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Billingham is a civil parish and town in the Borough of Stockton on Teesmarker in North East England with a population of 35,765 (2006). It was founded circa 650 by a group of Saxons known as Billa's people, which is where the name Billingham is thought to have originated. In modern history, the chemical industry and in particular the company ICI played an important role in the growth of Billingham. Today ICI no longer operates in Billingham, although other chemical companies are working in the area.

History

Chemical industry and ICI

With the declaration of the First World War, a high demand for explosives led to a massive expansion of Billingham. In 1917, Billingham was chosen to be the site of a new chemical works supplying ammonia for the war. However, the plant was completed in 1920, after the war had ended. The Brunner Mond Company took over the site, and converted it to manufacture fertilisers. In December 1926, Brunner Mond merged with three other chemical companies to form Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), who took control of the plant. ICI began to produce plastics at Billingham in 1934.

Aldous Huxley visited the newly-opened and technologically-advanced Brunner and Mond plant at ICI and gave a detailed account of the processes he saw. The introduction to the most recent print of Brave New World states that Huxley was inspired to write the novel by this Billingham visit.
Billingham Town Centre Statue, a local landmark.
Henry Thorold in the Shell Guide to County Durham states:

From 1971 to 1988 ICI operated a small General Atomicsmarker TRIGA Mark I nuclear reactor at its Billingham factory. It also operated the coal-fired North Tees Power Stationmarker designed by Giles Gilbert Scott on the banks of the Tees, to provide electricity for its plants. This was eventually decommissioned and demolished in 1987. The site of the power station is now Billingham Reach Industrial Estate, an international wharf owned by Able UK Ltd. ICI no longer operates in Billingham, having sold many of its businesses during the restructuring of the company in the 1990s. Some of the company's former manufacturing plants are still in operation, run by other chemical companies.

Anhydrite Mine

In 1983, NIREX announced a proposal to use the now-disused anhydrite mine as a site for the disposal of intermediate level nuclear waste. There was a huge public outcry, since despite the suitability of the site in geological terms, it was very close to a large population centre. Subsequently, in 1985, the plans were dropped. More recent plans in 2007 to re-open the mines for "use as a long-term disposal facility for low hazard waste" were met with similar opposition, and a petition of 3,200 signatures against the mine's opening was presented to the local authority.

Politics

Between 1923 and 1968, Billingham had its own Urban District Council which built, among other things, the Billingham Forum, Kennedy Gardens and Billingham Golf Club (the UK's first municipally-owned club). It was absorbed into the County Borough of Teesside in 1968. In 1974 Teesside County Borugh Council was abolished being replaced by the County of Clevelandmarker which had four districts,Hartlepool,Langbaugh,Middlesbrough and Stockton on Tees.Billingham was the part of Stockton on Tees. In 1996 Cleveland County Council was abolished with Billingham being part of a new unitary (single tier) council for all of Stockton and Billingham.

In February 2007, the Department for Communities and Local Governmentmarker and the Electoral Commission issued orders for the creation of a Billingham Parish and the setting up of a new town council. Billingham Town Council is the largest in the Borough of Stockton. It will initially be funded by a precept of £80,000. Elections for the new Town Council were held on May 3 2007, a petition to Stockton Borough Council and referendum held in 2003 having both given assent to the proposal.

Several chemical plants close to the town were subject to explosions and leaks in 2006 and 2007.

Skyline

Transporter bridge, Cooling towers, Riverside stadium and the cleveland hills to name a few. Chemical industry , ICI, Tioxside, Hartlepool power station, Sealsands and Able Uk's dry dock with its ghost ships. Know as the industrial hart land of U.K Not so long ago. It still hums and glows at night even without all the ship yards of yesteryear.

Structure

The town is effectively split into two separate areas by name, Old Billingham (the area around the village green adjacent to St Cuthbert's church and built up around the ICI works) and the more planned estates that have spread out since the 1950s, increasing the town's size and borders towards the villages of Wolvistonmarker and Cowpen Bewleymarker, to the point of almost incorporating them. Billingham is served by three secondary schools, Northfield Schoolmarker, a specialist sports college famous for Jamie Bell, Billingham Campus School and Arts Collegemarker, originally Brunner and Furness Comprehensive Schools and now an arts college, and St. Michael's RC Schoolmarker, a specialist science college.

However at the moment construction is ongoing for St. Michael's to join the Billingham Campus and New Bede/Riverside College facilities on the Marsh House Avenue site, in a project The Council has published plans for a £40 million investment in Primary Schools which will include some being rebuilt or re-designed and refurbished. Roseberry Primary School and Bewley Infant and Bewley Junior Schools are on the list for action within the next few years.

Bede Collegemarker has served the town for several years, and attracts students from Hartlepool and Stockton, consistently achieving higher results than nearby colleges in Stocktonmarker or Middlesbroughmarker. It is one of the smallest colleges in the UK, with under 400 students, but the new relocation to an adjacent site starting in the academic year 2009/2010 should see numbers increase,the college has also gained its own sports facilities.

Billingham Beck Valley Country Park was constructed from a reclaimed industrial waste tip and has steadily grown to include former grazing land to form a site including wetland habitats. Designated as a Local Nature Reserve by English Nature in 1992, in 2005 it won a Green Flag Award. The beck itself is one of the major tributaries of the River Teesmarker and has a tidal reach around the former ICI site.

Retail

Billingham Town Centre provides the town with famous retailers such as Asda and Argos. The town centre lacks some services but Stockton town centre is less than away and Middlesbrough town centre is also less than away. The town's Asda was the first Asda store to be opened in the North East in 1967, the store is not a large store and mostly supplies food. Asda has been considering opening a new store in the town for several years but have not been successful as they planned to build a store on the site of the Forum which originally was planned to be demolished. However the Forum was saved from demolition and another site was planned on the old college but the land has been used for new housing. The town also has a Tescomarker located near the town centre.

Transport

Road

Billingham is served by the A19 running to Sunderlandmarker in the north and Thirskmarker in the south. The A19 has bypassed Billingham twice. The original route ran through Old Billingham and over a level crossing next to where the old railway station was located and ran through Wolviston in the north. The first bypass was built in the 1960s with a bridge over the railway line and a roundabout was built to the east of Wolvistonmarker in the north, the roundabout was designed to be a grade separated junction but was not completed as the new bypass was already starting to be gridlocked during rush hour and the design did not help as there was too many roundabouts and junctions for the bypass to take effect and the growing number of vehicles using the A19. The second bypass was built in the 1980s to the west of the first bypass. Billingham is also served by the A689 to Hartlepoolmarker in the east and Bishop Aucklandmarker in the west.

Rail

Billingham railway stationmarker is on the Durham Coast Line with hourly services provided by Northern Rail to Newcastlemarker and the MetroCentre in the north and to Stockton and Middlesbrough in the south. Grand Central Railway provide an express train from Sunderlandmarker to Londonmarker but the service does not currently serve Billingham. The original Billingham railway station closed in the late 1960s and moved a mile east along the line.

Bus

Stagecoach provide services around the town and to Hartlepoolmarker, Stockton and Middlesbroughmarker, the 36 serves Hartlepool via Greatham and Park End via Norton, Stockton and Middlesbrough. Also the 35 and 52 serve Stockton via Norton.Go North East provides the 211 service to Peterleemarker and Middlesbrough, and the X9 to Newcastle upon Tynemarker and Middlesbrough. Tees Valley Stagecarriage provide a service 87 to Hartburn via Norton and Stockton, whereas Arriva also provides services. Leven Valley serve Middlesbroughmarker and Wolviston with their service 45.

Sport

The chemical industry's creation of ammonia in the town also led to the formation of one of Billingham's two football teams, Billingham Synthonia, Synthonia being a portmanteau of Synthetic Ammonia, and of similar origins is Billingham Synthonia Cricket Club. Billingham also is the home of Billingham Town F.C.

The town also has its own ice hockey team (the Billingham Bombers) in the English National Ice Hockey League, whose home rink is the Billingham Forum.

Billingham Forum

Billingham Forum, housing a theatre and sports facilities.
In 1967, Billingham Forum was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. A sports and leisure complex, it contains a swimming pool, an ice rink, and a number of sports halls. The complex also houses the Forum Theatre. Notable personalities that have performed in the theatre include Arthur Lowe, David Jason, Penelope Keith, Terry Scott, Timothy West, Carroll Baker, and Dame Anna Neagle. Roy Chubby Brown performed there for the first time in November 2006; his DVD for 2007 was recorded there as well.

As part of the proposals to regenerate Billingham, a 'Gateway' initiative proposed the construction of a new sports and leisure centre on John Whitehead Park to replace the Forum. This proved highly controversial, particularly as the Forum's would-be-replacement did not contain a theatre. The proposals were abandoned in November 2004, shortly after the Forum Theatre was granted Grade II listed building status.

Following a survey that reported 98% of participants in favour, Stockton Borough Council now intend to submit a bid of £15 - 20 million to refurbish the Forum Complex in partnership with The Billingham Partnership group.

The forum theatre is also home to The Forum Theatre School for the Performing Arts, a theatre school for ages 6 - 16. A class runs on thursday evenings, intended for younger students, and saturdays for all ages. It is ran by Sue Brackenbury and Steve McNichol, along with their team of tutors and assistants.

The Forum is now closed for refurbishment, and is planned to open 18 months after closing (during 2010).

Notable people



References



External links




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