Betty Sm’s Memories of Wallsend

I can remember going to Redheads, on the High Street, to get the accumulator charged, which meant carrying a container of sulphuric acid around!

Editor’s Note: Betty was born in Palmer’s Buildings, Wallsend in 1930 and took part in the Hand in Hand Reminiscence project in 2008.

I lived in the area of Wallsend known as Palmer’s Buildings, which was a group of streets running between Hadrian Road at the east end of the town and the main electric train line.  You had to cross this line somehow to get to the High Street and the area of Wallsend around the Winning and St Peter’s Church.  You either went over it or under it.

This was important for me because I went to Central School, on the other side of the railway line.  I could take a cut under the line at Glovers Row, or get across the railway crossing, ending up at the Winning and then on to school.  Of course you had to get to the crossing at the right time, otherwise you could be late for school by the time you’d waited for the train to pass.

The streets were called Palmer’s Buildings because they were built by Palmers, the shipping people, for the people who worked in their yards.  There were seven streets numbered from one to seven and three streets given family names of the Palmer family.  So it went: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Street, Palmer Street, Charles Street, Mark Street and Gertrude Street.

The whole area formed a little community.  1st Street was the one that had gardens and was built for the bosses.  There were shops on almost every corner and along Hadrian Road too.  I remember Joe Hunter’s, Anderson’s (go with a penny for three packets of sweets and come back with a farthing), McQuillan’s, Watson’s the butcher, Mrs Almond’s sweet shop (plus pie and peas on a Friday), Fairbridge general dealers (whose wife made biscuits and cakes), Hampson’s newsagent, Mrs Yellowley for 2d of rhubarb.  Children often went messages for their mothers and for other neighbours round the doors, sometimes getting a little coin for their efforts when they got back.

I can remember going to Redheads, on the High Street, to get the accumulator charged.  Looking back, this was an extremely dangerous thing to do, because it meant carrying a container of sulphuric acid around, but I never thought about it at the time.  Strangely, although I was allowed to do this I wasn’t allowed to cross the High Street on my own – so I could only go to the shops on the south side!

Hadrian Road Chapel was a centre for social life.  It was a small Methodist chapel on the corner of Hadrian Road and Davy Bank and at first it was one room and a vestry, although it did get a little bit bigger later on.  We paid for the building of the hall by holding fundraising events, including jumble sales.  The people I remember there include Mr Young as Superintendent, and George Hopkins and Tom Armstrong as Choir Masters.  My brother used to pump the bellows for the pipe organ by hand and my sister was the Brown Owl for the Brownies.

The Chapel was always packed and had enough children there to have three Anniversaries every year, for different age groups of children.  I remember being in the “select” class.  As well as Brownies, Guides and Choir, there was Christian Endeavour, the Youth Club and pantomimes (I remember Cinderella being performed).

We had lots of friends and played together all the time.  The back lanes were really good for this and sometimes the mums would come out and turn the rope for all the children.  People said the big long ropes came from people who worked at Haggies Ropeworks and that could be true, but I don’t know for certain.  I do know that my two best friends were Audrey and Peggy and together we were known as “the three stoogies.”

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