Friday, September 29, 2023
HomeWhereChillingham RoadThe Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

All of us at Heaton History group love to hear from older Heatonians who want to share their knowledge with us.. We receive, usually fond, memories of local streets, schools, parks, churches and shops. But we can safely say that until very recently we hadn’t read a single nostalgic musing about a roundabout!

But George Hildrew, we are pleased to say, has put that right. He explains his life-long interest:

‘My family moved from Cornel Road to number 7 Coast Road in 1945/6. The house was above the wet fish shop, Percy Lilburn’s, situated on the corner between Coast Road and Benton Road. At the time there were three shops on that corner: Norman Storey, gents’ outfitter; Smythe’s the bakery, and Percy Lilburn’s wet fish shop. My mam, Betty Hildrew, was manageress of the shop until the late 60s, at which time it was owned by Taylor’s. Everyone knew, and loved my mam.

Living above the shop meant we children (myself and my three sisters, Ann, Penny, and Liz) spent a good deal of time at the windows looking at the cars, which in the early days were few and were all black. I seem to remember three changes to the roundabout in the years I lived in that house. Initially it was much smaller and across from us, on the corner  between Coast Road and Chillingham Road, were several benches with a grassy sloped area in front on which we used to play roly poly.

Hadrian’s Pillar

The second change was a much bigger roundabout, with the introduction of steel barriers. It was this one that had the obelisk in the middle. The obelisk was actually a sandstone section of an ancient pillar, most probably from one of the Roman temples on the A69. I seem to recall it being referred to as ‘Hadrian’s Pillar’, but I could be wrong. You can see it on both of the photographs below.


Coast Road / Chillingham Road Roundabout, dated 1955



Chillingham Road / Coast Road roundabout dated 1965 from Bygone High Heaton, published by Newcastle City Libraries.


The next change was the flyover system which is much the same today as when it was built. At this time the pillar was removed, never to be seen again, most likely buried on the site.


Going back to the second change which was mainly done to provide road access for the equipment that was being manufactured at C & A Parsons’ engineering works. They were producing turbines that were the best you could find worldwide and getting them out was a major problem. When we knew a big turbine was due to leave, we kids would sit in the window sills looking down on the roundabout, watching the fun.

Sometimes the loads were transported by huge Pickfords push and pull trucks and, as the loads were so long, they had to traverse the roundabout in such a way that they would have to manoeuvre the load over the roundabout. In order to do this, the lighting poles had to come down, and the pillar would also be lifted out and lain flat on the grass. All these were replaced immediately after the load had passed. The whole operation usually took the best part of a day and attracted a lot of attention. But then, as if by magic, you’d never know anything had happened.


The area was the main shopping centre for a large part of central Heaton, yet there is not much information on the internet. There’s plenty on the four individual streets, but sadly little about what was always referred to as ‘the Coast Road roundabout’. Between my sisters and I, we can name most the shops around it. It would be great to hear what readers remember.’ 

Can you help?

Please share your memories either by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or by emailing Which shops do you remember? And what about the houses that were demolished? Did you play roly-poly down the grassy bank? Or watch the huge turbines – and perhaps telescopes from Grubb Parsons – going past? Does anybody know more about the pillar?

Time for bed, said Zebedee.




  1. I was a member of Heaton swimming club at Chillingham Road baths about 1962 &have many fond memories of the place &people .What became of the building as I understand it has closed?
    Many thanks
    Graham Coffer

    • Hello Graham, I am pleased you used the Heaton History Group link that I sent you in the Christmas card. Chillingham Road Baths closed almost as soon as East End Pool, Byker was built and opened by Sir Bobby Robson in 2000 (answer to quiz question at our December meeting). The baths site is now a GP surgery (Biddlestone Health Group), presumably without the cockroaches that we used to find in the changing rooms! My sister Moira was a Duty Manager at Heaton Baths for 10 years, then a Receptionist at the new East End Pool for 12 years until made redundant. Regards, Arthur Andrews (ex-Heaton ASC swimmer)

  2. One of the shops on the corner was Charlton’s (a hardware, tool shop). Michael Charlton lived above the shop with his family who I went to school with at Ravenswood. I lived with my family at 322 Heaton Road just up from the Corner House pub.

  3. Chris Boylan emailed:

    My recollection of this junction is before the roundabout was constructed at the junction of Stephenson Road,Coast Road, and, Chillingham Road. It was a triangular junction for the Newcastle Tramcars that ran in that area. Coming up from Benton Bank to the junction the left hand line ran up to West Moor and Forest Hall whilst the right hand junction took the trams back to the city.

    As I recall the line that connected all this together saw no tram service except empty trams proceeding to Fossway Depot or proceeding to West Moor or Forest Hall to start their workings. I also recall the Junction being prepared for the introduction of the trolley buses.

    I have recollections of many walks along a footpath which was later to become Meridian Way. The farm was known as Loefflers Farm. Everyone called it Lofflers Farm.

    It stood adjacent to the old tram car line which formerly ran from Wallsend to Gosforth. The animals especially the pigs used to enthrall me and other youngsters of the time ( late Forties).

    Where the tramlines crossed Coach Lane they were still there before Coach Lane was rebuilt and where they crossed the Coast Road they were still in the roadside until the Coast Road was made into a Dual Carriage way.


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