Head Wrightson

Head Wrightson was a major heavy industry company based in Thornaby-on-Tees. Beginning life in 1840 as the Teesdale Iron Works the company manufactured a vast range of industrial products used in the construction of bridges, shipping and railways. The company’s closure in 1987 was emblematic of the decline of heavy industry in the North East, summed up by the iconic image of the “walk in the wilderness” as then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher toured the derelict Head Wrightson site.

In 2013 the Teesside Industrial Memories Project carried out nearly a hundred interviews with former Head Wrightstown workers and complied the results in the book Life at Heads. A Pride Job, a film by Derek Smith, drew on these memories:

Chief Photographer at Head Wrightson’s Research and Development department, Alan Simpson, donated his negative collection to Stockton Borough Libraries in 2012. The collection contains over 16,000 negatives detailing the work carried out by Head Wrightson’s from 1958-1978 and also images of many of the employees and social events, providing a fascinating visual insight into the culture of the company and of the time. The negatives are accompanied by detailed registers, containing descriptions of the images, names and dates.

Currently the collection is housed in Stockton Central Library’s Reference Store and a funding bid is being prepared to better care for and digitise the collection, allowing future generations a detailed view of the area’s industrial heritage.


In January 2019 we were delighted to receive a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to start the conservation and digitisation project. The project runs for three years and we’ll be providing regular updates on our blog page.