In October 2013, builders renovating premises at 194 Heaton Road uncovered this old sign.
The ‘ghost sign’ prompted us to try to find out who the father and son were, what their shop sold and when they were in business. The story went back even further than we thought, 160 years.
Edmund Forbes Pretswell was born near Edinburgh in 1853, the son of a shepherd. In 1861, he was aged 8 and living with his parents, two older brothers and sister at Broomhill Farm, Liberton in Midlothian. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have much information about Edmund’s early years but we do know that by 1876, at the age of 23, he had moved south and married a young woman from Chester-le-Street. Their first child, also named Edmund Forbes, was born in her home town a year later.
By 1881, Edmund senior and his new family had moved to Newcastle, where the growing population meant excellent prospects for someone with enterprise. Edmund’s occupation is described in directories as ‘grocer and provisions merchant’. According to the census of that year, the family of the Scottish shepherd’s son were doing well enough to be occupying three properties in Byker (32 and 34 Byker Bank and 1 Quality Row) and employing a servant. One of the properties seems to have been Edmund’s first shop – possibly even the one pictured here, which was apparently just north of Leighton Street on the west side of Byker Bank. The photograph was given by Edmund senior’s grandson, Norman, to local historian, Mike Greatbatch, who has kindly shared it with us.
Over the next 30 years, we can track Edmund’s growing family and expanding business. He had various shops in Byker Bank, added others in Shields Road (115 and 179) and Tynemouth Road. By 1891 Edmund and Jane, his wife, had 7 children and were living at 17 Heaton Road in a house quite recently demolished and replaced with a modern building housing a medical practice. The Pretswells soon moved to a brand new home on Wandsworth Road from where they continued to run the Tynemouth Road shop. But soon after the turn of the century, though still in business in Heaton, perhaps as a further sign of their growing prosperity, the family moved out of Newcastle, first to Cullercoats and then to Willington Quay. This photograph of their Willington Quay shop was sent to us by David Pretswell, the younger Edmund Pretswell’s great nephew.
Home to Heaton
Meanwhile, Edmund junior was following in his father’s footsteps. The first records we’ve traced where he is listed as a grocer are shipping log books. In September 1905, aged 28, he set sale in steerage class from Southampton to Algoa Bay in South Africa. However he returned just two months later. He seems to have already been married by this time: maybe he’d gone to check out the possibility of taking his young family to make a new life there? But whatever the reason, he was soon back and by the following year, 1906, he had taken over the family shop on Tynemouth Road.
By 1911, he and his wife, Thomasina, had three children and were living in Wandsworth Road, just across the road from his parents’ former home. By the following year, his father, by this time approaching 60, seems to have retired while young Edmund was running shops in both Tynemouth Road and Chillingham Road (number 186). And by the outbreak of World War 1, Edmund Forbes Pretswell junior had opened a new shop at 194 Heaton Road under the name: EF Pretswell & Son. The shop was a fixture on Heaton Road for over 40 years – until about 1956. So the recently uncovered lettering is between 100 and 57 years old.
In 1956, the Heaton Road shop was acquired by a growing local grocery chain called Hadrian Supply Company. By 1968, this company had 30 branches in Newcastle alone, including at 258/262 Chillingham Road, 176 Newton Road and 175/181 Shields Road. However, by 1973 only one shop remained on Stamfordham Road. It seems as though the business had been sold to a supermarket chain. We would like information about it and also the businesses which occupied the Heaton Road premises between then and the recent kitchen shops, Kitchens Plus and Wren’s – as well as what will come next!
Can you help?
Lots of people must remember shopping or even working at 194 Heaton Road. If you can supply any further information or photos or just have memories to share, please add your comments by clicking on ‘Leave a Reply’ at the top of this article or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hadrian was run by the Edgar family; I went to school with their son Michael. He and David Dawson (Dawson’s the Chemist) and I formed a terrible trilogy in primary and junior years; so apart from visiting the shop on errands, I was always in there with Michael and David – generally up to mischief.
It was yellow; I’m sure that is a fabrication of time but that is how I remember it. Bacon slicers being adjusted according to the instructions on the note I carried from Mother; chunks carved from casks of butter and wrapped in greaseproof paper; Mr and Mrs Edgar were some of the cheeriest folk I met; retail was once an enthusiastic enterprise, thank Heavens for Clough’s and Rington’s upholding the tradition; time will always tell, will it not?
Strangely enough, just last month a lady charting her family tree found a second cousin of mine through internet searches, and she turned out to be our second cousin too; she grew up in care (nuns) and eventually married out of the area, but conceive my astonishment when I discovered she had worked in the Hadrian on Heaton Road at the very time we were shopping there. Of course we only ever knew her by her first name so a connection was never made.
I’m contacting Michael Edgar to request a contribution to the story.
Hello my name is Neil Perry ,I am the current owner and developer
Of 194 Heaton rd.i hope you like the restoration so far.I have a pet
Hate of enormous signs and roller shutters,I think if everyone took them down we would see a reel resurgence in the high st instead of
A steady demise.the shop will be up for let soon and I will try and
Pick a tenant sympathetic to the shop and area.there won’t be another letting agent.Perhaps some suggestions ?
Thank you for the update. The shop looks great. Looking forward to finding out what it will be. Did notice yesterday though a typo in the sign writing at the bottom on the right. It says ‘Prestwell’ instead of ‘Pretswell’!
Hi Neil, If you know a time when you’ll be in your shop next week, let me know and I’ll come down and take your photo for the book. If you prefer, email me on email@example.com Chris
Great job you’re doing Neil: you’re a credit to the neighbourhood.
My wife and I live in the house in Wandsworth Road that Mr. Pretswell bought on 27/01/1894. We have the convayance signed by him, Addison Potter and a Mr Douglas.
Thank you, John. It’s always really interesting to hear from people with the original deeds. They can give a useful insight into history.
Neil… what a fantastic restoration !
Chris, I didn’t know that E.F. junior had been to South Africa, his elder brother George went there in 1900, to the Boar War, I wonder if they met up ?
John, I have passed your house several times, its where my grandfather Norman senior was born, he later lived around the corner in Cardigan terrace.
My Dad (85 years old) and Aunty (87 years old) remember the shop when ‘Uncle Ted’ ran it, and are amazed at what they are seeing now.
Hello David, Thank you for getting in touch. I went in the shop today and it looks fantastic. We’ve really enjoyed researching the history. It would be great to talk to you and your aunt and dad if they/ you are willing and hear some of their memories. Are there any photos of either of the Edmunds or of the shop that you could let us take copies of? You can always email: firstname.lastname@example.org (And with luck, Neil will see we all get an invitation to the opening!) Chris
David, as I lived in Heaton Park Road from 1950 to 1970, i well remember Pretswell’s removal wagons and the trade sign outside the house on the North side of Cardigan Terrace. It was a few houses along from the house where Sharkey’s Taxis used to mend their cars. Later, in the 60’s I remember Pretswell’s sign outside of a property on the corner of Benton Road and Cragside. E.F. Pretswell didn’t own our house for very long, but I’ve seen that another Pretswell lived in Wandsworth Rd. in the 1900’s. Maybe it was his son?
John, E.F.Pretswell junior lived across the road from you at one time.
As a teenager, along with my cousins and brothers, we had an introduction to working life on the vans, it used to be quite a workout !
My Mum and Dad had the house on Benton road.
Have added another lovely photograph of an EF Pretswell shop to the article, kindly provided by Edmund junior’s great nephew, David.
Michael Edgar, son of Albert and Doris Edgar who managed Hadrian Supplies, told us his parents met working at the chain’s Gatehead branch and remembered there was a shop on Chillingham Road and Shields Road too.
He remembered, as a boy, helping his dag bag sugar and cheese and told us that at the back of the shop, there used to be a large, hand painted panel depicting a section of the Roman wall.
The business was taken over by a supermarket chain in around 1968 and briefly became an independent grocer’s again shortly afterwards.
Michael still lives in Newcastle.
Hi there. I love all the research that’s going on – thank you for starting the group and sharing your research in this way. I’m very much enjoying being a member.
I have a dream to have my own business in Heaton and I’d love to know what kind of business the community would like to see in a shop like this one?
Something other than a cafe or letting agents would be nice!
Deli? I could see a demand for good quality produce, even if prices are high. But, beware, Heaton Road is not the shopping centre it once was. Chilli Road is more popular, but all small shops in Heaton are “in the shadow” of Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury. What Heaton certainly does not need is another take away or cafe, as Victoria Morland said. Hope you are successful.
Just walked past it today and had to do a double take. It’s so beautiful! I hope it opens soon, whatever kind of business it is, I’ll be straight there. Have you got any more recent photographs of the refurbishment? Just so I can show my friends 🙂
I have just started the renovation of 188 Heaton road,and have uncovered the original shopfront The old signage says M A LAWSON I hope to do a similar job as Pretswells and Butterfly cabinet As long as the money holds out.Thanks to everyone for your kind words and encouragement . It’s just a pity we don’t get the same support and encouragement of Newcastle council. They should deffinatly give out grants to remove roller shutters rather than the other way round As they did in the nineties .If more shopkeepers made an effort and take a bit more pride in There shop fronts I’m sure the high street would pick up.Well that’s enough ranting,I will keep on With my mission to Rid The Roller. Neil
Sent from my iPad
Hi Neil, Will get researching the history of 188 and let you know what we find. Looking forward to Pretswell’s opening. Keep us posted. Chris
Is 188 Heaton Road for let yet? I’m potentially interested, but in the early stages of consideration! I’d be interested in rates etc.
Thanks Chris ,looking forward to this one,things look promising so far.
Shopfront intact apart from rot on the lower paneling ,we still have plenty of old wood in stock,and intend to make true to the original.
I would appreciate you passing on any information pictures etc to
City council,maybe we will get some support off them to make Heaton road more attractive .
J Alan Davison emailed to say:
Hadrian Supply Company also had shops in Morpeth, Consett, Blackhill and Blackfyne.
My father was manager at the Morpeth shop pre and post war ( Served in RAF) before moving to manage the much larger shop at Consett. These shops were all conventional ones with counter service. Consett also had local delivery of orders by van. He then moved to Whickam shop which was the beginning of the the move to Isle shopping. Hadrian Supply Company was taken over by Safeway which was later taken over by Morrisons.