History of Commerce House
By Commerce House
18 / 10 / 2021
If we forget about the extraordinary work that goes on inside this fabulous building for just a minute, as we have one of the other spectacular things to discuss about Commerce House and this is its history! Join us as we reflect on the journey of Commerce House and how we still stand here today.
Dating all the way back to 1872, the building now known as Bolckow House, which was designed by architect W.H. Blessley, also the architect of Eston Miners Hospital. To further improve the design, a new frontage was attached in May 1885. Added by Newcombe and Knowles, the new element was for the North Eastern Banking Company Limited who occupied the ground floor of the building for around 30 years. The bank was managed by Scot John Grierson Marshall until his death in 1903 and was succeeded by W. Charlton.
In 1875, steel production on Teesside began with Bolckow, Vaughan & Co Ltd opening the Cleveland Steelworks in Middlesbrough. Using the bessemer process, the works had three blast furnaces. The Teesside Steelworks was a large steel works that formed a continuous stretch along the south bank of the River Tees from the towns of Middlesbrough to Redcar in North Yorkshire. At its height, there were 91 blast furnaces within a 10 mile radius of the area. By April 1993 there was only one left on Teesside. Opened in 1979 and located near the mouth of the River Tees, the Redcar blast furnace was the second largest in Europe. The majority of the steelworks closed in 2015 but the Teesside Beam Mill and some support services still operate at the Lackenby part of the site.
In 1902, plans were approved for new premises on the same site for the York City and County Banking Company. These were designed by architects H.Barnes and Coates of West Hartlepool. The fresh design was in a restrained baroque style with pink granite on the ground floor, a black granite plinth and sandstone ashlar on the upper storeys, featuring a concealed roof with copper dome. Baroque architecture is a highly decorative and theatrical style which appeared in Italy in the early 17th century and gradually spread across Europe. It is undeniable that the new design of the space conformed to this luxury architectural style.
The infrastructure was originally built for the York City and County Banking Co. Ltd, and following banking amalgamations became the Midland Bank in 1918. After around a century of use by the bank, the building then went on to be occupied by The Chamber of Commerce followed by Teesside Chamber of Commerce then onto the North East Chamber of Commerce. Various businesses occupied the offices known as County Bank Chambers including: Todd & Crone Stock & Share Brokers, Steel Developments Ltd, W. Waistell Hired & Co Iron Merchants, Henry French & Co Ltd Merchants. It was then sold by the NECC for redevelopment as offices in 2015. The building Grade II listed on the National Heritage List for England- something we are very proud of here at Commerce House.
Dating to June 1936, the Teesside Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Tees District Development Board occupied the majority of office space in North Eastern Bank Chamber and the name of Commerce House was born! They stated in their Annual Report for 1936, “We have moved into new offices, premises that allow us the dignity our position in the Commercial life of the District”. Our values at Commerce House have always remained the same; we pride ourselves on giving the best business community to allow others to flourish!
Commerce House has been proudly Grade II listed since 1976, ensuring its preservation in changing times. The area surrounding the Midland Bank building changed dramatically in the early 1980’s when the Royal Exchange building opposite was demolished to make way for the A66 flyover. However, Commerce House managed to stand tall throughout all the chaos.
Moving forward to 1988, the Midland Bank Building was purchased for £100,000 by Teesside and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The building was renovated and merged with the smaller Commerce House next door. This was only the beginning of a spectacular renovation project.
In 2006, the building was bought by North East Chamber of Commerce and underwent a £1.4m renovation project. It was officially reopened by The Princes Royal in April 2008. The Chief Executive of North East Chamber of Commerce, James Ramsbotham, commented “Rather appropriately, it is watched over by the statue of the great Henry Bolckow, who was largely credited with establishing Middlesbrough as an economic powerhouse and was the first Teesside Chamber president”.
More recently, in the years 2015 - 2017, the refurbishments of the building began with the aim to provide businesses with the perfect ambience and business community. A whopping £1.2m was injected into the improvements by North East Financers which also managed to sustain the link to banking within the history of this iconic building.
By 2017, all refurbishments had been completed and tenants began to move into the luxury new space. Commerce House becomes TS1’s leading luxury business community. What an achievement for this historic building!
One of the central pieces to our interior entrance is the old-style lift which was installed by Pickering’s lifts; established in 1854 by Johnathan Pickering who originally started his career during the Crimean War making pulleys, blocks and chains. In 1888 the first commercial electric lift was designed, manufactured, and installed by Pickering’s lifts for Middlesbrough Co-Operative Society. Unfortunately, the lift is no longer in use; the NECC installed the new passenger lift during their refurbishment, however Commerce House wanted to keep this beautiful lift as a key feature on site, all the equipment for the running of the lift is kept in the motor room at the top of the building.
Another iconic feature to Commerce House is the interweaved link to the banking industry. Tann safes, which were established in 1795 by Edward Tann & Sons - Iron Safe Makers, were the first British Safe makers in the UK. The family were from London, and Edward & John Tann brothers took over from their father in 1845. Safe vaults are located all around Commerce House and definitely bring a unique factor to this building. We also have CHUBB safes produced by Charles & Jerimiah Chubb brothers who started their working carrier in 1817. CHUBB & SON PATENT LOCK & SAFE MAKERS TO THE QUEEN AND THE PRINCE OF WALES. Also CHUBB’S PATENT LOCKS AND SAFES, MAKERS TO THE BANK OF ENGLAND.
The building also features parquet flooring; the period between the Edwardian era and the 1930's was a time when parquet flooring became popular in England. This type of flooring showcased wealth and grandeur and it was not seen in what was then termed as 'working class housing'. Parquetry, as a word, is originally derived from the French 'parqueterie'. The laying of parquet flooring is called Parquetry, an art which goes back some centuries, and which was first used in France in 1684 in the Palace of Versailles. There are several parquetry patterns, the most commonly used in the UK being the Herringbone pattern. A variety of hardwoods are used for making parquet blocks, the majority of which are: oak, walnut, cherry, lime, pine and maple.
Boasting office space, hot desking, meeting rooms, virtual tenancy and a 5 star business lounge just to name a few reasons why Commerce House is the place to be. By delving into the history of our building, we are able to understand the reasoning behind each intricate detail and appreciate the stunning interiors even more!