WHY do even Teessiders often write Middlesbrough as Middlesborough? Which should it be?

The more usual ending is borough, as in Knaresborough, Guisborough and Scarborough.

But, this doesn’t mean that brough is incorrect, and both originate from the Anglo-Saxon word burh, a fortified settlement.

I have the same problem with Freebrough Hill, the most prominent landmark in my Lockwood ward, which I’ve seen misspelt Freeborough, even on maps and tourist information.

The hill is probably named after Freya, queen of the Norse gods and wife of Odin (from whom the name Roseberry derives), but the brough is more difficult to explain. Perhaps there was once a hill-fort, or signal station, on its summit.

Freebrough Academy, Brotton is named after our hill and I’m pleased to say that, to my knowledge, they’ve never misspelt it. I suppose you’d expect an educational establishment to spell its own name correctly!

In earlier times of mass illiteracy, people weren’t so bothered about spelling.

Indeed, it could be true that Middlesborough became Middlesbrough because a semi-literate, careless clerk misspelt the town’s name when it received its charter in 1853. And it stuck!

Steve Kay, Redcar and Cleveland councillor