Tag Archives: Benton Road

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As you push your trolley round Sainsbury’s, have you ever wondered what went on there before the supermarket and nearby car showrooms were built? The photographs below (courtesy of Historic England’s Britain from Above project) show the area on 1 November 1938. The houses to the north, west and south east had been built over the previous decade or so but there was still open country to the east. On the extreme right of both photos, you can see Heaton Cemetery.

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A S Wilkin Ltd Cremona Park (on the right) from the west, 1938

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Cremona Park Confectionery Works, 1938

Cremona Park, the self-styled ‘ World’s Garden Toffery’  opened on what was then a green field site on Benton Road in 1920. It was founded by Albert Scholick Wilkin, the son of a Westmorland policeman. Wilkin had opened a sweet factory in Sunderland in 1908. It was an immediate success, especially its ‘Wilkin’s Red Boy Toffee’, which featured a detail from Thomas Lawrence’s famous painting, ‘Charles William Lambton’, later known as ‘Red Boy’. By the end of WW1, Cremona had become a national brand.

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Cremona’s Red Boy Toffee tin

At about the same time, the old Royal Flying Corps site in High Heaton, Newcastle was no longer needed by the military. It gave Wilkin the space he needed to expand his business. There were many new flavours of toffee in ever more beautiful tins.

In 1939, Albert received a knighthood for ‘political and public services in Newcastle upon Tyne’. He was a Justice of the Peace, Chairman of Newcastle Central Conservative Association, governor of King’s College (now Newcastle University), an honorary freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Feltmakers Company. During the war, he served on committees which oversaw the regulation of the confectionery industry. But in 1943, aged only 60, Albert Wilkin died.

Sons, Gordon and Frank, took over the running of the company and after the war, the export markets returned: Hong Kong, China, Syria, Gibraltar, South Vietnam, Puerto Rico, the West Indies, the USA, among others, all loved High Heaton toffee. But, by the 1960s, larger companies began to dominate and Cremona Park had become part of Rowntrees Mackintosh and soon afterwards, the Benton Road factory closed its doors forever.

Home 

Veronica Halliwell (nee Erskine) has vivid memories of Cremona Park in the 1940s. Living what must be every child’s dream, she grew up in the grounds of a toffee factory.

Let Veronica take up the story: ‘I was born in 1940 and lived with my mother and grandparents at ‘The Lodge’, Cremona Park, Benton Rd. Newcastle upon Tyne until I was 8 years old.’ 

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Veronica with her doll’s house and the Cremona chimney behind (not part of the doll’s house!)

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Veronica and her mother outside the Cremona Park lodge where they lived

‘My grandfather was a commissionaire who checked transport at the gate of Cremona Park. He was also the office cleaner and a fire warden. My mother also worked in the factory – on the sweet machines. Meanwhile my father was a soldier on active duty with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. My grandmother looked after me.  I have many very happy memories of this time.’

Grandad

‘Grandad had a very smart uniform with brass buttons which, as a child, I loved to polish with him.  I had a toothbrush to collect the dampened solid block of brass polish and we polished it off when dry with a small duster at the dinner table in front of the black-leaded fireplace which always had a kettle on the boil.’ 

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Veronica and her grandparents with Cremona Park canteen to the right

‘When we had finished and the buttons were gleaming, grandad would toast me some bread on a long handled fork over the open fire. Then the tin bath would be placed in front of this fire and Grandad would have his weekly bath!

Now and again I was allowed to go to the offices while Grandad did his cleaning chores. With hindsight, the high, wooden desks were quite Dickensian in appearance with high stools which I couldn’t reach!  I used to play with the black telephones (probably Bakelite) and my Grandad lifted me up and I pretended to ‘clock-in’ at a very large ornate office clock.

The Boss’s office was a different affair altogether with a green leather top, silver ink pots and a wonderful green leather  chair which I could swivel away in to my heart’s content. One day, the boss appeared and I am told that he was delighted with me. So much so that for Xmas 1945 or ’46  he gave me my first hard-backed book, ‘The Little Fir-Tree’. It gave me such pleasure that to this day, 70 plus years on , I still retell the story to all manner of children at Christmastime, even though the book has disappeared in the sands of time.

The fire wardens met in the canteen when they were ‘on duty’ but they never seemed to put out any fires, they just played cards and dominoes while I had a few rides on the ’dumb waiter’ as a reward for singing ‘You are my Sunshine.’ No health and safety rules and regulations then!’

Sweet machine

‘I can remember being carried into the factory to see my ‘mam’ at her sweet machine. The jewelled coloured wrapping paper seemed magical, as sweets slid down a chute at an alarming rate. When all the machines had shut down for the day I can still recall the hot, clean smell as the thick wooden slabs where the  toffee was rolled  were sluiced down with boiling water.’

We are lucky enough to have copies of postcards which show what the factory looked like inside, at every stage of the production process. They are undated but the first image suggests they were taken soon after the factory opened in 1920. So before Veronica’s time but perhaps not her grandad’s.

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Wartime

Veronica continues: ‘We mustn’t lose sight that it was wartime and my uncle made me my very own ’Tommy gun’ which was almost as big as me.  I played with the two sons of the boiler man at the factory but they were older than me and they were boys so I always had to be a ‘Jap’ and spent most of my time tied up in prison. They had an indoor shelter in their bungalow which was a great den until the siren went off one afternoon and we heard the drone of the German planes overhead. According to the grown-ups they had a different sound to our planes.  We were told that the German bombers used the tall chimney of Cremona and the tall chimney next door of the Sylvan jam factory to navigate their way.

There was also a very large brick communal shelter which had slatted wooden benches  where the adults sat or slept during an air raid. I slept in my pram, so I am told, but I can very definitely remember my mam running with me in my pram to the shelter and whenever it is a cold, crisp, clear night I swear I can smell the fresh, cold air there as if it were yesterday. The sound of the ‘all clear’ siren still haunts me and gives me goose-bumps.’

Even though it was wartime I was very lucky to have an uncle whose hobby was making toys-hence the doll’s house you see on one of the photographs.’

When I was almost eight, we moved to a prefab in Wallsend but still continued to go to St Teresa’s School in Heaton.  When I was 11 years old we moved to a house just up Benton Rd. which was only a stone’s throw from Cremona Park and, in my teens, St George’s Methodist Church Youth Club paved the way to friendships and frequent visits to Paddy Freeman’s Park and Jesmond Dene.’

Lovely memories and photos of what must have been a very exciting place to grow up.

Can you help?

If you know more about Cremona Park Toffee Factory or have memories or photos to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please either leave a reply on this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email   chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Veronica for her memories and photographs; additional research by Chris Jackson

Sources include:

‘North East Life’, January 2010. Article by Jackie Wilkin, Albert Scholick Wilkin’s great niece.

Swimming for Heaton

Who remembers Heaton Pool aka Chilli Road Baths?

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Heaton Pool, 1995 (Thank you to Newcastle Libraries)

It was situated on Biddlestone Road, where the doctors’ surgery is now. Heaton History Group member, Arthur Andrews, has fond memories of the pool and of Heaton Amateur Swimming Club (ASC), which was based there. Arthur takes up the story:

‘After learning to swim at a very cold open air pool at Hawkey’s Lane in North Shields, it was suggested by our swimming teacher, Mrs Richardson, that my brother Michael, sister Moira and I give competitive swimming a try. So every Thursday evening. we all began to catch the Number 11 yellow ‘custard’ bus to Heaton ASC at Chilli Road Baths.  Moira, although a competent swimmer, eventually decided that being competitive was not for her. But Michael and I stuck with it.

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Heaton Amateur Swimming Club membership cards

Bleached blondes

Dave Smith was our coach and taskmaster. His bark was worse than his bite, although it did not seem like it at the time. Training was hard work (as it should be!). No one had swimming goggles in those days so, after a long session, the chlorine really stung our eyes. On dark evenings the street lights seemed to have blurred haloes of light around them. Any contact with cigarette smoke on the bus made our eyes water. Those of us with fair hair ended up ‘bleached blondes’. The highlight of club night was tucking into fish and chips from Wallace’s on the corner of Benton Road and the Coast Road on the way home.

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The Andrews brothers and their trophies (‘mainly Mike’s!’), 1967

There were many swimming galas throughout Northumberland and Durham and not many people had cars to transport the swimmers. Dave Smith, our coach, ferried us round in a small, green Standard 8 and a handful of parents helped too.

Incidentally, the trophy that every club wanted to win was the Samuel Smith Perpetual Memorial Trophy, donated after the death in 1949 of Sam Smith Senior, founder of Ringtons in Heaton. The Smith family were staunch supporters of swimming locally: there was also a trophy in memory of his son Sam Smith Junior, who had tragically died in a plane crash and Malcolm Smith was Heaton ASC president.

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Samuel Smith Perpetual Memorial Trophy (Copyright: John Moreels, Ward Philipson Collection)

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National Championships

In 1966 and 1967, Michael and I, and a few others from Heaton, achieved the qualifying times to enter the National Swimming Championships at Derby Street (salt water baths) in Blackpool. This pool was 55 yards long, 30 yards longer than Heaton Baths. The length was daunting as was the competition! In my 110 yard freestyle heat I found myself on the starting block between English Champion, Bobby Lord, and international, A A Jarvis. Once the starting gun was fired I followed in their wake, finishing over six seconds behind them. It was all to get competition experience rather than have any chance of winning. Staying in a Blackpool B&B with four in a room was quite an experience as well.

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Arthur  with 100 yards Freestyle trophy, 1964 Arthur & Colin Feltoe competing in Germany, 1966

Chillier than Chilli Road

I once came in second in the Durham Long Course Championship, which was known as the Durham Mile. In 1967, Michael and I, along with several others from Heaton ASC, took part in this event on Elvet waterside along with approximately 90 other foolhardy souls. We changed in Durham City Baths across the road.There were no wetsuits, though the water temperature was a bracing 14 to16 degrees. We gingerly descended the steep, slippery riverbank and lined up in two rows across the river, our feet sinking into the squelchy, muddy riverbed. It seemed to take an age to for the starting pistol to be fired.

The course was up to the old bandstand and back with no goggles (we would not have been able to see anything any way!) Apart from the cold water and a mass of flailing arms and legs we had to contend with swimming through floating twigs, teasel and other debris hitting our bodies. Swimming too close to the riverbank meant scooping up handfuls of mud, which would slow you down as well as being unpleasant. The turn at the rope across the river near the bandstand was hazardous as the leading group just swam straight into the stragglers, so a black eye or other bruising was a distinct possibility. The hot shower and baths were most welcome after between thirty and sixty minutes in the Wear.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the event ceased in the early 1970s as the Wear was deemed too polluted.

Trophies

In the early 1970s a proposal was made to replace some of Heaton ASC’s older swimming club cups and plaques. Members and parents were asked if any would be willing to donate new trophies and good friends, Bill Allan of Plessey Terrace and Richard Jacobs of Jesmond and myself clubbed together to purchase a cup. We called it the Andrews, Allan and Jacobs Cup to be presented to the winner of the Senior Mens 200 yards Freestyle event. The first time it was competed for, although not at my peak, I entered the event to see if I could win my own trophy. I believe I was ahead for the first six lengths, but in the final two, I was overtaken by several fitter swimmers. I can’t remember who won the event or who presented the trophy. It may only have been swum for once.

Demise

Around this time it was proposed that a City of Newcastle Swimming Club should be set up to comprise the best swimmers from the other clubs in the city. The idea was that, rather than the local clubs only occasionally winning a national event, a centralised club would make a name for itself winning events and producing international swimmers. It would have a full time professional coach to improve standards. The new club was based at Northumberland Road Baths in town. So, in 1973, Heaton ASC ceased to exist. (But what happened to Heaton’s historic club trophies? I’d love to know.)

City of Newcastle Swimming Club’s first annual swimming gala took place on Saturday 15 December 1973. ‘Incorporating Heaton ASC’ is written in parentheses after the name of the new club. This suggests that the other city clubs had not yet relinquished their identities. Certainly Northumberland ASC, with its long tradition and history, continued for many years.

Chilli Road

There were many good times at Heaton ASC and Chilli Road Pool was always popular with competitive swimmers, as it was thought to be a fast pool. (Although the cockroaches in the changing rooms in the 60s seemed to spook a few!)

The pool itself had opened in April 1925, designed by prominent London architect, Alfred William Stephens Cross (1858-1932), who specialised in the design of public baths and wrote a book on the subject. Cross was vice president of RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) and president of the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors. Heaton Pool must have been one of his final designs.

It cost £42,000. Originally there were ‘slipper baths’ for individual bathing; they were practically covered and shaped like a – yes, you guessed! Remember, few people would have had a bath at home in those days. The communal swimming pool measured 75 feet by 35 feet and contained 65,000 gallons of water. Changing cubicles around the edge of the pool were removed in the 1960s.

The pool remained open to the end of the millennium. Generations of Heaton children learnt to swim there and many locals still remember the family sessions with inflatable toys.

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Heaton Pool, 1990

But in 2000, a ‘modern leisure facility’, East End Pool, was opened in Byker by Sir Bobby Robson, and that spelled the end for Chilli Road. Between 1990 and 2000, my sister Moira was a duty manager and adult swimming teacher there, continuing the family association until the very end.’

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Arthur, Brenda Falcus and Dave Smith in token effort to Save Our Swimming pool

Can you help?

If you know more about Heaton Pool or Heaton ASC or have memories or photographs to share, please either post a message direct to this website, by clicking on the link immediately below this article title, or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

We are always pleased to receive information, memories and photos relevant to Heaton’s history.

 Acknowledgements

Written and researched by Arthur Andrews, with additional research by Chris Jackson.

Sources

Heaton: from farms to foundries / Alan Morgan; Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2012

Public baths and wash houses: a treatise on their planning, design, arrangement and fitting: having special regard to the acts arranging for their provision: with chapters on Turkish, Russian and other special baths, public laundries, engineering, heating, water supply etc / W S Cross; Batsford, 1906

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.

 

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Coast Road / Chillingham Road Roundabout, dated 1955

 

 

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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.

Dismantled

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.

Memories

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 chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org. 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.