Last updated

Tees barrage-2008.jpg
The Tees Barrage Way Bridge
North Yorkshire UK location map.svg
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Location within North Yorkshire
Population24,741 (2011 census) [1]
OS grid reference NZ450180
Civil parish
  • Thornaby
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district TS17
Dialling code 01642
Police Cleveland
Fire Cleveland
Ambulance North East
UK Parliament
List of places
54°33′20″N1°18′18″W / 54.5556°N 1.3049°W / 54.5556; -1.3049 Coordinates: 54°33′20″N1°18′18″W / 54.5556°N 1.3049°W / 54.5556; -1.3049

Thornaby-on-Tees, also referred to as Thornaby, is a market town and civil parish, with a town council. The town is on the south bank of the River Tees, North Yorkshire, in Northern England and in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees, governed by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. The town had previously formed its own borough. It had a population of 24,741 according to the 2011 census. [1] [2]


The town had enacted on a royal charter to form a municipal borough before being a part of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees. The modern centre was built on the north eastern part of Thornaby airfield and lies 2 miles (3.2 km) south-west of Stockton-on-Tees and 4 miles (6.4 km) south-west of Middlesbrough. [3]


Thornaby lies within the historic county boundaries of the North Riding of Yorkshire and was made a municipal borough in 1892. [4] It was amalgamated with other boroughs including Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees in 1968 to form the county borough of Teesside. Then, in 1974, it became part of the borough of Stockton-on-Tees in the new non-metropolitan county of Cleveland. Thornaby Town Council was created in 1995. [5]

As a county, Cleveland was abolished in 1996 under the Banham review. It was replaced with the single-tier unitary authorities of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool. The former areas of Cleveland County were returned to their original counties for ceremonial purposes with Stockton-on-Tees becoming the only local authority in the country to be split between two counties, Durham to the north of the river and Yorkshire to the south. Thornaby and Yarm, became part of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees. [6]

Thornaby Town Hall Thornaby Town Hall - - 323998.jpg
Thornaby Town Hall

In 2012 the Town Council purchased Thornaby Town Hall from Stockton Borough Council with the hope of enabling the building and the surrounding area to be restored. The Hall (which dates from 1890-2) is a prominent landmark, but has been largely unoccupied since the 1968 amalgamation. [7] It is now the main building used by Thornaby Town Council. [8]

Early history

Prehistoric settlement

There are other signs of Thornaby being a much older settlement. Traces of prehistoric man have been found, the earliest being a stone axe, 8 inches long, dating back to the Mesolithic Period (about 3000 BC). In 1926, a dugout canoe said to date from about 1600 – 1400 BC was found in the mud under 8 feet (2.4 metres) of water opposite Thornaby High Wood. An arrowhead of the Neolithic Period (about 3000 BC) was found in a garden on Thornaby Village Green.


The name Thornaby came into existence about AD 800 when the land was given by Halfdene (Halfdan Ragnarsson), King of the Danes, to Thormod, one of his noblemen, hence "Thormods-by" – Thormod's farmstead. [9] Although the -by suffix originally meant a farmstead, many of these grew into villages, taking the -by suffix with them in their names as with other villages in the area, such as Danby, Faceby, Ingleby, Maltby and Ormesby. [10]

During the Battle of Hastings (1066), one of William the Conqueror's noblemen, Robert I de Brus, marched north with a garrison of men and occupied the area of Cleveland. William gave him those lands to control including Thornaby and Middlesbrough.

King Sweyn II of Denmark, on 9 September 1069, defeated the Normans at York by killing the entire garrison of 3,000 men. William swore an oath to take revenge on Sweyn by destroying every house and dwelling in the lands under Sweyn's rule, leaving all the land in the north east of Yorkshire barren and bare.

In the Domesday Book Thornaby is mentioned five times, Thornaby's first mention in the Domesday Book states:- "Robert Malet has these lands and they are waste." It appears that they remained undeveloped until the early 19th century as "Thurnaby waaste" is mentioned in a poem by Tennyson called "The Northern Farmer.".

Over the centuries there have been a number of different spellings of the name Thornaby including Turmozbi, Tormozbi, Tormozbia and Thurmozbi. The form Thornaby first appears in 1665 and refers to old Thornaby village near the River Tees.

Parish church

The church of St Peter ad Vincula is in the Diocese of York St. Peter's Church, Thornaby - - 79586.jpg
The church of St Peter ad Vincula is in the Diocese of York

The Church of St Peter ad Vincula on the village green is of 12th-century origin but a place of worship existed at the time of the Domesday Book of 1086. The unusual dedication to St Peter ad Vincula ("St Peter in chains") is derived from the ancient Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. The building, with a simple nave and a bell turret with two bells, was originally dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. Grace Pace, the mother of Captain James Cook, was baptised at St Peter's in 1702. [11]

Story of the Five Lamps

It is said that Robert de Thormodbi, wounded in the Crusades at Acre, swore to raise a shrine to the Virgin Mary if he survived his wounds. He did, and as part of his wish a shrine niche to the Virgin Mary, lit by five sanctuary lamps, was placed in St Peter's Church. [12]

Modern history

1800s: Mandale (Stockton South) merge

Current Stockton side looking out to South Stockton, now signposted as Thornaby on Tees River Tees - - 371212.jpg
Current Stockton side looking out to South Stockton, now signposted as Thornaby on Tees

In 1825, Thornaby, centred around St Peter's Church and the old village green which was gradually overshadowed by the burgeoning newly named town of South Stockton which was 2 mi (3 km) away.

Near the eastern extent of North Thornaby (Mandale) Queen's Campus Stockton - - 10982.jpg
Near the eastern extent of North Thornaby (Mandale)

South Stockton was on the Yorkshire side of the river Tees opposite Stockton-on-Tees, the name of this area originally being Mandale which was noted as a separate settlement from Thornaby. It was not until the local government act of 1863 that the district of South Stockton officially came into being. In 1825 South Stockton became the site of William Smith's pottery and the area quickly grew with the establishment of shipbuilding and engineering. Stockton Council made two attempts to take over the local board of South Stockton, first in 1869 and again in 1883, but without success. On 6 October 1892 South Stockton and Old Thornaby merged to form the municipal borough of Thornaby-on-Tees.

1900s: Wars and their legacy on the town

World Wars era

The earliest known flying in Thornaby took place in 1912 when Matthew Young of the Vale Farm was paid 100 Gold Sovereigns for the use of a field for an airshow. Taking place on a Saturday afternoon in June or July, one of the main events was flying by Gustav Hamel, an early flying pioneer. The next known use was by the Royal Flying Corps who used the same fields between 1914 and 1918 as a staging post between Catterick and Marske aerodromes.

In about 1925 negotiations began on the opening of a full-time aerodrome and in the late 1920s the Air Ministry constructed an airfield to the south of the town and the station which was the second permanent aerodrome to be built in Yorkshire (the first being Catterick) [13] was opened on 29 September 1929. During the Second World War, Thornaby came under the control of 18 group, Coastal Command, before this however it had come under Flying Training, Fighter and Bomber Commands, and post-war under Reserve and Fighter Commands, at this time (post-war) it was also used by the Royal Air Force Regiment. During the war a variety of tasks were carried out from RAF Thornaby, such as, attacks on targets in Europe, anti-submarine patrols, operational training, strikes against enemy shipping, leaflet dropping and air sea rescue operations.

Late 1900s

Thornaby Tower Blocks, currently planned for demolition Thornaby Tower Blocks - - 688369.jpg
Thornaby Tower Blocks, currently planned for demolition

The last aircraft to leave R.A.F. Thornaby (Hawker Hunter F6s) left on 1 October 1958 and hope faded for the further use of Thornaby as a regional airport on 23 February 1962 when all but 60 acres (24 hectares) of land was purchased from the Air Ministry by Thornaby-on-Tees Borough Council.

Work began on transforming the airfield, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it was extensively redeveloped with modern housing, a shopping centre, sports centre and an industrial estate (the first in the region). From 1840-June 1987 heavy engineering firm Head Wrightson was a major employer in Thornaby.

Many symbols of Thornaby's aeronautical past remain with streets, buildings and pubs using names of RAF aircraft, stations and personnel. The Bader School (built on the former airfield) on Kintyre Drive was named after and opened by Sir Douglas Bader on 10 November 1971. In 1976 a stained glass window in St Paul's Church on Thornaby Road was dedicated to the RAF at Thornaby. In 1997 a statue was erected on Thornaby Road, it is dedicated to all who served at RAF Thornaby.

2000s: Redevelopment

In the late 2000s, Thornaby under went a major redevelopment and regeneration to modernise the 20th Century town centre.

The Spitfire on Thornaby Road The Spitfire on Thornaby Road.jpg
The Spitfire on Thornaby Road

In 2007 a full-size replica Spitfire aircraft was erected on the roundabout at the junction of Thornaby Road, Bader Avenue and Trenchard Avenue. Hidden beneath the roundabout is part of one of the three runways which used to run east to west.

The old Mandale Estate is being demolished and Mandale Park was being built to provide new affordable housing. The Pavilion shopping centre, off Allensway in Thornaby, has been redeveloped from the previous Brutalist architectural style and was completed in autumn 2009. It is estimated to have created around 200 jobs and has brought improved leisure and shopping amenities to the local area. An official launch event was held in the Thornaby town centre on Saturday 25 April 2009.

Infinity Bridge being built North Shore Footbridge - - 904213.jpg
Infinity Bridge being built

Thornaby won a number of awards in 2008; it won the silver gilt award for best small cities, with its Northumbria in Bloom entry, which was repeated in 2011. Thornaby Cemetery has won the green flag award and is continuing to improve after winning the Cemetery of the Year award in 2006. Despite this status having been lost in 2006, due to complaints concerning illicit use of the cemetery, the Green Flag status was restored by 2011.

On 10 November 2011 an R.A.F. Search and Rescue Sea King Helicopter paid a three-hour visit to Bader primary to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of Sir Douglas Bader opening the school. The day of activities included a visit by representatives from RAF Leeming, the Commanding Officer at Catterick Garrison, Middlesbrough Armed Forces Careers Office and the Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team.

Thornaby held its eleventh Yorkshire Day event in August 2017. The annual Thornaby Show takes place at the beginning of September, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people turn up over the course of the day.

608 (North Riding) squadron

Of all the squadrons to have been based at RAF Thornaby during its operational period, "Thornaby's own" 608 (North Riding) squadron is probably the squadron best remembered by the townsfolk. It was formed at Thornaby on 17 March 1930 and went on to serve within both Coastal and Bomber Commands during the Second World War. After the war, on 10 May 1946 the squadron was re-formed at Thornaby and carried on in Reserve Command "at home" until the squadron disbanded for the last time on 10 March 1957. 608 (North Riding) Squadron's Standard, which was approved by the Queen and bears their battle honours, can be seen housed in York Minster under the Astronomical Clock where it was laid-up on 14 November 1959. The numerous items of glass and silverware which were presented to the squadron during their service are held by Middlesbrough Council, are housed in Middlesbrough Town Hall and are to be returned to the squadron should it ever re-form.


In January 2014 a McDonald's drive-through restaurant and an Asda petrol filling station opened on the former Tristar Neasham Site. Teesside Park is also in Thornaby; it was formerly a racecourse and is now a shopping park.



Train services are operated by Northern and TransPennine Express. Departing from Thornaby railway station. Northern operates rail services to Newcastle, Sunderland, Darlington, Redcar and Whitby. TransPennine Express provides direct rail services to Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and York,.


Victoria Bridge Thornaby 2015.jpg
Snow-bound A1130 at Thornaby Cemetery (view north-west) - - 1627634.jpg
Victoria Bridge & A1130 (north-bound)

Thornaby is served by

Public Services

Arriva North East and Stagecoach provide bus services to Thornaby and National Express and Megabus operate coach travel from Middlesbrough bus station.

Notable people



Thornaby is served by three secondary schools; St Patrick's Catholic College, Thornaby Academy and Westlands Academy.


Thornaby is home is Stockton Riverside College, a major provider of further education in the Tees Valley with around 10,000 full & part-time students. It is labelled Stockton due to it being in or near the former Stockton South settlement , which lied on the southern banks of the river Tees (Yorkshire) and merged into Thornaby on Tees.


Adjacent to the college is Durham University's Queen's Campus. Durham University was the second university to be approached due to Teesside University (who were first approached) not having the funds available, at the time, necessary to run the university.

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