Martin’s Memories – Blaydon Town Centre from the Coop Drapers to St Cuthbert’s Church.

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The Martin’s Memories series has been reproduced with the very kind permission of Tony Martin from his posts on the Old Blaydon and Old Winlaton Facebook group.

OLD Blaydon and OLD Winlaton | MARTIN’S MEMORIES 21 | Facebook

Leaving the bus stop for Winlaton, outside the Co-op Drapery Department, the first thing we notice is an archway into an area behind the shops called Irwin’s Yard. I was never quite sure what was in there because the place always seemed to be guarded by a ferocious looking dog. The first shop was Roberts the Chemist, a much more modern establishment compared to Cubeys and making a point in advertising that they took films for processing. I always had mine developed and printed here. I remember a middle aged lady serving in this shop. She was Alice Robson from Stargate and she went on holidays with my Aunt Elsie to Killarney, Jersey and the Isle of Wight. This was the nearest that many got to a “foreign ” holiday in those days.

Next to Roberts was Lennards shoe shop. The shop was managed by Arthur Kirby, a dapper little man with a moustache. He once lived in Polmaise Street, but moved to live at a newsagent shop his wife, Flo ran at the corner of Garden Street and Tyne Street. I delivered papers for her and they also had a caravan at Broomhaugh, Riding Mill where our family had a holiday chalet. He was always very busy in the shop giving orders to his assistants….it was Miss do that and Miss get that….never a Christian name mentioned.

Next to Lennards was a draper on two floors called Armstrong and Bateman. Nothing to do with John Armstrong I might add. They did a lot of business using Provident cheques, which was the most common type of credit in those days. The next shop was Middlemass, the butcher and then a newsagent, toy and fancy goods shop run by Jack Brunton. It was also a shop on two floors. Brunton had a number of Blaydon postcards printed which bore his name on the back and they are quite sought after collector’s items because they come at the end of an era, when local newsagents had cards printed. In their heyday.postcards were sent in the same way as we send text messages today.

Next to Brunton was Jack Percy’s cycle shop. He sold more than bikes and had a large selection of models and also sold modelling materials as well. Jack and I had three things in common. We were both in St Cuthbert’s Choir..he was a bass and I a treble; we were both members of the Church Lad’s Brigade and I was his batman at the annual CLB camp. Thirdly, we both suffered from speech impediments and Jack showed an interest in the speech therapy treatment I was getting at the RVI, something that he not had the opportunity to get. His wife, Beryl was often in the shop and they were a very nice couple who had time for everyone. They lived in the Avenue at Axwell Park. Jack was considered by many, not least the Blaydon Courier, to be the double of “Professor” Jimmy Edwards and when he appeared at Newcastle Empire, the Courier arranged for a meeting between the two and, of course, a photo opportunity.

Next to Jack Percy there was the Meadow Dairy and then a fruit and florist shop, where I often had to go for messages for my Aunt Elsie. I remember I was always told to ask for Mrs Gaddes. Next came Gregory’s shop – clothing and shoes run by a local family, a member of which, Miss Gregory taught at Blaydon East. It was also a sombre, poorly lit shop, but attracted a lot of custom. People of my mother’s generation always referred to the shop as Savers Stores. Miss Gregory was also involved with St Cuthbert’s Church. She was secretary to the Parochial Church Council and was a leader in the GFS, the Girl’s Friendly Society, where her main aim seemed to ensure that none of her girls became too friendly with the lads from the CLB at youth dances held by the church.

Next to Gregory’s was yet another grocer, Gallons and then the last shop on this side of Church Street was Thornton Tweddell’s butcher shop. The Tweddell family farmed at Loup Farm, on which the housing estate of that name was built from the late 1950s onwards. Above the butcher’s shop and a few others there was a billiard room which was patronised by local would be Fred Davises. After the butchers there was an opening to give access to the rear of many of the shops in the part of Church Street and this was skirted by the wall of the old graveyard of St Cuthberts.

Church Street from outside the post office showing the shops from Roberts to Bruntons.
The interior of Jack Percy’s shop. Model aircraft were an important part of lad’s life in those days as can be seen from the shelves behind Jack.
Jack in his uniform as a Lieutenant in the CLB.
The top end of Church Street with the Plaza Cinema in the background and the church tower to the left as the only element of this photograph now remaining.
Jimmy Edwards