Tales of the Tees – Middlehaven



‘Haven’ – noun harbour or safe place

Middlehaven is where Middlesbrough really took off. Once the railway was extended to Middlesbrough in 1830, the town began to grow rapidly from a few hundred people in 1831 to tens of thousands in 1840. The Middlehaven site is where the majority of the new town was built, both industrial and residential. The large dock that now stands empty was originally just a small inlet but was enlarged many times from the mid 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th as ships were designed to be larger and the number wanting to trade with Middlesbrough grew massively. The iron and steel trade was the biggest driver of this. A huge railway yard extended from what is now Middlesbrough train station so that trucks could be loaded, unloaded and stored. 

When it was first built, the area was as modern as a town could be due to the wealth that the local industry was creating but it was still crowded. Over time, as industry declined, jobs became less well paid and civic funding (such as street cleaning and sanitation) started to decline, the area became pretty much a slum. By the middle of the 20th century, after the second world war, the area was gradually demolished and the focus of Middlesbrough shifted to the other side of the railway line. It became an area left behind by time. 


However, the town has made repeated efforts since then to bring the area back to life, usually unsuccessfully. That is until now. 

Although the dock closed in 1980, the area has seen a recent growth in activity with the expansion of Middlesbrough College, the football stadium and most recently the Boho buildings. These are mainly ultra modern office blocks (although some are in original 19th Century buildings) that house lots of local businesses, usually ones specialising in digital technologies. The latest, Boho X is due for completion in 2023 and will house a new wave of industry, digital industry, in the town. 

To complement the new work opportunities, there has also been a growth in houses and flats in the area which are selling as soon as they are built.

You can still see some of the original buildings if you walk through the area including the old bank and Henry Bolckow’s house that he lived in.

Other resources

The history of the Middlehaven area

Detailed history of Middlesbrough with lots of description of the older buildings still standing

Focus on the origins of the Middlehaven dock

Incredible map overlay tool for the development of Middlesbrough

Images of Middlehaven