Memories of Gosforth High Street! (part 4)

Discovering Heritage header of Gosforth Central Hall 1949

Discovering Heritage are a team of specialist historical researchers with expertise in researching local history and residential history. As part of our community outreach we share some of our research through this blog.

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.

Royalty Cinema Discovering Heritage with David Wardell
Royalty Cinema

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.

The Old Fire Station at Goasforth, Gosforth Heritage
Gosforth Fire Station

Gosforth Old Fire Station

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. 

Robson Porteous

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.

John Mood Gosforth High Street Discovering Heritage blog

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.

Moods Stationers

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

Gosforth Central Hall Stage performance "Wot Cheor, Geordie" 8th Nov1949
Gosforth Central Hall 1949

“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.

14 thoughts on “Memories of Gosforth High Street! (part 4)

  1. Dawn Austin says:

    I worked in Moods for a few months in 1956 and had previously worked as a junior assistant at Anne Forsyths in 1952/3.
    Wonderful walk down memories lane. Thank you.

    1. Carol Howlett says:

      The comment regarding Mr George Henderson the accountant being the husband of Mrs Henderson the greengrocer is incorrect. He was my grandfather and was the husband of Eleanor Henderson the estate agent, my grandmother, who’s office at that time was next door to Borough’s,

      1. david wardell says:

        Sorry about this mix up. I was at school with their son David who lived in Moor Cresc and have obviously mixed up the family. My apologies.

  2. Adele Hunter says:

    I went to Irene Fidler’s dance classes for ballet, tap and ballroom when she first started teaching in the 1940’s. The classes were held in a room above a shop near the top of the High Street, entrance and stairs near the bottom of Causey Street. After that classes were held for a spell in one of the church halls, think that was perhaps the one at the bottom of West Ave. Irene then obtained suitable premises at Lansdowne Terrace. My Mam actually played the piano for the classes in the early years. I lived for a number of years in Gosforth Council Chambers in the 40’s with my Nana Gibson who was caretaker there for 25 years. Exciting times for us children watching the firemen training also giving us a treat by allowing us to slide down the pole from their upstairs common room to the fire engines below. The ambulance station was not far along the back lane after the fire station. My Mam used to buy clothes from Babettes when she could afford them and I loved going into that shop with her. When I had enough money I bought nylons from Campbells. I spent many a happy hour in Moods buying books, stationery, pens and pencils. My dentist was Mr. Latheron, Lansdown Terrace, put to sleep in those days before having a double extraction! My GP was Dr, Gilchrist down Church Road, no appointments then – simply went to the surgery and waited your turn to be seen………..oh Happy Days!!

  3. Alison Fletcher says:

    From the late 1950s my father Keith Ward was the dentist on the High Street, at Roxburgh Court, and I remember going next door to Woolworths to spend my pocket money.

    1. David Wardell says:

      Hi Alison,
      Thanks for your comment. I knew your father as I also was a GDP …albeit from a later Era. I also attended his practice, before his time, as a patient of George Hutchinson where I twice endured extractions under anaesthetic of some baby teeth to create space (orthodontically) for my permanent teeth) .

  4. Jackie Jones says:

    Robson and porteous was my grandfather’s shop and yes he had a shop on South gosforth bank ,all the baking was done behind the shop on the High Street, he delivered bread on the van around coxlodge ,many happy memories of the high Street

    1. david wardell says:

      there is a nice photo of your Granddad’s Van about 1950 in the book ‘Gosforth Remembered’ by Andrew Clark and George Nairn.

  5. Susanne Smith says:

    I was born in the 60s but I do remember the Royalty , Moods and Smyths. I still think of the bus stop as the Royalty stop !

    1. Anonymous says:

      Whenever i have mentioned Babettes hat shop, no one remembered it, i recall my Mam looking in the window and wishing she could afford one
      I lived in Beaumont Terrace from 1938-1961. Its great to read the descriptions of the shops that i used to know so well.

  6. Amanda Pritchard says:

    This was the High St of my era! Though I tended to go to the Saturday morning children’s show at the Globe beside our house. Loud cheers when we saw the Cavalry flag coming up the hill! My Mum worked for Isabel Henderson at the Church Rd greengrocers. A scary dentist practised above. I danced ( ballet! as one of Miss ( Rene) Fidler’s girls, on the stage of the Central Hall. If we went to first house at the Royalty (2nd house was for older people?) then we called in at Punshons or we had previously called into Robinsons or Octons on Hedley St for a rummage through the penny 1d box or tuppeny 2d box for chews, Blackjacks, Tobermory Tatties, liquorice roots, aniseed balls….

    1. david wardell says:

      My wife and her sister attended Miss Fidlers. In the St Charles Church Hall on Salters Road I think. As a teenager I was forced in to ballroom classes, considered useful for young boys, and a good meeting place anyway with Molly Baileys dance classes (aka Tomina Applegate) also at St Charles.. I think she was considered the opposition to Miss Fidler. As Molly was my mother’s best friend from school the choice of which to attend was a nonstarter

    2. Susan MacDonald says:

      So many good memories of Gosforth High Street, I’m sure Miss Fidler went onto hold dance classes in the hall of All Saints Church ,near Linden road.Ballet and Highland dancing on a Saturday morning in the late 60s early 70s.Bob Youngs chippy was run by Alfie and Agnes Laws ,my dad’s sister and husband.I remember when the Royalty was knocked down,I have some signage memorabilia from there. Happy days.

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