The earliest catalogued name of Middlesbrough is Mydilsburgh. The element '-burgh', from the Old English burh (meaning 'fort') meaning an ancient fort or settlement of pre-Anglian origin. Middlesbrough is different to other English towns because of its spelling of ‘brough’ instead of ‘borough’. The name Mydil is obscure as to if it was a reference either to the middle locality of the centres of Whitby and Durham or a person's name.
The town and its sporting teams are commonly referred to as the Boro.
With as little as 25 people residing in four farmhouses, in 1801 Middlesbrough was a miniscule town. Although there was a major growth in England during the late 19th century, the town is unique to England in that Joseph Pease the Darlington industrialist led a team of Quaker businessmen who bought the farm in 1829. Initiating the start of the development of the town, he saw the possibilities of Middlesbrough becoming a port for the transport of north-east coal. Four initial streets, leading into the market square, were duly laid out.
In 1833 was the launch of the Clarence Railway, which helped spur on the development of Port Clarence on the opposite side of the river to Middlesbrough and shared some of the railway track of Stockton and Darlington. When Prime Minister William Gladstone visited the town, he stood under the roof of the original (1846) town hall and famously dubbed Middlesbrough 'an infant Hercules' in 'England's enterprise'.
The importance of the area to the developing iron and steel trade gave it the nickname Ironopolis. The Bell brothers opened their great ironworks on the banks of the Tees in 1853. In 1889 at Port Clarence steel production started and a union with Dorman Long followed.
The world price was set for steel and iron by Teesside for many years in the 19th century. The steel components of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932) were engineered and fabricated by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough. Fittingly, the words MADE IN MIDDLESBROUGH are engraved on the Bridge and Kenneth Johnson hammered in "The Golden Rivet". He was a Mechanical Engineer and his son Christopher became a founder of the Offshire Oil and Gas Industry.
The earlier New Tyne Bridge across the river at Newcastle was also built by the company. The great Transporter Bridge was also built by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company in 1911 via a 1907 Act of Parliament and spans the Tees itself in the midst of Middlesbrough and Port Clarence. At 850 feet (260 m) long and 225 feet (69 m) high, is one of the largest of its type in the world, and one of only two left in working order in Britain (the other being in Newport). The bridge is a Grade II* listed building and is still operational on a daily basis.
In 1934 the Tees Newport Bridge was launched further down the river and is a landmark. Also still in existence is the Newport bridge with traffic passing over it, but the centre section can no longer lift.
After rock salt was identified under the site in 1874, the salt-extraction industry on Teesside was founded.
Several large shipyards also lined the Tees including the Sir Raylton Dixon & Company which produced hundreds of steam freighters including the infamous SS Mont-Blanc, the steamship which caused the 1917 Halifax Explosion in Canada.
The great steelworks, chemical plants, shipbuilding and offshore fabrication yards that ensued the first Middlesbrough ironworks, have in the recent past helped Britain's expansion in no small measure and still do to this day. 'Yarm was, Stockton is, Middlesbrough will be' are the prophetic words (maybe said by Pease) influenced by the quick progress of the town. "Erimus" or "We shall be", was preferred as Middlesbrough's slogan to signify the town's will to evolve and emerge as great from its initial foundation in 1830. In 1853, the year of incorporation, the Middlesbrough arms were created by W.Hylton Longstaffe. They were modified in 1911. The representation of Middlesbrough's shipping trade is shown with a blue lion underneath a row of 2 ships. The design is based on that of the Brus family who owned the site on which Middlesbrough is built. Their motto "Fuimus" means "We have been".
A British Army infantry regiment closely linked with Middlesbrough and the location south of the River Tees is The Green Howards.
Middlesbrough has asked for city status on three occasions. Firstly in 2000 to commemorate the new millennium and secondly in 2002 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, both resulting in unsuccessful bids. Another bid was made in March 2011 for city status to celebrate the Queens' Diamond Jubilee. On 14th March 2012 it was announced as unsuccessful.
Middlesbrough's oldest domestic building is Acklam Hall of c.1680-83. Built by Sir William Hustler, it is also Middlesbrough's sole Grade I listed building. The town hall, designed by George Gordon Hoskins and constructed between 1883 and 1887 is a Grade II listed building and a very imposing structure.
The finest existing theatre building in the UK was designed by Ernest Runtz in 1897, The Empire Palace of Varieties. The first artist to star there in its initial form as a music hall was Lillie Langtry. In the 1950s it became an early nightclub, then a bingo hall and is now once again a nightclub in the form of 'The Empire'. The Middlesbrough Theatre, once known as the Little Theatre, is in Linthorpe.
England's sole public sculpture can be found in Middlesbrough created by the contemporary American artist Claes Oldenburg in 1993 and is called the "Bottle O'Notes", relating to Captain James Cook. Based alongside it today in the town's Central Gardens is the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), the successor to previous art galleries on Linthorpe Road and Gilkes Street. The Carnegie library dates back to 1912 and was renovated in 2006.
The sole commercial building to be designed by Philip Webb was the Dorman Long office located on Zetland Road and built between 1881 and 1891, he worked for Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell as an adept architect. Modern installations include the addition in 2004 of 'Spectra-txt,' a 10-metre (33 ft) high interactive tower of metal and fibre-optics inspired by Blade Runner. 'Spectra-txt' allows a member of the public to send an SMS (text) message via a mobile phone to transform the colours of the lights. Texting various codes, such as 'Chromapop' result in a display of changing colour lights.
Shopping centres include 'Dundas Street Shopping' renamed in 2005 from 'Dundas Shopping Arcade', 'Hill Street Shopping Centre' and 'Captain Cook Square'. With the aid of a £1.5 billion investment programme and the £500 million Middlehaven scheme, work has started by Tees Valley Regeneration reclaiming Middlesbrough Docklands in order to garner new business and a 250 acres area for homes. The first stage around the once docklands has already begun and is visible from the Riverside Stadium. In 2004 Will Alsop drew up the master plan which includes proposals to construct a new virtual reality centre near Teeside University in connection with the DigitalCity development, and the relocation of Middlesbrough College, in addition to bars, leisure attractions, many offices, hotels and restaurants.
Tees Valley Regeneration now has five contenders seeking to build at Middlehaven. A 20 year vision for regenerating the urban centre of the Tees Valley is The Stockton-Middlesbrough Initiative, with the main feature of a 30 km space between both centres of Stockton and Middllesbrough along the banks of the River Tees. Private local developers have recently issued plans to build a 360-foot (110 m) tower on the locality of the old Odeon Cinema. One of Middlesbrough'ssuperior buildings, Kirby College, set in the inner suburb of Linthorpe is currently in the process of being brought back to life by local developer Green Lane Capital. The building will become known as The Old College. In 1872 Cleveland House was built on Cleveland Street by John Gibson - a renowned architect who worked with Sir Charles Barry designing the Houses of Parliament. The new owners of the grade II listed buildingaim to spend £1m on it and have renamed it Gibson House. In 2007 after much waiting, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, an art gallery project, was launched. It presently holds the second largest assembly of Picassos in the UK. It also holds creations by Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse and Damien Hirst. Its bountiful arts and crafts collections span from 1900 to the present day. Surrounding it is the town's overhauled Victoria Square and Central Gardens, in tandem producing "the largest civic space in Europe".
Middlesbrough has two major recreational park spaces in Albert Park and Stewart Park, Marton. The former, originally praised as the 'People's Park', was donated to the town by Bolckow in 1866. In 1868 Prince Arthur, the youngest son of the monarch, opened the park and includes a 30 hectare (70 acre) site reachable from Linthorpe Road. From 2001 to 2004 the park was refurbished with many of the notorious landmarks, such as the bandstand, sundial and fountain being repaired. The latter park was donated to the people of Middlesbrough in 1928 by Councillor Thomas Dorman Stewart and comprises of Victorian stable buildings, lakes and animal pens.
Many aspects of the park are due to be refurbished throughout 2011 and 2012. Next to these two parks are two of the town's premier cultural attractions, the century-old Dorman Memorial Museum and the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum.
As a loan from the Yorkshire museum the Middlesbrough meteorite was displayed at the Dorman Memorial Museum in 2011. This was the first time the 1.5 kg meteorite had been put on display in the town since it dropped to Earth in March 1881. Near to the Captain Cook Birthplace museum is a granite urn, indicating the approximate site of the world famous explorer's birthplace.
In September, the annual Middlesbrough Tees Pride 10k road race is held on an one lap circuit round the south part of the town. The race gathers a gigantic amount of competitors ranging from fancy dress charity fundraisers to serious athletes and was first held in 2005. Middlesbrough became an university town in 1992, after a concerted campaign for a distinct 'Teesside University' which had run since the 1960s.
The Fast Show and Auf Wiedersehen Pet are TV shows that feature Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough is also the home of the award-winning series of short films called Cold Up North. Made by local people, with no formal training and with local bands providing the soundtrack, they have won two Best Film Awards at film festivals, two awards on YouTube, numerous awards and accolades from Middlesbrough Council and recently worked with the North East Film Council.
A south-east suburb in Middlesbrough called Marton was the birthplace of Captain James Cook, the famous map maker, explorer and navigator. The Jonny Briggs series of books, written by Joan Eadington, and later to evolve into a BBC Children's TV series of the same name, was also based in the town.