In central North Shields you could come and buy every type of home comfort and necessity, ranging from ironmongery at Huss’s to a cooker at the NEEB or Gas Board showrooms and high quality furnishings at Graham’s. Many an engagement ring was purchased at Grant’s the Jeweller.
Project: Gannin Shoppin' in Shields
Shopping in the High Street, North Shields
This project was initiated in 2011 by North Shields Chamber of Trade. A partnership was created with Remembering the Past Resourcing the Future, the Creative Studios of Queen Alexandra College and the North Shields Live at Home Scheme. The Chamber of Trade suggested the subject, volunteers from Remembering the Past, Resourcing the Future collected the memories from members of the North Shields Live at Home Scheme and students from The Creative Studios designed the exhibition which was first shown in the Beacon Centre, North Shields and has gone on to be widely seen in other parts of North Tyneside.
What emerged during the project was a vivid picture of North Shields’ shops and the way people used and worked in them. The variety and quality of the shops was amazing and we were given an insight into the high levels of training undertaken by young people as they began work in some of the shops. We hadn’t anticipated hearing about the number of shopping streets that existed in the outer areas of North Shields. Each small group of shops provided for the needs of local communities and often included a multi-department Co-op and a post office. These small avenues were also homes to successful individual businesses that sold clothes, materials and wools and haberdashery.
The project was a joy to work on and we hope that you enjoy reading some of the memories that emerged from our contributors.
Volunteer Alan Connon interviewing Dorothy Limerick
We only had coppers to spend so sweets were our favourites – Lucky Bags, a Sherbet Lunch maybe, Liquorice Laces or a Smoking Pipe.
It is the early 1930s and a boy of that period encountered many such establishments (mainly houses turned into shops). I lived in King Street in North Shields and as the eldest in the family I was assigned by my mother to do the ‘messages’ to all the shops in a small area.
In my street alone I could count ten. Just to list them, next-door was a typical front room shop, to this day I can still remember hearing the door bell tinkle away as soon as you opened the door. It was located at the top of the door on a spring like bracket. This was the only way the occupier of the house knew someone had come into the shop. The private part of the house was the kitchen and their front room was the shop and this was a common situation in other similar house shops.
At the other end of the street was a corner shop called Newton’s, on the opposite corner was another small shop that I remember had a cigarette machine attached to the wall next to its entrance. Going in the opposite direction at the other end of the street we had Hail’s the Butcher, there was always sawdust on the floor here. Just a few yards further on we had Hail’s the Grocer. Opposite was a Cobbler and round the corner a Newsagent. In those days my father used to buy the Daily Express mainly because if you kept the serial numbers of the paper safely until the correct number had been collected he could put them all in an envelope and by return of post receive a beautiful new book. The book that comes to mind is ‘All the Movie Stars of Early Motion Pictures’. He collected many books by this method which proudly filled my dad’s bookcase in the front room.
To get back to the shops, at the same end of the street we had another cobbler along with another butcher, a fruit and vegetable shop and a barber. In the back lane of the same street was a slaughter house, which would attract a lot of attention on the day. I will not go into details but remember seeing it happen and it was very frightening!
Back to the corner shops, most goods sold were reasonably cheap because there were no overheads. As children we only had coppers to spend so sweets were our favourites, for instance Lucky Bags, a Sherbet Lunch maybe, Liquorice Laces or a Smoking Pipe. Most items were attached to large cards hung on the wall for all to see. There were also non-perishable goods i.e., bundles of sticks for the fire, bottles of Tizer or babies comforters.
Another corner shop opposite the fruit shop was a tiny Post Office. Any more than two people waiting to be served would have to wait outside until someone came out. The shop window was full of wonderful children’s toys. I could never afford any of them; in fact I can never remember anyone ever buying one. On the other corner was a draper’s shop; this was strictly a lady’s shop.
Let’s not forget the most important house shop – the perennial Fish and Chip shop, which was fifty yards along Tynemouth Road with two doorsteps. Many’s the time I’d run along there for a fish and chip supper for my mam and dad.
It was true as Napoleon once said – England was a nation of shopkeepers!
Alice Manning, born 1926
Remember the errand boy?
My earliest memory of shopping in North Shields is of going with my mum to the Meadow Dairy and seeing the butter cut from a big barrel shaped lump, kept on a marble slab to keep it cool. Everything came loose in those days, butter, sugar, flour, rice etc, etc. My mum did most of her shopping at Arthur Rhodes’ in the Balkwell. Their errand boy came every morning to collect the order and I got a chocolate biscuit when I went along to pay the bill at the end of the week.
Annie Edwardson, born 1922
I worked all my life in shops in North Shields and finally retired from Walkers (House of Quality).
You always had to pay attention to the customer when they entered your department and make sure you offered to help them. I worked for Bell Brothers in North Shields. Bell Brothers was a department store and had a wide range of departments including ladies fashions, baby linen. Toys, footwear and household goods. My wages were 5 shillings a week and my hours of work were 8.30 am to 5pm from Monday to Thursday, then 8.30 am to 6pm on a Friday and 8.30am to 7pm on a Saturday. It was quite a poor wage but the management were good to work for and we did get an hour and a half for lunch.
As a junior it was my job to sweep the floor and remove all the dust covers before the doors opened, then before going home at night the dust covers all had to be put on again, we had to wear a black dress. Bell Brothers had a sale every year, just the one, and people would queue for a long time before the store opened, right along Wellington St. The management provided tea for them, we had to go along the queue and take a note of items the people hoped to buy and we would reserve them in case they missed their turn in the rush when the doors were opened. We used to laugh watching people drinking tea out in the street.
Each department had a senior sales and a junior, the junior had to follow the actions of a senior, which was how they learned their job and they weren’t allowed to approach a customer unless the senior allowed them to do so. We were trained for a few months in each department so we could cover for other staff if they were ill or on holiday. You always had to pay attention to the customer when they entered your department and make sure you offered to help them. There was always a chair ready for customers to sit down while they chose their goods.
There was even a Ladies Hairdressing Salon in Bell Brothers and they had the overhead pulley system too, throughout the store. You had to be careful with that when you put the money in as it could pull the hanky out of your sleeve before it whooshed up into the office. Another thing was the credit system, a person would get a ticket for say £10 and they would be given tokens which could only be spent in Bell Brothers, they would pay a bit extra money back at so much every week.
Another shop was Lees Separates and Furriers, this was an upmarket shop and on the second floor they had the fur showroom, the popular furs at that time were Musquash and Beaver Lamb. When I was 19 I left Bell Bros and went to work there for another five or six years. When I was working at Lees, war broke out and Mr Lee tried to get me deferred but was refused and so I was called up for National Service, I told them I would like to go into the Women’s Land Army, but they told me they needed munitions workers so that’s where I ended up. They sent me to Wallsend for training and then I was posted to Manchester where a car plant had been converted to a munitions factory there we made pistons for aeroplanes etc. I worked in Manchester for 5 years and enjoyed my time there.
I worked all my life in shops in North Shields and finally retired from Walkers (House of Quality). The social life was good there, we went out on trips once a year and also went to dinner dances at the Bath Hotel in Front Street Tynemouth.
Volunteer Dorothy Cole interviewing Miss Doreen Thompson, born 1928
Woolworths was like fairyland where I spent my penny pocket money there.
I remember going shopping on a Saturday night; this was because the perishables were all reduced. We would go to Briggs on the corner of Elsdon and Lawson Street. On the way home I would have a pease pudding dip and my mam and dad would have a pork sandwich each.
I remember being sent to buy treacle which was sold from a barrel, they would draw the cup round in a circle and scoop the treacle out it would drip down the side of the cup and I would lick it all off on the way home. I sometimes got home made cinder toffee. I remember Easton’s fish and chip shop on Howdon Road and asking for lots of batter with the fish and chips. The best ice cream shop was Lopez.
My Grandmother had the Bakery in Millburn Place, she would bake sly cake in a large tray and cut them to size, then she would let me have the side pieces to eat. We would go into Barry Nobles in Bedford Street and ask for a pennyworth of pot stuff, this was carrots and turnip and things, and then we would go to the butchers and ask for a bag of bones, these would make stock for soup and potted meat. During the war we were given whale meat it was horrible, we also had horse meat. After the war we had bananas and this was the first time some people had seen them and they tried to eat them with the skin on.
I started work in Alice Heckles Drapery Store for six shillings a week, I had to scrub the floor, wash and dress the windows and do the polishing, I took my first pay home and was given sixpence back for my pocket money.
Another of Doreen’s memories:
As children, whenever we saw the district nurse carrying her black bag into a house we knew there would be a baby. One day we saw the nurse carrying her bag into a neighbour’s house and I ran in to tell my mam that Mrs whoever had had a baby, she asked how I knew that, I told her I had seen the nurse carry the baby into the house in her black bag, everyone laughed as the neighbour was a very old lady who probably had a bad leg.
Dorothy Limerick, born 1939
Holmes the sweet shop on the corner of Nile Street opposite the station was a very popular shop.
Dorothy’s earliest memories of shopping as a young child was going into a general dealer shop to buy a newspaper for her parents; this was in Hawkey’s Lane.
Later on, as an older person she remembers going to the Co-op Store in Lower Camden Street to buy things, it was also the place where every quarter of the financial year subscribers could look forward to collecting what was known as the dividend, this was credited to you by the number of purchases you made in the past months by way of retaining your check number; depending on how much you spent at the co-op this could amount to quite a lot of money, this was a happy day!
Another nice shop Dorothy went to was Walkers at the top end of Borough Road, a very good quality shop. On one occasion her mother decided to buy a new hardwearing passage carpet running up to the front door, Dorothy didn’t lose out because she was given a new pair of shoes and a new skirt.
Dampney’s shop on Saville Street sold paint and wallpaper. Dorothy remembers cutting the edging of the wallpaper before pasting it to put on the wall, she also remembers how her dad showed her how to match a short length of paper with another length by making an uneven tear where the patterns matched then sticking one over the other, this way the join was almost invisible; a good tip I thought.
T.G.Allans in Bedford Street was another shop Dorothy remembers, she bought games and birthday cards there and they also sold many different household articles. Dorothy knew a person who owned a small shop in West Percy Street called Doreen’s she sold underwear and blouses. Glenton’s wool shop, located next door to Allans was another popular shop. Dorothy, who was a very good knitter, knitted a full length dress.
Also well remembered was Holmes the sweet shop on the corner of Nile Street opposite the station; a very popular shop. Near the top of Stephenson Street there was Hunters the bakers, they were well known and produced wonderful cakes, scones, teacakes and lots of other cookies. Dorothy remembers especially the great hall above the shop that could be used for weddings if you used the products from their bakery.
A shop known as Mercers, also in Stephenson Street was well known for repairing electrical goods and they sold parts for Hoover vacuum machines. Barry Noble’s was another shop remembered by Dorothy, this was an enormous shop, you could have played football in it the floor was so big! They sold fruit and vegetables the shop was in Bedford Street.
Dorothy Mitchinson, born 1933
I used to go and do messages for my mum because I was the oldest.
My mum mainly shopped at Thompson Red Stamp Stores in Saville Street but also at the Home and Colonial, where you could put your order in on a Saturday and it was delivered on the following Thursday. When I was married I used to use the Home & Colonial and did the same thing.
I used to go and do messages for her because I was the oldest. I was about eight or nine years old. One day mum said she needed a plate from Thompson’s and I said I would go and get it. She didn’t think I could manage it but I insisted. So away I went to the shop. Of course, when I got there ‘the plate’ turned out to be a piece of metal that laid on the bottom of the hearth. I was shocked when I saw it.
It was very heavy and awkward and the staff couldn’t believe that I could carry it all the way home. They helped me to carry it across the main road and from there I managed to get it home. Mum was very pleased, if not a bit surprised. One day my sister did a message for my mum and she lost the change on the way home – mum was not amused. I used to do shopping for other people and I’d get a 1d ‘for going’.
When I had children I always used the Globe Boot shop in Saville Street. It was a shop where you could have your feet measured properly and the shoes were good quality and lasted well. I liked sewing and when I got older I’d mend my brothers closes, turning collars and patching the knees of trousers. We didn’t have a sewing machine but there was a little sewing machine shop on Saville Street, near to the General Post Office and I used to stand looking in the window and watching everything going on inside the shop. One day, the manager came out and said “I think you’d better come in” and I said “What for?” He said “Well, if you’re going to stand every day you might as well come in and tell me what’s so interesting”. I told him I wanted to learn to use one of the sewing machines and he said “Well, that’s alright, I’ll teach you”. So he did, and when I went to King Edward School I came top of the sewing class.
Ellen Telford, born 1919
On Saturday nights Ellen and her friends liked nothing better than parading up and down Saville Street looking in the shop windows.
Ellen thought that when she went to the corner shop on the corner of Rudyerd Street for her mother that the shopping she got was free! She didn’t know that her mother went later on to pay for the goods. She also remembers her mam used to go to the penny bazaar alot. On a Saturday night Ellen and her friends liked nothing better than parading up and down Saville Street looking in the shop windows, which were all lit up and dressed. They used to pick out the clothes and other items they liked the best.
Ellen’s other memories:
At the age of fourteen Ellen started work in the Tyne Brand factory, she worked 8.00 – 12.00 and then 1.00 – 5.00 and the wage was 9/6, of which 6d was deducted for the smock she had to wear when she was there. She would hand over her pay packet and her mother would give her 1/6 back as pocket money for the week. Ellen left Tyne Brand to join the Royal Air Force and ended as a cook in the officers’ mess (bomber command) attached to the Canadian Air Force. She did want to be a driver but her legs were too short!
Jean Moat, born 1921
An early experience of shopping.
Jean has been told by her mother that when she was a baby her mother had left her in her pram outside of the shops one day. On finishing her shopping, Jean’s mother returned home. When she realised she had left Jean outside of Hunters the Bakers on Preston Road she immediately dashed straight back. Fortunately the pram and its contents were still where she had left them and Jean was still fast asleep!
Jean left school at the age of fourteen and started work, strangely enough, at Hunters the Bakers on the corner of Cleveland Road and Queen Alexandra Road. She thinks the wage was 12/- a week. From there she went to Howard’s Stores and then to Welch’s sweet factory (because it meant she could have the weekends off).
John Stephenson, born 1929
The office boy’s enterprise – shopping for work colleagues.
I worked for Tynemouth Borough Council and later North Tyneside Council in their offices at the bottom of Howard Street North Shields. If I was involved in the Census I would have to walk up and down the streets in North Shields identifying the correct address of every house. When you got to the streets that had shops in them you had to be very careful that everything was recorded properly in case you missed, for example, a flat above a shop.
At lunch time I used to go out to the YMCA, which put on a good meal on the top floor. There was also a British Restaurant on Albion Road, where the Jubilee School was. I also remember we had an enterprising office boy who used to take orders from people in the office and then go to the Cornish Pasty Shop (that was its name) in Rudyerd Street. He charged everyone a penny for going, on top of the price of the pie.
Howard Street was very central for an excellent selection of local shops.
I remember all the gents outfitters that were in North Shields; Boltons for shirts and knitwear, John Davidson’s for all kinds of gentleman’s hats. It was my wife who liked shopping really. Her grandfather had been a Master Confectioner in a shop at the end of Saville Street West and could make all kinds of sweets and chocolates. It was a very skilled job. When we were married we bought some of our furniture from Graham’s and they were very helpful, making sure we got exactly what we wanted.
Josephine Hope, born 1920
Getting to know the people you served.
Josephine remembers house shops where you could buy a cup of beetroot or pickled onions for 2d. They were also good for home made pies and peas. She worked in the Hadrian in Tynemouth for many years, this shop was near Maynards. During the war she worked in Binns of Newcastle. The nice thing about working locally was getting to know people.
The Co-op was a very important shop, it had every department you needed, grocery, bakery, butcher, fruiterer etc. You didn’t need a shopping bag, everything was parcelled neatly in brown paper and tied with string. You could walk in and take a seat while you put your weekly order in and then it was delivered. Divi day was a highlight, once you’d stood in the queue to collect your dividend you could head for the Co- op cafe for a treat.
Peggy Kemp, born 1924
Margaret (Peggy) Kemp
A time-served hairdresser.
The earliest memories I have of shopping was the distance we had to walk to get to the shops. The place we lived was surrounded with fields and we had to walk all the way in to Shields, about 3 miles, there was no bus or tram in those days. There were trams in Shields and I remember one day a tram went out of control and ran all the way down Borough Bank.
We would walk to the shops on a Saturday, I liked the Penny Bazaar, I don’t mean Woolworths; there was another one. We had a bakery in Prudhoe Street and we had to walk in to Shields on a Sunday to stoke the ovens up, every Wednesday we were allowed to have a treat, we could pick a cake each, I always chose my favourite, a cream horn.
Other shops I remember were Brough Stores where they had overhead cash lines, and Thompsons Red Stamp Stores.
We lived on the Ridges and my parents bought a Shop, it was a confectioners and tobacconists, they bought it from a young couple and when they got the books there was a credit book, they didn’t have all the names of the people who owed money, one entry stated “the woman with the red shawl” When my parents took over my Father said no credit would be given. In those days we sold Woodbines (coffin nails) for two shillings for ten and four shillings for twenty, men on their way to work would come in and ask for a newspaper and a double (twenty) Woodbine.
When I was 14 my father paid £10 for me to serve my time as a hairdresser, this was at Mr Harts Hairdressers in Bedford Street above the TSB bank. It was a lady and gents hairdressers, a perm cost seven shillings and six pence, a shampoo and set cost two shillings and six pence and it cost two shillings for a shampoo only. There was a place at the back of the salon where Mr Hart mended umbrellas.
Margaret Tod, born 1933
Memories of Thompson Red Stamp Stores.
I was born in Bay Square off Camden Lane, which is where Wilkinson’s is now but we moved away from there eventually. When I was little my mother did all the shopping in Marina Avenue on the Ridges Estate. There was everything you needed there, including a Thompson’s Red Stamp Store. During the war they’d sometimes run a special ‘alphabet’ offer. If it was, for example, a ‘D’ day and your name began with ‘D’ then you’d get something extra in your rations, maybe a ham shank or some oranges. Word soon went round about that.
I started work for Thompson’s Red Stamp Stores when I was about 15. I got paid £1. 3. 2, in old money about £1.17p today. I was there for six or seven months then I went to work for the Co-op. There were many departments in the Co-op including a savings bank.
I remember the grocery department; there were two counters, one for dry goods and the other for things like bacon and butter. The people had to stand in a queue for their dry goods and then queue again for their rations (as we called bacon, butter etc ) There was a cheese wire to cut the cheese and a slicing machine for the bacon, the sugar was delivered in brown hessian bags, we had to weigh the sugar out into small blue bags, the women would then ask for the hessian bags and take them home to use to make mats from old clothes, they would set up a mat frame which consisted of two long wooden sides and two shorter ones with pegs in them to adjust to whatever size mat you wanted to make.
In order to keep things cool the shop counters were made of marble. The floor was covered with sawdust and at the end of the day we had to sprinkle water on it before we swept it up. If a lady was pregnant she was issued with a green ration book and this allowed her certain extra rations and also entitled her to go to the front of the queue.
The shop I remember best was Rowell’s. It was a lovely shop if you could afford it. I also remember Fleetwing Dry Cleaning in Rudyerd Street opposite Hadaways fresh fish shop, Taws for ladies clothes and Baker’s the Pork Shop.
Mary Murray, born 1921
Belle Richardson, born 1921
Mary Murray and Belle Richardson
Memories of shopping during wartime.
We didn’t live in North Shields until after we were married; we both married soldiers and moved to North Shields during the war.
Mary had a young child and she was exempt from essential war work because she had no one to look after the baby as her mother had died. Belle served with the Royal Signals in Inverness and her baby was three years old when she was demobbed.
The things that we remember about shopping during the war was buying butter, a sheet of grease proof paper was laid on the scales and using butter patters or clappers, these were 2 small flat wooden boards with handles the grocer would take a chunk of butter from a large mound, he would then pat it into shape and lay it on the grease proof paper and neatly wrapped it up. The other thing we remember was queuing for bananas and cigarettes.
As most of the food you bought in those days was sold by weight, and not pre-packed you could buy just what you needed, not many people had fridges then. It was the same with the milk you went along to the dairy and bought your milk from the churn, they had different size measures such as a gill or half pint as well as a pint.
Mary Davis, born 1926
Remembering long opening hours.
I started going to the shops when I was about seven years old. One shop I went to was called Hardy’s, a shop in a house on Hedley Street, where I used to get dad’s cigarettes, 5d for 5, and if I only had tuppence ha’peny I would only be given two and a half cigarettes.
There was another shop called Duncan’s Cash which was a posh shop. Why was this? Because they were more expensive and alot better quality. The shops usually opened at 6 o clock, closing at 8. 30pm. I liked the bakers because it sold lucky bags. My mother used to have tick at the bakers, which sold everything. One day my mother sent me for some sugar and I said NO until my mother went in and paid her bill. I will always remember that because I was so embarrassed.
If mam had 3d left over on a Saturday she would go to the butcher to buy three pennyworth of pieces of meat. If only tuppence she would purchase corned beef. The biggest treat of all was when she would buy a tin of pineapple.
When my father got his first job after two years of marriage and when he gave mother his wage packet she just looked and said “what am I going to do with all this money”.
Maud Wales, born 1924
Ice cream shops!!
Though I lived in North Shields, my favourite memory is of an ice cream shop in South Shields. The shop was owned by Nortriannis and we would go over from North to South Shields on the car ferry that was our Saturday treat; my favourite was a rum baba.
My father was a watch maker and we had a shop in Prudhoe Street for thirty eight years further along the street was a bakers and a pork shop which was owned by Germans, I remember their saveloys and pork sandwiches.
I remember going shopping on a Saturday lots of people went on a Saturday night as the things were sold cheaper then, I remember Campbell and Mellor’s the butcher shop, on Christmas Eve some were open till half past eleven, there was always someone who forgot to buy a present.
I trained as a hairdresser when I was 14 years old and worked until I was 70. I worked in a salon at the top of Nile Street and one customer we had was covered in tattoos all over, she was a hard person. I can remember working late on a new years eve and running to Northumberland Square to be there when they fired the gun to welcome the New Year in. For a few years I worked as a mobile hairdresser.
Some of Maud’s other memories:
When I was very young I went to dancing classes and danced solo at the Rotunda, I also went roller skating and I learned to play the violin and played at The Theatre Royal in North Shields. I also sang and danced with the Marsh Accordion Band, I remember singing “Little Old Lady Passing By”.
We were bombed out 3 times and we lost everything, we had no clothes, one of the times we were bombed was the night they dropped 7 bombs on the cemetery. I remember the North Shields Carnival, I went dressed up as a rabbit, and we were joined by the Pearly Kings and Queens.
We had our holidays in Hexham or Chester-le-street, and during the summer all the family would meet on Tynemouth beach where we would spend the day together.
When I had scarlet fever I had to go into the Fever Hospital and parents were only allowed to see us from a distance, my mam would throw a comic over to me with a bar of chocolate hidden inside but they always found it and took it off me.
About 1936 King George the 6th and Queen Elizabeth visited North Shields and my mother made me an outfit with a princess Marina style hat to match, it was turquoise, I stood on the steps of the YMCA and when they arrived the Queen was wearing the same colour as me, everybody was asking me where I had bought the outfit from.
Norma High, born 1935
Lots to choose from!
My earliest memory of shops and shopping was working as an errand girl for McConnell’s & McAvoy’s on Preston Rd. It was a grocery shop. My mum and my nana had run shops themselves, nana’s was called E Short and we lived above the shop.
When I was first married I did all my shopping at the Hadrian, on the corner of Saville St and Howdon Rd. If I wanted dresses I went to Bell Bros or D Hill Carter, they were both nice shops. I also bought school stuff there, there was a good selection.
Sally Barber, born 1933
Remembering Peggy Smith’s of Chirton – the haberdasher.
I was born in Chapel Street Chirton and I remember the shops at the bottom of Heaton Terrace. There was the Hadrian, Howes and then the Dairy. You had to take a can to collect your milk and the Dairyman measured out however much you asked for. You went every day because there wasn’t any way of keeping the milk fresh for longer – no fridges or freezers. The Dairyman took his horse and cart every morning to North Shields Railway Station to collect the churns of fresh milk.
At the bottom of Wallsend Road I remember little shops like Garretts, which sold newspapers. It was just a little hut really, next to the Robin Hood pub. I also remember Giles the butcher and Thompson Red Stamp Store. Sampson’s, towards Wallsend Road was a very good greengrocer and on Front St Chirton there was a cake shop, a pie shop, a chemist, post office as well as Hadrian, Duncan and the Co-op.
I have special memories of a haberdashery shop called Peggy Smith’s at Chirton. You could buy all sorts of things there, including buttons and clothes. I used to make kilts for her before I went off to college to take my City & Guilds qualification in dressmaking. I also worked for a tailor in West Percy Street called Arnold’s. He taught me how to draft patterns. I’ve always been a dressmaker and ended up with my own business.
Sam Cottingham, born 1925
Going shopping late in the day.
I was born in Church Way, in the old cottages and I used to do some of my mam’s shopping. I remember going to the Co-op in Camden Street where the divi was 5d in the pound. My first job was at this Co-op, as an Errand Boy for 30/- a week.
There was a butcher in Front Street Chirton called Lesley Child and I used to get sent there for mince. It was nearly always mince, rarely a joint of meat. My father had been lost at sea and my mam was bringing up the family on very little. We’d had a few shillings from the Guardians but other wise we were on our own. My sister and I sometimes used to go late in the day to the food shops when things were sold off at reduced prices.
Fresh produce would be reduced in price at Christmas because there was no way of storing it. Late on Christmas Eve you could get a chicken from either Clark’s the butcher in West Percy Street or from another place in Saville Street that had all the birds hung up outside the shop. Other shops would have done the same too. Later on we never had to worry about our Christmas bird because we kept chickens in our garden and grew our own vegetables. The day old chicks came on the train from Darlington and we collected them from the station in North Shields. Then we kept them for eggs and meat. We saved the Rhode Island Red cockerel for Christmas dinner. Our neighbour next door kept rabbits and we’d swap a chicken for a Flemish Giant for a bit of variety. It was a good deal. We had relations that lived in Toll Square and I remember going to a sweet shop called McKays in Charlotte Street for bars of toffee. Across the road was a tiny shop that used to be the only place we knew about where you could get Puro milk. The lady who owned the shop was very kind and never used to charge the proper prices. One day a man came from the bank to look at her books but she just looked at him and said “I haven’t got any”.
They were happy days, they were good days.
Val Hammil, born 1925
Remember delivery bikes?
Val said her mother nearly always went to the shops herself when she was young, but sometimes she went for her mam’s messages to Jones the General dealer on Verne Road. Often a boy on an old fashioned delivery bike delivered the groceries to her house.
She left school at fourteen to start work at the Tyne Brand factory, where she hated every minute of it. At eighteen she was called up for the army where she served on ack ack guns. She enjoyed the army and hoped to be sent abroad. She got her wish and was posted to Belgium.
Memories of shops in North Shields
(Courtesy of Bill Stephenson, North Shields Library Club)
In Saville Street, North Shields
Jerome’s the photographer – everyone went there if a special photo was required – passports etc.
Marsh’s the music shop – you could buy all sheet music and records there. They would order things for you if they weren’t in stock. I got my Boosey & Hawkes Trombone Tutor from there.
Wood’s the Tailor – a gents outfitter which also specialised in uniforms for army and navy officers. All personnel who joined the merchant navy would buy their uniforms there.
Pierson’s – this was the shop where you obtained your school uniforms. Blazers, stocking tops, snakes belts, all in school colours. This shop had a system of payments where the money was put into a container which then shot up to the central cash office. Change and bill returned by the
Burton’s the Tailor and the 50/- Tailor – imagine today that you could buy a three piece suit, made to measure for 50/- (£2.50), it was amazing. I remember my father getting a suit there and they threw in a pair of matching plus fours as well. There was also ‘Weaver to Wearer’, another tailor.
Maynards sweet shop – specialised in Maynards Wine Gums, Coconut Ice and Raspberry Ruffles. They also sold Jesdene Black Bullets and Tyne Mints.
Globe Boot Shop – was on the opposite corner to the old Library. This shop sold every kind of work boots you would ever need as well as solid leather shoes, plimsolls, sandals, hob nailed boots and wellingtons.
D Hill Carter – the biggest department store in the Borough. It sold all sorts and had a café and a lift.
The Basket Shop – a specialist shop making baskets for use on the fish quay in the fish trade, for household uses and furniture making.
In Bedford Street, North Shields
Graham’s Furniture Store – sold all the good brands of furniture and kitchen units. It was an agent for Ercol furniture.
Clark’s Toys & Prams – where Poundstretcher is today. My mother and father used to pre-book our Christmas toys there.
W.E.B. Pyle, the Butcher – where we used to get our meat for the pub (Fountain Head). We sold hot beef sandwiches at weekends.
Hardy, Brown, Tinn & Co, painters & decorators – where a lot of people shopped for wallpapers, paint, whitewash and distemper (water paint).
Fairbairns for shoes – all types including ladies fashion shoes.
Todd’s the baby shop – all baby clothes, cot and pram sheets and rugs.
Rowells – ladies high class fashions on the corner of Wellington Street. Most ladies shopped there for ‘posh’ dance dresses and gowns.
Bell Brothers department store – had its own coinage and you can still find Bell Bros pennies today.
Bainbridge & Sons, high class furniture – including ‘Priory’ hand made furniture. You could also arrange to have furniture removals done here. In Bedford Street you can still see their shop by looking up for the distinctive decoration which shows Tynemouth Priory.
Tweddles haberdashers – you could buy anything here from a packet of pins to dress materials, curtain materials, tapes and ribbons. They also sold ‘batchelor’s buttons’ which didn’t have to be sewn on.
Barry Noble’s, fruit and vegetables – at the time the biggest shop of its kind in the town.
Williamson & Hogg, chemist & coffee grinders – the area around this shop always smelled of ground coffee, lovely!! They also had an industrial arm to their business. They used to do ‘gas freeing’ of ships so that work could commence without the danger of a ship’s tanks exploding.
Woolworth, the 3d and 6d store – you could even buy your spectacles there. 6d for the frame, 6d for the left lens and 6d for the right. You fitted them yourself. This was later stopped because people were buying lenses that were far too strong for them.
T Archer Lee – although not a shop this business was essential to local shoppers. It was a ‘ticket’ business, located above Martin’s Bank. Many people couldn’t afford cash for purchases so they would obtain a ticket from Lee’s, which allowed them to purchase ‘on tick’. Of course, the amounts borrowed on the ticket had to be paid back throughout the year, with interest. T Archer Lee must have dressed half of Shields in its time.
For good measure around the corner from Bedford Street was Peter’s, they sold all sorts of foreign food; olive oil, Greek, Italian and other specialist items. Also, Polly Clements, an ‘open all hours’ type of shop. I vividly remember all the fly papers hanging up.
Grubers Tynemouth Road was a pork butcher. During the war meat was rationed but offal and the like was not. I spent many a Saturday morning queuing for white pudding, black pudding etc – I hated the queuing!
The Tripe Shop – Southworths in West Percy Street. This shop specialised in all forms of tripe and was a very busy place. Ada Southworth became Mayor of Tynemouth Borough.
Gladstone’s – Ironmongers in Bedford Street. They sold all manner of nails, screws, hinges, tools, pots, kettles, pans, step ladders – in fact anything in the hardware line.
Cowells (or is it Cowies), opposite Christ Church on Albion Rd. Sold leather goods, this is where you bought your leather for cobbling shoes,
which everyone did. You could get ‘Philips Stick-on Soles’, we fitted them ourselves on a cobblers last. I remember this is where I bought my first football (twelve panels). They also sold ‘T’ balls and ‘Zig Zag’ balls.