Stockton began as an Anglo-Saxon settlement on high ground close to the northern bank of the River Tees.
The manor of Stockton was created around 1138 and was purchased by Bishop Pudsey of Durham in 1189. During the 13th century, the bishop turned the village of Stockton into a borough. When the bishop freed the serfs of Stockton, craftsmen came to live in the new town. The bishop had a residence in Stockton Castle, which was just a fortified manor house. The first recorded reference to the castle was in 1376.
Stockton's market can trace its history to 1310, when Bishop Bek of Durham granted a market charter – to our town of Stockton a market upon every Wednesday for ever. The town grew into a busy little port, exporting wool and importing wine which was demanded by the upper class. However even by the standards of the time, medieval Stockton-on-Tees was a small town with a population of only around 1,000, and did not grow any larger for centuries.
The Scots captured Stockton Castle in 1644 and occupied it until 1646. It was destroyed at the order of Oliver Cromwell at the end of the Civil War. A shopping centre, the Castlegate Centre, now occupies the castle area. It was demolished in the 1650s with the exception of the Barn which it was demolished in the 1860s. No known accurate depictions of the castle exist.
The Town House was built in 1735 and the first theatre in Stockton opened in 1766. In 1771 a five arch stone bridge was built replacing the nearby Bishop's Ferry. Until the opening of the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge in 1911, this was the lowest bridging point on the Tees. From the end of the 18th century the Industrial Revolution changed Stockton from a small and quiet market town into a flourishing centre of heavy industry.