Saturday, September 30, 2023
HomeHomeSomeone at the Door?

Someone at the Door?

You could be forgiven for thinking that home deliveries had been invented by Deliveroo, Amazon and Hermes but people whose memories go back a long way will remember their predecessors.

In ‘Kiddar’s Luck’, Jack Common recalled the ‘procession of horse-drawn vans, man-pushed barrows, milk-chariots, coal-carts and steam-wagons’ that were daily visitors to the avenues of Edwardian Heaton. And, although he might not quite remember those days, Heaton History Group’s Keith Fisher confirms that their successors were still going strong 40 or so years later.

‘As yet another supermarket ‘home-delivery’ van stops in my street, my attention is drawn back to my childhood years in Tintern Crescent during the ’50s and ’60s, and my mother’s weekly visits from our local shops and assorted suppliers.

I don’t know how much of a luxury affair this was… while we were certainly not rich, we were comfortable… but I suspect wealth had little to do with it, and almost everyone enjoyed these facilities to a greater or lesser degree.


Milk deliveries were, of course, ubiquitous, and we had both our independent dairy supplier in his electric cart, and the Co-op with their big flat-bed waggon crawling after a flock of youths busy collecting the tokens from those galvanised-tin receptacles that sat on the top of an empty’, and leaving bottles according to the number of tokens.  Sadly, I am unable to locate even an image of those contraptions (I will keep looking) although I do have some Co-op tokens.

The next obvious contender for universal delivery would be the newspaper – naturally.  How many young fellows funded their pastimes by delivering newspapers?  Sadly, some may have had to hand over their earnings as their contribution to housekeeping; some may have paid the ‘hire purchase’ on their bike; but I suspect most simply enjoyed the abundant fruits of their labours which consoled them during frigid winter mornings and icy post-school evenings.

Now, if ever there was an anachronism to be found in this tale it is those sooty-black sacks of coal on the backs of the sooty black-faced men.  Again, the big flat-bed lorry would crawl along the street – or down back-lanes, hopefully devoid of clean washing strung out on lines across the way – pausing while the sacks were hoisted onto the men’s backs.  Here’s the view we never got: the sacks being filled directly from the rail-waggons.

Right!  At this point I will mention a regular delivery service that does not perhaps immediately spring to mind; a car of generally respectable quality that would stop at various houses, sometimes frequently, and sometimes just occasionally: the family GP.  It was not unusual for a doctor to make three visits a day if the patient required it.  Tintern Crescent was mainly young to middle-aged occupants so a handful of flats housed children of assorted ages; we all know how prone to maladies they could be back then.  Now?  I wouldn’t know.  So, while the majority of doorstep deliveries have died an inevitable and natural death over the years, the loss of family GP attendance has been neither necessary nor natural; that is not a soap-box I need to climb on here as I am certain I am not alone in my feelings.

Weekly Wash

So, on to a lighter note – for some anyway: laundry.  Once a week a van would arrive at our house and collect a box of bedding, curtains, and various other items not easily laundered at home.  I say ‘easily’ because many folk had to cope with the difficulty of washing double sheets or blankets ‘in house’. The problem was always getting things dried in wintertime, with stuff draped over clothes-horses and windows thick with condensation.  Alternatively – and more likely – it meant a visit to the laundromat, with the washing in the pram and baby sat on top. 

While we are on the subject of laundry, take a look at these extravagant lorries and let’s enter the male dominated world of ‘daily-demanded clean white shirts’.  I have never met anyone who did not loath ironing shirts, yet a lot of men needed a fresh one every day (and that included weekends because Saturday night was club night and Sunday was, needless to say, church!)  Collars Limited would visit us weekly and drop-off a glazed brown cardboard box, with corner protectors and address windows, that contained seven brilliant white double-cuffed shirts and detachable starched collars (starch was appropriate to the customer of course); sometimes extra collars if required.  A similar box containing last week’s dirty garments was taken away.  This was undreamed of luxury for a lot of housewives.  Here is an example of a box for just the detachable shirt collars as many housewives would launder the body of the shirt at home but have the collars starched professionally; or, replace the collar daily but get a couple of days or more out of the shirt by doubling over the cuffs.  For many men it was simply a mandatory but hated uniform.

Eat and Drink

OK, let’s move on to more appetising deliveries:

Bookless had a shop just along from Clough’s that sold fruit and veg and employed a lad who would deliver a regular order on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings in a variety of wooden crates that got chopped up for fire-lighting sticks (my job).  If I remember correctly the manager was called Betty – or Betty Bookless to me, even though I don’t think she was family.  Actually, one branch of the family did live at the end of Tintern.

Tommy Rogers was a butcher on Heaton Road and he delivered meat at least three times a week; I did say we were comfortable.

Foggin’s were Heaton Road’s fresh fish merchants, and twice a week the freshest fish arrived at our door… on a bicycle, so who said you never see a fish on a bike?  Saturday brought lemon sole that would be dusted in flour and shallow fried in olive-oil… glorious.  M&S eat your heart out, you will never match that.  You will notice I disregarded modern menu fads and didn’t say ‘pan-fried’ as I have never seen anything fried in anything but a pan.

Then there was the Hadrian, run by Mr and Mrs Edgar: the nicest couple you could wish to meet; I went to Chilly Road with their son Michael.  Usually I would be despatched to collect items on a list, but sometimes Michael would deliver bacon, butter, eggs and the like.  Tinned goods rarely entered our kitchen, while cakes and biscuits were baked at home, unless mother succumbed to Carrick’s fresh creams while out shopping.  Strawberry tarts and chocolate eclairs were often indulged, although not by me, as I never liked cream… still don’t.

Alright! Let’s return to flat-bed lorries and Wednesday’s delivery of Pop.  Tizer, naturally; lemonade, cream-soda, orangeade, and… dandelion ‘n’ burdock.  I am sure the company was Walkers, but I am open to correction if anyone knows.  No colas of any description, you will note; I can’t remember when the bottled black poison entered my life.

While on the subject of libation, and despite the fact that it endures, let us remember the great granddaddy of all deliveries: Ringtons Tea.  How many generations of family have brewed Ringtons Tea: mine is six.  My paternal-grandmother used loose tea till she died and I have followed suit – to this day.  I’m afraid I was one decade too late to enjoy the horse-drawn waggons as I was born in ’53 and in 1954 only one horse was left.

Monty, Ringtons’ last horse, retired in 1962

There used to be little gummed stamps within the outer paper wrapping and these would be cut out and stuck into a two page folder until it was full… long before Green Shield Stamps appeared. I don’t remember the reward, but I’m certain someone will.

Mops and Brushes

Finally, there were two salesmen who would visit on an infrequent basis and I have never been quite sure who sold us what: Kleeneze and Betterware.  Both began by selling brushes, but expanded to include many houseware products, in particular cleaning materials to tackle various jobs like floor tiles, windows or bathtubs, and etc.  My mother obviously favoured each individually according to product, but I never noticed who was for what.  Did any of you do the same?

Have I forgotten anything?  I’m much too young to remember Domestos deliveries.’

Can You Help?

If you know have memories of door-step deliveries in Heaton, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the speech bubble immediately below the article title (to the right) or by filling in the box right at the bottom of this page or by emailing



  1. Not sure how to say this but I think I may have a connection to the horse!

    I am speculating a bit, but assume that “Monty” is a reference to “Montgomery”. Douglas Smith married my grandmother’s cousin, Annie Symon (in 1923). Annie’s mother, Susannah Montgomery was sister to my great grandmother, Margaret. The two of them and several other siblings grew up in Dunaweel, Killashandra, Co Cavan in Ireland. Their father, George, was a bailiff/underagent/farmer for Lord Farnham in the 19th century and I can trace her mother’s family (Ellis) back to the 18th century with some certainty as it is based on sight of original documents.

    I spent half a day in the the Church of Ireland library in Dublin a few years ago but didn’t have time to complete my research – I plan to return in the new year as these records are not available on line.

    Susannah passed away in 1935 at a house called “Dunaweel” in Jesmond. I also note that that one of Annie’s children was named after her mother. John Montgomery Smith was a director of Ringtons until shortly before his death in 1998. So the family origins were clearly important. Whether this extended to naming their horses is, as I said above, speculative. But I like the story and “Monty” is mentioned in my family history so I thought I would say thank you as well as the other information on Ringtons.

    BTW my father was born in Heaton at his grandparent’s (Thomas Sheridan and Margaret Montgomery) house in Heaton Grove. Thomas was a senior police officer and was probably responsible for introducing Susannah to her husband John Symon who was a police constable under his command.

    • Thank you, David. I’m afraid that we don’t know who Monty, the horse, was named after but it sounds plausible. Thank you for taking the trouble to comment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments