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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 –



  1. 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”.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.’

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

    • 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.

  9. 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:

    • 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?

    • 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

  10. 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.


  11. Peter Sagar of Heaton History Group has researched and written the following about the beginning of the Cooperative movement.

    Newcastle Cooperative Society
    The Beginning of the Cooperative Movement
    It is generally considered that the modern Cooperative Movement began with the setting up of the Cooperative Store on Toad Lane in Rochdale, by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. There had been some experiments with cooperation before this time, including an attempt at Fenwick in west Scotland the the New Lanark industrial vilage also in the west of Scotland. However, most histories date the beginning of the Cooperatives from the development of that small, modest, but now famous shop in Rochdale in 1844.
    However, what is less well known is that the Northeast already had a cooperative two years before the humble beginnings of the store in Rochdale, with the establishment of the Cooperative Corn Association in Middleston-in-Teesdale in1842. It must be stressed, however that this was not a retail cooperative like that in Rochdale and many of those which followed.
    Indeed, the first Cooperative Retail Society in the region was Blaydon Cooperative Society, which was set-up in 1858, after a reading by Joseph Cowen Junior from the book ‘The History of the Rochdale Pioneers or Self-help by the People”, by G.J. Holyoake, held in the Mechanics Institure in Blaydon.
    The movement soon took off in the Northeast and by 1870 there were 80 registered cooperatives in the region, with most towns and villages having their own In the course of time, they established their own dairies and farms, bulit cinemas, bakeries, department stores, funeral houses, garages, set up libraries, and developed funds to help the needy.
    Heaton had its own cooperative, a branch of the Newcastle Cooperative Society. Here is a little more about the Newcastle Cooperative Society and also an independent cooperative society in St Anthony’s, which was then a small village, but is now part of Walker, in the east end of Newcastle.
    Newcastle Cooperative Society
    Newcastle Cooperative Society began in rented rooms at 18 Nelson Street in 1860. This was soon followed by branches at Felling Shore and Dunston in 1860, while the following year branches were set-up in Felling and Gateshead. Then soon after, Backworth, Bulman Village (Gosforth) Walker, Windy Nook, Coxlodge and Fawdon followed
    Newcastle Cooperative Society began with men at Elswick Ordnance Works collectively buying a chest of tea and selling it to themselves. On 28th December 1860 11 men, mainly cabinet workers met inthe George Inn on Pilgrim Street. They resolved to collect subscriptions at a minimum rate of 6d per week per person to acquire capital to establish Cooperative Society. In 8 weeks, £28 5s 9d was raised from 70 people. Subsequently on 18th February 1861, Newcastle upon Tyne Mechanics’ Industrial Society commenced business in premises adjoining Gardners’ Arms in Nelson Street
    It had a stock of flour, sugae and other groceries valued at £17 17s 71/2d – shop began only opening in the evening with commitee members present. The sales for the first quarter were £303 11s with a dividend of 1s 8d in the pound on purchases excluding sugar. Later in 1861 a sales assistant was employed paid 12s a week. The sales for the first year were £1 758 – 1862 shop extended by addition of local public house cellar.
    In 1864 the Newcastle Cooperative Society acquired 56, Newgate Street, before moving to 95 to 107 Newgate Street, which was acquired in 1884. New central premises were opened there in 1886, but the mayor declined to attend the opening – as local businesses were against him taking part.
    Prior to this, in 1867, a new branch had been opened in the Scotswood Road/Elswick area on Hinde Street and our own Heaton Road branch was opened in 1892.
    Between 1860 and 1870 four societies, Gateshead, Backworth, Windy Nook and Felling Shore transferred their engagements to Newcastle
    By 1900 sales of Newcastle Cooperative Society were half a million pounds while membership was 17 432. the dividend still a modest 2s 8 1/2d in the pound, which was still better than many other cooperative societies in the region.
    The Newcastle Cooperative Society, like many others in the region worked with animals and around 1900 there were three interesting animal stories regarding the society. In one story a flock of sheep, not necessarily related to the society, was being driven past the Newgate Street store when some of the sheep strayed into tailoring department, bolting through the window so rendering it completely useless.
    About the same time, the society’s farm manager was also instructed to “sell the black sow who had devoured another of her offspring”. Meanwhile, a mongoose acquired by the society, had one recommendation of “good service in the Scotswood Road Drapery”, but had gone astray, which understandably was causing some concern!
    The 1930’s saw the opening of more new branches, new departments and the imposing new premises on Newgate Street, which we can still see today. There was then further expansion up to 1960 with the opening of new branches.
    The Newcastle Cooperative Society was not too badly affected by strikes in the 1920’s especially compared to neighbouring societies in more predominantly mining communities, which suffered from a lack of income. However in 1924, it was resolved to, “give grants of bread for four weeks at a time to the distressed members of the amalgamted Engineering Union in Benwell” Later, in 1926, Miners’ lodges in the Newcastle Cooperative Society trading area were given 3 000 loaves of bread a week
    Part of the Newcastle Cooperative Society, the Gateshead Industrial Cooperative Society was formed in 1861, after a group of employees of the Northeastern Railway Company resolved to “follow the Cooperators in Rochdale”. They started in premises in rooms in the old rectory at Oakwell Gate in Gateshead. These soon proved inadequate, so new premises were found in a railway arch in Wellington Street at Gateshead end of High Level Bridge. Sales to September 1861 were £600 and membership stood at just over 100. In 1880 they moved to Jackson Street which was to become the headquarters of the Northeast Cooperative Society. Subsequently, branches opened in Low Fell in 1887, Wrekenton in 1891, Teams in 1892 and major development in Whitehall Road in 1894, “a handsome building lighted throughout by electricity”.
    1900 Gateshead’ annual sales stood at £403 000, while membership was nearly 12 000 and a healthy dividend of just over three shillings in the pound was paid. There was further expansion in 1925 and a large modern extension in 1962, but by 1968 sales below 1960 levels and the dividend had fallen to just 3d in the pound so 1969 saw the transfer of Gateshead to Newcastle
    Ultimately, Newcastle Cooperative Society was a founder member of the Northeast Cooperative Society (NECS), joining on 4th June 1970.
    St Anthony’s Cooperative Store – a powerhouse in the East End
    St Anthony’s Cooperative Society, in what is now Walker in east Newcastle began as a viilage cooperative in 1875 and stayed independent because of special links with the Cooperative Wholesale Society. The CWS was a huge employer on Tyneside, indeed one of the biggest, but the CWS was only able to deal direct with sharehoding Coop Societies, while employees had to conduct their business through a retail society. St Anthony’s, charging a service fee, became the society which the vast majority of CWS employees used.
    It was reported in the Cooperator in August 1864, a monthly magazine for cooperative societies, edited by Henry PItman, and produced in Manchester, about:
    “NEW STORE AT ST ANTHONY’S, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE – Two years ago it entered into the minds of a few young men in this thriving little village to establish a Cooperative and Provident Society and though somwehat late in entering the field. It must be confessed that they seemed destined to far outstrip many of their elder and more experienced coadjutors in the work. Their busimess at first was of a very limited character and consequently small premises were sufficient for them in which to carry it on. In a short time however – so soon did the advantages of the society spread – their numbers rapidly increased and they had to look out for another place of business. At the end of the first year they had made a net profit of £400. The announcement of this gratifying result brought a fresh accession of members, so much so indeed thaqt it was found there was not a place in the village in which they could carry on their rapidly-incrasing business. The committee thereupon resolved to build sustainable premises for themselves and this they have done at a cost of £800 and Saturday afternoon last witnessed the celebration of the second anniversary of the society and the inaugauration of the new building by a soiree and a concert. – Newcastle Chronicle – Sir Walter James presided at the meeting . Mr. Thos. Hogg, the energetic secretary, read the report . The only unsatisfactory paragraph in it recorded that the members having spent thir profits , the greater part of the building money had to be borrowed. the meeting was addressed by Rev. E. Shortt and Mr E. Smith of Felling Shore.”
    Another report in the Cooperator, in January 1865 went as follows: “St Anthony’s – RELIGION IN TRADE – On Sunday forenoon Nov. 20th, Mr. Henry Pitman, of Manchester delivered a very interesting and encouraging lecture in the large room of St Anthony’s Co-operative store to a numerous audience on the subject of ‘Religion in Trade’. *** He defined cooperation as now carried on by the working classes to be based on Christianity, showed how it was calculated to uplift the destitute, the indebted, and the hopeless out of despair, want and, misery, and how the working classes as a whole, might improve their religious and financial condition – Newcastle Daily Chronicle ”
    The People’s store; a guide to the Northeastern Coops Family Tree, Jim Lamb and Steve Warren, Northeast Cooperative, Gateshead, (p.7-10)
    The Cooperator, August 1864, edited by Henry PItman, and produced in Manchester, p.44
    The Cooperator, January 1865, edited by Henry PItman, and produced in Manchester
    Peter Sagar May 2018

  12. Malcolm Metcalf has written from Vancouver, Canada:

    ‘My recollections of the Co-op was how they really dominated the shopping public. Everyone went to the Co-op. Here I am ( I now live in Vancouver ) the Co-op membership number is still implanted on my mind. J Each Saturday morning my mother would leave me a list of shopping to do and the money ( she worked at Pumphreys grocery store on Stephenson Road ) and off I’d go on my bike. There were no “sales specials” in those days and you were served by store clerks who knew you and cut the bacon or spam on a machine for you, they weighed out the butter and raisins etc. there was no common feeder line not for the whole store but the individual dept in the grocers. Then off to the green grocer. All the vegetable were loose and they weighed out the quantity you required ( and made a list of the costs on a paper bag ) clerks were incredible with their arithmetic ( remember it was pounds shillings and pence + halfpennies and farthings) They totted up your total very quickly and most customers could do the same even though the figures were upside down J Then it was down to the Co-op bakers. Often they were out of bread and you had to wait for the delivery of fresh. The Baker delivery brought the bread in hot, on wood pallets balanced on his head. Then there was a scramble to be served. No sliced bread and you could buy a loaf or a half loaf. Opposite the green grocers was the St Gabriel’s church hall and this was the centre of local activities. The Boy Scouts, Cubs, Girl Guides and Brownies along with the Mothers Union, Women’s institute, the Opera society, Drama club and the youth club. The mothers took their babies there and received the milk powder and concentrated orange juice. There was a full size snooker table and a lot of the old folks gathered there. Opposite the Church Hall was the News agents. Just out of interest how the community worked then, I was living in Vancouver, my brother in North Carolina and my mother had already passed on. My father ( lived on his own on Sackville Road) picked up his newspaper every day from the newsagent and when he didn’t turn up one day for his paper the clerk asked others if they had seen him and eventually sent a search party to his house and found him collapsed and unconscious … there was a sense of community, folks looked out for each other. Lots of memories. Riding home on your bike with likely 3-4 bags on the handle bars really got you going and you flew home at a great speed. The rest of the Saturday was yours!’

    • Malcolm, the church hall opposite the Co-Op was attached to the Presbyterian church on the corner of Cardigan Terrace and Heaton Road. St Gabriel’s Church was much further down Heaton Road opposite the cricket ground. I lived on Stannington Avenue and remember, as you did, the way things were run in those days at the Co-op.

      • We may be at cross purposes. I’m talking about the Co-op stores on Chillingham road. St Gabriels was on Heaton Road( we, a bunch of us, attended every Sunday and then in the summer cycle down to Seaton Sluice) but the church hall was on Chillingham Road, between the cubs, scouts and youth club along with the “Bring and Buy sales” I spent a lot of time in that old church hall. Everything seemed to circulate around the hall. Come to think of it I was for a short period a member of the Opera Society LOL. Here’s the funny thing on visits back to Chillingham Road it hadn’t changed much. I attended Chillingham Road school, then classed as a Secondary Modern, I finished schooling when I was 14, July 1957. That was some tough school, lots of straps and students and teachers fighting. Most teachers were ex-servicemen from either WW2 or Cyprus “emergency” ( remember Eoka in Cyprus and Mau Mau in Kenya were still in full swing) the army was stretched. Things have changed but Chillingham Road …. not so much


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