Warwick, Thomas (2014) ‘Middlesbrough’s Steel Magnates: Business, Culture and Participation: 1880-1934’. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In assessing the rapid emergence of Middlesbrough as a nineteenth century ‘boom town’, Asa Briggs’ seminal Victorian Cities pointed to the centrality of the early businessmen and industrialists in the growth of ‘a new community’.1 The Quaker pioneers and the early ironmasters established the manufacturing basis of mid-Victorian Middlesbrough and dominated the Ironopolis’ early business associations, municipal institutions and political organisations. In contrast to the leading mid-century industrialists at the heart of urban governance in the manufacturing town, Briggs contended that the second and third generations of industrialist families failed to fill the void left behind by their retired or deceased fathers, instead abandoning the urban sphere and following the pattern of other English businessmen by choosing to live in the country rather than the town. This apparent urban ‘withdrawal’ aligned with what Wiener has considered a ‘decline in the industrial spirit’ amidst the adoption of a gentrified lifestyle, has been assumed rather than proven, with little exploration of the spatial dynamics of the industrial elites’ interactions with urban space.2
This thesis challenges the extent of elite ‘withdrawal’ by assessing wider spheres of urban governance hitherto underexplored, contributing an improved understanding of the wider social dynamic of urban life and industrial elites with emphasise on challenging the extent of declining urban engagement. Drawing upon newly accessible archival evidence and
focusing on late nineteenth and early twentieth century Middlesbrough as a case study, it is contended that this period, most closely associated with declining urban engagement, was instead one of realignment and reconfiguration of urban authority and industrialist participation. By exploring the composition and makeup of Middlesbrough’s charitable, commercial, civic and cultural life during this period, it will be shown how country house-residing elites continued to be engaged with the industrial centre and played an important role by establishing new infrastructure, institutions and organisations. Moreover, through exploring the hitherto underexplored semi-private realm of Middlesbrough’s steel magnates beyond the town in their country estates and the surrounding villages of the North Yorkshire countryside, it is argued the country house and rural sphere served as arenas for extending interactions with urban interests spanning business, associational, cultural and philanthropic activity.

1 Briggs, A. Victorian Cities (London, 1963), pp.254-257
2 Wiener, M.J. English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit (London, 1981)

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