Friday, September 29, 2023
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Shields Road Landmarks and Legends

On Wednesday 27 July, Heaton History Group members are invited to join Mike Greatbatch for a walking tour of Shields Road in which old photos, maps and plans will be used to reveal the colourful history of this busy thoroughfare.
The old Beavan’s shop on the corner of Shields Road and Heaton Park Road, (now the High Main pub)
Places are limited and so this walk is open to Heaton History Group members only in the first instance and booking is essential. Please book your place by contacting / 07443 594154.
The walk will start outside St Silas Church at 7.30pm and  finish at the East End Library and Pool.
185 Shields Road
185 Shields Road
Ringtons used to be on Shields Road (where the retail park is now) before it moved to Algernon Road


  1. RE Beavans , I worked there from 1953 to 1957 upstairs in baby wear dept ,at the time I began working there it was still owned by the Beavans bros ,there were 3 of them that I know of but possibly there was a 4th there was Mr Frank , Mr Miles and Mr Henry they all passed away not long after I started working there but I do remember one of them coming to the store now and then ,either Miles or Henry ,he was in a wheel chair and came with an entourage of several people ,we all had to have everything spick and span and stand to attention as they passed through the depts the TV programme Are you being served reminded me of those times it was just like that complete with floor walkers in suits and flowers in their lapels .woolworth took over in The High Main 1954 but Beavans still had a warehouse and canteen at the back of the building all the time I was there til at least 1957. Beavans changed hands twice during my time there to Leigh’s of London then later to Great Universal stores I have many fond and lovely memories of that beautiful shop with its lovely edwardian features , so sad to see it’s decline into just another cheap shop .

  2. I worked at Bevans from 1953 until 1955 when I joined the army, so Sheila’s employment there and mine overlapped for a couple of years. I remember the visitor in the wheelchair. I believe he was the last surviving Beavan brother though I can’t remember his Christian name.
    Aged 16, I had training in a number of departments but I became most interested in display. During Leigh’s ownership of the store a new face appeared on the scene – Maxwell Coker, an American actor who had been married to (and I think at that time very recently divorced from) English actress Sally Ann Howes. It became clear that he had been drafted in to upgrade the store’s image.
    Completely unknown to me at the time, (but detailed many years later in his obituary), Maxwell Coker was an original cast member of the London production of “Oklahoma!” in the late 1940s. He had continued his stage career, primarily in London, in numerous other productions including “Carousel”, and also appeared in several Royal Command Performances.
    In World War II he served as an honorary officer in the British Military and toured the South Pacific Islands performing with the cast of “Oklahoma!”
    And here he was at Beavan’s in Byker!

    Beavans’ window displays were transformed by Maxwell Coker. He brought an extra touch of theatrical quality to add to the vibrancy of the Shields Road shopping experience. At the back of Beavan’s main windows he stripped out dark wood panelling to allow natural light to enter the store. Walls and ceilings were painted white and all floors were carpeted in grey felt. Anyone entering any of the widow display areas was required to wear grey felt slippers. New modern spotlighting made possible much more dramatic highlighting of displays. A network of discreet white hooks in the white ceilings provided another simple but hugely effective device for suspension techniques to be used in fashion and fabric draping.
    The transformation was inspiring to me, a student of display techniques attending a British Display Association course at Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design. In his pristine new semi-theatrical setting Maxwell installed a number of dramatic and eye-catching fashion displays. Then, when presumably his commitment to the owners was fulfilled, he quietly took his leave of us and was no more to return.
    I worked then alongside a newly-appointed display manager, Mr Darling whom, I think had previously been display manager at Binns. It was a great privilege to learn from him and to take responsibility for window display during his holiday absence.
    It all went pear-shaped when Great Universal Stores (‘Gussie’ to us) took ownership of Beavans. No longer were the experienced and expert departmental buyers allowed to buy goods from their trusted suppliers. They had to receive and sell what Gussie sent them. That was the beginning of the decline into what Sheila describes as ‘just another cheap shop’.


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