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Back by popular demand! Memories of Gosforth High Street from the Royalty Cinema to Brough’s The Grocers. Join us once more as we walk with David Wardell along 1950’s Gosforth High Street heading south.
Our return journey Southwards now starts at the Royalty Cinema . Children of all ages would happily gather here on a Saturday morning for the Kid’s Matinee. Commonly a cartoon and a Western. It was fairly cheap to get in and as long as you didn’t buy sweets from the Kiosk was an economical mornings entertainment. For the more affluent kids choc bars and Lyons Orange Maid Lollies or perhaps a small tub of ice cream with a spoon could be purchased in the intermission when “The Lyons Maid will visit all parts of the theatre” as the advert would tell us. She seldom left her standing position at the very front however. Sitting in the circle area was very popular, especially with older children, where they could drop papers and apple cores etc. over on to the heads of the children in the stalls. The really bad ones would even spit. Sadly the Royalty closed down on 30th December 1981 with a Disney double bill of “Dumbo” and “The Incredible Journey”, to make way for sheltered housing , Homedowne House.
Leaving the Cinema behind us we pass The Council Buildings and the archway leading to the old Gosforth Fire Station . The fire brigade have now long since disappeared to Jubilee Road with much better premises for their purpose but at that time reversing the larger more modern fire engines in to these old premises, under the archway from off the High Street, must have been quite an art, since they barely fitted the space available.
Immediately beyond the fire station, at no.232 , originally a tripe shop in very early times, was, until at least 1956, H.W.Sterling, a Newsagent, tobacconist and sweet shop. Here we children once again had this shop earmarked as where we could get a cheap treat. Sterling’s made their own ice lollies, which were just 1d each (less than ½ p in modern money). What a bargain! They came unwrapped, pulled out of a big tray of conical lolly moulds. Now following it’s rebirth after a more recent fire this shop is the New New Bengal Indian restaurant. A couple of doors on was Bob Youngs Fish and Chip shop. There since pre WW11 it had been a chip shop since much earlier times under the name of H Robinson’s. Always known as Bob Youngs in my era even after it had later changed hands and was run by the Laws Family it eventual became Chip Stop and then The Gosforth Chippy. In those days you could get a bag of chips for 3d and fish and chips for 1/6d and for hungry kids who couldn’t afford these great prices, a bag of batter or ‘scraps’ could be begged for a 1d. This was perhaps the only source of take away food at that time. Burgers didn’t arrive until the mid 60’s with Wimpy Restaurants, and pizza came somewhat later. Chinese and Indian restaurants were rare and small and mostly confined to the City Centres. Macdonalds and KFC came very much later at the end of the 70’s and didn’t reach the North East for several more years.
Beyond here was perhaps a butchers shop and then on the corner of Church Road for a time was Henderson’s Greengrocers.
Crossing over Church Road and just beyond the Queen Victoria Pub we find The Toy Cupboard on a corner where Robertson’s, Photographic Retailers now reside. The Toy Cupboard was a fair walk from my house and with so many other shops to choose from we rarely wandered this far afield but this was where we could obtain Jokes and novelties much loved by mischievous little boys. In great favour always were Stink Bombs and Cap Bombs .
The latter were like a small plastic rocket with a metal spring loaded plunger at the tip. Removing the end cover you were able to place a ‘cap’ inside (such as were used in toy cap guns) When thrown, it would be detonated by the plunger on landing, hopefully, creating a small bang. (they didn’t always work as intended). An earlier incarnation of the cap bomb was like a small cast metal aeroplane in two parts held together by two rubber bands around the wings. These were a much more reliable option. Because of these two novelties the shop was christened The Bomb Shop and was known as such thereafter (at least among my range of friends and acquaintances – if not all the kids of Gosforth).
Even better were fireworks, available freely to children at that time from many outlets. 1d Bangers and jumping jacks being especially desirable which being lit could be thrown down and cause considerable alarm amongst others in addition to being more dangerous than we realised. I well recall the jumping jacks being thrown among the crowd by students on the Rag Parade Floats each year in the town.
Less familiar with the shops at this end of the High Street my next recollection past the Blacksmith’s Arms is Barry Noble’s Greengrocery which later was to become Cummings Radio Engineer around 1956. Mr. Cummings was well known partly because he was very short in stature being only about 4’10” high. A really nice man who I later got to know when he had an allotment at Beaumont Terrace. His shop eventually was to become Ladbroke’s the Bookmakers jointly with the premises beyond, which had been a Wine Market Shop.
Moving on over the back lane beside the Earl Grey were two shops together just before the Brandling Arms. One became a Discount shop in the 70’s and I think before this it had been a milliner called Babette, and the other was Brooks The Grocer’s which evolved in to Smith’s Furniture, later Regnart’s Carpets, eventually both shops being joined to form the Halifax Building Society (Bank) . Passing by the Brandling Arms came many more shops , now long demolished to make way for the Shopping Centre in the 70’s.
The first of these was Radio Rentals who later moved in to the Gosforth Centre. Next door we encounter Robson and Porteous, yet another bakery. Robson and Porteous were very popular and produced a good range of breads and cakes with a fabulous aroma of baking in the shop. They sold the best cream and custard slices, choc eclairs and custard tarts. These were all huge compared to the produce from Smyths, a little further along , which were small and delicate and produced for quite a different more genteel market.. Two very different shops both selling great products but at different edges of the spectrum. I think Robson & Porteous also had a shop on Station Road at South Gosforth.
At this point we’ve now reached Mood’s Stationer’s and Fancy Goods shop. Mood’s was on two floors with most stationery being on the ground floor while upstairs there was a selection of fancy goods, glass and china objects and ornaments. If you went upstairs perhaps to look for a gift you were soon followed by a member of staff to ‘assist you’ , but I suppose really to keep a wary eye on you.
Next to come was Arkle’s the Butcher’s with Hendersons’s Greengrocers beyond on the corner of the back lane. Mrs. Henderson ran the fruit shop and as I recall Mr. George Henderson, her husband, was an accountant practicing from upstairs.
Gosforth Central Hall
“The radio broadcast of “Wot Cheor, Geordie” on 8th November 1949from the newly-opened Central Hall which stood on the site of the Gosforth Shopping Precinct. Central Hall was adapted from the old building which had been used by the ARP headquarters during the Second World War and the Hall was built through public subscription as a memorial to the people of Gosforth who had served in that war. The plaque recording the names of the fallen was originally in the Hall but is now in the entrance of the Civic Hall, Regent Farm Road.” ©City Libraries
This was the back lane that ran up to the old Central Hall, a civic hall which also had a stage opening out in to the Central Park where open air performances were held. I remember watching an outdoor performance here of the popular radio program ‘Watcha Geordie’ produced by Dick Kelly , from within the park. There were many other performances, very often for children on a Saturday , based on a Go As You Please format where kids would get up on stage to ‘Strut their Stuff.
Back on the High Street and across the lane we have now reached Smyth’s The Baker’s who also had a shop in Newcastle’s Saville Row. Smyth’s were the Higher class end of bakery shops, producing small and dainty cakes such as strawberry tarts (in season) and peach and pineapple melbas and other such delights as well as a range of breads and buns and again some dainty bread buns known as bridge rolls perhaps for the those wealthier ladies who entertained their friends with bridge parties. It was also from Smyth’s that I first encountered a pizza. These were quite small as was typical of the firm, being only about six inches in diameter and covered just with cheese and a tomato sauce base, basically a margherita with a couple of anchovies on the top (almost unheard of then). I always picked these fishy abominations off, not caring for strong fishy tastes very much.
There were one or two further small shops and then we came to a slightly bigger double fronted shop which was Brough’s The Grocer. Brough’s were part of a small local chain of grocer’s and like Law’s Stores were prominent in the early days of Self Service shops.
This work is copyright and may not be reproduced in part or in whole without permission of the author. Many of the pictures and illustrations may be copyright elsewhere and should not be published anywhere without checking copyright details. ©David Wardell.