At the beginning of the year, we posted a poll on Facebook and asked our followers if they would like us to research Gosforth pubs or Gosforth shops. The results were 60% to 40% in favour of shops, so this is our local history post about Davison’s Chemist shop and other traders at 201 Gosforth High Street.
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Davison’s Chemist Shop
The first record we found of a shop at this address was in 1913. Although Gosforth High Street at this time had a well developed local commercial centre, there were a few odd plots of land still standing vacant. The second edition ordnance survey map of 1898 shows an empty plot at the end of the Tramway building towards Woodbine Road. The 1913 Godfery Map of Gosforth shows a new structure in this space. We found three businesses trading from this building between 1913 and 1980, Davison’s Pharmacy, Public Benefit Boot Company and Crawford Bakers.
Initially at 127 Gosforth High Street, (NB. the building numbers on Gosforth High Street were re configured around 1912). Davison’s Pharmacy moved trading premises in 1913 to number 201, which was on the opposite corner to the church situated at the Woodbine Road and High Street junction. Mr Davison did not live above the shop but at 38 Salters Road moving to 4 Regent Villas Salters Road by 1919.
An advert in the Evening Chronicle edition on 14 September 1940 reads:
APPRENTICE and Unqualified Assistant Wanted immediately.—Apply Davison (Chemist) Ltd.. High Street, Gosforth. vacancy occurs …, age about 40, … Service Organisation as Resident Inspector to control connection factories anti workshops; position not a sales proposition, but permanency, and the necessary training to be given successful applicant; wage commencing £4 per week plus travelling expenses.—Write stating age and previous experience to Box 586.
We see Davison’s trading here for twelve years until 1925, and by 1927 the Public Benefit Boot Company have moved in.
Public Benefit Boot Company
Public Benefit Boot Company were well-known with a chain of footwear shops throughout the UK. Interestingly they were so successful that in an attempt to save the brand, during the late 1800s local newspapers published adverts alerting the public to the trend of market stalls and other competitors calling themselves by the same or very similar names.
A detailed and fascinating look into the history of this company is available at the Public Benefit Boot Company website, where we found the Gosforth shop recorded under the biographical section.
In 1928 Davison’s Pharmacy is recorded at 197 Gosforth High Street, and in 1929 the footwear shop changed its name to Public Boot Company. Directories show a further two name changes in 1950 to Benefit Footwear Ltd. and Benefit Footwear Ltd. Boot and Shoe Dealers in 1953. The last mention we have is in 1962 after an astonishing continual thirty-three years of trading at this Gosforth address.
D S Crawford Bakers Ltd.
We wonder if many of you remember Crawford Bakers? Another big name from the past. Records show Crawford Bakers at this address from 1968 until 1980 (and possibly beyond as this is where our research finished).
Crawford Bakers originated in a small outlet at 14, Leith Street, Edinburgh in 1856, where they baked ship’s biscuits. Three generations of the Crawford family worked in the business with shortbread becoming the most well known of their biscuits. The company was eventually taken over by United Biscuits which ceased operating between 1984 and 1987.
In 1996 a news article was published about the “Bread Wars” highlighting the plight of independent bakers in the face of supermarket marketing strategies.
Crawford fought bravely against the supermarket discounting practices. In July 1990 a management buy-out from United Biscuits gave Crawford’s back its independence. However, continued pressure from in-store bakeries and discounted prices saw Crawford Bakers eventually close its doors in 1996.
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201 High Street Gosforth today.