Henry William Ferdinand Bolckow, First Mayor of Middlesbrough,
Henry William Ferdinand Bolckow, First Mayor of Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough Town Hall
Albert Park
Albert Park by Tom Bastin, Flickr, (CC BY 2.0)

Henry Bolckow was born in the village of Sülten, near the city of Schwerin in North East Germany in 1806. His father was Heinrich Bölckow of Mecklenburg, a landowner. Barely 17, Henry was sent to the Baltic port city of Rostock to gain experience in international trade.

Through connections made in Rostock, Henry decided to emigrate to Newcastle in 1827 to join a Newcastle-based German Corn export business. He quickly made a fortune in the corn trade but, rather than celebrate his success or expand the business, Henry was interested in diversifying. Encouraged by the industrial knowledge of his friend, John Vaughan, and attracted by Joseph Pease and the opportunities of a rapidly growing Middlesbrough, Bolckow and his new partners established their first iron works in Middlesbrough in 1841, the same year Henry became an English citizen.

Bolckow and Vaugh’s partnership helped establish Middlesbrough as an industrial powerhouse. Their innovation was to control steel production from mineral extraction all the way to export. In 1878, the company employed over 15,000 men, owned thousands of acres of farmland, owned mines across Durham and Spain, and was one of the largest producers of steel in Europe.

Bolckow used his wealth principally for two main causes; to expand his business empire and to enhance the development of Middlesbrough as a place to live and work. Henry was both Middlesbrough’s first mayor (1853) and first MP (1867), sitting as a Liberal. At a time when parks were considered important to public health, Bolckow gifted £20,000 to create Albert Park, opened on the 11th August 1868. He also gifted £7,000 to construct St. Hilda’s school in Middlesbrough, which at the time provided education to over 900 children. It was the school designed by Gustavus Martens of Kiel and opened in 1869 by the Duke of Devonshire. The old school building was demolished in the 1960s and is now part of an Academy Trust operating 11 primary schools.


Boase, G.C. (2004). Bolckow, Henry William Ferdinand. Available here (Accessed: 28/06/2018).

Lomas, R. (2009). An encyclopaedia of North-East England, Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd, pp.54-55.