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New ‘hidden gem’ trail and pedestrian crossings complete four-year Historic Quarter project

Heritage and history

Thursday, 16 May 2024
I SPY installed at Middlesbrough Station - photo credit Rachel Deakin

New pedestrian crossings featuring eye-catching designs are the finishing touches to a major revamp of Middlesbrough’s Historic Quarter.

An innovative ‘I Spy’ discovery trail also showcases the improvements that have transformed one of the key gateways into the town.

The £320,000 cash injection, which is part of a wider grant-funded project, has seen the creation of three new crossings and widened pavements on Zetland Road as part of plans to help improve access to the train station and make the area more welcoming for visitors.

The new crossings feature ornate thermoplastic designs inspired by the architectural features of the former Barclay’s Bank building, which is now home to Bloom.

Artist Aphra O’Connor worked with local artist-led organisation Navigator North and community groups to develop the unique monochrome designs.

The work is the final strand of the four-year £2.2million grant-funded High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) partnership between Middlesbrough Council and Historic England to breathe new life into the Historic Quarter.

The cash boost has enabled a number of key improvement works to be carried out in Exchange Square and Zetland Road.

New paving, street lighting, benches, flower planters featuring Aphra’s designs and an accessible ramp are all now in place in Exchange Square.

The Grade II-listed statue of Middlesbrough founding father Henry Bolckow and iconic keystone heads that formed part of the demolished Royal Exchange building have also been restored.

Some of the historic buildings, recognisable to many as popular bars and clubs over the years, have also benefited, in turn attracting further interest from developers.

The buildings that are home to Bloom, Chequers nightclub, The Zetland Hotel and the former Kalinka nightclub have all received structural repairs and external improvements and some hidden features were even uncovered along the way.

To highlight the work and showcase the features, an ‘I Spy Historic Quarter’ discovery trail has been developed by Navigator North and Aphra O’Connor and is free and open to all.

Trail maps can be downloaded digitally from the Historic Quarter website or picked up from Middlesbrough railway station.

Councillor Theo Furness, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “The Historic Quarter is the first place visitors see when they arrive at the railway station so it’s vital that first impression is a positive one. We want to change the perception of this area of the town and make people want to come and explore what we have to offer.

“Bars and restaurants like Christie’s Brasserie and Bloom are already thriving, and helping to unlock the huge potential of this key part of Middlesbrough town centre.

“Many people will remember going into these buildings but may not know the stories around them or the painstaking work that has took place during this project to restore them.

“The ‘I Spy’ trail perfectly showcases the work that’s been undertaken across the project in a creative and engaging way, and I encourage everyone to pick up or download a map and give it a go.

“Something as simple as a pedestrian crossing has been transformed into a piece of art directly inspired by the buildings around it.”

Maria Carballeira from Historic England said: “We are really pleased to have supported the rejuvenation of the Historic Quarter through the Middlesbrough High Street Heritage Action Zone.

“It is wonderful to see this handsome Victorian townscape restored and revamped for the benefit of both local people and visitors.”

A series of community-focused events has supported the project with over 4,500 local people taking part in workshops, guided walks and exhibitions that have enabled people to learn more about the area.

Last year’s Hi! Street Fest event at Exchange Square which took place in conjunction with Orange Pip, celebrated the heritage of the Historic Quarter with a giant parade and involvement from across the community.

More information on the High Street Heritage Action Zone project can be found at the Historic Quarter website.