Gosforth High Street in the 1950s

Gosforth High Street Discovering Heritage

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We are thrilled to join David Wardell once again for a nostalgic walk down Gosforth High Street.

We begin where we finished in David’s last post at number 69 Gosforth High Street!

Greggs The Bakers

We are now up to No.69.  In my infancy I can just recall this Baker’s shop as Masons the bakers from where we would get our bread. Thomas Mason and his wife worked here making their bread in the rear of the premises. Around 1951 this shop was to become the very first shop of Greggs the Bakers. John Gregg and his wife started up the well-known chain of bakers from here with just this one shop and a van round.  I was often sent here for an Edinburgh Oval brown, dusted over with a little flour or a milk roll, a cylindrical round loaf with a ridged corrugated surface, or perhaps a fadge, (a round flat loaf like a stottie without the central hole). Occasionally we might even risk a cut loaf wrapped in it’s waxed paper covering.

Greggs Bakers at Salters Road Gosforth

Greggs were later to become famed for the Geordie stotties that they produced. Bread was always wrapped up in white tissue paper which tended to fall loose whilst carrying and smaller items were placed in plain white paper bags. Logo printed bags were a thing of the future. Sometimes cakes were put in a flimsy cardboard box if you bought about six or were prepared to pay  the 2d extra for the box.  Mrs. Gregg and staff would be behind the counter and later also her son Ian who took the business to its current heights with shops all over the country assisted by his brother Colin, later to become a school teacher at the Kings School Tynemouth.  Their sister would also sometimes be present, still a schoolgirl, if I remember correctly. This original shop is now a part of the Gosforth Travel Bureau. I have never found a close photo of this first shop and even Greggs do not appear to have one in their online history — the nearest one being their later shop opposite what was previously Woolworths.

Just beyond Greggs we reach my father’s surgery at no.75. This had previously been Johnson Bros., Dyers and perhaps a dry cleaners. Mother took the shop on near the end of WW11 as her chiropody surgery and then my father took the reins after his demob from the RAF.

This had been a larger shops split in to two smaller units. My father’s surgery was completely blacked out around the lower half of the window for patient privacy with his large bronze plate the only visible sign outside, the door being screened with net curtaining.  Inside was very small with a tiny waiting area and a treatment cubicle in the window space. A curtain screened off the rear third of the shop where he could make cups of tea etc. and wash his hands between patients and maybe prepare his medicaments. It is now Sarah Mains an Estate agency. Walking home from my primary school in Linden Road I used to call in to the surgery and then my father would come out between patients and see me safely across the High Street whence I returned home.

The other half of this divided shop was Blenkinsop’s the Coal Merchants,  run with an iron hand by Edie Blenkinsop and beyond, Milthorpes the greengrocer’s and florist.

This was Miss.Annie Gardner’s emporium assisted by Miss. Wilson , a favourite person of mine, Regularly I would receive little extra pieces of fruit or some sweets from her personal little  paper bag in her apron. This shop was our main source of fruit and veg. for home and occasional bunches of flowers for Mother. It was more a greengrocers with a few flowers than a true florists shop and was usually cheaper than the dedicated florist shops. Greengrocery purchases were always put in to brown paper bags,  as were those from the hardware shops. Milthorpes also had a shop on Kenton Road and later acquired Davy Johnson’s shop on the High Street, which we have passed by already. According to phone directories the Milthorpe family had been on the High Street at this very shop since at least 1922 . 

Moving on from here the next shop I recall was F.W.Robinsons, a sweet shop and plastic goods retailer. Around 1959 this shop was acquired by and opened up as a branch of local coffee company, Pumphrey’s, selling coffee and tea and other specialist grocery items. The sweet shop had been flat on the street level but for some reason Pumphreys raised the floor level considerably, with a large step up in to their premises.  

Dunn’s The Butchers

We have now reached the well-known local butcher, Harry Dunn,  who also had a shop in the Grainger Market in Newcastle.  I came to know Harry and his staff of butchers fairly well, regularly shopping there for my Granny who lived just behind his shop on Hawthorn Road opposite the Police Station.  I would visit her on a Saturday to buy her shopping for her. Harry Dunn always looked after me well and in much later years kept me well supplied with juicy beef knuckle bones for our dogs. Now a hair salon it had also been briefly a Take Away Kebab shop in the mid 80’s.  The shop beyond had also been a Barbecue and Burger shop for a short spell in the 70’s.

Now at the  corner of Hawthorn Road we arrive at Murphy’s Wet Fish Shop, run by Mr .and Mrs.Murphy, with their fishy offerings displayed on speckled cream raised slab counters set in the windows.  Today it’s an Estate Agent with Coffee Shop combined.

There was another business just round the corner in Hawthorn Road & upstairs, where in the late 60’s Isaac and Rhoda Newrick had a small hairdressing business. Both had  previously worked at Hollingsworths Salon in Market Street in Newcastle and old Isaac was to cut my hair for a good few years in my teens,  and as it was very coarse in nature he routinely attacked it vigorously with his thinning scissors. It was a bit like cutting a hedge with blunt shears.

I would venture out from my Grannys house on a Saturday morning to get her shopping, after chopping her firewood with an axe and shovelling up her coke in to hods to place beside the fires for the princely sum of 3d,  her contribution to my weekly pocket money,  which I had worked hard to get.  First stop would always be at the bottom of Hawthorn Road, for a small white, uncut loaf at Carricks The Bakers who also stocked yet another ice cream brand, Eldorado. We had a choice of many ice cream brands at that time. Remember if you can the oblong bricks of ice cream that fitted in to rectangular cornets before the days of Mr.Whippy and such like. 

Boydells paper bag Discovering Heritage
Some memories of Boydells From our Facebook Page ©Discovering Heritage

As good as new G W R Hornby Brake Coach and only £1.32 Boydells price!

This shop was later re-incarnated as Boydells Toy Shop and subsequently was split in to three smaller shops.

Advert for Boydells shop on Gosforth High Street

Further shopping for my Granny, as previously mentioned, was usually to Dunn the butchers for her ‘Sunday Joint’ which was usually just two little chops joined together, some groceries and then a trip to the Co-op Pharmacy for some Carter’s Little Liver Pills or some Andrews Liver Salts , where I was always reminded by her to use her ‘Co-op Divi Number, 29853’  so that she would get her divi which was paid out every so often. No Greenshield Stamps at that time, a treat to follow in later years. After Carricks we encounter John Pringles Shoe Shop, later Saxone and then  Peter Lord Shoes, now  Café Nero Coffee shop.   

A tiny bit further and  we reach Boots the Chemist at No.105/107. A somewhat larger chemist’s shop, managed by pharmacist Mr.George Batey , a keen apiarist (Bee Keeper). I always had to ask here for my father’s professional discount of 10%,  available to those in the medical profession, which I was later able to obtain in my own right.

Wilkinson’s Grocers

Now we have come to Wilkinson’s, High Class Grocers and the ‘Fortnum’s’ of Gosforth. Here you would find 3 long mahogany topped counters,  one down either side and one across the rear of the shop. I was always sent to Wilkinson’s for ¼ pound of freshly ground coffee which Mother enjoyed. Most of our other  groceries would be purchased  elsewhere, particularly  by delivery from William Darling’s stall in the Grainger Market. A very long standing family arrangement. Only day to day additional fresh grocery needs came from the High Street shops. Wilkinsons , distinguished by its large counters, with tinned and packet goods mostly on the right side and on the left, where the bacon slicer resided, cooked meats, bacon, cheese, butter and other fats. Cheese sat resplendent on a large marble slab with a cheese wire cutter and butter would be at the back in a part open wooden barrel from Denmark (Early Lurpak) waiting to be cut and shaped with wooden pats. All these items were wrapped in greaseproof paper and traditional plain white paper bags except for sugar with it’s special blue paper bag and pulses which were put in to similar stout brown/grey packets. There was a particular reason for the blue sugar packets but now escapes my memory.  

You had to stand in line at these counters and wait your turn to be served by the assistant. who would move back and forth finding each item on the shelves behind. Staff were well known locally, with John the Manager, assisted by Miss. Agnes Porter –  another senior staff member. I knew them quite well since I would also come in here regularly with friends whose parents used the shop a great deal.  We were allowed to play in the back of the shop and would seek out the wooden hoops from the butter casks which we then took home to boule along the street with a stick. Many biscuits were sold loose at that time and in the front corner there was a stand of about 8 biscuit tins with glass lids. In these were all sorts of loose commonly eaten biscuits such as cream crackers, Cornish Wafers, Custard Creams, Bourbons and Nice biscuits from well known names like Peek Frean’s, Huntley and Palmer’s and Fox’s. Some shops even sold broken biscuits from the factories, but I doubt these would have been welcomed in Wilkinson’s Emporium.

Some old glass topped biscuit tins

©David Wardell

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17 thoughts on “Gosforth High Street in the 1950s

  1. Dawn Austin says:

    I worked at Anne Forsyth’s on the High Street in 1953, an expensive fashion shop,. Also opposite across the road was an opticians and Peter Woods photographers ( who took our wedding photos in 1961) Also on that side of the road was another fashion shop and Woolworths, Moods fancy goods shop and Arkles the butchers

  2. Catherine Robson says:

    Hello…I worked at Wilkinson Grocery store from 14 yrs as a Saturday girl and was very fortunate to be given a full time job once I left school…Bill the owner and John Watson his manager and Agnes Porter were my mentors in this lovely store..I was taught how to cut and cube butter,how to grind coffee,take and pack orders for delivery,I just loved the whole experience I started in 1965…Best job ever..I,ve never forgotten that shop..

  3. Joseph Fisher says:

    Give me a call on 2847115 and I’ll tell you about Lyktan which I,opened in 1956. It was not in Causey St, it was next to Miss Mellor in the High St. It was there for 5,years before moving to the corner of Grey and Shakespeare St. I’d love to see any info you have, ads etc.

    1. david wardell says:

      Having spoken with Max Fisher’s father Joseph I can hopefully now clarify for readers of this blog the details of Lyktan’s Shop. Joseph Fisher and his new Swedish wife opened Lyktan in 1957 until 1961 . The shop was on Gosforth High Street in the right hand half of the current Katherines Florists Shop where they had lowered the ceiling for better effect.. They were listed in the telephone directory as being at 6,Causey Buildings. This address was actually a rear premises that were reached behind the Barneys Wine Store shop at 4,Causey Buildings via a recessed entrance between no.4 and no.3 . These rear premises were behind the High Street shop.
      The entrance to Lyktan on the High Street was through a door which is now closed off on the right hand side of Katherines just before Albertos. .
      Lyktan later moved to the corner of Grey Street and Shakespeare Street to a much larger shop which many may remember.
      Many thanks to Joseph Fisher for this more detailed conversation.

  4. Mike. says:

    My parents had a shop on the corner of Causey street and High street, where Katherine’s florists is now.
    It was called “Lyktan”, and sold Swedish housewares, glass, pottery, imported from Sweden.
    It moved to Shakespeare street opposite the theatre Royal.

    1. david wardell says:

      Thank you for your interest. I had totally forgotten this shop but it was not on the corner but slightly up Causey Street. See phonebook entry below
      Name: L Lyktan
      Address: 6 Causey bldgs High St..
      Publication Year: 1958
      Directory Place: Gosforth, Northumberland, England
      Exchange: Gosforth

      David Wardell

      1. Anonymous says:

        It was the shop currently occupied by Katherine’s Florist. On the corner. If you go in and look up, there are black painted battens making up a slatted “false ceiling”. It has been there for around 60 years now, since my parents had it made up when they opened the shop…

        1. david wardell says:

          Mike, I can’t help but feel that you have become slightly mixed up on the site of your parents shop. Lyktan was a double fronted shop as were the three I mention below.
          Katherines was previously owned by Nancy Mellor and her sister- also florists. The address of the shop was and still is 59A High Street and the phone book shows clearly that they were there from 1955 to 1980. Previously it had been Clarksons Toys. The shop next door in 1957 era was Barneys Wine store at no.4 Causey Buildings and now part of Katherines. On the corner of the back lane up Causey Street was the Dolls Hospital at No. 7 (I’m unsure of his dates) so no.6 clearly attributed to Lyktan in the directory is the shop just below this which has been New England, Floorscope and Gosforth Pine in various incarnations.
          Could it be that your parents had the shop on the corner briefly after Clarksons Toys and then they moved higher up to no.6 Causey Buildings. However they are only in the phone books as Lyktan for the four years I gave you previously. I would certainly be interested to hear your responses so if necessary I can amend my history.

        2. david wardell says:

          Mike, Further to my previous lengthy reply I have had further thoughts. Naturally I must assume in the first instance that you know where the shop was. Could it be that this shop was UPSTAIRS above Katherines rather than on the ground floor. Causey buildings numbers were different to Causey Street and this may cause some confusion as no. 6 Causey Street was on the opposite side and was Browns the Cobblers. Causey Buildings have had numbering as Causey Street (odd numbers ) and as Causey Building from 1-7 which I could possibly have reversed somehow. However Mellors Florist were definitely at that shop from at least 1955 before dates for Lyktan until 1980. It is not my intention to be contraversial in this but merely am trying to get a clear picture. I may be confusing Lyktan with a later fancy goods/interiors type of shop if in fact Lyktan were above Katherines/ Mellors.

          1. david wardell says:


            Firstly I must apologise wholeheartedly for suggesting you were not correct in your comment. Naturally your memory of your parents shop is better than any others because of your closeness. I was slightly mislead by the facts and a numbering error that was all my own. I have given this all much thought over the past day and it has caused me some consternation. I believe I now have the correct answer. Perhaps you could confirm my thoughts.
            1. I knew that the shop on Causey Street next to Katherines was Barneys Wine Store and was listed as no. 4 Causey Buildings. My error was in believing that the numbering of Causey Buildings started at the High Street End whereas I now know that No.1 was on the corner of the lane higher up and went DOWN the street towards the High Street and not up over as did the Causey Street numbering.
            2. This all meant that Lyktan at no.6 was the bottom property within Causey Buildings.
            However Barneys was the last ‘shop’ and Katherine’s was a High street number. So was number 6 upstairs ? , and did your parents actually have the property at no 4 & 5 as well. This would then fit your comment that their shop was where Katherine’s is today. They would have had that section that is now PART of Katherines where they take orders etc. and is now joined to the front shop.
            3. I was totally thrown because the directory entries showed that the florists were present (Nancy Mellors) in 1955 before your parents who were listed from 1957 and in my mind meant that Lyktan could not have been in the flower shop at that time. Coupled with the fact that I had Causey Buildings numbered the wrong way round in my head this had placed them higher up where there had been various large shops occupying what is now no. 1-3 and I had mixed up Lyktan with one of those.
            Lyktan was a shop I had totally forgotten. In fact it was only the name that rang a bell with it being somewhat different.
            The dates from directories may not also reflect all the facts since the data was collected perhaps a year earlier, before publication.

            So can I now assume correctly that your parents occupied that part of Katherine’s that was separate from their shop at that time. And not the front shop. The lowered ceiling you mention must therefore be within that rear shop. I hope that you can now confirm this and set my addled mind at rest.
            Incidentally the numbering on the High Street can be even more confusing for a variety of historical reasons.
            Once again please accept my apologies for my confusion and for having the audacity to doubt your facts.

    1. david wardell says:

      Can I assume that John, who I thought was the manager was John Rounce , or am I incorrect in that belief Margaret. Thanks for your comment.
      David Wardell

    2. Max Fisher says:

      Hello David,
      That’s perfectly ok! Yes, the numbering round there can be confusing.
      I have no recollection of Barney’s wine store at all, in 1957 I was only 5 years old…
      Also, I couldn’t say just how far up, or down Causey Street Lyktan extended.
      But, its good to have the shop remembered, and put on record, the Gosforth map, so to speak.
      Lyktan, (Swedish for lantern) was one of a kind – quite unique for Gosforth, and Newcastle, at that time. My Swedish mother was the inspiration and driving force behind it, along with my father. I can find no photographs of it on the High Street, only a few from where it re-located on to Shakespeare Street, opposite the Theatre Royal.
      It was the precursor to shops like Penny Plain, and Meander, in Newcastle, and existed about 30 years before Ikea came to the UK.
      Thanks for your posts, reminiscences and all your attention to details. Mike.

      1. david wardell says:

        Hello Max, I seem to have been calling you Mike as listed previously. Thank you for that reply. Like you I have found Gosforth High Street photos looking directly at the shops hard to find for that period. I have none of my fathers shop which was next to the original Greggs at 69. There ae none of the flower shop when it was Mellors. On thinking about it I had an idea that Lyktan was on the corner of Shakepeare St and Grey street opposite the old Theatre Royal Box Office, and I have located some old ads which confirm this with a Grey Street address. It was certainly well ahead of the time for Scandinavian Wares. If you would like a copy of the adverts etc. that I found send me your e mail to davidwardell2@bt internet.com .

  5. Fiona Malkin says:

    I love that everything was packed or wrapped in paper. When I worked at Punshons on Henry Street we weighed out sweets and put them in lovely little crisp white bags. I also remember going into Wilkinsons and the smell of the Pumphreys coffee!

    1. david wardell says:

      Yes Fiona but can you recall how the boiled sweets went in that little paper bag after a few days…..all sticky and adhering firmly to the bag. That was the only drawback. I do miss the paper bags as well though.

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