History of the Tees

The River Tees is a major recreational asset within the Teesside conurbation, it is also the reason Teesside exists. Originally a thriving rural community based around Stockton and Yarm, the industrial revolution saw massive expansion downstream to the estuary creating a uniquely diverse and fascinating river.Whilst much of this rich idustrial heritage remains to be rediscovered the downside of the industrial boom was the demise of the river environmentally and the local communities and towns began to turn their backs on the Tees. For many years the Borough neglected the river which had become heavily polluted as a legacy of the industry which lined its banks. Following the industrial decline of the area, much of the land near the river remained undeveloped and the river itself was off-limits for recreational purposes. However over the last 15 years, since the construction of the Tees Barrage there has been a concerted effort to remedy this situation and reconnect to the Tees. The river is now on the verge of a renaissance as a place to be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways:

  • Its natural beauty, wildlife and landscape upstream
  • The wide variety of heritage along its length
  • Leisure and sporting use of the water itself
  • Leisure use of the adjoining open spaces 

To date a range of water-based leisure and sporting activities and events have been established and the banks of the river have witnessed such developments that they are now unrecognisable from twenty years ago.


There are many fascinating stories about the history of the River Tees - from the bustling activity of the old port at Yarm; to interesting information about Stockton Castle, built in the Norman era and now the site of the Swallow Hotel in Stockton Town Centre.

Stockton Local History Group has very kindly provided a very thoughtful insight into the River Tees along the Stockton Borough.  This is available to download below.

But that's not all, take a look at the links to some great photographs of the River Tees from years gone by; and we hope you'll be delighted with film footage of the River Tees in 1970 - things certainly have improved since then!

Stockton Council Website