Stockton on Tees

The historian Rosemary Sweet has noted the influence of conjectural history, such as that written by the Scottish Enlightenment figures David Hume and William Robertson, on the middling-sort writers who began to tell the stories of the development of towns through its people and social fabric in the late eighteenth century. This is presented as a narrative of development from the Restoration in John Brewster’s Parochial History and Antiquities of Stockton upon Tees (1796) in which he identifies enclosure as an important factor in the town’s growing prosperity. Brewster also stresses that “improvement” had come about through the “cultivated manners” of its leading townsfolk. “Opulence and industry have given a spur to all their attainments,” he insisted. As a public sign of improvement he includes the arrival of a permanent theatre in the town noting its location in Custom-house street, “in the yard belonging to the Green Dragon inn” adding that it had been opened “about 26 years ago” by the manager Thomas Bates and that in recent years Samuel Butler’s company had also performed there for race week. The theatre was an important sign of improvement to Brewster as an essential ingredient in the “elegant pleasures of a polished life.” Bates’ nephew James Cawdell and Butler are listed as subscribers to Brewster’s work.


Image by B. Heslop, The Old Stone Bridge over the River Tees, c.1880

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