Cliff House at Marske
after restoration in 1981
The conservatory at Cliff House
in the 19th century
Chris Scott Wilson Writer
When Joseph Pease first looked at the place called ‘Middlesbrugh’ (sic) on the banks of the River Tees, there stood only a farmhouse with a few outbuildings. Seven years earlier, the 1821 census had recorded five families comprising 40 persons living in four houses. The site had previously supported a small monastery attached to St. Hilda’s abbey at Whitby, because between 1094 - 1141, Robert de Brus II of Skelton Castle who controlled all the land between Yarm and Runswick Bay had given a ‘considerable’ amount of land for a church with a grant of 50/- (£2-50) to be distributed among the poor of ‘Midlesburg’.
In 1828 when Joseph Pease saw the land, he recorded in his diary he was ‘much pleased with the place altogether’. Joseph was a man who made things happen. A Quaker, born on 22 June 1799 into a wealthy family, he was educated at Tatum’s School in Leeds, then under the tutelage of Josiah Forster in Southgate, London. Still in his teens, his initiation into business was working up from the bottom in the wool factories at Darlington owned by his father, Edward Pease who also partnered George Stephenson in his engine factory at Walker, Newcastle, and was a board member of the Stockton & Darlington Railway where he earned himself the title ‘Father of the Railways’.
Given a stiff example to emulate, Joseph’s achievements would equal, if not surpass those of his father. At the age of 25 he became treasurer of the Stockton & Darlington Railway. He quickly acquired a reputation for giving sound advice, and under his scrutiny the dividends of 5% rose to 7% and more.
With the railway in need of expansion and a more convenient port necessary to export the harvest of the Durham coalfields, the company sought a site for a terminus on the lower Tees. Further up, the river was treacherous and almost unnavigable, only small craft of shallow draught capable of reaching Stockton and Yarm. The new port was to be called Port Darlington. In the face of heavy opposition from Stockton and Yarm industrialists, who knew a new port lower down the river would steal much of their business, it was Joseph Pease who became prime mover in lobbying parliament to grant the necessary Act for the Middlesbrough Railway Extension. He enlisted the aid of several peers, two of which he later named Middlesbrough streets after; Lords Dacre and Suffield.
Joseph saw all too well what the railway and Port Darlington would do for Middlesbrough and the coal industry. With his five sons and his brother Henry, he formed a company called Pease & Partners. They began to invest heavily in the Durham coalfields, beginning with St. Helens at Bishop Auckland, expanding rapidly until the company was the country’s largest coal owner. Several of Joseph’s friends had been watching progress at Middlesbrough with interest and when Joseph was offered Mr Chiltern’s estate for £30,000 they persuaded him to form The Owners of The Middlesbrough Estate, based on the purchase of 488 acres. Such was Joseph’s faith, he borrowed his share of the capital from his father-in-law, Joseph Gurney. Perhaps it was an indication of Gurney’s faith that he agreed to the loan.
The Owners laid out a 32 acre site, providing roads and drains, drawing up a building code to which purchasers of the plot had to adhere. In effect, The Owners acted much as the Council today, even to creating bye-laws for the inhabitants of the original town, north of the railway station, nowadays referred to as ‘over the border’.
Joseph Pease always kept his finger on Teesside’s pulse. By 1840 when Middlesbrough showed signs of stagnating, it was clearly in his interest as one of The Owners and as a director of Pease & Partners to attract alternative industry. The move he made was to offer Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan land on easy terms and give them letters of introduction when they started their iron business. Little did he know how productive that gesture would be.
It would boost Teesside’s population beyond comprehension.
Joseph Pease was a busy man. While setting up The Owners of the Middlesbrough Estate who offered the first house building plots available in Middlesbrough and overseeing Pease & Partners’ rapidly growing mining interests in County Durham, he was asked to stand for parliament. Elected in 1832, representing South Durham, he became the first Quaker to sit in the Commons. There too, he made his presence felt. He campaigned against corruption and slavery while fervently supporting human rights and religious freedom. He proposed and carried a clause in the Metropolitan Police Bill prohibiting the common pastimes of bull and bear baiting, and also sat on many committees dealing with industry. Re-elected in 1835 and 1837 he eventually resigned from parliament in 1841 because of heavy business commitments.
Under his influence, The Owners of the Middlesbrough Estate made concessions to entice Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan to set up their prospective iron business in Middlesbrough. He knew their interests would feed off each other. Port revenues would increase as Bolckow & Vaughan imported pig iron while their processes would consume coal dug from Pease & Partners’ mines and transported by the Stockton & Darlington Railway. In turn, Pease’s companies would have a sympathetic supplier of rails on their doorstep. So keen was Joseph Pease to see them succeed that during early lean years he personally gave financial aid and placed orders for rails to boost their order books. Later, when John Vaughan discovered and began to exploit the main seam of Cleveland ironstone, drawing ironmasters, ironworkers and miners in their hundreds to Teesside, Joseph Pease warmed his hands at the fire whose embers he had nurtured into flame.
As the railways pushed east beyond Redcar, Pease & Partners expanded into ironstone mining. In 1853 they opened the Hutton Lowcross mine near Guisborough. Soon, they owned Upleatham, Skinningrove and Hob Hill (Saltburn) mines, between them annually producing almost a million tonnes of ore. The railway accounts looked healthy too. By 1875, eight and a half million tonnes of ironstone, limestone, coal and coke were being transported, most of which was used in Teesside’s iron industry.
Joseph Pease was fond of the Cleveland coast. Shortly after retiring from parliament, in 1844 he bought several fishermen’s cottages on the seafront at Marske, demolished them then used the site to build Cliff House where his family spent their summers. It was from there one afternoon in 1859 his brother Henry took a stroll over the sandbanks to discover the old village of Saltburn. Returning breathless, he stated his intention to build a new town on top of the cliff. With some help from brother Joseph and the Stockton & Darlington Railway, he succeeded, naming it Saltburn by the Sea. Joseph’s Cliff House at Marske still stands as a landmark, nowadays a retirement home.
If Cleveland made Joseph Pease rich, then he returned the favour. A concise example is the village of New Marske. After Pease & Partners bought Upleatham mine from the Derwent Iron Company in 1857, they took on more men to extend the workings. This aggravated an already chronic housing shortage. The miners faced a long walk from old Marske each day before beginning work, so the company constructed the community known as New Marske, much closer to the mine. Modelled on the best designs available for workingmen’s cottages, there was good sanitation, each house also having an allotment where vegetables could be grown and a pig kept. With the mine workings suffering from seepage, pumps were installed underground to clear the workings and force the water up into a reservoir which then provided the new village with an ample supply. Reading rooms and a school were also provided, but as a Quaker Joseph would not allow a public house. He also founded or contributed to schools at Saltburn, Skinningrove and many villages in County Durham, mainly for the children of company employees who by 1865 numbered 10,000 in coal and iron.
Also an elder in the Quaker Society of Friends, Joseph later became a minister and travelled all over England to address congregations. Teetotal and deeply religious, heavily enmeshed in many business concerns, it would be easy to picture him as a dour man. In fact, the reverse was true. Socially, he was regarded as the life and soul of any party, a knowledgeable raconteur welcome in any household.
It was said he could see a hundred years ahead. If not, then he was shrewd almost beyond belief to accomplish all he did before his death at the age of seventy two on the 8th February 1872. He once said, “I have not a drop of coward’s blood in my veins.”
Nobody could deny Joseph Pease that.
- o 0 o -
Hope, Rev E. Hope’s History of Marske By The Sea Sotheran 1912
Horton, Minnie C. The Story Of Cleveland Cleveland C. C. 1979
Jeans, J.S. Pioneers of The Cleveland Iron Trade Private 1875
Jeans, J.S. History of The S & Darlington Railway
Lillie, William The History Of Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough Corporation 1968
Moorsom, Norman Middlesbrough 150 Webb 1980
North, G.A. Teesside’s Economic Heritage Cleveland C.C. 1975
Pease, Mary H. Henry Pease, A Short Story Of His Life 1898
THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL