60 Heaton Road

This photograph was taken in front of 60 Heaton Road, the last shop north of the railway line as you walk towards Shields Road, the shop that is now Heaton General Store. We don’t yet know the identity of anyone in the photograph but it was taken in or after April 1923, when the Heaton Road branch of the already well-established Brough’s grocery chain opened.

Staff outside Brough's 60 Heaton Road post 1923

The photograph is published here by kind permission of Newcastle City Library.

Pioneer

The first Brough to enter the grocery business seeems to have been Edward Brough, who was born on 11 May 1846 in what is now Canada. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Brough, who both came from County Durham. Thomas was an engine wright in the mining industry who, in 1839, was recruited by the famous overseer John Buddle to work for the General Mining Association which, at that time, was beginning to explore the coal reserves in Sydney Mines, Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Mining and engineering expertise from the north east was in great demand at this time and Thomas was just one of the many mining engineers who travelled to far-flung parts of the world.

Letters are held by Durham Record Office which give details of Thomas’s contract (He was to have a house and a fire and ‘pit flannels’ on top of his salary) and also reveal the arrangements for the Brough family’s arduous journey to Canada. There was consternation that there would be no ships from Newcastle for several months and so it was decided that the family should travel by rail to Carlisle (Bear in mind that the railway had only opened the previous year so even this leg of the journey would have been quite an adventure), continue by steamer to Liverpool and then make the long journey across the Atlantic by ship to Nova Scotia.

It was noted by Buddle that Thomas and Mary had three young children aged 7, 5, 3 and 4 months who would also have to make the journey, one which many parents would approach with trepidation even now. A further letter confirmed their arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It appears that the family spent about 10 years in North America. This was in the days of British rule, before the formation of Canada or indeed the American Civil War. The 1851 UK census, however, shows them back in the north east, with two younger children, Mary Ann, 7, and Edward, 4, having been born at Sydney Mines.

Expanding business

At the age of 20, Edward entered the service of a provisions dealer, Edward R Hume and Co. By 1871, he was married to Newcastle girl, Mary Dent and in 1876 he set up a wholesale business, with a friend, John Richardson Frazer. The firm, Frazer and Brough, mainly imported eggs and butter from Denmark. Edward spoke Danish fluently. In 1888, Edward set up independently and introduced his 17 year old son Joseph to the wholesale business.

It was Joseph, however, who first made the move into retail. He left his father’s firm in 1894 and at the turn of the century, Edward sold his own wholesaling business to join his son’s rapidly expanding company. Joseph Brough’s business model was to lower the price of goods to customers by getting them to buying in bulk and enable him to cut out the middleman. Brough’s ‘didn’t deal in pennyworths but sold the customers whole hams, rolled shoulders of bacon and flour, sugar, rice, oatmeal, split peas, lentils in stones or half stones, jams in 7lb jars and so on, recalled Herbert Ellis, a former employee. The shops didn’t have inviting window displays and the interiors were functional rather than attractive places to shop but many of the branches were in colliery towns where the customers placed greater value on the lower prices.

The first Heaton shop opened in 1908, not on Heaton Road but round the corner in North View and was bought as a going concern from another Edward Brough, Edward Hudson Brough, a cousin of Joseph.

‘The building was a long wooden shed, standing alone on the railway embankment, with only the words ‘Groceries and Provisions at Wholesale Prices’ to indicate what went on inside’. (Herbert Ellis)

In c1917, by which time it had 500 employees in branches as far afield as South Yorkshire, Joseph sold the firm to Meadow Dairy Company, which, although it had originated in Newcastle, was by now a national chain. The Brough name was retained, however, and it contained to expand even trying its business model, spectacularly unsuccessfully, in London. A number of changes were introduced: there was less emphasis on buying in bulk and more on deliveries at a time and in quantities to suit the customer. The Meadow Dairy Company later became associated with the Home and Colonial Stores, which some readers may remember.

The 60 Heaton Road shop opened in 1923, under the management of a Mr McKinnon, with the wooden shop on North View closing the following year. Although it was in a better position, there were a number of problems as Herbert Ellis, later to become managing director, recalled:

‘As we couldn’t get possession of the upstairs rooms, we couldn’t hope to do much more trade. There was only the shop and a cellar… it meant keeping light stocks and frequent carting of supplies from Oxford Street, two miles away.’

The firm continued employing ‘travellers’ to call on households and take orders for delivery later. Heaton History Group Honorary President, Alan Morgan, still has a receipt kept by his mother in 1960. Amongst other things, she had bought half a pound of Danish butter (1s 6d), a quarter pound of Typhoo tea (1s 7d) and two pounds of caster sugar (1s 9d). In ‘new’ money that comes to about 24p!

In the 1950s, the company was a pioneer of the self-service model, with the New Bridge Street store apparently being the first in Newcastle. A Sandyford resident who worked there recalls ‘I started as a Saturday girl handing out the baskets.’ [For which she was paid 4s (20p) a Saturday]. ‘I think they had just opened. I started full time the day after I left school, that must have been in 1955. I was also their first floor walker after I saw a woman stealing’ (The woman was caught and the brand new assistant instantly promoted). She could also remember the amazement of new customers seeing this new way of shopping for the first time, many of whom just stopped and stared.

Edward lived a long life. He had wide business interests in addition to grocery. He was chairman of the General Bill Posting Co Ltd, Dunford Steamship Co Ltd and James Scott and Son (1926) Ltd and a trustee and board member of Newcastle Savings Bank. He was also a magistrate and a noted philanthropist, who was especially involved in the Poor Children’s Holiday Association. He died in 1933 well into his nineties.

Edward Brough

Edward Brough

Joseph died in 1958. He too was a philanthropist. He presented the Poor Children’s Holiday Association with a house in Whickham which became the Edith Brough Children’s Home and in 1940 he set aside £25,000 to provide for employees in the case of illness or hardship. The charitable trust still exists with an expanded remit.

Joseph Brough

Joseph Brough

The Heaton shop was still trading in 1973, after around 48 years.

Dynasty

But what preceded Brough’s? This part of Heaton Road was built in the late 1890s and number 60 seems to have been a shop from the very beginning. The trade directories of the time refer to it as ‘Crofton’s Stores – Grocery, Italian Warehousemen and Wine and Spirits Merchants’. The term ‘Italian Warehousemen’ isn’t one we use today but in the nineteenth century, it was a common term for a specialist grocery shop that stocked items such as: oils, pickles, fruits and pasta. We’d probably call it a ‘posh deli’!

Crofton’s was by this time a small chain. The first shop in Blackett Street was opened by Zechariah Crofton, a Morpeth man. Crofton died in 1866 but the business he created continued to expand. By 1898, it was owned by Robert Owen Blayney, the son of Arthur Blayney, a Welsh grocer who as early as 1841 had himself employed 9 men.

Robert died in 1921 by which time the business had passed to his son, Robert Geoffrey Blayney but before then 60 Heaton Road has been sold to another local chain the London and Newcastle Supply Stores, the head office of which was in Grainger Street and which had a number of branches in the north east. The first of a succession of managers, from 1900 – 1901, was Henry Richard Jones, later described as ‘swimming instructor and tea dealer’ who was born in Bellary, India and went on to own the grocer’s shop at 101 Addycombe Terrace.

Still a grocery

We’re not sure who owned the shop between 1973 and 2003 when Heaton Village Store, the latest business to operate from 60 Heaton Road, opened its doors. The business, while not yet quite as long-lasting as Brough’s, is already a very respectable eleven years old, a worthy successor to 60 Heaton Road’s long line of groceries going back some 115 years.

We’d love to hear any memories of Brough’s and find out what came between Brough’s closing around 1973 and Heaton Village Store opening some 30 years later. And can anyone remember 60 Heaton Road before it was self-service?

Caroline Stringer with additional research by Chris Jackson.

Resources consulted include: Dictionary of Business Biography, Brough’s Limited: the story of a business by H G Ellis, 1952 Ward’s and other trades directories, Newcastle Roll of Citizens (all held by Newcastle City Library).

15 thoughts on “60 Heaton Road

  1. Muriel LaTour

    “The firm continued employing ‘travellers’ to call on households and take orders for delivery later.”

    One of the delivery men (perhaps the one on the left hand side of the picture) was called Jack Patterson who delivered the orders by horse and cart in the 1930s

    Reply
    1. Muriel LaTour

      Yes, I knew him when I was child in the 40s after he retired, and he lived as a lodger in my parents house on Stannington Avenue for many years until his death. I think it was sometime in the late 50s.

      Reply
  2. Chris

    Prior to the shop becoming ‘Heaton Village Store’ it was ‘Bulman’s’ (known to all as ‘Jim’s’). This was a similar type of shop to the Heaton Village Store, selling the same range of goods. I’m not sure how long Bulman’s occupied the premises, certainly from the late 1980s and possibly earlier.

    Reply
    1. oldheaton Post author

      Thank you, Chris. It’s more difficult to research this period as the directories organised by street cease c1968, so we often rely on memory to get us started.

      Reply
  3. Anne Patricia Blake

    Just wanted to say, I am a Heaton lass, was born at 136 Cardigan Tce., then lived at 53 Heaton Rd., King John Street, and Cartington Tce., my name was Anne Geleman, born 1941, now live North of Alnwick.

    Reply
    1. oldheaton Post author

      Glad you’ve found us! And we’d love to hear your memories and see any old photos you might have of Heaton.

      Reply
  4. liz Dey

    Hi I was brought up on Third avenue and my first job was a Saturday job at Broughs Heaton road. When I left school I went to work in Broughs Malvern Gardens Gateshead where my brother was assistant manager. There was a documentry done about Jack Commons book ( Kiddars Luck ) and my grandmother was interviewed about it and I have a copy of the interview. I was born 1948

    Liz Dey

    Reply
    1. oldheaton Post author

      Hi Liz,

      Thank you very much for getting in touch. What memories do you have of Brough’s on Heaton Road? Or Gateshead? Did you ever meet the Broughs themselves.

      That’s really interesting about your grandmother’s interview. Did she live in Third Avenue too? We’re about to start a project about the Avenues in WW1 so it would be great if we could see it. Was it in print or radio/TV?

      Do you still live locally? I’ll stop the questions there (for now!) Chris, Secretary, Heaton History Group

      Reply
      1. Shirley Dobson

        Joseph Brough was my great uncle by marriage. His wife (née Edith johnson) was my father’s uncle and I have original pictures of them both. They lived very simply at the end of their lives in Allendale. I remember having the Brough delivery vans pointed out when I visited my grandmother, who lived in heaton and we went into the town. There was a Broughs in Blackett Street.

  5. Sue Dyer

    I worked at the Shields Road end of Heaton Road from about 1997, I’m convinced it was a newsagents as I used to call in on my way to work. It did sell a limited amount of groceries and stationery etc but its main business was papers, tobacco, sweets etc.

    Reply
  6. Kathleen Lavill

    I am the Great granddaughter of Edward Brough, my Grandfather being Edward Dent Brough who also became a part owner in the Business. I inherited from my father Joseph Edward Brough a quantity of records from the business. Of interest to Heaton people would be two letters of thanks from staff members of Broughs who lived in Heaton. Both dated 1919 one is from a Mr George Brown of 7 Addeycombe Terrace, Heaton and the other James McKinnon of 156 Malcolm Street Heaton. Thank you to the author for the information regarding how Edward came to be born in Sydney Mines. The children who accompanied them to Nova Scotia were William, jane and Ralph. The later died at Sydney Mines aged 14 months. They had 3 further children Thomas Thompson who was father of Edward Hudson Brough, Mary Ann and Edward.I have a number of family photos including Edward and his children and second wife Mary nee Jollie on their silver wedding. I remember being in the warehouses with heaps of tea on the wooden floors, my father never bought tea bags as he said they will filled with the floor sweepings. I also remember the Broughs man coming to our house to take our order. I am happy to share any record i have and provide copies of any documents/ letter. I was born in 1946.

    Reply
    1. oldheaton Post author

      Hello Kathleen,
      Thank you for this post. It would be lovely to see some of your photos and documents when you get time. We are doing a project on the people who lived in a number of streets named after Shakespeare character, including Malcolm Street, at the moment so the letter to James McKinnon is of the most immediate interest. Best wishes, Chris (Secretary, HHG)

      Reply

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