many views around the town including the town hall and Victoria Square, the Central library, the then new Middlesbrough police headquarters at Dunning Road. Views show Albert Park, presumably at a busy weekend, with ornate flower beds, well kept lawns and grass verges. The old National Provincial Bank, 'over the border' which had become the Cleveland Club is shown. St Hilda's church and the redeveloped square near the old town hall, with the then new flats and maisonettes appearing in parts of the picture. A view follows of one of the oldest buildings in Middlesbrough, the former headquarters of Bolckow & Vaughan which was at the time of filming the headquarters of the Tees Towing Company. A general view down Corporation Road  into Newport Road with Binns department store on the left. Other shops shown are C&A, with Saltmers fashion shop and Timothy Whites chemists nearby. Newhouse Corner and Burtons the tailor on Corporation Road with the junction of Linthorpe Road are also seen. A view south down Linthorpe with glimpses of Wright's Tower House store (now redeveloped as MacDonalds fast foof cafe) can be seen, along with Collingwoods the jewellers. A branch of the National Provincial Bank is seen (location uncertain), followed by a branch of Martins Bank at 28-32 Albert Road.

Title - 'Industry'

The commentary outlines the main industries which contribute to the wealth of Middlesbrough.

A sequence of shots illustrate this point. Steel making at the Lackenby steel works of Dorman Long, with molten steel being poured into a crucible. A worker operating a sheet steel cutter at the South Durham Steel and Iron Company pipe mill, based at Stockton. Machines are shown forming sheet metal into pipes.

Chemical engineering is illustrated with views of ICI at Billingham, in particular the fertliser plant. At Wilton we see shots of plant associated with plastics and petroleum based products.

Shipbuilding shows the Furness shipyard on the north bank of the Tees, with workmen fitting out an oil tanker. this is followed bya a shot of Smith's Dock on the South Bank of the Tees showing a shot of the ship 'Arvidsjaur' in dry dock. At the time of filming Smith's Dock had also acquired Grays shipyard at the mouth of the Tees, showing a ship moored at theyard.

Title - 'The River'

The opening shot in this section shows an overhead crane unloading a bulk cargo (possibly phosphates for ICI) off a ship as the commentary outlines the types of cargo that ships bring for the Teesside heavy industries. Another shot shows a Tees Towing Company tug pushing a ship into position. Another shot shows items parked in wagons that have 'Tyne Tees Wharf painted on them. Cranes and a ship being unloaded show in the foreground large rolls of waht might be newsprint. Men attach ropes to lengths of pipe in railway wagons, as a crane unloads them. At Head Wrightson, they launch a dock gate into the river, made watertight so that it can be towed to the customer. This is followed by a view of a ship being constructed with welders at work.

A complete change of scene as we see the Tees near its source at Cross Fell in Cumberland, followed by a view of High Force in County Durham. Views of the village of Worsall illustrate the fact that the Tees is tidal up to this point, 28 miles from the sea, and navigable up to Stockton, showing shots of the town hall, which is twelve miles from the sea. This is followed by general views of Stockton High Street on market day.

A view of the offices of the Tees Conservancy Commissioners, just 'over the border' on the north side of the railway line, illustrate the fact that the commissioners have jurisdiction over the navigable length of the Tees. There follows views of the Transporter bridge, the winch house, and the gondola in operation. Another bridge, for which the commmentary gives a brief history, is the Newport Bridge, the first vertical lift bridge in the UK, opened by the Duke of York, the future George VI in 1934. One of the Crosthwaite tugs, the 'Acklam Cross' comes under the raised deck of the Newport Bridge.

A pointer on a map helps to illustrate the exetent of land reclamation at the mouth of the Tees. This reclamation has helped to build the Shell refinery, the Lackenby Docks, the North Tees refinery, iron ore berths at Eston jetty and other key installations and industries along the Tees. An aerial view helps to show the locations of these industries, including Dorman Long at Redcar, the Shell Refinery, Smith's Dock, Eston jetty, the enclosed railway docks which were first constructed for the Stockton & Darlington railway, the Transporter Bridge, Furness shipyard, the North Tees power station.

Title - 'The Tugs'

One of the Tees Towing Companies executives talks on camera about the history of the company, illustrated by old paintings of tugs along the river. The old paddle tugs have been superseded but the film goes on to show one of the remaining examples, the 'John H. Amos', which is owned and operated by the Tees Conservancy Commissioners. A model of the 'Lingdale' paddle tug is shown, this had been broken up only nine years previously. One of her engines was given to the Newcastle Maritime museum. The next part of the TTC story is taken up by Cecil Crosthwaite one of the directors. He explains the increasing challenge of bigger ships using the Tees and the need for smaller more powerful tugs. In order to meet this challenge the first diesel electric tug was produced in 1933 the 'Acklam Cross'. The film shows a model of the tug and  also in action on the river. Other innovative design features are described by Mr Crosthwaite. After the second world war more diesel tugs were built. Again Mr Crosthwaite describes the new features which ensure the tugs operate more efficiently to cope with new demands.

A view from East Cliff at Whitby, shows an ornamental cross in the graveyard at St Mary's Church, the Caedmon Cross which has been used as the name of one of the new tugs.

The Caedmon Cross and two other tugs, the Golden Cross and Ingleby Cross from the fleet are seen on the river sailing towards the camera, from under the Transporter Bridge. Key design features of these new tugs are described by the commentator, they include the superstructure and engine room. New features continue to be part of the design philosophy as the latest tugs come into operation. The Fiery Cross and Erimus Cross, as they  sail up the river, are typical of the new breed of tug, built to handle the largest tankers.

A view of the communal mess room shows how the crew can enjoy a square meal on board ship. The next shot shows the Fiery Cross' undergoing maintenance in dry dock.The view of the special rudder that are a feature of these tugs helps explain how effective they are for handling big ships.

In 1963 the TTC built the Marton Cross, a new design this was shorter in length but did not affect maneuverability or pulling power.

The company also found it need to design a special stern tug, examples of which are seen in the film, the Hutton Cross and the Banbury Cross. A diagram shows how these tugs operate and how the use of a German invention the Voith-Schneider propellor helps the tug do its job. At the time of being built, the Hutton Cross, seen on film, and the Banbury Cross were the only tugs of their type in the UK. The film shows how the rear hook operates. A view underneath one of these tugs in dry dock shows how the Voith-Schneider propellor works. On the tug's bridge one of the boat men adjusts the wheel.

The Danby Cross shown coming towards the camera is a development of the Caedmon Cross class of tug, essentially the same length as the previous class, but a new type of rudder has increased performance.

A line of Crosthwaite tugs forms for the camera and the slowly turn together in unison.

Title - Fleet Operation

Another of the TTC executives explains the current status of the company to camera. He explains that the tug replacement programme is being halted until the demands of the oil industries working on the river is known. A view follows of the operations building of Cross Line Tugs at Tees wharf. Workmen stand on the wharf with a clear view of Cross Line tugs on the river behind them. The men in the shot are apparently the works committee. The film goes goes back to the executive, who now has a companion sitting behind him smoking a pipe. This companion may well be Richard Crosthwaite who helped direct the film. The older executive explains the  how the works committee operates. Richard Crosthwaite then takes up the narrative. A view follows of tugs further out into the mouth of the Tees, helping to maneuver a ship. Richard Crosthwaite continues speaking to camera explaining how operations are managed with ship to shore VHF 'wireless'. A view of an operator at the Cross Line riverside wharf, gives instructions via the radio to one of the tugs.

Richard Crosthwaite continues explaining crew allocation to tugs. A wall board with round name tags and tug names is shown. At the riverside office a maintenance van leaves the premises. A man approaches a small crane on the wharf, and checks the oil level in the engine. Other men are seen loading coke or coal into a barrow. Two other men check over a signalling lamp. Richard Crosthwaite explains that all the marine and engineering spares are kept on the ground floor of the Tees wharf building. Another group of men do some work on the wharf, the are completing a redecking of the tug wharf. An officer on one of the tugs shouts instructions through a loud hailer, from the bridge. A group of captains(?) gather together on the wharf. A workmen throws a rope from the wharf onto one the tugs as it is about to cast off.

All this activity takes place within a few yards of the offices. More shots follow of men working on the tugs. A view follows of the TTC offices in Queens Square, known as Cleveland Buildings. Interior shots of the accounts office are shown.

A view follows of crowds along the Tees at Smiths Dock preparing to see the launch of a new ship the 'Lucigen', with tug boats waiting patiently for the launch. Cheering from the crowd and works hooters sound out. A hive of activity breaks a out on the tugs as the struggle to gain control of the ship. Some members of the crew push away the river debris from the tugs which always occurs after a launch. The ship is moved into a mooring position on the quayside.

Two Cross Line tugs are seen doing another regular task for the company, towing a ship to the Continent. The commentator also points out the company tows other objects such as dock gates, as seen earlier in the film at Head Wrightsons.

Finally the entire fleet is shown moving majestically up the Tees with flags flying. The commentator names each tug as it comes into view and outlines the type of work the different classes of tug do. The last shot shows the fleet heading off up river towards the steelworks in the distance.

Title - 'A Thirlwell Production

End of film

Script & Direction R. Crosthwaite
Photography D.G. Richards & W. Guy
Commentator Franklin Johnson