Blackborough: A Complete History of a Non-Existent Place (Part 7)

The White Heat of Technology (1947 – 1963 AD)

For Christmas 1948 the city of Bergen gifts to Blackborough a large Christmas tree. As part of a year of events celebrating the official reopening of the Northumbria Museum, including a special exhibition of the Northumbria Hoard, there is a grand tree lighting ceremony of the tree, positioned in front of the museum, and the tree-lighting becomes an annual event.

A young man called David Newman, demobbed from the Dorwinby Hussars and deeply affected by the experience in Belsen, begins an organisation in Blackborough called Care with Compassion.

Based initially out of his living room in the Ropewalks, before long this charity is coordinating emergency relief in disaster areas across the country during the terrible winter flooding experienced in this time. In time this organisation begins to look abroad as well.

The Victory Day regatta goes from strength to strength, with The University of Blackborough winning in 1947 and 48. Northumbria poly win in 1949, and in this year the growing popularity of the event sees a mens race introduced as well.

With the passage of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, planning permission is established as a legal requirement for any land development.

To control this, the Act reorganised the planning system from the 1,400 existing planning authorities to 145 (formed from county and borough councils)

These local authorities were given wide-ranging powers in addition to approval of planning proposals; they could carry out redevelopment of land themselves, or use compulsory purchase orders to buy land and lease it to private developers.

They were also given powers to control outdoor advertising, and to preserve woodland or buildings of architectural or historic interest – the latter the beginning of the modern listed building system.

One of the first acts of the Blackborough authorities under this new power is to declare as listed buildings various historic buildings such as Blackborough Castle, the Guildhall, the Walls of the Old Town and the entire Melbourne Quarter

The local authorities also start to express concern at traffic gridlock in the frequently narrow medieval streets of Blackborough. Plans are set in motion in various locations, for a major review of local traffic with a view to roadwidening in particular.

The report is set to be issued in 1951

Workers at Wolfes down tools in protest at lack of progress at housing reconstruction and a perceived lack of priority for the homes of workers. Strikes spread across much of Blackborough, causing almost 10 days of economic paralysis in March 48, until the council agrees to a public meeting to assuage peoples concerns.

More towerblocks commence construction in Sheepsgrave. Many people move in, delighted at the modern, airy living conditions.

Many architects however are appalled at the ugly utilitarian nature of the buildings, and concerned at the social effect of isolating communities in such buildings, especially as it becomes rapidly clear that housing is not being accompanied by adequate shops and schooling in the same complexes.

Few people pay these concerns much need in the optimism of post war reconstruction.

Many are also worried at the speed these buildings are going up. Such fast construction hardly gives confidence in high quality construction methods…….

During the 1947 Olympics in London, many of the football games are hosted in regional cities, with Blackboroughs football stadia hosting many of the games.

Northwood House continues to gather dust, with even the historic grounds and gardens standing neglected. The local authorities, endowed though they may be with new planning powers, stand by impotent as this privately owned property stands vacant

Hollowstone Electronics secure a coup when a noted pioneer in computing, becomes disillusioned with his current career as a manager of early computing company Lyons Electronic Office, a Mr David Caminier. Taking up a senior management position in HE, Caminier soon comes into contact with Tommy Flowers and his associates at the university.

In general, housing reconstruction and the building of new estates continues apace

The new spire of Redhall Cathedral rises, a glittering tower of shimmering glass, complete with viewing platforms. As an act of reconciliation, it is to be surmounted with a cross constructed of metal from the ruins of Cologne. Completion is estimated for next year.

The tramline commencing near the Cathedral before crossing the bridge into Blackborough proper is in urgent need of renovation. When in 1949 the road has to be dug up to relay the entire track, the disruption causes widespread discontent, feeding into the general mood that transport across the region needs a major upgrade.

With the independence of the countries of the Indian Subcontinent, the newly independent countries find themselves needing diplomatic representation around the world. With their High Commissions in London, regional consulates are also required. India, Pakistan and Ceylon find themselves setting up shop, appropriately enough, on a series of townhouses on India Road.

When a series of neighbouring plots fall vacant, that local stalwart of Blackborough retail, Armstrongs, acquires them and begins its first major expansion in nearly 50 years.

Many of the surplus Nissen Huts which have been lying around in storage, are purchased by an enterprising local entertainer called Micheal Mutlin. He proceeds to ship them all to a vacant plot of land he has purchased in Abbeywood.

Rebuilding continues at the George Street Library. Local business owner Arthur Armstrong, of the Armstrongs Department Store fortune, provides funds to finish the building in newly cut Portland Stone befitting its historic grandeur. It is estimated it will take another 5 years to complete.

Construction is completed for a war memorial to the Children of the Blitz, on the spot of the school demolished during the blitz of 1940. constructed of the metal of the crashed German bomber that demolished the school, is is a simple statue of a child, looking into the sky, shielding its eyes from the sun, atop a marble plinth.

Blackborough Polytechnic, in its search for a new campus, secures permission to use the site of the former POW camp. Beginning construction in the Summer of 1949, the plan is to have accommodation for 800 students.

In reference to the former occupation of the site, it is christened the `Germantown campus`.

A hitherto unknown local man with a slightly mysterious accent begins work at a small neighbourhood bakery. He will work at the ovens for the next 20 years…..

When property developers attempt to purchase a substantial portion of Henderson Wood for the construction of houses, the local……..`alternative` community launch an unprecedented public campaign, lobbying the council and generally making themselves a nuisance to all and sundry until the wood is declared protected wild land and thus preserved for future generations

Ethel May Parker qualifies as a psychiatric nurse, at just the right moment-just as the NHS comes into effect.

With the increased awareness of wartime inflicted psychological disorders, the many Hospitals on the South bank of the Dubnus, recently amalgamated into the Redhall and District NHS trust, begin recruiting practitioners of this new and developing medical field.

Local Orientam staff, prospecting for new ideas, find the recently serialised diaries of Clive Burrows.

On the lookout for a gripping crime drama in a wartime setting, the diary accounts of the Blackout Butcher are prime material

At Jody Animations, production of King Arthur is progressing well, with initial private screenings gaining rave reviews for the use of colour and the storyline.

One local reviewer who had spent the 1930s in America, compares it favourably to the cinematic masterpiece, Snow White. Contacts at Warner Brothers and Disney also respond favourably, with US distributors bidding for US broadcasting rights. Release is scheduled for Christmas 1950.

The first peacetime flights begin from the Wildfield Aerodrome. BOAC set up a route to Marseille and Frankfurt

Randall Precision Instruments receives a boost as free Optical care becomes an important part of the new NHS. RPI becomes the key local supplier for Optical supplies to all local opticians and hospitals

The Stick-It company receives a boost as it is granted the contract to supply stationary to all local authority run offices in the area.

Soon this is joined by the administration sections of the various Moran businesses (recently amalgamated as Moran Industries) and Wolfes Shipyards

As construction of the Germantown campus starts, reconstruction of the Northumbria Polytechnics Edmondsley Campus is completed in 1949. Housing 3 large multipurpose workshops, the familiar crash and bang of apprentices and metal work fills the area.

With the nationalisation of the mines by the labour government, the last mine in the area, loss making and utterly in need of modernisation though it may be, remains open. If one mine represents the failures of the post war British mining industry, it will be the Edmondsley Pit.

With wartime press restrictions lifted, and the public demand for scandal and entertainment undiminished, Clive Burrows submits an extract of hsi wartime diaries to the local newspapers. To his surprise, he is offered the princely sum of £3 a chapter to serialise the diary.

The wartime defences are all but gone from the beaches now, except for the many pillboxes along the beach. Initial plans to remove them are shelved when it is realised that they are quite a popular visitor attraction on the Abbeywood beach.

By 1949, the pier is gradually returning to life, with many of the amusement plots gradually filling.

With the closure of the Abbeywood mine, British Steel, the new nationalised owner of the site, has a glut of spare land in the area. a large portion of barren land north of the mine is deemed unsuitable for housing.

This is purchased for a nominal fee of £200 by a local businessman with an eye for a bargain.

Before long some 70 Nissen Huts start appearing on the site….

The developing cold war in Europe,exacerbated by the recent test of the first Sovier nuclear weapon and the emergency of the new NATO pact, sees plans for a north sea monitoring station prepared.

Construction begins on the Rothray memorial.

Much like nearby RPI, NorthMed prospers as the NHS creates a steady demand for various items of medical equipment.

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In 1953 David Newman unveils the national headquarters for Care with Compassion in central Blackborough.

Now that Northwood House has become a listed property, the Local Authority and prominent local residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the building’s increasingly dilapidated state. The Earl of Blackborough, no longer resident at Northwood House, is uninterested in the upkeep of the mansion and insists that he will only carry out renovations if the local authority agrees to fund them.

In 1955 the local authority puts a proposal to the Earl, they fund renovations if the Earl agrees to open Northwood House to the public.

The local authority conducts its review of traffic in Blackborough and a dual carriageway ringroad is proposed to bypass the narrow medieval streets.

In the mean time road widening measures continue with dilipadated and bombed out houses torn down throughout the early 1950s.

Bridges in Sheepsgrave are replaced to allow for wider roads.

In the process of widening the roads one of the aging tramway lines is torn up.

The new head offices of the Blackborough Brewery Company are completed

Major new towerblocks arise in Sheepsgrave and North Blackborough including the huge Greenheath Towers close to the prison.

Homes in the Melbourne Quarter and the Old Town are turned into shops and restaurants.

Bomb sites and war time defences continue to be cleared.

A major new rail station, North Blackborough Station, opens.

Work resumes on expanding the underground metro and a new metro station opens in Greenheath.

Major housing expansion takes place in North Blackborough and a new high street, “Scotland Street”, is built.

In 1954 Hollowstone Electronics begins mass-production of the HE Ajax 331, a high-speed electronic data processing machine.

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The HE Ajax narrowly missed out on being the first computer with floating-point arithmetic hardware as IBM released the IBM 704 a few months earlier, although the HE Ajax outperformed IBM’s machine at 14,000 additions per second.

Blackborough United celebrate a record 5th FA Cup win. Planning begins for expansion of their home ground, New Roarkes Stadium.

The Cathedral Spire is completed and a memorial ceremony and consecration is officiated by the Bishop of Redhall.

The damaged area of Redhall’s redlight district is rebuilt and big businesses moves in, including clubs and sex-shops that open to much local protest.

Sub-standard housing is demolished and the permanent population of Redhall continues to shrink as homes give way to shops and restaurants.

Rebuilding of the George Street Library is completed.

Expansion of the flag-ship Armstrongs Department Store is completed.

Rebuilding of the church is completed.

In 1955 the annual Frog Swim is cancelled due to safety concerns.

Most of the remaining war-time defences are cleared from the beaches of Eastmoreland.

The Memorial to The Children of the Blitz, constructed of the metal of a crashed German bomber, is officially opened.

The roads of Frogmore are expanded.

Old Moran House is turned into the corporate offices.

The Moran Company constructs a new plastics production facility in south Eastmoreland and a new modern corporate headquarters over-looking the park

The American corporation Du Pont approaches the Moran Company regarding a merger. If Moran accepts the resulting international conglomerate would be the world’s second largest chemicals company.

New pre-fab houses, apartments, and tower blocks arise.

The Frogmore Pasty Company is established, and begins operating stands selling Frog Pasties across the north of England.

In the 1951 election Labour held the constituency of Eastmoreland with Britain’s first ethnic Chinese MP, Arthur Won, taking over from the retiring incumbent.

The remaining dyeworks in Westbrook close.

Major new housing developments take place.

Work completes on Blackborough Polytechnic ‘s new Germantown campus.

Several new tower blocks arise.

Ethel May Parker becomes the first nurse-manager of Crane Memorial Hospital and begins implementing a more compassionate approach based on therapeutic activities.

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Ethel May Parker, who will become Britain’s oldest woman, in 1955. Parker’s pioneering work prioritised meaningful occupation and opportunities for patients to develop their own recovery strategies.

The small cluttered homes around Merdinbrook begin to be torn down.

Gerald Gardner uses donations from followers of his new “Wicca” religion to create a purpose-built witchcraft museum at the entrance to Henderson Wood and to restore the historic Henderson shack to how it would have looked in the middle ages. More of his followers move in to the area and set up market stalls selling home-made goods, and a few begin living in and trading out of the abandoned train carriages. This is the beginning of the world-famous Henderson Market.

As part of the Festival of Britain a huge exhibition centre, Festival Hall, and the Blackborough Science Museum open in Wildfield.

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Wildfield Festival Hall was home to a major exhibition of British innovation during the Festival of Britain.

Orientem studio releases “The Blackout Butcher”, based on the serialised diaries of Clive Burrows however the film is dismissed as cheap and in poor taste and fails to do well. Orientem subsequently makes an attempt at kitchen-sink realism with the release of a film adaptation of the Terrence Rattigan Play The Deep Blue Sea. The film has some critical success but performs only modestly and Orientem’s fortunes seem to be on the downturn and both Hammer and Pinewood Studios begin making enquiries about acquiring the studio.

Meanwhile, the now independent Jody Animations enjoys continuing success with animated version of Animal Farm and The Man Who Would Be King following King Arthur. These films are noted for their artistry and for a distinctly more adult feeling than Disney.

Wilfield Aerodrome is expanded, developing into a civilian airport.

The Nissen Huts are transported to Abbeywood and become accommodation for Joysea budget holiday camp.

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Joysea holiday camp offered cheap seaside holidays for all the family.

The Pier is active once again with new electronic entertainments introduced.

Closure of Abbeywood air base is considered.

The Rothray memorial is completed.

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In 1954 Sugar Park Towers housing estate is completed, at the time considered the height of modern design.

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Land is cleared for a large new hospital planned for the edge of town.

In 1956 one of the Mansions is bequeathed to the University in a will. The University of Blackbourgh builds two buildings in the garden, and relocates the Humanities and Religious departments.

The rocket club, after the launch of Sputnik gathers enough funds to launch their 19th rocket. The G-1 successfully launches at the clubs launch site eight miles north of Blackborough, and as a result, the club receives a small grant by the Government, and technical help from the Polytechnic and the University. They build a new assembly plant, and begin work on a rocket that can reach the Mesosphere. The G-2 is launched in 1958.

Northwood house is opened to the public after a council funded repair campaign.

Seven tower blocks are built in Frogmore on the site of some slums. Designed by the architect William Brockwood, Meadow Hills, with modern insulation, indoor toilets and other modern features, soon becomes a popular place to live despite its brutalist looks. The ten storey blocks soon become a major feature of the skyline. However, some protest is encountered as a small group of Christians argue that it overlooks the church

A twenty storey tower block is built not too far away on the old Moran and Co armoury

Frog pasties continue to become popular, and a new production site is set up.

The Du pont -Moran merger is turned down, but both companies sign an agreement to set up a joint marketing company to market products to Asian countries. Moran also sells its small North American operation to Du-Pont.

A man drowns in the St Dubnus estuary when his boat capsizes due to strong currents near the new department store. Questions are asked about the placement of the department store.

A fire breaks out at a brothel in Redhall, killing several people including a local councillor, which causes a major local scandal.

Crane Memorial hospital provides the core of the staff for the next hospital and is therefore shut. Discussions begin on what to do with the buildings. Ethel May Parker becomes the first Nurse Manager of Blackborough District Hospital

A few new films are made by Orientem Studios. None are particularly bad, but none are extremely good. The studio is earning just enough money to keep going, but in 1958 merges with Pinewood studios.

Jody Animation produces three films in the period – One original one called Sierra Bandits, an adaption of Lord of the flies, and an award winning adaption of War and Peace.

A unusual baby boom puzzled some scientists, who conducted a large campaign to find out the cause, resulting in seven wildly different academic papers.

The Polytechnic works with the University to offer a joint degree in Mechanical engineering

The hospital in Sugar Park is completed.

blackborough 1960s

In the 1960s the population of Blackborough remains more or less static as the post war boom drops off.

Major new road bypasses are built connecting the city to the A1 motor-way to the south-west.

Most of the remaining World War II defences are cleared and Anderson shelters in people’s back gardens are torn down.

Following the opening of Northwood House to the public the commoners who have been kept out for 350 years finally get the chance to wander around the mansion and the Earl’s manor home becomes a major tourist attraction

Under-sized homes in the Sheepsgrave area are torn down and new homes built.

Some riverside factories are bought up to be turned into residential properties.

A new tower block, Trafalgar Heights, is erected close to the headquarters of the Blackborough brewery company.

A new Magistrate’s Court is built close to Blackborough Prison.

Road-widening continues and more of the tramway is closed.

New homes are built in the Greenheath area.

A JCB factory is built to the north-west of the city.

Hollowstone Electronics produces the Ajax Business Machine, a computer specifically designed for the banking industry.

More homes are built in Frogmore-Eastmoreland.

Families from across the city move into Meadow Hills.

The Frogmore Pasty Company begins selling pasties as food-on-the-go at major rail stations across the country.

The permanent population of Redhall shrinks further as rents rise and homes are turned into upmarket shops and restaurants.

The old redlight district comes under threat due to the rising rents and backlash following the scandal of the brothel fire.

In order to enforce the new Obscene Publications Act the Blackborough Vice Squad is formed, a small group of highly experienced officers given carte blanche to prevent a future scandal like the brothel fire.

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Jack Starr, head of the Blackborough Vice Squad.

Some of the area’s light industry and dockside workshops relocate.

Construction begins on a car park and shopping centre aiming to compete with Armstrong’s Department store.

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Redhall Rotunda under construction.

Redhall Athletic Football Stadium is expanded and an apartment block is built next door, giving some lucky fans on the top floor the opportunity to watch games from the comfort of their balconies.

The Crane Memorial Hospital continues to sit abandoned as some people want the 250 year old hospital to be made a listed building. The local authority considers a number of applications for the old hospital to be turned into a museum or hotel whilst stories abound about the ghosts of former mental patients wandering the abandoned hospital.

In 1961 a new branch of the Imperial War Museum opens in the former hospital.

The Wiccan community at Henderson Wood continues to grow and develops into the centre of the emerging hippie movement in Blackborough. Several of the abandoned train carriages are moved to the edge of the woods and more stalls are set up, selling handcrafted goods, occult objects, revolutionary books and (secretly) cannabis.

New homes are built along Merdinbrook.

At the Germantown campus of the Polytechnic a major new arts centre is built in concrete brutalist style. The Germantown Arts Centre quickly finds itself at the centre of controversy as a student adaptation of the novel Things Falls Apart causes a stir due to its negative portrayal of the British empire in Africa.

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Germantown Arts Centre, with its infamously pointless decorative concrete cone visible in the centre.

Jody animations begins work on a major new film, an animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

Production begins on a new film at Pinewood’s newly acquired studio in Wildfield. Based on a popular series of novels the film, due for release in 1962, will introduce a character called “James Bond”.

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Part of the Pinewood studio was used for the production of Dubnus Television, the ITV franchise for north-east England which goes on air in 1961.

New offices are erected close to the studio.

The aircraft manufacturing plant closes several of it’s facilities, unable to compete with larger out-of-town plants.

Hundreds of new homes are constructed.

A large car park is built close to Wildfield Festival Hall.

The area around the ox bow lake is turned into a park, rather unimaginatively named Ox Park.

The old Edmondsley mine, the last mine within the city limits, is finally closed down. Having been all but exhausted for years the mine had long ceased to be profitable, but this doesn’t prevent widespread protests and sympathy strikes.

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Striking miners protesting the closure of the last city mine.

Close to the site of the closed mine Hollowstone Electronics opens a new computer lab.

A writer in Edmondsley publishes “Black City: A Bloody History of Blackborough”. The pop-history account details the darker side of Blackborough’s history, from the singing decapitated head of Saint Dubnus to the Redhall mass-suicide following the Norman conquest, the Black Death and massacre of the Rothray pagans, the Jewish persecutions, the Stonewall-McIntyre feud, the Great Fire, the Beast of Blackborough, the Henderson Witch, the grisly pie-maker Mr Dott, the murderous 17th century Earl, the Blackout Butcher and the criminal matriarch known as the Russian Widow. The morbid account of the city’s history proves massively popular and cements the city’s gothic reputation.

An unexploded bomb goes off close to the dog track. Fortunately no one is hurt.

The tourist trade continues to go strong, however more people are beginning to go abroad for their holidays.

The old gasworks is closed down.

A new branch of the Imperial War Museum opens in Merdin and in 1960 what remains of the WWI era U-boat is moved there.

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The remain of the u-boat on display at the new Imperial War Museum.

Hundreds of new homes are built.

Construction begins on the Blackborough Aquarium.

In 1960 a protester is killed during a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmamant demonstration at the entrance to Rothray naval base.

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Rothray Naval Base became the focus for local peace protesters.

The number of sailors stationed at the naval base drops to less than a thousand.

In the small village of Marsden, to the north of Sunderland and to the south of Blackborough, life continues much as it has for centuries. And Blackborough continues to expand and threaten to absorb Marsden as it has for centuries.

Erosion causes a piece to break off Marsden Rock and fall into the sea.

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The rocky arch off the coast of Marsden would become a popular postcard scene.

To the north of Blackborough tourists increasingly visit the village of Whitley Bay.

St Cuthbert’s Lighthouse switches over from an oil lamp to an electric light.

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St Cuthbert’s Lighthouse, only accessible by a narrow stone causeway during high tides.

Mines, Missiles & Motown (1963 – 1980 AD)

The downturn of industry in the area leads to resentment of the most recent arrivals to the city. Blackborough has a long history of immigration and the largest UK-Chinese population outside of London but there is increasing hostility towards immigrant from the West indies, India and Pakistan.

Wolfe’s Shipyard has not had a new commission in over two years and unless some sort of rescue buy-out can be arranged it will soon fold.

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Laid off workers outside Wolfe’s Shipyard.

In 1963, following their 6th F.A Cup win, Blackborough United move from New Roarkes Stadium to a large modern stadium named Scotland Road on the northern outskirts of town.

The Trafalgar Heights housing block officially opens.

The JCB factory in the north-west of the city goes into full production.

The new bypasses connecting the city to the A1 motor-way prove a boon for businesses in the city. New regional offices are established for major corporations such as John Lewis, Bowmer & Kirkland, and United Biscuits.

A strip of land to the west of the Northumbrian Museum is bought up by developers and turned into a major shopping area.

A new cutting edge modernist theatre and concert hall, Northumberland Hall, is built close to the museum.

The Ajax Business Machine continues to be sold to banks and financial institutions, Hollowstone Electronics begins turning a profit and in 1964 and Tony Hoare joins the team where he develops the sorting algorithm Quicksort and CSP language.

Arnold Moran dies. The family no longer have much of a role in running Moran Industries but his son Edward takes up his father’s position as head of the Moran Peace Award Foundation (and various other charitable foundations).

The Frogmore Pasty Company goes from strength to strength.

The fish-market is purchased by property-developers too much protest from local traders.

The Blackborough Gazette moves out of the manor house on George Sreet it has been run from for centuries, relocating to a new office building nearby.

The Northumbrian Steel Company goes into administration and their plant at Baltic Dock closes.

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Steel workers protesting the closure of the Baltic Dock plant.

The Stick It-Company uses some of the vacated industrial facilities for glue production as they begin selling Stick It Notes abroad in increasing quantities.

The residential population of Redhall continues to shrink.

The Tories lose their only Blackborough City MP in the 1964 General Election. After the election the constituency boundaries are redrawn with depopulated Redhall folded into the surrounding constitutencies.

Jack Starr, head of the Blackborough Police’s vice squad, begins extorting businesses in the red-light district.

The Redhall Rotunda Shopping Centre is completed and a grand opening ceremony held.

The Merdin Imperial War Museum, located at the former psychiatric hospital, develops into a major tourist attraction.

The community at Henderson Wood has grown beyond just Wiccans. The thriving weekend market now caters to Wiccans, beatniks, hippies, teenage delinquents and weirdos of various varieties, selling music, hand-made goods, books, clothes, drugs, etc.

A housing terrace close to Miner’s Field collapses in a sink-hole when one of the old mines caves in. Thankfully no one is killed but hundreds of people are made homeless as the area is evacuated and the area enclosed by a fence.

Over a hundred substandard homes in Merdinbrook are declared unfit for human habitation. To resolve the housing crisis ambitious plans are drawn up for one of the largest tower blocks ever built in the UK: A 32 storey brutalist concrete tower designed by Hungarian architect Ernő Goldfinger.

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Erno Goldfinger, standing in front of his much maligned creation, Trafalgar Heights.

Jody’s animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings is released in 1963 and soon becomes a cult success as many young people are drawn to the material and psychedelic visuals.

The first James Bond Film, Dr. No, is released in 1962, filmed by Pinewood partly at their new studio in Wildfield. The old Orientem studios are expanded by Pinewood.

The Blackborough Aquarium opens in 1963.

The Abbeywood air base closes down as the local RAF squadron is relocated out of the city.

More of the remaining WWII era defences are cleared from the beach.

New homes are built along the coast.

In 1963 farmland in Hillcrow is bought up for development.

Sub-standard housing stock is pulled down and modern new homes built.

Government funding is made available to expand the Hollowstone Electronics computer lab with space provided for use by the first University of Northumbria computer science students.

An employee at Moran Industries leaks plans to close down the Arsenal in South Edmondsley, leading to fears that hundreds of jobs will be lost.

In 1964 the Blackborough Gazette runs an exclusive story, publishing leaked information that shows a number of accusations of rape against sailors have been covered up by the navy going back at least a decade. The revelations lead to a massive outcry and further protests outside the base.

Sugar Park expands and a new high-street is established.

Tensions develop following an influx of Indian and Pakistani immigrants into the largely poor white area, leading to several incidents of violence.

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Police clashing with anti-migration marchers.

In the summer of 1964 members of the rival “Mods” and “Rockers” youth subcultures meet for a mass brawl on Abbeywood Beach.

A new guesthouse opens close to St Cuthbert’s lighthouse.

The woods to the north of town are designated as Greenbelt land.

The general expansion of housing across the area, and the redevelopment of the airport, provide an immediate local demand for JCB products. As JCB achieve strong sales, they develop a national reputation and sales increase accordingly. In the space of 6 years the JCB workforce increases from 3000 to 6000 with plans for further expansion.

In 1965, having received only 3 entire new builds and a handful of refurbishment contracts in the last 5 years, Wolfes is in crisis.

A new buyer takes the yard and name with a plan to introduce a dramatic series of reforms and ‘efficiencies’. By late 1966 the shipyards workforce has been slashed from a high of 9500 down to 5500, with proposals for pay and benefits to be significantly reduced.

The shipbuilders union begins an immediate programme of industrial action.

Into this febrile environment, one August’s night, steps Marshall Wadsley, a recently arrived immigrant from Trinidad. After going for a walk in the sultry midsummer night with his white Norwegian wife Ulrikka, a group of white strikers returning home from the picket lines happen upon them.

At the time, common though unsubstantiated rumours are that the new shipyard owners plan to replace locals with cheap foreign labour.

Words are had and before long Wadsley is fleeing in fear for his life.

As so often happens, drama heaps upon drama and dispirite groups jump on the bandwagon. Over the course of 3 nights between the 17-20 August, 200 cars are burnt out, 20 properties burnt down and, significantly, severe damage done to overhead line in the area during what will be known locally as the Shipyard Riots.

Scotland Road Stadium hosts a number of Group 3 matches during the 1966 World Cup

With the damage to the tracks of the overhead line requiring expensive and fast repairs, the outdated nature of the city transport infrastructure is brought into sharp relief. In 1967 it is announced that all but the Redhall to Castle St line of the tram network will be closed by 1972, and even the overhead lines future is in serious doubt.

With the opening of the Trafalgar Heights, the city is in the full midst of the 1960s modernist boom, but with the opening of `Quebec Quarter Parade`, as the new shopping centre is called, the contrast with the cities stately neoclassical public buildings, and the 1960s architecture is clearer by the day.

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The Quebec Quarter Parade.

This discontent is initially expressed only in architectural and artistic quarters, but in 1966, severe structural problems are discovered in the foundations of the beloved Dickens Oratory, which has housed public events and concerts for over a century.

The `considered opinion` of the appointed experts of the day is to demolish it and build a concert arena `Fit for the 20th century`.

Opposition is instant and fierce, led by the Blackborough Gazette. Despite this, a meeting of the Blackborough City Council planning committee votes (by a margin of a single vote) to accept the recommendations.

The reaction knocks the Council squarely on the back foot. It ranges from the predictable-protests, to the bizarre-city waste collectors, spurred on by local Union reps, refuse to empty the bins, indeed, dump the contents of others, outside the opulent council buildings and even the homes of those who voted in favour of the demolition.

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Needless to say, by the end of 1967, the government, prompted by a unanimous front of local MPs, steps in and declares its plans to `review the decision`.

In 1967, a letter is printed in the Blackborough Gazette:

Sir,
It is my very great fortune to have been so recently moved into the new and if I may say palatial Trafalgar Heights Residence. Having lived for many years in the home of my birth in Sheepsgrave in which 6 of us shared an outside privy and gas lighting, no superlatives can adequately express the wonders of our home. Inside plumping! Electricity! The peace and a life not lived cheek by jowel! 

The only failing I can mention is the distance of the building from local amenities such as shops and libraries, but in this age of wonders, who can doubt they will be solved soon?

Yours,
A Happy Resident of Trafalgar Heights”

Amidst the almost ridiculous, happy naivety, lies a sinister truth which will soon become apparent of many post war apartment blocks-the isolation from traditionally close knit communities, and the absence of local services.

This optimistic letter is the first hint that all is not well in the social housing of the 60s.

Jonathan Moran, 27 years old, and heir to the Moran fortune has a successful career in the City of London, after the traditional childhood of the rich and influential at Eton and Oxford.

Part of his job involves extensive travel in the United States and Europe. Ever the venture capitalist, through his contacts in his ancestral city, he is aware of the success of the Ajax machine in financial institutions across Britain and sees a golden opportunity to export it across the Atlantic.

Hollowstone Electronics is not, however, a multinational conglomerate with an endless supply of funds with which to send representatives to trade fairs, produce advertisements and negotiate the labyrinthine maze of export rules and regulations.

What they need, is publicists and lawyers. For that they need money.

Before long, Morans people are on the train to his ancestral home with a proposal to purchase a share of the business to develop its export potential……..

With the old Tank Factory lying vacant, The Frogmore Pasty Company snaps it up at a bargain price. With a growth in home refrigeration, business is booming. Frogmore Pasty sets about expanding its production facilities in order to make itself a presence in more than just train and bus stations, aiming for the fridges of Britains homes and supermarkets.

The Stick-It company undergoes a major restructure. Now officially rebranded S-I Industries, it takes over more of the abandoned Baltic Dock, which is rapidly becoming an SI supported industrial estate. Indeed SI internal memos actively call it the Baltic Industrial park. This is a boon to struggling local employment stats.

With the release of a number of products stemming from its expertise with chemical adhesives, such as Sticky Tape, `Super Glues` and even Sandpaper, SI executives are determined to ride the boom in mid 60s home crafts and DIY.

In 1967, SI post profits of nearly £1 million-a massive amount in 1960s values.

A conference in Washington in 1965 calls for a global register of sites of historical importance following the saga of the Aswan Damn and the moving of Abu Simbel.

In reparation for a series of conferences that will eventually result, in 1972, in the UNESCO World Heritage sites, the government begins its own audit of historic sites of importance in the UK.

Hearing of this, the local Member of Parliament secures a ministerial visit. Letters will later reveal this is due to serious concerns about the placement, in close proximity to the historic Redhall centred around St Canutes cathedral of the `Carbuncle` that is the Redhall Rotunda shopping centre

When the UK eventually nominates its first UNESCO world heritage sites, Redhall intends to be on the list.

A local journalist hears rumours of corruption at the very top of the local police force

Ethel May Parker retires after a varied career. Ending her career as a respected psychiatric nurse-manager of an innovative team of female nurses, she does not intend a quiet retirement, and almost immediately begins producing articles for medical journals.

Before long she has established her own, self produced psychiatric magazine, entitled `Mindful`, which rapidly becomes a respected contributor to the field of psychiatric medicine and debate.

In 1967, a group of local `Hippies`, inspired by the exploits of the `Pirate` radio station, Radio Caroline, load up a small fishing boat with food for a month and radio transmitters.

They broadcast from outside territorial waters, occasionally relocating. Their purpose, to advertise a `Free Festival of Peace and Love` in Hendersons Wood for 3 days in August. Ranging up and down the cost as far as Southern Scotland and as far south as Hull, they have no idea who may have listened until the first day of the festival, August 15th.

Turnout to the first Hendersons Event, as it is termed, is somewhat larger than planned.

There is a minor moral panic at the sudden descent of some 2000 `Youths`. The event however passes off with no real trouble. Plans are already afoot to make it an annual event

In 1965, the City of Blackborough Corporation, the legal owner of the Wildfield Aerodrome, announces a name change. The Aerodrome becomes Blackborough International Airport.

Intent on making the Airport fit for the new era of mass air travel, contracts are signed with local developers to lay, parallel to the existing runway, a stronger and longer runway, as well as constructing a brand new terminal. Work commences in February 1966 with construction of the runway expected to finish in 1970, with the terminal opening in 1969

The band of the moment, The Beatles, have signed a 3 picture deal with production giant United Artists. Unhappy with the last helping, Help!, and with a new piece “Sj Pepper” out in 1967 to promote, the band is intrigued by the idea of an animated feature.

UA, having no great animation experience, scout around for animation houses to work with. Disney is in fluxes following the death of Walt Disney and in any case has an image not according with 1969s ‘Pop culture’, and Hanna Barbara and the other large American animators are equally non-committal or expensive.

Through a long and convoluted series of investigations, UA happens upon a small but well regarded team of animators in the North East of England with a niche reputation for quirky, cult works of animation.

In 1967, Jody Animation begins work on a n animated feature for release next year entitled “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club“.

Following the example of the lab sharing arrangement with the University of Blackborough, Blackborough Polytechnic goes one further. Introducing its own computer studies course, an arrangement is made with HE to provide on the job training and preference for its graduates when it comes to employment opportunities at the company. In so doing, HE secures from both of the cities higher education institutions, a ready source of lab space and expertise and in so doing establishes itself as the primary, and infact only, face of British computing with no institutions outside Blackborough currently offering computing courses

Whilst this is happening, Hollowstone Electronics release their first commercial computer with integrated circuits. Sold mainly to banks and universities, sales are modest but a profit is turned. Amongst those who understand such things however, the computer is a revelation and the possibilities endless.

One person taking note, is a London based scion of the Moran dynasty

In 1967, for the first year since the war, visitor numbers fall, albeit slightly. Its surely a blip and nothing whatsoever to do with the rising availability of air traveL…

Local left wing organisations and anti-war organisations are a constant protesting presence at the military base on Rothray. The military authorities are shocked, and forced to advise sailors to exercise caution when about in the town, when some local pubs refuse to serve military personnel seemingly in reprisal for the revelations about the cover ups.

So far the government resists calls for an enquiry.

Under the terms of the new Race Relations Act, local police and council enforcement officers controversially proceed to take action against local businesses and boarding houses refusing to serve immigrants.

In 1968 Prime Minister,Harold Wilson, endorses the ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign, encouraging workers to work extra time without pay or take other actions to help competitiveness, which is spreading across Britain.

The Prime Minister announces that the Civil Defence Corps is being stood down

Asians continue to arrive in Britain from Kenya, where they were forced out by increasingly draconian immigration laws

Coal mining in the Black Country, which played a big part in the Industrial Revolution, ends after some 300 years with the closure of Baggeridge Colliery near Sedgley.

A demonstration in London’s Grosvenor Square against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War leads to violence – 91 police injured, 200 demonstrators arrested.

Enoch Powell makes his controversial Rivers of Blood Speech on immigration. Enoch Powell is dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet by Opposition leader Edward Heath due to the Rivers of Blood Speech, despite several opinion polls stating that the majority of the public shares Mr Powell’s fears.

Mr Frederick West becomes Britain’s first heart transplant patient.

Start of Ford sewing machinists strike at the Dagenham assembly plant: women workers strike for pay comparable to that of men.

British Rail’s last steam train service runs on the standard gauge: steam locomotives make the 314-mile return passenger journey from Liverpool to Carlisle before being dispatched to the scrapyard or preservation.

The Race Relations Act is passed, making it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to people in Britain because of their ethnic background

In 1970 the General Election results are announced and Edward Heath’s Conservative Party comes to power with a majority of 30 seats,a major surprise as most of the opinion polls had shown that Harold Wilson’s Labour were likely to stay in power.Among the new members of parliament are Neil Kinnock and John Smith for Labour, and Kenneth Clarke, Kenneth Baker, Norman Fowler and Geoffrey Howe for the Tories.

In Blackborough JCB production continues to grow, becoming one of Blackborough’s major industrial employers and providing much needed jobs in a period when Blackborough’s once great traditional industries of mining and ship-building had all but disappeared.

Most of the remaining tram line is closed.

Following the decision to demolish the Dickens Oratory Blackborough City Council close the building, however when the council tries to move in the bulldozers they are met by obstructive protestors and last-minute legal challenges, putting the project into limbo. By 1970 the council has been forced to back down but the building continues to sit empty.

The new owners of Wolfe’s Shipyard close part of the production facilities and lay-offs continue.

Marshall Wadsley gets a job on the Blackborough Metro and becomes increasingly interested in anti-racist and socialist politics.

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In 1970 restoration work begins on Westburgh’s two-hundred and thirty-three year old Blackborough Fire Memorial.

New offices open in Old Town.

New Roarkes Stadium, the home of Blackborough United football club for many years, is demolished.

Work begins on a large new parking garage.

The Frogmore Pasty Company goes from strength to strength and is acquired by Unilever in 1970 for £60 million. For now Unilever agrees to keep production in Blackborough.

A number of Eastmoreland’s warehouses are closed and new waterfront homes built.

Arthur Won, MP for Eastmoreland and Britain’s first ethnic-chinese politician, retires after nineteen years in parliament. Labour wins the resulting by-election.

S-I Industries officially opens its own industrial park at Baltic Dock, producing and packaging stationary and adhesives.

Independent ship-outfitters and related industries around Baltic Dock close down.

Despite protests the Redhall Rotunda proves popular with weekend shoppers. The near-by outdoor market begins to suffer from the competition.

Jack Starr, head of the Blackborough Vice Squad, murders a journalist from the Blackborough Gazette when she threatens to reveal the corruption and blackmail being carried out by his officers.

The Hendersons Festival continues and the “alternative” market located at Henderson’s Wood expands, with a vegetarian cafe and all-round music venue built.

Locals complain about the noise, the drugs and the smell however the city council turns with the land owned by the cooperative and the alternative market brining in tourists the city council is not inclined to act.

New offices and shops open around Waterloo Square.

A fire tears through the Merdinbrook Paint Factory. The fire burns for hours as the city fire-brigade struggle to get it under control and a number of homes in Merdinbrook are destroyed.

Mary Bell, an 11-year-old girl from Merdin, is sentenced to life detention for the manslaughter of two small boys

The new terminal and runway are completed at Blackborough International Airport and an adjoining car park built. The new, bigger, better airport serves nearly half a million passenger in its first year since the expansion.

In 1968 Jody Animations releases “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club”. The last Beatle’s film released before the band’s break-up it is an ground-breaking musical that blends animation and live-action, showing the Fab Four interacting with their animated selves.

New hotels, offices, restaurants and bars spring up around the airport.

A state school opens between the Anglican Church and the electrical substation.

An old people’s home is built on the outskirts of Hillcrow opens.

A new park, Festival Park, opens.

A new mosque opens close to the roundabout near the airport.

Housing is expanded along Merdinbrook.

A new park is established along the river.

Moran Industries purchases a 40% stake in Hollowstone Electronics in exchange for a ten million pound investment.
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HE uses the investment to move into the US market and to launch the first ever Automated Teller Machines, with Barclays Bank becoming the ATM’s first buyer in 1968.

Production costs have begun to run too high at the new arsenal and Moran Industries begins considering closure.

The amusements continue to struggle as more and more people are able to go abroad for their holidays. Mechanical and electronic amusements are increasingly common although true videogames are still a way off.

The old RAF base is due to be demolished next year.

Some new homes are built.

A new state school is opened.

The Northern Soul movement takes off in the dance clubs of Abbeywood, with local teenagers dancing to the latest American Motown hits.

 

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Northern Soul led to an explosion of new dances, bands and fashions.

Following years of protests the Royal Navy announces that the naval base at Rothray is to be wound down, with only the naval college and offices to remain. By 1970 the number of personnel stationed at the base has been slashed and a number of buildings closed.

The navy says that the base can no longer meet the requirements of modern ships and claims that the decision has nothing to do with the allegations about a cover-up. The victims’ campaign is not placated and continues to call for a public inquiry into the handling of allegations against servicemen.

One of the Marsden quarries is exhausted, leaving a deep crater in the land.

In 1972 the number of unemployed people in the UK exceeds one million for the first time since the 1930s.

A State of emergency is declared as a result of the miners’ strike.

Idi Amin, dictator of Uganda, announces that 50,000 Asians with British passports are to be expelled from Uganda to Britain within the next three months as they are “sabotaging the Ugandan economy”.

The Dickens Oratory reopens as a library and museum in 1976.

Business continues to steadily decline at Wolfe’s Shipyard, the yard is reduced to doing light repairs and now only employs a few dozen men.

Unemployment continues to rise and the announcement of the closure of the Sheepsgrave cannery in 1979 leads to a night of rioting.

Marshall Wadsley becomes increasingly involved in the trade union movement and plans to run for city council.

The new parking garage is completed in 1972.

In 1979 a Blackborough teenager by the name of Chris Donald begins producing a magazine from his bedroom in his parents’ Sheepsgrave home.

The magazine, called “Viz”, features dark and vulgar humour and comic characters, and begins to gain popularity, with its teenage editor drafting in friends to produce several thousand copies a month.

Workshops in the Ropewalk area close.

As industry slumps a number of warehouses close down and several are demolished and replaced with new housing.

The bakery company Greggs opens a large new corporate headquarters in the Melbourne district.

The gunpowder mill in the north of town closes and new homes are built.

In 1979 the Provisional IRA begin plotting a major terrorist attack in Blackborough. The IRA hopes to achieve large-scale destruction to show the average Englishman that cities outside of London are not safe.

In 1979 the fish market in Frogmore closes down.

Dawley & Sons Engine factory closes.

As the Moran family no longer spend much time in the city New Moran House is turned into a hotel and conference centre.

The Titanic Quarter shipyard closes in 1977. The Blackborough Historical Society raises funds to build a museum nearby commemorating the building of the Titanic. The Titanic Museum opens in 1979 with a 1:5 scale model of the Titanic as its star attraction. Ironically the loss of the area’s ship-building industry necessitates the large model be made in Germany and imported.

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In Redhall more dockside workshops close down. Some are replaced by houses or offices on the waterfront but many sit derelict and empty, attracting homeless people and drug users and harming Redhall’s tourist friendly prosperous reputation.

Redhall Outdoor Market shrinks due to competition from the shopping rotunda.

Jack Starr is investigated for corruption. As the net begins to close around the corrupt head of the vice squad he seals himself inside Redhall police station and resists arrest. Following a twelve hour siege Starr dies in a hail of bullets, ending his criminal empire.

Henderson Wood station is expanded and a second southern train branch is added.

The Hendersons Wood Market steadily expands, new pubs and clubs spring up in the local area and Hendersoons Wood becomes the centre of the punk movement.

A distinctive new Arts Centre is built on the site of the old paint factory.

 

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Riverside industry closes and new houses and shops are built.

Blackborough International Airport continues to expand during the seventies.

New homes, hotels and offices are built around the irport.

Orientem Studios begins to struggle, lacking a major hit during the seventies and beginning to make lower quality films. Some of these have become cult classics, such as Orientem’s 1978 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction novel Dune.

dune

The 1978 version of Dune was not a success.

In 1975 farmland in Hillcrow is sold off for development.

A new industrial park is planned on the edge of Hillcrow.

The weapons arsenal in Edmondsley closes in 1977 and the following year a large new bus garage is opened on the site.

The garage houses the distinctive new buses introduced in 1975 which will become an icon of the city.
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A new school opens in the Edmondsley area.

Hollowstone Electronics receives lucrative contracts to provide ATMs to countries around the world and grows throughout the seventies, establishing new research and production facilities close to the university.

The late seventies see the introduction of the pier’s first arcade games, including Beowulf’s Quest, one of the first English arcade games developed at Northumbria Polytechnic.
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In general the sea front is becoming more economically depressed as visitor numbers fall and traditional seafront amusements fall out of favour and fall into disrepair.

In 1975 the RAF base is demolished. In 1978 the railway is expanded with a new line running north-west.

New homes are built in the area of the former air base.

The Joysea Holiday Camp runs into trouble, unable to compete with the growing popularity of foreign holidays. By 1979 Joysea is on the verge of closing.

A large new super-market opens.

Marsden expands dramatically with planned new suburbs and a train station.

In Whitlet Bay new hotels and a growing tourist industry are established.

Bay Hospital, a large medium-security psychiatric hospital, is built on the outskirts of Whitley Bay.

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In 1978 a new motorway service station is built off the A1 on the outskirts of Sugar Park, bringing much needed jobs to the area.

Most of the facilities at the naval base on Rothray are closed down, with only the naval college and a recruitment station remaining open.

In 1979 the island of Rothray is re-opened to the public after sixty-eight years. A small naval history museum opens and plans are made to re-open the ancient underground hermitage to the public.

1980

 

21st Century City (1980 – 2017 AD)

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The Coat of Arms of the City of Blackborough

Blackborough

The 1980s are a difficult period for Blackborough, the decline of industry continues as manufacturing relocates abroad and many of the city’s factories close to never re-open their doors again, with the city’s north-east and docklands particularly hard-hit.

The Wolfe Shipyard finally closes in 1983, to great protest and anger. The shipyards had been sustained long beyond their productivity and had been much reduced in output for many years. The decline and eventual closure of the dockyards comes to be seen as representative of the loss of industry in the North East of England under successive governments.

The industrial decline is accompanied by increased social tensions as unemployment sets Blackborough’s communities against each other and jobless young men find distraction in drugs and football hooliganism, with frequent clashes between opposing fans.

However the seeds of Blackborough’s recovery had already been sown. Diversification of the economy is fuelled by the growth of Blackborough-based companies such as Hollowstone Electronics and the expansion of long-standing corporations like Moran Industries into new fields. Population growth, stagnant for much of the seventies and eighties, begins to increase once again in the nineties and by 2017 the total population of the Blackborough Metropolitan Area has reached five-hundred and eighty-three thousand, making Blackborough the UK’s fifth-largest city.

Social change in Blackborough was led by the Trinidadian immigrant Marshall Waldsley, who had become politicised during the unrest of the sixties and seventies and subsequently became an important figure in city politics, elected as a city councillor in 1988 on a platform of rejuvenation based on new industries.

Waldsley would spend two decades as a city counsellor and after The Localism Act of 2011 introduced directly elected city mayors Marshall Waldsley became Blackborough’s first elected mayor in 2012.

The transport network is also expanded with new major roads leading north and a new rail line heading east. Most of the city’s remaining tram network closes in 1985.

Major rejuvenation projects would take place in the lead up to the turn of the millennium with much of the old dockyards given over to fashionable restaurants, shops, and riverside apartments. However artefacts of the area’s industrial heritage remain and the Millennium Commission funds the building of the Blackborough Heritage Centre, a striking domed building on the site of the former Wolfe’s shipyard than opens in the year 2000.

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The Blackborough Heritage Centre hosts exhibitions, workshops and classes based on the region’s traditional crafts and industries.

In 2000 the University of Blackborough aquires Westburgh Guildhall, using the historic building as well as the newly constructed LibBrit to expand its teaching facilities. In the 2017 University League Table the University of Blackborough is ranked as the fourth best university in the UK.
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The University of Blackborough traces its origins to 1832 when the Earl of Blackborough gifted Hollowstone Castle to the University of Durham to establish a school of medicine and surgery. In 1857 George Moran endowed a new college at Hollowstone and in 1862 the colleges based at Hollowstone Castle received a Royal Charter incorporating Hollowstone School of Medicine, St Dubnus College of Physical Sciences, and Blackborough Engineering College as the University of Blackborough. The University of Blackborough emerged as an institution independent from the University of Durham, and only the second or third new university to be founded in England in five hundred years. The university would remain at the forefront of research and teaching over the next century and a half and as of 2017 the university remains a prestigious metropolitan university and continues to use Hollowstone castle for teaching and student accommodation in addition to its new buildings scattered around central Blackborough.

In 2003 a new bridge is constructed connecting the University of Blackborough’s Hollowstone campus to Westburgh. Hollowstone and Westburgh are directly connected again for the first time since the Great Fire four hundred years ago.

Economic growth is also fuelled by historical attractions as Blackborough’s Old Town becomes the centre of the city’s tourist and heritage industry and sites such as The Bishop’s Rest, Britain’s oldest public house, find upscale new clienteles.
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Originally built as an inn to house travelling merchants in 684 AD The Bishop’s Rest has operated almost continually for close to fourteen-hundred years under various names. Much of the original building has survived later renovations and it remains a working pub popular with tourists as of 2017. 

In the spirit of celebrating Blackborough’s history an open-air performance of Shakespeare’s The Battling Brides of Blackborough is staged on new year’s eve 1999. The daring performance uses the city as it’s stage, with the audience following the performers as the play moves through the streets of Blackborough’s Old Town.

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Since 1999, street-performances of The Battling Brides of Blackborough have become a new year’s eve tradition in the city. Written in 1600, Shakespeare’s play is loosely based on Raphael Holinshed’s account of the 812 AD Viking raid on Blackborough. It tells the story of how a vengeful townsperson, bitter at having his advances rejected by a young nun at the local monastery, opens the town’s gates to a Viking raiding party who kidnap several nuns from the monastery to take as their wives.

The 10th century Church of St Dubnus receives renovation and cleaning in preparation for the millennium celebrations and in 2014 the skull of Saint Dubnus himself is removed from its golden reliquary for the first time in centuries. A team from Northumbria University gained permission to subject the skull to testing and analysis and a facial reconstruction of Saint Dubnus is created from the skull that forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition at Northumbrian History Museum the following year, alongside the legendary horn of Deorwine.

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In 2014 a reconstruction allows the face of St Dubnus to be seen on the banks of the river that bears his name for the first time in 1500 years.

 

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The horn of Deorwine on display at the Northumbrian History Museum. The horn was supposedly used to rally Blackborough’s defenders during the raid of 848 AD.

A less salubrious piece of Blackborough’s history comes to the fore in 1988 when renovations to the basement of a house in Westburgh uncover a secret alcove. Hidden inside is the missing Rembrandt portrait A Polish Nobleman. Stolen from the nearby Blackborough Art Gallery in 1893 the portrait had lain undiscovered just across the street from the gallery for ninety-five years and had long been thought irrevocably lost. In 1989 the portrait is finally returned to the gallery after almost a century at a grand unveiling.

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The director of Blackborough Art Gallery posing with the recovered Rembrandt.

Circulation of the magazine “Viz” grows steadily, starting out from a teenager’s bedroom in Blackborough it would become the third most popular magazine in the country in the mid 90s and remains popular as of 2017.

The multi-million pound Northbridge Apartments are built on what was once Northbridge slum.

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Northbridge Apartments, better known as “The Ziggurat”, are completed in 2012 on the site of what was once slum-housing and craftman’s workshops. .

Blackborough’s cultural achievements lead to the city being designated the European Capital of Culture for the year 2008. Blackborough enjoys a number of regeneration products funded by the European Regional Development Fund and in the 2016 EU Referendum Blackborough bucks voting trends with most voters in the city wanting to Remain.

In 1991 a new shopping centre is built on the old allotments close to HMP Blackborough.

In 2006 a new industrial estate, Albion Park, is completed on the north-west outskirts of turn.

A new rail and metro station, Scotland Road Station, is opened close to the stadium and new homes, shops, a school, shopping centre and a police station are built in the area.

In 2010 the BBC expands its radio studio on Earl’s Row.

In the run up to the 2012 Olympics new sports fields are established around Green Heath Park and a world-class velo park is built, Blackborough hosts a number of early-stage cycling and sailing events for the 2012 games.

In 2013 Blackborough United Football Club is purchased by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Mohammed bin Thani Al Thani. Following Al Thani’s purchase of the team the Scotland Road Stadium is expanded to a capacity of 75,000.

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In 2016 Blackborough beat Manchester United 3-2 to win their seventh FA Cup after decades without a win. The whole city celebrates following the win and in some cases the hangovers last several days.

During a slow news week in 2014 the Blackborough Gazette revives the old legend of the Beast of Blackborough. The newspaper prints an “exclusive eyewitness account” of a great black-furred animal seen roaming Northwood Common with accompanying pictures of some blurry camera phone footage.

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The legend of the “Beast of Blackborough” began between 1691 and 1693 when half a dozen young women disappeared in the vicinity of Northwood Common. Concern about these disappearances turned into hysteria when an excitable witness reported seeing one of the women carried off into the woods by a creature “with the shape of a man yet as tall as a lychgate, covered in thick dark fur and terrifying in brutish animal aspect”. 

Some claimed the creature was the spirit of the murderous pie-maker Mr Dott who was hung for his crimes a century earlier whilst others suggested the beast was an african ape escaped from a menagerie. Periodic sightings would continue to be reported over the next century and whilst the bones of the missing women were discovered in the 19th century in a cellar of Northwood House this did not end the legend as some of the city’s lazier journalists and more credulous citizens continue to insist a monstrous creature roams Northwood Common to this day.

In 2015 the Conservative government announce plans to close the Victorian Blackborough prison and replace it with a large new prison outside the city

In 2016 Google opens a new UK Office in Brewery Court.

In December 2016 Ethel May Parker, Britain’s oldest person, passes away at the age of 115. A lifelong resident of Blackborough, Ethel May Parker was born in a small house in Angevin Square at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. She would serve in the Women’s Land Army during the First World War and as a WREN during WWII. Ethel May Parker initially trained as a nurse but suffered a mental breakdown following the loss of her son during the war and subsequently retrained as psychiatrist. Parker retired in 1967 but continued to contribute to nursing & psychiatry journals for several decades. In 2002 Parker moved into a care home in Sheepsgrave where she passed away peacefully in her sleep fourteen years later surrounded by four generations of her family.

Frogmore-Eastmoreland

In 1988 a large new nightclub and music venue opens just south of George Street, on the site of what was once Dawley & Sons Engine Factory. The Factory soon becomes controversial for its tolerance of drug use and is a frequent source of upset to the residents of upmarket George Street.

A new cul-de-sac is built north of The Factory.

Armstrong’s Department Store receives a major expansion in 2002.

The Frog Pasty Company expands its corporate headquarters and production facilities in Frogmore and in 1998 “Frog Pasties” gain Protected Designation of Origin Status under European law. This means that to be called a “Frog Pasty” a product must be produced within the city of Blackborough to a traditional recipe.

Chinatown expands with major new riverside developments, however as rents rise small restaurant proprietors begin to be forced out. In 2016 a petition by residents of Eastmoreland to “Save Chinatown!” gets sixty-thousand signatures online.

A new academy school is established on the sea front.

Large new corporate offices open to the north of East Moor and Moran Industries

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East Moore Place, constructed in 2014, provides a modern coporate headquarters for Moran industries in its historical home of Eastmoreland.

New apartments are built off India Road. India Road Police Station is closed and turned into luxury apartments.

New Shops are built close to Nightingale Bridge and an organic farmer’s market established on the site of the old Frogmore fish market.

Eastmoreland expands to the south, joining the suburb of Marsden to the rest of the city.

A large plaque is erected close to the preserved ruins of the houses destroyed by the French during the 1797 Battle of Frogmore.

In 2013 Moran Industries builds a major new industrial park around East Moor and constructs a museum on the site of the former gunpowder mill built by George Moran in 1699. By 2017 Moran Industries has become the world’s ninth largest chemical company, valued at over £40 billion and employing nearly fifty thousand people, around half of them in Blackborough.

Moran Innovation Centre replaces the company’s old production facilities and laboratories and the land is redeveloped as a new public square, surrounded by shops, homes and offices. Olympic Square, built on the site of the former Moran factories, is notable for its large outdoor television screen, used to show coverage of major news and sports events as well as classic films.

Beginning in the 1700s with a gunpowder mill built in Frogmore by George Moran, Moran’s company would expand over the following century with the construction of armaments workshops, factories and worker’s housing. Moran subsequently expanded in the 1760s with the construction of a dyeworks marking the beginning of its shift towards chemical production.

The company would continue to expand in the 19th century with the construction of the planned community of Moranville and the endowment of a college at the University of Blackborough. Moran Industries made vast profits from a series of major innovations in chemical engineering, beginning with the development of the smokeless powder Moranite in 1890, the synthetic fibre Nevron in the 1930s, and the non-stick coating Tetron in the 1940s. Although these materials were initially developed for military purposes most of the profits would come from civilian applications and after the Second World War Moran Industries would move away from military development, with the pacifist Arnold Moran establishing the Moran Peace Award in 1946.

The Moran family would continue to play an active role in the company and in the 1960s the venture capitalist Jonathan Moran would lead the company to expand into computing by acquiring a large stake in Hollowstone Electronics. Moran Industries continues to maintain offices and production plants in the city of Blackborrough, a city the company has helped to shape for over three hundred years. 

Redhall

The decline of industry in the seventies and eighties leads to many of the dockside factories closing however Baltic Dock remains an active port and SI Industries maintain its production facilities at Baltic Dock whilst expanding elsewhere.

Following the years of decline Redhall re-emerges as a centre of culture and the arts and in 2004 a major new development, Bishop’s Dock, is built on the peninsula. Bishop’s Dock is promoted as offering exclusive waterside living, shopping and dining in the centre of historic Redhall but is criticised by some for being a gated community open only to the wealthy.

The quay itself becomes a popular spot for yachts and sailing, and a ship is permanently moored at the quay as a floating restaurant.

Crescent Hill’s Neolithic circle of standing stones gains a visitor’s centre.

In 2016 Canute’s Cathedral’s holds an exhibition of artwork featuring the cathedral.
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In 1377, the Bishop of Blackborough, recently moved from Durham, decided that none of the churches in the area were up to the standards of a Bishop and that a great work should be erected to celebrate the city’s survival of the recent Pestilence. Redhall Monastery and the surrounding houses and ruins were torn down to make way for St. Canute’s Cathedral, named for the Anglo-Norse Christian born in Redhall who was instrumental in the conversion of Scandinavia to Catholicism. The church was designed after an earlier church in Merdin as well as the great Cathedrals of Paris and Santiago. The great spire of the church was destroyed in the Blackborough Blitz of 1941 and after the war the architect Basil Spence designed a modernist glass spire that rises through the irregular aperture created by the bomb blast.

Merdin

In 1981 an explosive device placed in a bin at Henderson Wood Rail Station detonates, killing sixteen people and badly damaging the historic station. The IRA claim that the bomb accidentally exploded prematurely before a warning could be issued.

The rebuilt Henderson Wood Station is expanded and a memorial erected.

In the late 90s the Millennium Commission funds a transformation of Merdin city dump. The dump, on the site of a former mine, is cleared and redeveloped as the Merdin Historical Park.

The historical park’s star attraction is a life-size, living recreation of the historic centre of Blackborough as it was in the 4th century. The recreation of the old Roman fortified town is derided by some as little more than a historical theme park, a kind of Roman Disneyland. However the attraction proves popular with tourists and locals, teaching visitors about life in what was then known as “Muro Orientem”.

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Merdin Historical Park takes visitors back in time to the earliest years of Blackborough. Founded in 226 AD as the castra of Muro Orientem by the VI “Victorious” Legion, the settlement was founded as a fortress town to provide a secondary line of defence against raids by Caledonian tribes to the north. The Historical Park allows visitors to take in the sights, sounds of smells of the city as it was those days, buy souvenirs, and even participate in recreations of ancient battles.

The Henderson Wood Market continues to expand, becoming the centre of the city’s punk and goth subcultures in the 70s and 80s. During the 90s and the 2000s the open market that started as a Wiccan Coven becomes increasingly commercialised, with large businesses moving in to sell over-priced crap to tourists. However a handful of the original stallholders, who first came to the area as young acolytes of the occultist Gerald Gardner in the 1940s, continue to trade and Gardner’s Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, located in the haunted 17th century Henderson House, remains a popular attraction as of 2017.

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Henderson Wood, now the city’s largest open-air market, began in 1946. Following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act the occultist Gerald Gardner purchased the Old Henderson House and surrounding worthless land from the rail company, converting the tiny 17th century cottage into a Museum of Magic and Witchcraft. Several members of Gardner’s Wiccan coven wished to live close to the museum and set up a make-shift camp and accommodation huts in the surrounding Henderson Wood. The Wiccan community located in the woods grew during the fifties and sixties, becoming the centre of the emerging hippie movement in Blackborough. Several abandoned train carriages that sat on the land were used as makeshift shops selling handcrafted goods, occult objects and revolutionary books, and in the decades since the market has continued to expand, becoming a major tourist attraction and developing a reputation as the heart of Blackborough’s “alternative” scene.

New shops open around Waterloo Square and along Coalition Street, including a large super-market which opens in 2010.

Keeltown, or “Killtown” as it is disparagingly known, becomes increasingly deprived following the decline of industry and in 2011 rioting devastates the area.
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The area of Keeltown developed in the 1760s as housing for the “keelmen” who brought coal in shallow-draught boats from the mines to the big collier ships in Blackborough harbour. With the closure of the mines the area would become an infamous slum that appalled Dickens and would fare little better into the 20th century.

The shooting of Mark Dugan in London by police in 2011 would lead to riots breaking out in cities across the UK. Blackborough did not see the same level of violence as London but Keeltown was one of two areas hit by several days of rioting, with rioters focusing their anger on Waterloo Square. Shops were looted, residents mugged, and fire destroyed a number of homes and a historic water-mill.

In the wake of the riots Keeltown is rebuilt, but with the rebuilding comes increasing gentrification. The area around the St Dubnus bridge is bought up for development into fashionable shops and restaurants and exclusive apartments…protected behind a high wall.

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Beginning in 2014, the developers of “St Dubnus Village” promised that at least 50% of the new homes built would be affordable housing but subsequently reneged on this promise citing budgetary constraints. The fenced off exclusive development adjacent to the deprived area of Keeltown is taken by many as symbolic of inequality in south Blackborough.

Merdinbrook Island, long abandoned due to mine collapses, is stabilised and turned into a public park.

The Germantown Campus of Northumbria Polytechnic gains new student accommodation and new engineering and computer science buildings.

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The new Northumbria Compsci building is heralded as a marvel of sustainable architecture and wins the 2012 Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize.

The Germantown Campus and the offices of Hollowstone Electronics form the centre of what becomes known as “Silicone Forest”, a cluster of research labs and tech companies based in Merdin and Edmondsley.

The old forestry camp is turned into an information centre for visitors to Merdin Forest.

In 2015 restoration is carried out on a 17th century cottage in Merdinbrook. The new owner has the victorian ceiling pulled out to reveal the original beams and hidden behind one of them a package is found wrapped in oilskins. It is a great staff of pure silver, originally part of the medieval regalia of English Kings the staff was hidden by a local Royalist during the English Civil War to prevent it being melted down by Cromwell. The staff goes on temporary display at the Northumbrian History Museum before finally being returned to the Tower of London to take its rightful place amongst the Crown Jewels of the UK.

Wildfield

Blackborough International Airport capitalises on the introduction of cheap flights, expanding its capacity, and by 2017 serves 2.5 million passengers annually.

Blackborough International Airport began as a small gilder hangar and storage shed built in Wildfield in 1903. This would develop into Wildfield Aerodrome and in the 1950s began operating as a civilian airport. The airport underwent major expansion in the 1970s, subsequently reopening as an international airport for the north-east of England.

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Spitfire Square, a new public square and fountain.

New offices and hotels are built in close proximity to the airport.

In 2009 the abandoned machine tool factory is demolished and a new park, NetGreen, is created.
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NetGreen advertises itself as the world’s first Digital Art Park, a large open public space dotted with a dozen interactive artworks that form a part of multi-media augmented reality stories. Designed for a variety of audiences, the range of works ensures that there is something to enchant all ages and allows for a shared experience or individual contemplation. All the works are GPS located and experienced through a smart device, either iPad, iPhone or Android.

Orientem Film Studios continues to struggle in the 80s and 90s but continues to provide sound stages for the Bond Films. In 1992 Pinewood sells their stake in Orientem to the BBC.

The BBC concludes that the studio complex is not fit for purpose and close down the film studios that have stood on the site since 1913. The buildings remain closed for five years before the BBC comes to an arrangement to revive the studio. Part of the site is turned into a cinema museum called the Blackborough Film Institute whilst most of the site is sold off for development.

Orientem is revived by the BBC in 1997. The BBC takes Orientem’s extensive back-catalogue going back a century and begins making it publicly available. The BBC also relaunches Orientem as an in-house production company with two new purpose-built studios opening in Sugar Park in 2004.

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The Blackborough Film Institute, located on the site of Orientem’s historic Wildfield studios. The BFI houses films and memorabilia dating back over a century.

Founded in 1901 by a couple of technicians from the Moran Chemical Works the Orientem Film Company took its name from the ancient Roman name of the city and began making short documentaries recording life at the docks and factories and capturing Blackborough on film for the first time.

Orientem established its original studio in central Blackborough to produce the company’s first non-documentary films, beginning with the short crime-drama Keeltown Robbers (1903). Keeltown Robbers would be followed by The Good Prince (1904), The Gangs of Blackborough (1909) and a 30 minute abridged film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Battling Brides of Blackborough (1910).

In 1913 Orientem relocated to larger studios in Wildfield and during the First World War produced propaganda films such as Britain Stands Firm (1915). Orientem’s golden age began in the interwar years when the writer/producer pair Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell began their creative partnership at Orientem. From the thirties onward Orientem achieved huge critical and commercial success with films such as Robin Hood (1938), A Spy in Belgravia (1939), Niagara Falls (1940), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1944) and A Matter of Life and Death (1945). During this period Orientem also established a small animation team producing the animated propaganda shorts Dad’s Duty (1939) and Danger from the Air! (1940).

Orientem’s animation department established themselves as the independent Jody Studios in the forties and following the departure of Powell and Pressburger in 1950 Orientem began to struggle. Releasing mainly mediocre-performing films such as The Blackout Butcher and The Deep Blue Sea. In 1958 Orientem was taken over by Pinewood Studios and Orientem’s facilities were used in many of the Bond films before the facility was closed in 1992.

Jody Animations remains in Wildfield and goes from strength to strength with a number of successful animated feature films in the 1980s. In 1989 Wildfield release it’s first feature-length stop-motion-animation film, an adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. The film achieves commercial and critical success and further stop-motion animation film’s follow over the next twenty years: The Wind in the Willows (1995)The Little Prince (1998)The Cave (2002)The BFG (2010) and Matilda (2014).

Hillcrow

In the mid 1990s a new trainline is built out of the west of the city and Hillcrow Train Station opens in 1993.

The new rail line leads to a major expansion of Hillcrow, transforming the sleepy suburb into a busy new district.

Hillcrow Business and Industrial Estate is established in 2001, offering a number of big name brands in one place.

Farmland in Hillcrow is bought up in the eighties and new homes and shops are built around Ox Lake, as well as a major new high street, Pasture Road.

Northumbria fire brigade training centre is established on former farmland in north Hillcrow.

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The Northumbrian Fire Training Centre houses near full-size replicas of a ship, jumbo-jet and apartment block, used for training by fire services from across England.

A nursing home opens on the outskirts of town in 2002 and a hydroponics manufacturer opens nearby in 2011.

Edmondsley

In 1980 Hollowstone Electronics release its first personal computer, the HE Ajax 2000. A complete computer with 22 KB of RAM and retailing at £999 Ajax 2000 is a major commercial success in the UK and abroad, selling nearly two million units.

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The Ajax 200 was followed by half a dozen more models during the eighties before.

HE continues to develop their ATMs during the 80s, creating a number of innovations in interbank networking and introducing point-of-sale electronic funds transfer in 1981. This technology enables payment with a debit or credit card through a payment terminal, and in 2006 HE is contracted by Visa to develop the first contactless payment machines.

In 2010 HE expands its development facilities with new labs and offices in south Edmondsley.

Today HE is the UK’s largest tech company with a net worth of £6 billion and employing 10,000 people worldwide. The company left the home computer market in 1990 to focus on banking technology, peripheral hardware and server technology, developing the first contactless payment system in 2006.

SI Industries establishes a new production facility and offices in Edmondsley.

In 1987 a student at Northumbria Polytechnic founds the videogames company Superstar North. Superstar North will go on to develop successful games series such as Naked Mole Rats and Taking Without Owner’s Consent (TWOC).

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By 2017 Superstar North is valued at £2.2 billion, in large part due to the success of the long-running and controversial TWOC series.

Northumbria Polytechnic gains University status in 1997 and builds new student accommodation and administrative offices on campus.

In the 2009 Victory Regatta Northumbria University beats the more senior University of Blackborough for only the sixth time since the annual boat race began in 1945.

Abbeywood

The once vibrant area of Abbeywood falls upon hard times as nearby factories in North Blackborough close and cheaper flights lead to a decline in local tourism.

The Joysea Holiday Camp is the first casualty: after providing domestic package holidays to Blackborough’s families for thirty-nine years Joysea is finally forced to declare bankruptcy in 1989. The camp sits abandoned until 2000 when a huge new Tescos supermarket is built on the site, the largest in the north-east.

The New Albert Pier reaches its height in the eighties with kids flocking to the video arcades. As the home console market emerges the popularity of the arcades gradually diminishes and by the late 90s the pier is struggling to remain open. Most of the amusements on the pier close and in 1991 gale winds cause significant damage but local residents resist plans to demolish the historic pier. The same gale causes the crumbling and charred remains of the base of the old pier to finally collapse into the sea.

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The New Albert Pier gains a reprieve and in 1998 receives National Lottery Grant Funding for major refurbishment. The refurbished the New Albert Pier reopens in 2001 and wins top placing in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Heritage Awards the following year.

One of the largest of the millennium projects in the lead-up to the year 2000 is the Liberal Arts Centre of Great Britain, better known as the LibBrit.

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Run by the University of Blackborough, the LibBrit is a world-leading research and teaching institute.

In the mid-eighties many of the historic waterfront attractions close, including the lido. The seafront experiences something of a resurgence in the 2000s but many of the traditional attractions are no longer viable and shops and amusements give away to seafront housing. Abbeywood Pleasure Park closes its doors for the last time in 2007 and the land is initially planned for development as housing however the global financial crash that follows soon afterwards scuppers the planned redevelopment. The land is required for development in 2012 but objections from local residents lead to delays to the project and as of February 2017 the amusement park continues to sit empty and deserted, with only the 102m tall Sea Wheel remaining open.

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 When the pleasure park first opened in 1921 it brought in huge crowds of holiday makers to marvel at the electric illuminations, gasp at the freak show, thrill at the roller-coasters, and gaze in wonder from the top of the Sea Wheel. The amusement park fell out of favour in recent decades closing in 2007. Most of the abandoned amusement park was fenced off but the Sea Wheel was purchased by the Merlin Operators Group and continues to operate and to serve as a symbol of the city.

In the late 1980s the HQ of the Hillcroft Foundation mental healthy charity is expanded.

In 2010 a new park is established and a large evangelical African church built nearby.

Rothray

After centuries of naval history the last vestige of Rothray’s naval base, the naval training college, closes in 1998 when all Royal Navy training is transferred to Dartmouth. For the first time in over six hundred years Rothray has no permanent population.

The navy does continue to maintain a recruitment centre on the island and Millennium Funding is made available to expand the existing Naval History Museum in 2000.

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The ancient underground hermitage beneath the base is opened to public tours and visitors to the island can now view displays of hundreds of years of naval history, see the huge “Blackborough Brothers” war memorial up close and explore the dark warren of tunnels beneath the island.

The closing of the naval base allows tourism to flourish along the south coast of the tiny island, whilst on the island’s abandoned north coast puffins are reintroduced and establish a small protected colony.

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The earliest known habitation of Rothray dates back to the 11th century AD when a small band of norse pagans expelled from Denmark arrived in the area and created a fishing settlement on the tiny island, which they named Rjöðray or “clearing island”.

The island community had little contact with the mainland becoming notoriously insular and incestuous, and pagan religion continued to be practised on the island at least as late as the 13th century. Everything changed in 1349 when the Black Plague hit the area. The island, now known as Rothray, was largely spared from the disease and the people of Blackborough attributed this to some unholy satanic pact. Men from the disease-ravaged city slaughtered the population of the island and burnt the buildings to the ground in the hope this would alleviate the plague, the island’s solitary surviving resident being an old Norse pagan who hid in a small cave.

The island would be resettled in the 14th century and when the new settlers discovered a skeleton in a cave with iron nails clutched in its hands a legend developed that this was an early Christian bearing nails from the cross of Christ. The caverns became a holy site and a hermitage and around the same time a number of Jewish families arrived on the island.

Rothray suffered badly during the reformation as Thomas Cromwell’s surveyors reported that the island hermitage was little more than a front for selling supposedly holy trinkets to the gullible. The monks of Rothray actively resisted seizures of their wealth and relics and half a dozen monks were killed in the ensuring chaos which came to be known as the Battle of Rothray.

The entire island subsequently became the property of the crown and whilst the underground hermitage was left largely preserved the surface of the island was used to establish first a royal retreat, and subsequently a house of correction for the poor. A small and predominately catholic civilian population would remain on the island, making their living from serving first the prison and later the naval base.

During the 17th century onwards the island developed a reputation for its culinary tradition and chefs from Rothray introduced local delicacies such as Citadel Cheddar and Frog Pasties to London for the first time.

At the outbreak of the American War of Independence the old ship of the line HMS Kraken was permanently moored at Rothray, serving as a floating military base, recruitment centre and training facility and the base was expanded with a naval college built on the island in the 1830s. The island’s prison closed in the 1870s and in 1911, with security fears increasing, the small civilian population that remained on Rothray was evicted, despite fierce protests and legal challenges. The island was turned over wholly to the use of the navy and after the First World War the King of Belgium gifted two huge statues popularly known as the “Blackborough Brothers” to the naval base.

The honour and prestige of the naval base would however be marred in 1964 when the Blackborough Gazette ran an exclusive story, claiming that a number of allegations of rape and sexual assault against sailors at the base had been covered up by the navy. The revelations led to a public outcry however the government resisted calls for an independent enquiry and victims and the families would spend the next fifty years campaigning for justice. Most of the base was closed down in the 1970s and in 1979 the island was reopened to the public for the first time in sixty-eight years.

In 2014, after fifty years of campaigning, it is announced that an independent inquiry will investigate historical allegations of a cover-up on Rothray.  As of 2017 the inquiry is ongoing.

Sugar Park

Sugar Park is hit hard by the decline in industry and NorthMed automates production in 1984 with a small group of educated engineers taking the jobs of hundreds of the area’s working poor. The brutalist Sugar Park Towers develop a notorious reputation as one of the city’s most deprived and crime-ridden areas and the area comes to be seen by many as a blight on the city.

In 1990 two new bridges are built connecting Sugar Park to South Hillcrow.

In 1997 Sugar Park Towers is demolished but this does little to solve the problem of endemic unemployment and increasing gang violence in Sugar Park.

Between 1994 and 1998 a huge steel sculpture of an angel designed by Anthony Gormley is erected on a hill on the outskirts of town. The “Angel of the North” is 20 metres tall with slightly angled wings measuring 54 metres across. According to Gormley, the significance of an angel was three-fold: first, to signify that beneath the site of its construction, coal miners worked for two centuries; second, to grasp the transition from an industrial to an information age, and third, to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears

The expansion of the rail network with a new train station built in Sugar Park in 2002 makes the area more attractive to the middle classes who are increasingly priced out of central Blackborough however this results in gentrified enclaves emerging in Sugar Park to the frustration and disappointment of many who hoped for wider prosperity.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this is a cluster of mansions built on the outskirts of Sugar Park to provide isolated riverfront homes for millionaires on their own private road. The multi-million pound homes of the Sweetbank Development are derided by many due to their location adjacent to the deprived area of Sugar Park.

Frustration boils over in to rage following the shooting of Mark Dugan in 2011. Rioters in Sugar Park burn down homes, attack the local police station and loot the retail park on the edge of town.

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A burning supermarket in Sugar Park. The riot caused millions of pounds of damage and several burnt out buildings remain in ruins as of 2017.

The riots do however force the city authority and central government to turn their attention to Sugar Park, and investment is made available for a number of local projects, including a new community centre (“The Sugar Cube”) and affordable housing.

Following its  temporary closure Orientem resumes operations from its new studios on the outskirts of Sugar Town, producing content for the BBC, including films such as Nativity! (2009) and Jane Eyre (2011) as well as popular tv shows such as Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing along with local news and weather.

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In order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, in 2014 a giant poppy is put in place close to the Angel of the North. The poppy is set up by members of the Fifth Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, an active battalion based at Blackborough Barracks.

Marsden

Marsden expands throughout the 80s and 90s as more people move out to the suburbs. Marsden becomes an increasingly popular neighbourhood and and a new fire station, GP practice, school and bank are built as well as homes and shops.

In 1986 Marsden gets its own rail station.

The remaining quarry is exhausted and in 2001 is turned into a pond and nature reserve.

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Whitley Bay

Whitey Bay remains a quiet tourist area on the edge of town. A popular destination for those who want to be close to both country and city Whitley Bay develops a reputation as Blackborough’s prosperous and sleepy periphery.

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In 1995 St Cuthbert’s Lighthouse was turned into a seafront hotel.

New hotels and guest houses are established and in 2012 much of the coast is designated as a protected nature reserve.

Between 2015 and 2017 a huge open-air model city is created on land belonging to St Cuthbert’s church.

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Measuring one hundred metres wide the detailed model of Blackborough is created over a period of two years by a group of patients from Bay Hospital working with local artists.

When it opens in 2017 the model city becomes a popular tourist attraction and stands as a testament to both the dedication and eccentricity of its builders.

Blackborough Final

The City of Blackborough in 2017.

Blackborough Anotated Final

Annotated map of the city.

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