River Tees

The River Tees (/tiːz/) is in northern England. It rises on the eastern slope of Cross Fell in the North Pennines, and flows eastwards for 85 miles (137 km) to reach the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar near Middlesbrough.[1]

River Tees
High force
High Force on the River Tees
RegionDurham, Yorkshire
Physical characteristics
 ⁃ locationCross Fell
 ⁃ coordinates54°42′02″N 2°28′02″W / 54.7006°N 2.4673°W
 ⁃ elevation754 m (2,474 ft)
MouthNorth Sea
 ⁃ location
between Hartlepool and Redcar
 ⁃ coordinates
54°38′54″N 1°08′51″W / 54.6483°N 1.1474°WCoordinates: 54°38′54″N 1°08′51″W / 54.6483°N 1.1474°W
 ⁃ elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length85 mi (137 km)
Basin size1,834 km2 (708 sq mi)
Basin features
 ⁃ leftHarwood Beck, Hudeshope Beck,
Eggleston Burn, Skerne, Billingham Beck
 ⁃ rightMaize Beck, Lune, Balder, Greta, Leven


The name Tees is possibly of Brittonic origin.[2] The element *tēs, meaning "warmth" with connotations of "boiling, excitement" (Welsh tes), may underlie the name.[2] *Teihx-s, a root possibly derived from Brittonic *ti (Welsh tail, "dung, manure"),[2] has also been used to explain the name Tees (compare River Tyne).[2]


The river drains 710 square miles (1,800 km2) and has a number of tributaries including the River Greta, River Lune, River Balder, River Leven and River Skerne.[3] Before the reorganisation of the historic English counties, the river formed the boundary between County Durham and Yorkshire. In its lower reaches it now forms the boundary between the ceremonial counties of County Durham and North Yorkshire, while in the highest part of its course it forms the boundary between the historic counties of Westmorland and Durham. The head of the valley, whose upper portion is known as Teesdale, has a desolate grandeur, surrounded by moorland and hills, some exceeding 2,500 feet (760 m). This area is part of the North Pennine Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[4]

The source of the river at Teeshead just below Cross Fell lies at an elevation of approximately 2,401 feet (732 m). It flows east-north-east through an area of shake holes through Carboniferous Limestone. Below Viewing Hill, it turns south to the Cow Green Reservoir constructed to store water to be released in dry conditions to satisfy the industrial need for water on Teesside.[4][5]

Emerging from the reservoir at Cauldron Snout the river traverses a series of hard black basalt and dolerite rocks that intrude through the softer limestone,[6] in a succession of falls or rapids. From this point downstream the Tees forms the boundary between the traditional counties of Durham and Yorkshire almost without a break, although since 1974 much of it lies wholly in Durham. The dale widens below Cauldron Snout, and trees appear, contrasting with the broken rocks where the water descends over High Force. After a short turn northwards, the river continues to meander south-easterly. Close to where the B6277 road begins to run parallel to the river is the 98-foot (30 m) High Force waterfall. About 1 12 miles (2.4 km) downstream is the smaller Low Force waterfall.[4]

"The Meeting of the Waters" - geograph.org.uk - 1413888
The confluence of the River Greta and the River Tees

The scenery becomes gentler and more picturesque as the river descends past Middleton-in-Teesdale (Durham). This locality has lead and ironstone resources. Just to the east of Middleton-in-Teesdale, the River Lune joins the Tees. After passing the village of Romaldkirk to the west, the river is joined by the River Balder at Cotherstone. The ancient town of Barnard Castle, Egglestone Abbey, and Rokeby Park, well known through Sir Walter Scott's poem, are all passed. At Rokeby the Tees is joined by the River Greta. From the area near Eggleston, the river is crossing over millstone grit.[7] From here the valley begins to open out, and traverses the rich plain east and south of Darlington in large meandering curves.[4]

The course of the valley down to here has been generally east-south-east, but it now turns north-east near the village of Whorlton. Passing Ovington and Winston it runs parallel to the A67 south-east past Gainford and Piercebridge to Darlington, passing under the A1 and A66. The section from Piercebridge to Hurworth flows over magnesian limestone.[7] It is at Croft-on-Tees that the River Skerne joins the Tees. The river now flows south past Croft-on-Tees before swinging northwards past Hurworth-on-Tees. A series of large meanders takes the course past Neasham, Low Dinsdale and Sockburn to Middleton St George.[4] In the lower reaches of the river valley the water flows over bunter sandstone and pebble beds.[7]

Just past Yarm, the River Leven joins the Tees, before passing the settlements of Eaglescliffe, Ingleby Barwick and Thornaby-on-Tees. Now nearing the sea, the Tees becomes an important commercial waterway, with the ports of Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough on its banks. It passes through the Tees Barrage between these ports, turning tidal downstream from the barrage.[4]

Teesport is built on reclaimed land on the south side of the Tees estuary below Middlesbrough.

Water levels

Monitoring station[8] Station elevation Low water level High water level Record high level
Middleton-on-Tees 216 m (709 ft) 0.37 m (1.2 ft) 1.5 m (4.9 ft) 3.19 m (10.5 ft)
Barnard Castle (Startforth) 141 m (463 ft) 0.46 m (1.5 ft) 1.4 m (4.6 ft) 2.68 m (8.8 ft)
Broken Scar (Darlington) 41 m (135 ft) 0.54 m (1.8 ft) 1.7 m (5.6 ft) 3.28 m (10.8 ft)
Low Moor (Low Dinsdale) 18 m (59 ft) 0.31 m (1.0 ft) 4 m (13 ft) 6.32 m (20.7 ft)
Yarm 7 m (23 ft) 0.45 m (1.5 ft) 2.05 m (6.7 ft) 4.08 m (13.4 ft)
  • Low and high water levels are an average figure.

Seal Sands

Before the heavy industrialisation of the Tees, the flats at Seal Sands in the estuary were home to common seals. For around 100 years this species was absent from the estuary but have now returned and can be seen on the flats at Seal Sands.[9] The Seal Sands area is now designated as the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve.


A19 Tees Viaduct rom Maze Park viewing hill-2-1088
The River Tees (Portrack Cut) passing through the Green-Blue Heart of the Tees Corridor between Middlesbrough and Stockton District.

In the first half of the 19th century, the river was straightened to enable ships to save time and money in navigation. Between Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough, the river previously meandered first south and then north of its current channel. Two "cuts", known as the Mandale Cut and the Portrack Cut, were made to straighten its course in 1810 and 1831 respectively.[10] Before these cuts were made, the journey by sailing barge from Thornaby to Middlesbrough, allowing for tides and other factors, could take as long as the journey from the mouth of the Tees to London. The Mandale Cut was the shorter of the two, at about 220 yards (200 m), with the Portrack Cut being considerably longer, although the northern meander it removed was smaller than the southern meander. Neither meander is visible today, except for the flow of Stainsby Beck into a waterway which is marked on maps first as "The Fleet" and then "Old River Tees". The current Tees Barrage is close to the site of the Mandale Cut.[11]

Since the cuts were made, the river has continued to undergo alterations to its bed and banks to make it deeper and more navigable. The channel has been made considerably narrower by dumping ship's ballast and ironworks slag along the former banks, increasing the scouring due to its natural flow. Maps made prior to 1900[12] show that between Stockton and Middlesbrough the river flowed in a channel up to 330 yards (300 m) wide in places, with many shoals and sandbars. The modern channel varies between about 110 yards (100 m) and 220 yards (200 m).

Industrialisation of the River Tees

The River Tees has been used for transporting industrial goods since the Industrial Revolution, particularly for the shipment of coal from the Durham Coalfields and also for the steel industries that later developed around Middlesbrough. In the early years merchant ships left the River Tees after loading in Yarm and Stockton on Tees; but as merchant ships became bigger, these smaller docks were superseded by bigger and deeper docks in Middlesbrough, and later even further downstream at Teesport close to the mouth of the River Tees. The emergence of the Steel industry in the late 19th century earned it the nickname "The Steel River" owing to the many steelworks that operated along the banks of the Tees. In the 20th century the river also became important to the developing chemical industry, contributing particularly to the development of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).

The move to loading coal on bigger ships in Middlesbrough was the economic driver for the development not only of the town of Middlesbrough itself but also of the railway between Stockton and Darlington. This is where George Stephenson developed his railway engine "Locomotion" and this railway was the first steam railway to carry passengers, as well as industrial materials. The Stockton and Darlington Railway was founded after an initial shareholders' meeting in a room in a public house in Yarm on Tees.

Today Teesport is owned by PD Ports; it is located 5.6 miles (9.0 km) from the North Sea and 3.1 miles (5.0 km) east of Middlesbrough. Teesport is currently the third largest port in the United Kingdom, and among the ten biggest in Western Europe, handling over 56 million tonnes of domestic and international cargo per year. The vast majority of these products are still related to the steel and chemical industries made by companies that are members of the Northeast of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC). The areas where large scale commodity chemical industry continues to be based are Billingham and Seal Sands, both on the north bank of the River Tees, and Wilton on the south bank. The Teesside Steelworks at Redcar operated until closure in 2015.

Other industrial companies that use the River Tees are manufacturing and servicing the North Sea oil and gas industry as well as the renewable energy industry sector, including offshore wind turbines. The south bank of the mouth of the River Tees has the 62-megawatt Teesside Offshore Wind Farm, built 2011–13.

Near the mouth of the River Tees is the large dry dock facility of ABLE UK, named TERRC (Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre), used to dismantle or oil rigs and other large vessels. Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station is adjacent to the east.

Legends and folklore

Peg Powler is a hag in English folklore who is said to inhabit the River Tees.[13][14][15]

In popular culture

The River Tees was featured in the television series Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the North, and in the post-apocalyptic drama The Last Train having blown its banks.

See also


  1. ^ "BBC Where I Live" - BBC. Retrieved 2 March 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d James, Alan. "A Guide to the Place-Name Evidence" (PDF). SPNS - The Brittonic Language in the Old North. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  3. ^ Environment Agency Tees Salmon Action Plan Map Page 4
  4. ^ a b c d e f Ordnance Survey Open Viewer
  5. ^ Tees at Barnard Castle in Dales Area - Artificial influences
  6. ^ "Upper Teesdale Geology". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  7. ^ a b c "Tees Valley Geology". Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  8. ^ "River levels". Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Natures World" Natures World Tees Feature
  10. ^ Wilford Wardell, John (1957). A History of Yarm; an Ancient North Riding Town. Yarm: Wardell. p. 123. OCLC 504283667.
  11. ^ "Tees Navigation Company". Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  12. ^ The History of the River Tees in Maps, 3rd. Ed. (2001), D.W. Pattenden, published by Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society ISBN 0-9507199-6-X
  13. ^ O'Donnell, Elliot (2003). Ghosts, Helpful and Harmful (1924). Kessinger Publishing. p. 199. ISBN 9780766179080. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  14. ^ Longstaffe, William Hylton Dyer (1854). The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington, in the Bishoprick. Darlington and Stockton Times. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  15. ^ Roalfe Cox, Marian (2003). Introduction to Folklore (1904). Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 9780766149403. Retrieved 14 December 2012.


External links

HMS Samphire (K128)

HMS Samphire was a Flower-class corvette that served in the Royal Navy.

She was built by Smiths Dock Company, in South Bank-on-Tees, and was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 30 June 1941.

HMS Tulip (K29)

HMS Tulip was a Flower-class corvette that served in the Royal Navy. The corvette was launched by Smiths Dock Company on 4 September 1940 and was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 18 November 1940.

HMS Verbena (K85)

HMS Verbena was a Flower-class corvette of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. She was launched in 1940, served in the Battle of the Atlantic, and was scrapped in 1951.

HMS Vetch (K132)

HMS Vetch (K132) was a Flower-class corvette that served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. After helping to escort many convoys and sinking two U-boats, she was decommissioned and sold in 1945.

HMS Zinnia (K98)

HMS Zinnia was a Flower-class corvette that served in the Royal Navy.

She was built at Smiths Dock Company, South Bank-on-Tees, launched on 28 November 1940 and commissioned on 30 March 1941.

She protected convoys in the North Atlantic during the Second World War as part of the Battle of the Atlantic. On 23 August 1941, while escorting Convoy OG 71, she was hit by a torpedo from U-564, commanded by Reinhard Suhren, exploded and sank west of Portugal at 40°25′N 10°40′W.

High Force

High Force is a waterfall on the River Tees, near Middleton-in-Teesdale, Teesdale, County Durham, England. The waterfall is within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and European Geopark.

The whole of the River Tees plunges 70 feet (21 m) over a precipice (cliff edge which is almost vertical) in two stages. After heavy rainfall the River Tees will also flow over the dry right hand side channel, creating two falls. Very occasionally the river level will be high enough to flow over the central section of rock, the last recorded time this happened was in December 2015 after Storm Desmond. In harsh winters the falls have been known to freeze, creating cathedral-like ice formations.Access to the northern bank is via a private footpath on the Raby estate for which a fee is charged. The southern bank can be reached free-of-charge via the Pennine Way public footpath which crosses the Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve.


Middleton-in-Teesdale is a small market town in County Durham, in England. It is situated on the north side of Teesdale between Eggleston and Newbiggin, a few miles to the north-west of Barnard Castle. The settlement is surrounded by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Piercebridge Roman Bridge

Piercebridge Roman Bridge is the ruin of a Roman bridge over the River Tees near the village of Piercebridge, County Durham, England.

The bridge carried Dere Street Roman road across the river. Piercebridge Roman Fort guarded the bridge.

The Tees has narrowed and changed its course over the centuries so the remains lie in a field around 90 metres (300 ft) south of the current course of the river, and about 450 metres (1,480 ft) east of Piercebridge.

What remains of the bridge are massive masonry blocks that formed its piers. The lower courses of one of the abutments still stand, partially complete, and it is possible to see the holes into which the wooden structure of the bridge would have fitted. All of the timber has disappeared in the nearly 16 centuries since the end of the Roman occupation.

Princess of Wales Bridge

The Princess of Wales Bridge is a dual carriageway road bridge carrying the Teesdale Boulevard across the River Tees in Stockton-on-Tees in the Northeast of England.

The bridge links on the south bank of the river, Teesdale Business Park in Thornaby-on-Tees to the north bank at the north end of Riverside Road at a gyratory system in Stockton-on-Tees.

The bridge is sometimes referred to as the Diana Bridge or the Princess Diana Bridge, named after the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The bridge is located down river of, and just outside, Stockton town centre.

River Leven, North Yorkshire

The River Leven is a river in North Yorkshire, England, a tributary to the River Tees. It rises on Warren Moor, part of Kildale Moor, in the North York Moors and flows to the north of the moors to join the River Tees at Yarm.

Tees Newport Bridge

The Tees Newport Bridge is a vertical-lift bridge spanning the River Tees a short distance upriver from Tees Transporter Bridge, linking Middlesbrough with the borough of Stockton-on-Tees, in the northeast of England; it was completed in 1934. It no longer lifts, but still acts as a road bridge in its permanently down position.

Tees Transporter Bridge

The Tees Transporter Bridge, often referred to as the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, is the furthest downstream bridge across the River Tees, England. It connects Middlesbrough, on the south bank, to Port Clarence, on the north bank. It is a transporter bridge, carrying a travelling 'car', or 'gondola', suspended from the bridge, across the river in 90 seconds. The gondola can carry 200 people, 9 cars, or 6 cars and one minibus. It carries the A178 Middlesbrough to Hartlepool road. Locally, the bridge is often referred to simply as 'the Transporter'.


Teesdale is a dale, or valley, of the east side of the Pennines in County Durham, England. Large parts of Teesdale fall within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - the second largest AONB in England and Wales. The River Tees rises below Cross Fell, the highest hill in the Pennines at 2,930 feet (890 m), and its uppermost valley is remote and high. The local climate was scientifically classified as "Sub-Arctic" and snow has sometimes lain on Cross Fell into June (there is an alpine ski area Yad Moss).

Teesdale (district)

Teesdale was, from 1974 to 2009, a local government district in County Durham, England. Its council was based in Barnard Castle and it was named after the valley of the River Tees.

That part of the district south of the River Tees is historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, and made up Startforth Rural District before the Local Government Act 1972 came into effect in 1974. The other predecessors to the district were Barnard Castle urban district and Barnard Castle Rural District.

Much of the area had before 1894 constituted a single Teesdale rural sanitary district.

The district was the least-populous ordinary district in England, with only the City of London and the Isles of Scilly being smaller. It had the second-lowest population density in England, after Eden, Cumbria.

The district was abolished as part of the 2009 structural changes to local government in England.


Teesside () is a conurbation around Middlesbrough on the River Tees in North East England which also includes Billingham, Redcar, Stockton-on-Tees and Thornaby. It is a centre for heavy industry, although the number of people employed has declined. Traditional industries, primarily steelmaking (British Steel) and chemical manufacture (Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI)), have been replaced to a large extent by high technology activities, science development and service sector roles.

Upper Teesdale

Upper Teesdale is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the Teesdale district of west County Durham, England. It encompasses an extensive upland area that includes the headwaters of the River Tees and the surrounding catchment area upstream of the village of Langdon Beck.

The site has a diverse mix of habitats, mainly dry heath, with wet heath and blanket mire in areas that are poorly drained.

The SSSI is one of the most important botanical sites in Britain; the flora is exceptionally rich in species that are nationally rare, including some that are relicts of the arctic-alpine environment of the last glacial period. The area supports internationally important populations of some wading birds and is home to several rare invertebrates. Within the SSSI are several locations that are of national importance geologically, including one of only two known outcrops of 'sugar' limestone in Britain.The southern part of the SSSI largely coincides with the eastern portion of the Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, which has been designated a 'Biosphere Reserve' by UNESCO. The entire area falls within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Much of Upper Teesdale SSSI was formerly designated as Upper Teesdale and Appleby Fells SSSI. Following a substantial revision in 1990, most of the site was divided between two new (but adjoining) SSSIs, Upper Teesdale in Durham and Appleby Fells in Cumbria. A small part was amalgamated with Moor House NNR to form a third SSSI, Moorhouse and Cross Fell, which is contiguous with the other two. At the same time, two further SSSIs, Mill Beck Wood and Moking Hurth Cave, were incorporated into Upper Teesdale SSSI and ceased to exist as separate entities.

Victoria Bridge (Stockton-on-Tees)

The Victoria Jubilee Bridge is a road bridge carrying Bridge Road (A1130) east west across the River Tees between Stockton-on-Tees and Thornaby-on-Tees in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees in the north east of England.

Commonly referred to as the Victoria Bridge, it is located just south east of Stockton town centre.

Under an 1881 act of Parliament, the bridge was constructed (1882–1887) at a cost of £69,051 by Whitaker Brothers of Leeds,

financed by the local council, a tramway company, North East Railways and the water board, and commemorates the 50th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.

Whorlton, County Durham

Whorlton is a small village in County Durham, in England. It is situated near the River Tees and to the east of Barnard Castle.

Whorlton Bridge is a 183ft long suspension bridge which crosses the River Tees. It is Britain's oldest suspension bridge relying on original chainwork.The village has a public house called 'Fernaville's Rest'.

Arthur Headlam and James Wycliffe Headlam were both born in the village.


Yarm is a small town in the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire, England. The town is on the south bank of the River Tees and is historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire. The bridge at Yarm marked the furthest reach of tidal flow up the River Tees until the opening, in 1995, of the Tees Barrage, which now regulates river flow above Stockton. As the last bridge on the river before the sea, it was superseded by a new toll bridge opened in Stockton in 1771. The oldest part of the town, around the High Street, is situated in a loop of the river, and the newer parts of the town extend to the point where the River Leven meets the River Tees.

Rivers of Yorkshire
North Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
East Riding of Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
The borough of Stockton-on-Tees
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