Memories : Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, 1982

For a Darlington lad like me, Middlesbrough – or Middles-rough – was well-and-truly in bandit country over the state line a few miles east of Stockton-On-Tees. Colloquially known as The Boro (pron:burra), the threat of being sent there often put the fear of God into me. I still chuckle at the memory of my brother and I arguing during school holidays, and my mum shutting us both up in rigid fear with the cry of, ‘behave yourselves or I’ll leave you both in Middlesbrough.’ What happy halcyon days of growing up in the north…

Joking aside, though, The Boro was once a very prosperous and important gateway to the world. Sitting close to the mouth of the mighty River Tees, its port once exported colossal volumes of coal, iron, steel and other engineering-led products from once mighty companies such as Dorman – Long and Whessoe Engineering. The above location of Linthorpe Road is one of the major through arteries of the town, although today its part pedestrianised, part commercial and part residential. In fact, a great deal of it is almost unrecognisable owing to major redevelopment. Back then, it seemed to be of endless length and constantly buzzing with shoppers, pedestrians and countless buses.

So, tell us about the cars… and buses

What is quite rare for the above picture, which was taken from the top floor of a shop in Corporation Street, is how BLARG-light the vehicle types are.  Only a solitary Mini and the two buses – a Bristol RE of the United fleet and the Cleveland Transit Daimler Fleetline decker – offer us a flavour of British Leyland’s finest. Viewers of taste will appreciate the Darlington-registered (Mill Garages no doubt) Volkswagen Passat, Bedford HA van, Ford Escort Mk2 and Mk3, Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 taxi and a Saab 99 Combi coupe that’s overrun the stop line. However, what has caught my eye is the customised Opel Manta A creeping up behind the taxi – lovely!

If I was teleported back in time, I would certainly enjoy a browse around the audio shop next door to Ron Goodman furnishings. Just look at the glorious RSC branding – a veritable doyen of decks they were. Cammy Rea’s cafe and ice cream parlour can be seen to the extreme right of the picture. Note the name? Well, you would be right as Camillo Rea, an Italian immigrant, had seven sons – one of whom was called Chris and you know the rest.

One of his hit recordings Stainsby Girls was written about his wife Joan, who attended the local Stainsby Secondary Modern school when she was a girl. If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via the link below.


  1. Not a single ‘chain’ shop in the picture. As for “Stainsby Girls” and Chris Rea, I had to look them up. I found this: In a retrospective review of Shamrock Diaries, Sharon Mawer of AllMusic described the song as “easily the most like Bruce Springsteen that Rea had ever sounded”. A compliment? Or not?

  2. I live 40 miles north of the Boro and remember Linthorpe Rd well. My old employer had a Camera shop branch there. I recall the Bristol RE buses of United too. 1982 was a good year for me, hard to believe it’s so long ago.

  3. Wow!!! Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough! – I went to Teesside Polytechnic, situated in Middlesbrough, from 1987-91. It had by no means been my first choice of places to study but I liked Middlesbrough.
    And, a Saab 99 Combi Coupe – my Dad had three 99s (all saloons though) and an early 900, which was a Combi.
    I have not been back to Middlesbrough since about ’92, ’93. A recent Google showed it to have changed almost beyond recognition

  4. Dorman Long was half the consortium (with Cleveland Bridge, with which it was merged years later) which built the Auckland Harbour Bridge in which city a fleet of 1950s Daimler Fleetlines pedalled about for three decades. Intrigued to see other versions on English roads. Dorman Long also did the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sadly, the former colonies no longer turn to Mother Britain for the big engineering stuff after she threw her lot in with the EEC and turned her back on our return trade.
    Would love a ride on the Transporter Bridge one day.

    • Actually the Auckland buses were under floor engine Freelines, Fleetlines are rear engine. Dunno if any of those came down.

    • Graeme : was the Auckland harbour Bridge the one to which the Nippon Clipons were fitted to widen it ? Is it still the same ?

      • If you look at the top of the image the small black and red shop is halfords.
        There was a toy shop further up the road, Romer Parrish was good for model railways in the 70s I got a lot of Christmas and birthday presents from there as a kid.

      • Yes, Chris, you are right. Because of the strength of the initial bridge, it was possible to add an extra two-lane carriageway to either side. Today, a computer-desgned bridge would probably be only 5 or 10 percent above the intended traffic load,

  5. If memory serves me correctly, it’s the bottom end of Linthorpe Road just before a 90 degree bend, where it meets the indoor shopping centre. Straight on was a pedestrian stretch, heading towards the railway station. I’m pretty certain that Rea’s was a McDonald’s in my time.

  6. Don’t forget ICI, whose works at Wilton and Billingham were enormous and survive to an extent under different ownership. I think at one time ICI employed 30,000 people on Teesside, and along with the steelworks, shipyards and docks, was an important part of the area’s prosperity.

  7. At different times in the late 70s I had two Saab 99s (not the Combi, just the straight saloon). The first was an excellent car and I regretted getting rid of it; so some time later I had another, and that second 99 was – and still is – the worst, most unreliable car I’ve ever owned.

    • KC – I don’t recall my Dad having any troubles with his three 1970s Saab 99s. The 1980 900 had no reliability issues either though I do remember it having paintwork issues when it arrived new. These were corrected, not perfectly, by the dealer, if I remember rightly.

      • The main problem with the rogue 99 was the clutch. It was hydraulic, but always losing pressure. It went back to the dealer several times but they couldn’t sort it. New valves, new pipes, bleeding for air locks, leaks, etc etc. It was never solved in the 2 years I had it.

        The fault happened so often I became an expert at driving with no clutch – pulling away from a stop, changing gear on the move, slowing down gradually towards junctions, etc. It’s surprising how easy it becomes when you have a lot of practice.

        And it also had an oil leak (not massive, but consistent) which they never solved.

  8. I think that that United was incoming from somewhere like loftus as they used those 290 numbers.ones in the 220 series tended to be places like Stockton, Hartlepool,etc, expect for the 270s which also went to Stockton and Hartlepool.the 210s tended to be places like Sunderland and Durham City.

  9. Nice to see the Bedford HA again. While a crude and old fashioned van by the eighties, it was cheap to buy and run and was popular with budget conscious organisations like British Rail and some local authorities. Amazing this van based on a 1963 Viva lasted 21 years.

    • For a time Royal Mail used HA vans for deliveries.

      Vauxhall didn’t come up with a replacement until the Astramax arrived.

      The Chevanne and Mk1 Astra van were really estates with no rear seat & side windows, but were used in a few fleets.

      Granada’s TV hire division and Radio Rentals come to mind as having them for their engineers.

      • The HA was cheap and old fashioned, but once the 1275 engine was installed and the driving experience made slightly more modern with cloth seats and a two speed heater, it was more bearable to drive. Sheffield Corporation used them until 1988 when they finally moved over to Astramax vans.

  10. Lived in Boro all my life , love this town with my all my heart and soul Boro lad born and bread until about 10 year ago now it’s just a complete shithole with all the foreigners and drug addicts and corrupt police and officials living here such a depressing town now sorry Boro still love you just not what you have become much like most of this country now (grate Britton) lol don’t make me laugh

  11. The photograph was taken from Cleveland centre on grange road
    corporation road is to the rear of the camera further along linthorpe road

  12. Prior to my foray into the Car Trade, I briefly worked at said Halfords store. I used to cycle to work every day from Billingham over the Transporter Bridge.

  13. The first thing I clapped my eyes on was the 99 Combi Coupe. We had 2 99s in our family, the later M82 and M83 models….. Still my favourite of far, out of 17 in total.

    The second was ‘Image’ was that a camera shop? I remember Image being in Colwyn Bay, when there were 3 camera shops within 200 yards of each other……proper camera shops too. Only Cambrian remains….

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