Stockton-on-Tees is a market town in North East England. It is the major settlement in the unitary authority area and borough of Stockton-on-Tees. For ceremonial purposes, the borough is split between County Durham and North Yorkshire as it also incorporates a number of smaller towns including Billingham, Yarm and Thornaby. The combined size of the borough equates to approx 180,000 people and makes it larger than Middlesbrough in terms of population and square miles.
Stockton Castle is first referred to in 1376. It was captured by the Scottish in 1644 and was occupied by them until 1646, but was destroyed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell at the end of the Civil War. There is now a shopping centre, called the Castlegate Centre, where the original castle stood. There are no known accurate depictions of the castle in existence.
In June 1890 Major Robert Ropner offered a piece of land to the people of Stockton which could be used as a public park, providing the local council would lay it out tastefully and keep it forever. Just over three years later, on 4 October 1893, the park was officially opened by the then Duke & Duchess of York. After a century of regular use by the people of Stockton, the park was refurbished and renovated between 2004-2007 to its former glory by Stockton Council, thanks to a £2.65m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It includes a new bandstand, based on the original design, a Park Ranger's Office and a cafe, (run by the local charity, the Friends of Ropner Park).
The town is famous for its associations with the Stockton and Darlington Railway on which ran the world's first steam hauled passenger train in 1825. The town also has the world's oldest railway station building, and also contains much Georgian architecture, one notable example being the world's oldest Georgian theatre, constructed in 1766.
During the twentieth century the town's heavy industry declined dramatically, along with that of the surrounding Teesside area. Since the 1980s the town has seen an increase in service industries.
Work is under way to develop the north bank of the River Tees as part of the North Shore development, which will include new offices and housing.
The Stockton-Middlesbrough Initiative is a 20 year vision for regenerating the urban core of the Tees Valley, the main focus being the 30 km² area along the banks of the River Tees between the two centres of Stockton and Middlesbrough. The master plan has been drawn up by environmental design specialists Gillespies, the eventual aim being to create a distinctive high-quality city of over 320,000 citizens at the heart of the Tees Valley, by connecting both Middlesbrough and Stockton along the Tees corridor. The project will include not only the existing developments at North Shore, Stockton and Middlehaven, Middlesbrough, but many others over a 15-20 year period.
Stockton town centre has undergone many developments in recent years including the Teesquay Millennium Bridge, the Queen's Campus of Durham University, several acres of office buildings erected along the south bank of the River Tees within the Teesdale development and Wellington Square a modern shopping arcade erected upon the old Wellington Street area of the town centre. At Castlegate Quay there is moored full size replica of Captain Cook's vessel, the Bark "Endeavour". In 1995, after 4 years in the building, the Tees Barrage was commissioned. A water sports centre, including White Water, is located there.
Stockton is also home to the multi-million pound Arc,which opened in 1999 and whose resident drama company is currently the Arden Theatre Company. Stockton F.C. existed from 1882 till 1975, with Thornaby F.C. taking over as the local side.
Stockton holds the Stockton International Riverside Festival each year, Europe's largest free open air festival. It's 21st year was 30 July to 03 August 2008. The festival has a "5-day programme of outdoor theatre, street entertainment, circus, music and dance, by some of the world's best artists. The festival features acts from performers from all across the world and a carnival procession which travels through the high street. There is a a fringe festival which has performances from "some of the biggest names in UK music.
Other notable people born in Stockton include Will Hay and Jimmy James the comedians; Ivy Close Miss Great Britain; Brass Crosby Lord Mayor of London; Joseph Ritson waspish critic and editor; 'Flying' Freddy Dixon the record-breaking racer; the actors Richard Griffiths and Stephen Tompkinson; Francis Bainbridge the great physiologist; Charles Foulkes Canadian general; and Norma Levy, the prostitute at the centre of the Lord Lambton scandal. Also Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott and director of Top Gun, and Jamie Bell (Billy Eliott) and Man On Fire as well as numerous other films). Ridley, who was born in South Shields, also lived in Stockton-on-Tees where he studied at Grangefield School.Famous Teesside rock band "White Trash" attended Our Lady and St Bede school and although never made the big time in the UK they continue to hit the US Billboard top 20 with hits such as "A Dozen Donts" and "At the end of the day", both tracks that have also been included on the soundtrack as part of the hit TV Show "The Sopranos".
The Member of Parliament for many years, 1924 to 1945, was Harold Macmillan, later Prime Minister, 1956 to 1963. He was created Earl of Stockton in 1984, 20 years after his retirement from politics. William Rodgers, one of the Gang of Four which broke from the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party also represented the town in parliament from 1962 to 1983. Tony Blair, Labour Prime Minister 1997 - 2007 represented Sedgefield, which is the portion of County Durham abutting Stockton-on-Tees, from 1983 to 2007.
Scottish Entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne moved to Stockton when he was 30, well before he made his fortune. Whilst living in Stockton he bought his first Ice Cream Van and founded a nursing home business. He also opened his first health club in Stockton, Bannatyne's in 1997. He married his second wife at St Mary's Church, Norton and still resides in the area; living in Wynyard and now Norton.