Remembering Heaton Road Co-op

Ask anyone of a certain age what their Co-op number was and they’ll tell you in a flash. Search libraries and archives for information about one of Heaton’s best loved buildings and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything. We know it was built in 1892 because it says so on the outside. We know that the main building was divided into individual shops and used to have railings around the outside because we’ve tracked down some lovely photos, thanks to Beamish Museum and John Moreels of Photo Memories:

Heaton Road, looking South

Heaton Road, looking South

Heaton Road Co-op

Heaton Road Co-op

Co-op pharmacy, Heaton Road

Co-op pharmacy, Heaton Road

If you look carefully at the first shot (looking south) you can see a sign writer re-painting the sign, and also see that the next shop down was ‘Boot and Shoe’. It is apparent from the other angle that there was Greengrocery and Hardware (such an odd mix), Butchering, then Grocery and Provisions. Later on, Boot and Shoe would become the Bakers and Confectioners, and whatever that hidden shop was back-then, it became Haberdashery in the ‘forties and ‘fifties. And then there was Pharmacy in a separate shop.

More than just a number

But mainly we’re relying on memories so, to jog yours, here are a few for starters:

I remember it during the 1940s when their block consisted of a greengrocer on the corner of Heaton Road and Cardigan Terrace, next to that was the butcher shop, then the grocers, then the bread shop and finally (bordering on Stannington Avenue where I lived) the ‘haberdashery’ shop which sold everything from materials, wool, threads and even shoes! They had a bicycle delivery boy delivering groceries to customers, and he taught me at age 9 or 10 to ride a two wheeler bike!
Muriel LaTour nee Abernethy, now living in Canada

My sister remembers the smell of roasting coffee in the provisions department and I can remember the big tubs of cask butter on the other counter; that continued to be available in the Grainger Market right up until the end of the ‘seventies, because it was the only butter my grandmother would eat: unsalted cask Danish. Keith Fisher, Heaton History Group member

The Co-op Youth Club was held in a large room above the Co-op. There is/was a lane running behind the Co-op between Stannington Avenue and Cardigan Terrace and you entered through a backdoor in the lane and up the wooden stairs. It was presided over by two ladies, one of whom was named Mrs Stackhouse, and was basically a club for teens. She was ably helped to keep the younger ones in check by some of the older teens one of whom was Ronnie Fisher. We played table tennis, had quizzes, and once even took part in a play competition, where, when and why, I do not remember, but that was my start of the love of the theatre! One of the older teens was called Norman Bell and he and his girlfriend Dorothy (?) loved ballroom dancing and took part in competitions at the Oxford Gallery. They would often demonstrate the technique to us kids and again turned me on to ballroom dancing, a love which I have never lost. Because of them I started going to Saturday afternoon tea dances to the Oxford, and later to the Heaton Assembly dances on Saturday nights and the Grosvenor on Chillingham Road on Wednesday nights. Many of the Co-op youth group used to frequent the Grosvenor. I must have had awfully lenient parents! Muriel LaTour nee Abernethy

I went and sat the exam for the Co-op. In those days you went and applied to join the Co-op as a boy, and you sat an exam, and if you were successful you were accepted. And then after two years, you sat another exam, and on the result of that exam, decided where they would place you, or if they would keep you. I went from being a butcher boy for two year, to being an office junior. I was still a butcher boy when war broke out. I worked at Heaton Road, the Co-op on Heaton Road.The Co-op was good, good firm to work for. They had everything that you needed…. had a good welfare section, and a good, sports section and things like that. I became a member of the football team, and the cricket team,and everything of that nature. Then as I got older the war broke out, and then times changed of course. Radically. George Henderson (extracts from an interview with Heaton History Group member, David Hiscocks)

Over to you

Thank you to Keith Fisher for researching this piece. But we need your memories – of shopping or working there; of the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. Perhaps you remember it closing? And did you frequent the youth club? Please contact us either via the Replies link just above the article (below the title) or email Chris Jackson – chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

17 thoughts on “Remembering Heaton Road Co-op

  1. John Dixon

    I remember to Heaton Road Coop in the 50s and 60s much as descibed by others, except I don’t remember a Youth Club. Also, the little shop on Cardigan Terr., next to the greengrocers, was where you ordered and paid for coal, coke etc. The biggest shop in the building was the grocers. It was where the gym entrance is now. It had a pay booth in the middle at the back counter. Bacon, butter, cheese and sugar were all cut and packed to order and I used to love watching the slicing machine cutting bacon, ham etc. to the thickness you asked for; the lower the number, the thicker the slices I think. In addition to Heaton Road, I remember shops on Heaton Park Road, Chillingham Road and Warwick Street. 2716 was my Granny’s check No. She never used the word “Coop”, she always said “The Stores”.

    Reply
  2. Keith Fisher

    Yes John, the coal shop. I was sure I remembered that, but no-one else I mentioned it to agreed with me. And calling it ‘The Stores’ was the norm, no-ne called it the Co-op. I think the thickness of the bacon was based on the engineering scale used for cable, and nuts and bolts: 0 gauge being thicker than 2 gauge; this was Britain remember, where our rail gauge was based on the width of a horses backside: something we inherited from the Romans – but that’s a story I will tell you if we meet.

    Reply
  3. Keith Fisher.

    BTW. The wide pavement that was railed-off was Co-op property, as was the bulk of the pavement outside of all those shops you can see on Heaton Road. Alan Clough will tell you all about the council buying back a large stretch of it to increase the width of the road. I suspect the railings were to prevent the petty theft of goods on display outside the ‘Stores.’

    Reply
  4. John Dixon

    Iron railings were very common in Victorian buildings where a show of “Wealth” was thought necessary. It’s sometimes hard to imagine now, but in the 1880s and 90s, Heaton was “posh” and at the begining of my life, 1950s and early 60s, it was certainly “respectable”. The Heaton Road Coop must have been built to impress and to meet most of the day to day needs of the locals. It was still busy in the 1960s and competed with the likes of the Hadrian, Laws Stores etc. quite successfully. I remember standing for a long time to get served in both the butchers and the fruit shop. Look at the doorstep of the old fruit shop, now a cafe. It’s worn down by customers feet over the years.

    Reply
  5. Keith Fisher

    It was still posh in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties John: steps gleamed in the terraces – scrubbed to within an inch of their lives, and front window nets were dipped fortnightly in Tintern Crescent. My matriarchs had absolutely everything delivered to their door, either by a boy on a bike (eg Bookless) or in a polished van. Again, Rington’s reign supreme to this day. No work boots ever came through a front door; I’m sure your home was the same; how posh do you want it?

    Reply
  6. John Dixon

    I do remember steps being swept, washed and sometimes “soaped”. Also, people used to sweep up the part of the backlane adjacent to their houses after the ashmen and coalmen had been. This never occurred to me as “posh”, just what almost everyone did and perhaps would thought of as odd if they didn’t do.. However, the only deliveries to our door were from Rington’s, Flounders’ butchers and, occasionaly, a laundry. I was the labourer for “going the messages” work and used to make regular visits to Heaton Park Road, Heaton Road and Warwick Street shops. As for net curtains, I remember regular changes, but couldn’t say how often and I do remember my Mother and Granny “calling” someone in Warwick St. because their nets were not gleaming white!

    Reply
  7. Keith Fisher

    Milk endures; coal too, although it’s no longer needed by the majority of households; however, we also had meat from the butcher (Tommy Rogers) – three times a week; fresh fish (Foggin’s) – twice a week; pop (Walker’s) – once a week; groceries from The Hadrian as often as were required; greengroceries from Bookless – twice a week; house-wares from Kleeneze or Betterware; my father’s shirts (with detachable starched collars, in big, brown, fibre boxes) from Collars; laundry (mainly bedding, curtains, tablecloths and the like) – every week; plus, newspapers of course, and Ringtons. I’ve probably forgotten one or two. If anything else was needed, I too was the errand boy. There was a special soap for the step, if I remember correctly. Heaven forefend you should have your nets tutted at!

    Reply
  8. Keith Fisher

    Neil Taylor mentioned the Milk Delivery office round the side by the Coal Delivery office, which rings a bell with me; can anyone else confirm that?

    Reply
    1. John Dixon

      I cannot remember a separate office, but we didn’t get milk from them. I do remember the tokens though which people left on their steps to indicate what they wanted each day.

      Reply
  9. Keith Fisher

    Hey John, I’ve got a couple of those tokens, and I also remember a folded tin contraption that sat on top of the milk bottle and held the tokens – see how posh it was round here; but that’s not what I wanted to say really; it was that I asked a pal of mine about cleaning the step and she told me they used a Donkey Stone. Never knew that. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkey_Stone.

    Reply
    1. Muriel L

      Lizzie, just read your comment re Norman and Dorothy on this site. So nice to hear about someone I mentioned in an earlier comment re the Youth Club. Did they ever speak of it or dancing?

      Reply
    2. Sonia Smith

      Hi Liz, its Sonia! Have found this mention of your parents after being inspired by a Ballroom brochure from 1955 which mentions Norman and Dorothy and belongs to a friend of mine who’s father was Alex Moore! She says you can have it if you would like. Hope you are all well

      Reply
      1. Muriel L

        Hi Sonia, I think it is wonderful that some one else remembers the ‘dancing duo” who inspired many of us.

  10. oldheaton Post author

    I came across the original plans for Heaton Road Co-op in Tyne and Wear Archives today (while looking for something else entirely!). The architect was Edward Shewbrooks, who went on to design the old Co-op on St Andrew’s Street in town amongst other notable buildings. His practice is shown as Grainger Street although I’ve read that his office was in Market Street at one time.

    The original shops from left to right (facing) were, as we knew, Greengrocer’s, Butcher’s, Grocery and Provisions but originally (in June 1891) designs were submitted for 2 houses on the end. These were altered in October 1893 to designs for two further shops: Boot and Shoe (which we knew) and Draper’s with a Milliner’s (which we sort of guessed at but couldn’t see from the shop sign on the old photo) on the first floor. The revised plans suggest that the first 3 departments were already up and running.

    The plans are well worth a look. They show a 47 foot ‘flour store’ and a 20 foot by 21 foot 9 ‘tea room’ on the first floor. There are also a number of handwritten objections to the building from neighbouring residents.

    Chris

    Reply

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