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Norman Moorsom  "The Pre-lndustrial History of Middlesbrough".

Norman's talk gave a fascinating insight into the origins of Middlesbrough.    His presentation was a skilful blend of intellectual facts & photographs of old documents & historic buildings with personal & poignant recollections of the people behind the history.

Norman is singularly well qualified to tell the story of Middlesbrough.    He was born there in 1940 & for many years taught history locally & was archivist of the Teesside schools museum collection.   Additionally, he has kept a diary since he was fourteen & personally witnessed the passing of many of the local landmarks. Fortunately he took many photographs & interviewed the people closely involved before their demise.

The first known building in Middlesbrough was the monastery founded by the Benedictine monks from Whitby, probably as a half-way house on the journey to the Benedictine monastery at Durham. This monastery was founded about 1125 on land granted by Robert de Bras & consisted of a church consecrated to St Hilda & a house for the monks & travellers.    The foundation flourished & was upgraded to be a priory.     Unfortunately, the land around the monastery, upon which it depended for its income, was largely marshland. When King Henry VI11 ordered all monastic sites to be valued, Middlesbrough was assessed at only 21 pounds, 3 shillings & eight pence.   As one of the smaller monasteries it was dissolved some time before the Parliamentary Act of dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 & the property sold to Thomas Reeve.    Stones were taken from the original large monastic church to be used in other buildings & these stones can still be seen.   The residual & smaller church, dedicated to St Hilda, continued until finally demolished in 1969.   The font still exists, although broken.

The monastic house became a farm house & remained as such until the land was bought by the Pease family, Quakers of Darlington, as the site to found a new town.   The last family of tenant farmers in the Middlesbrough farm were the Parringtons.   Tom Parrington was born in the farmhouse in 1818 & died in 1915 at the ripe old age of 97.   His vivid memories of the birth & growth of Middlesbrough were recounted directly to Major Fairfax-Blakeborough a local historian, who was one of the people that Norman Moorsom interviewed in depth when he was researching the early history of the town.    Apparently Tom Parrington was quite a character who liked his drink & regularly drank gin & treacle at bedtime. He was master of foxhounds for the local hunt until well into old age.   It is this oral history of the town which made Norman's talk an emotional as well as academic experience.