The History

History of Stockton & Castlegate

Stockton started life as an Anglo-Saxon settlement with the manor of Stockton created around 1138. The town was then purchased by Bishop Pudsey of Durham in 1189.

During the 13th century, Bishop Pudsey turned the village of Stockton into a borough and freed the serfs. With the new-look Stockton, craftsmen came to live in the town and helped it thrive.

The historic market can be traced back to 1310 when Bishop Bek of Durham granted a charter: “To our town of Stockton a market upon every Wednesday for ever” and it’s been championed every Wednesday since.

Stockton then grew into a busy little port with a population of around 1000. We exported wool and imported wine (the wine bit hasn’t changed!)

The first recorded reference to Stockton Castle was in 1376 and it originally belonged to Bishop Pudsey. However, in 1644 the Scots captured Stockton Castle and occupied it until 1646 when Oliver Cromwell destroyed the Castle at the end of the civil war.

But the stone of the Castle didn’t go to waste, with stone salvaged helping to create houses on Finkle Street (just next to Castlegate.)

No known accurate portrayals of the Castle exist but when Castlegate was getting built on the site of Stockton Castle in the 1960s, workmen found trenches, tunnels and skeletons alongside recorded evidence of high-status Norman stonework dating from 1150.

John Walker

Born in 1781 at 104 High Street, John Walker was an inventor who created the friction match.

In 1819 after training in London, York and Durham, John Walker returned to Stockton and opened a chemist at 59 High Street (where Boots is situated now!)

Known as Stockton’s Encyclopaedia, John discovered that if he coated the end of a stick with certain chemicals and let them dry, he could start a fire by striking the stick anywhere – these were the first friction matches.

He called his matches “Congreves” after the Congreve’s rocket invented in 1808. The price of a box of 50 matches was one shilling. Included was a piece of sandpaper to strike a light with.

However, Walker did not patent his “Friction Light” matches, preferring instead to pursue his scientific studies, he did not consider his invention important enough to patent.

He died in 1859 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Norton Parish Churchyard in Stockton.

We paid homage to John Walker with ‘Match’ – a large scale artwork piece by Sarah Pickering situated on the outside of the centre.