Tag Archives: North View

The signalman and his daughter

Little did we think, when we published ‘Dead Man’s Handle’, the story of a railway accident that took place almost ninety years ago, that we’d be put in touch with someone who clearly remembered that night – and so much more besides. Olive Renwick was born in September 1916, so she is now approaching her 99th birthday – and she has lived in Heaton all her life.

Olive as a young child

Olive as a young child

The signalman

Olive is the daughter of Isabella and Francis Walter (Frank) Topping. Frank was the signalman who, on 8 August 1926, saw a passenger train coming towards his box at full speed seconds before it crashed into a goods train near Manors Station. Olive was nine years old at the time and reminded us that nobody had phones back then and so when her father didn’t return from work, the family could only sit and wait. ‘My mother didn’t send my sister and me to bed’ she remembered ‘I think she was worried and wanted company’.

The train hit the box in which her father worked, damaging one of its supporting ‘legs‘ but luckily Frank Topping escaped unscathed. He alerted the emergency services and helped rescue passengers before eventually arriving home to his anxious family. ‘But he thought he was a goner’ said Olive. You can read the full story here: Dead Man’s Handle

Olive told us more about her father: he was Heaton born and bred, growing up on Simonside Terrace.

NorthViewSchool? incFrank Topping

North View School, 1890s?

On this school photo, he is second from the left on the back row. ‘I think it might be North View School but I’m not sure’. (Does anybody know?) Frank had started his career on the railways in 1900, aged 16, as a learner signal lad.  ‘I was always very proud of him. He was trusted with one of the biggest signal boxes, with four lines to look after.’

But he didn’t remain a signalman. Frank became branch secretary of Newcastle Number 2 NUR branch, senior trustee for the Passenger Signalmen’s Provident Society and was, for almost 20 years from 1931, Secretary of the NER Cottage Homes and Benefit Fund. Locally, in 1911 he was ordained an Elder of Heaton Presbyterian Church, then a session clerk from 1946 until shortly before he died. In WW2, he served in the Home Guard.

Frank Topping, Home Guard, 1942

Frank Topping, Home Guard, 1942

Olive showed us photographs and newspaper cuttings relating to her father including an account, with photographs, of him opening railway cottages in Hartlepool on a street named after him.

Frank Topping officially opening railway cottage in Topping Close, Hartlepool

Frank Topping officially opening a railway cottage in Topping Close, Hartlepool

She had also kept a tribute, published in a railway magazine after his death, in which her father was praised for:

‘ his inimitable character, his understanding and judgement, his forthright speaking, his general cheerfulness and his desire to help his fellow man’

Francis Topping died in 1957.

Olive’s childhood

It was fantastic to find out more about Frank Topping and to hear Olive’s memories of her father but we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to hear more from someone who has lived in Heaton for almost a century. Imagine the changes she has seen.

Olive was born on Warton Terrace but spent most of her childhood on Ebor Street and then Spencer Street, ‘The railway terraces. In those days, you had to be on the railways to live there’.

Olive with her brother, Rob, outside their house in Ebor Street.

Olive with her brother, Rob, outside their house in Ebor Street.

Olive (right) with her sister Sybil, Ebor St c1923

Olive (right) with her sister Sybil, Ebor St c1923

She remember the street traders, who sold all manner of things on the front street and back lanes. And, like Jack Common, a few years earlier, she recalls itinerant musicians: ‘women, they were usually women, in shawls, women who were poorer than us, who came round door to door, singing and collecting money.’

As a child, Olive was allergic to cow’s milk. She remembers that her mother walked to Meldon Terrace everyday with a jug to collect milk from a woman who kept a goat in her back yard.

One of her earliest memories was climbing on the cannons that used to stand in Heaton Park. She cut her leg badly and, because she feared her parents would be annoyed with her, dashed straight to the outside toilet in the hope of stemming the flow of blood. Naturally though she couldn’t hide the injury for long. ‘I was carried off to hospital for stitches. And my father wrote to the council to complain the cannons were dangerous’ Olive told us, ‘And soon after they were removed!’

Olive on the cannon in Heaton Park

Olive on the cannon in Heaton Park

‘And I remember my mother taking me to the Scala for a treat to see “Tarzan” but I ran up and down the aisle, shouting “Tarzan!” and had to be taken home in disgrace’. (This must have been an older version than the famous Johnny Weismuller films of the 1930s and ’40s, perhaps ‘The Adventures of Tarzan‘ (1921), the silent movie version which starred Elmo Lincoln.)

Scala cinema Chillingham Road

Olive attended Chillingham Road School and later Heaton High:

Olive (middle) & friends in Heaton High uniform, late 1920s

Olive (middle) & friends in Heaton High uniform, late 1920s

The original buildings of what became Heaton Manor School

The original buildings of what became Heaton Manor School

‘I was in my first year when the King and Queen came to officially open the school.

King and Queen open Heaton Secondary Schools, 1928

King and Queen open Heaton Secondary Schools, 1928

We were all gathered in the hall and Miss Cooper, the head teacher, told us that the queen would be presented with a “bookie”. What on earth’s a bookie, I wondered. Only later did I realise she meant a bouquet!’

And she remembers, without much fondness, the many rail journeys of her childhood. ‘With my father’s job, the whole family enjoyed subsidised travel.. I say “enjoyed” but I hated it. We went all over, to places like Edinburgh, but trains made me sick: it was the smell. So I wasn’t allowed to sit in the carriage. I was banished to the guard’s van – with a bucket. I can still smell that smell now – and it still makes me feel sick!’

Coincidence

It was as we were leaving that Olive mentioned, in passing, her maternal grandparents: that they were called Wood, came originally from Ayton in Berwickshire, lived in Seventh Avenue and that her mother’s uncle Bob (Walker) grew potatoes on a field near Red Hall Drive. Could they be the same Woods that we’d researched and written about as part of our ‘Heaton Avenues in Wartime’ project. Surely they must? And indeed they were.

Isabella and David Wood

Isabella and David Wood

On a return visit, Olive told us more about her grandparents, David and Isabella Wood. She confirmed that they had an allotment on railway land. She told us about visits to her great aunts in Ayton and she recounted family stories about a visit to her Uncle Robert in hospital, where he was to die from wounds received on the battlefield. Best of all, she was able to show us photographs of both grandparents, more of which we will add to the article ‘The Woods of Seventh Avenue’.

It’s been a pleasure to meet Olive,  pictured here with daughters, Julia and Margaret, in 1953:

Olive with daughters, Julia and Margaret in 1953

Olive with daughters, Julia and Margaret in 1953

And here in 2015:

Margaret, Olive and Julia, 2015

Margaret, Olive and Julia, 2015

We hope that we’ll meet again soon and that she’ll be able to add even more to our knowledge of Heaton’s history.

Can you help?

If you have knowledge, memories or photographs of Heaton you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Either contact us via the website by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or email chris.Jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

In Memory of William Brogg Leighton

If you’ve ever looked into Newcastle’s past or have ancestors from Heaton, you’ll have come across the name ‘Leighton’, pronounced locally ‘Light-on’. There was Leighton Primitive Methodist Chapel on Heaton Road and Leighton Memorial Board School, which was originally based in the church’s Sunday School. Indeed there’s still a Leighton Street off Byker Bank. But who was Leighton and what do we know of the buildings named in his honour?

Heaton History Group’s Norman Moore and his fellow researcher, Geoff Dickinson, take up the story:

Early life

William Brogg Leighton was born in Newcastle on 27 July 1810 and baptised on 26 August at All Saints Church. He worked as a printer and bookseller, building society treasurer (Northern Counties Building Society) and valuer – and, in an early example of what we’d now call a portfolio career, he sold butter and eggs on market days.

Preacher

William was a pioneer of the temperance movement and a local preacher. In 1829, aged 19, he started a Sunday School of which he remained superintendent for 51 years. In 1836 he married Mary Hedley at Longbenton and they had three children. Mary, was the first woman in Newcastle to sign the pledge! In 1841, William was instrumental in establishing the Ballast Hills Methodist Chapel in Byker. The chapel was in existence until 1955. When a new place of worship was opened in Heaton in 1877, it was named Leighton Primitive Methodist Church in recognition of William’s significant contribution to the church. Eventually William became a member of the first School Board of Newcastle and a director of the Byker Bridge Company. He died on 25 April 1884 in Newcastle. Thank you to his great great granddaughter for permission to publish the photograph below.

William Brogg Leighton

You can read more of Norman and Geoff’s research on William Brogg Leighton here.

Leighton Methodist Church

This Primitive Methodist church was one of the first buildings on Heaton Road when it was built in 1877. It was designed in the Italianate style with a broad pedimented front. In 1965 the chapel merged with the Wesleyan Methodists’ Bainbridge Memorial Chapel, a short distance along Heaton Road, the building with a tower in the photograph below. The Leighton Memorial premises were closed and later demolished. The 1970s shops towards the corner of Shields Road were built on the site.

Leighton Primitive Methodist Chapel c 1910

Leighton Primitive Methodist Chapel c 1910

Leighton Memorial School

On 24 May 1880, Leighton Memorial School opened. It was established as a branch of the School of Science and Art, Newcastle upon Tyne and was located in Leighton Memorial Church Sunday School on Heaton Road. These premises were leased by the Rutherford Committee for use as a day school. The school began with 26 pupils but within six months of opening numbers had increased to over 200. The school was arranged in two main sections – the Infants Department and the Mixed Department.

In 1885, a further branch of the School of Science and Art was opened at Ashfield Villa, Heaton Road to meet local demands for higher education. The popularity of this school and Leighton Memorial School led to overcrowding and it was decided that a new building was required. The new school was named North View School and the foundation stone was laid on 21 September 1891. The school was located on the south side of North View near the junction with Brough Street. It was officially opened on 26 September 1892.

North View Schools

The old Leighton Memorial School building was retained for use by the infants until about 1907. Initially boys and girls were taught together in the Mixed Department but from 1893 boys and girls departments were established and the two sexes were taught separately. In 1897 Newcastle School Board agreed to take over the management of North View School and Leighton Memorial Infants School from Rutherford College Council and the transfer was completed in 1900. In that year the School was re-arranged once again on a mixed basis. In 1903 Newcastle School Board was wound up and responsibility for the schools passed to Newcastle City Council Education Committee.

In 1907, North View Schools were re-organised with the opening of a new Junior Department. This left the school arranged in three Departments – Infants, Juniors and Seniors. In November 1940 North View School was re-organised into two Departments – Infants/Lower Junior and Senior/Upper Junior. This change was short lived and in 1943 the School returned to the earlier arrangement of three Departments. By the early 1950s the Senior Department was redesignated North View County Secondary School.

North View School 1974

North View School 1974

In 1967, North View County Secondary School closed following the re-organisation of secondary education along comprehensive lines. Pupils were transferred to the new Benfield Comprehensive School. The buildings were taken over by North View Junior School. In 1981 the school was reorganised as North View Primary School, and located in the old infant school building. The school closed in 1984. Northfields House, sheltered accommodation, was built on the site.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Norman Moore for facilitating this article and to Tyne and Wear Archives for the information about Leighton Methodist Church, Leighton Memorial School and North View Schools. The Archive holds many records for both the schools and the church and is well worth a visit.

And thank you also to Heaton History Group Honorary President, Alan Morgan, from whose book ‘Heaton: from farms to foundries’ additional material was taken, including the photographs of Leighton Memorial Chapel and North View School.

Can you help?

If you have any information, photographs or memories connected with anyone or anything mentioned in this article, please either leave a comment by clicking on the link immediately below the headline or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org .

Royal Opening of Heaton’s Parks

20th August 1884 lived long in the memory of Victorian Heatonians. It was the day that royal visitors to the city processed down Shields Road, North View and Heaton Park Road before driving through Heaton Park, across Benton Bridge and Armstrong Bridge into Jesmond Dene. Once there, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) officially opened Armstrong Park and Jesmond Dene, the fine public spaces which, along with Heaton Park (opened a few years earlier in 1879), had been created on land presented to the people of Newcastle by Sir William Armstrong. Almost all of Heaton came out to see the first royal visit to Newcastle in thirty years and the first by the then Prince of Wales. The event was covered extensively in newspapers, not only locally but across the country.

Old Mill, Jesmond Dene

This postcard was written less than two years after Lord Armstrong’s death


Triumphal Arch

In the days before the event, there was speculation (and disappointment) about the route the royal procession would take:

The changing of the route has effected the subscription list considerably but as to make the alteration would lengthen the route, the suggestion of allowing the procession to pass along Heaton Road was not entertained. Newcastle Courant, Friday 1 August 1884

A ‘Decorative Executive Committee’ of the council was formed with a chairman and three vice chairmen and separate committees set up for individual streets down which the royal party would pass on route to Heaton. There would be triumphal arches in Barras Bridge, Northumberland Street, New Bridge Street, Grainger Street and Grey Street (two). The representative of the Byker district:

presented a plan for a triumphal arch to be placed at the old toll gate at the east end of Byker Bridge. The plan is for an imitation of Temple Bar and it will be called ‘Byker Bar’.

With huge crowds expected, there was understandable concern about the arrangements for spectators:

The road from the west end of Benton Bridge to Jesmond Grove is very narrow and barricades will be erected along it, a limited number of people being admitted behind the barricades by tickets…. the distribution of which will be made by Newcastle Town council.
Newcastle Courant, 15 August 1884

Close shave

The day itself almost started disastrously.

As the procession was passing up Grey Street, the horse ridden by Colonel Young of the Newcastle Artillery Volunteers, suddenly grew restive and became entangled with the wheels of the royal carriage and, in the struggle to liberate itself, swung round, bringing the sword of the rider into dangerous proximity to the head of the Prince of Wales, who had to bend down to escape a blow thereof. Nottingham Evening Post, Wednesday 20 August

After this narrow escape, which might have changed the course of history, the royal party headed east:

At Byker, the prince obtained a view of many artisans’ dwellings, in the improvement of which His Highness has evinced a strong practical interest. Newcastle Courant Friday 22 August

Impassable in its beauty

But early near miss aside, the day seems to have gone well, at least if the flowery language of the reporters of the day are to believed:

It was within the grounds of [Heaton] Park that one of the most pleasant sites of the whole day came into unexpected view. On a verdant slope, some thousands of children connected with the various educational schools in the city were congregated. The young faces were all eagerness with the prospect of seeing the royal personages. The majority of them were dressed in gay summer costumes and appeared veritably on the green sward like a ‘bed of daisies’… When the Prince and Princess of Wales came in view of the children, the sweet and fresh voices rose in swelling notes with ‘God bless the Prince of Wales’, the strains of this splendid anthem ringing through the woods and dales of Jesmond with a most charming effect..

Armstrong Park

Carriage drive the royal procession would have taken through Armstrong Park

From there the royal carriage ‘wended its way at a brisk trot to the elegant bridge which spans Jesmond Dene, and which is a magnificent and useful gift of Sir William Armstrong.’

After the prince had planted a commemorative oak tree using a silver spade, the party sat down to a sumptuous meal in the newly renovated and lavishly decorated Banqueting Hall. The parks were praised fulsomely in press reports all over the country, such as this in The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligence, Thursday 21 August:

… one of the handsomest public grounds in the north of England. The natural scenery is almost impassable in its beauty and where nature has rested and left a spot whereon the eye could not rest with pleasure, art has stepped in to finish off the work.

…the brawling stream, the roaring waterfalls, the song of thrush and blackbird, the winding walks, the precipitous banks and the abundance of trees and shrubs, coupled with the ancient mill house and the ruined water wheel makes that portion of the Dene one of the most charming and attractive spots in the two northern counties.

There are several wells in the Dene and around some of them quaint old legends cluster. From what ‘Ye Old Well of King John’ derives its name, there is no exact information. There is a tradition that there stood a palace in the immediate vicinity which King John for some time inhabited.

King John's Well

The drinking vessels at King John’s Well were still in place within living memory

Legacy

It brings a lump to your throat! We’re lucky enough to still be able to access Heaton and Armstrong Parks and Jesmond Dene today, of course, 130 years after their official opening. Get out and enjoy them but also find a few moments to post your memories of the parks here or email them to chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

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).

Picture Palaces of Heaton (and Byker)

Heaton’s first cinema, the Electric Palace, opened on the corner of North View and Heaton Road on 21 November 1910 in what a local newspaper of the time referred to as ‘a large House near to Heaton Station, and known locally as Temple’s Folly’. The building also housed assembly rooms, a billiard hall and a ballroom, which became a roller-skating rink just a couple of years later. It was said to have cost an eye-watering £30,000 to build.

Heaton Electric Cinema

At the beginning, variety shows and wrestling were also a feature of its programming. The cinema also had an unusually large orchestra of 8 players. A cafe had been added by 1921. Prices were considered high though, from 4d to 1s 3d, but there was clearly a market for the programme of comedies and serials in the relatively prosperous suburb of Heaton: the plush tip up seats and boxes seated 925 in total. The cinema was a feature of Heaton life until June 1961 when it converted to a bingo hall that’s still going strong today.

Scala

The next cinema to open was the Scala on the Chillingham Road site that Tesco occupies now. It opened on 10 March 1913 and so Heaton History Group will shortly be celebrating its 101st anniversary with a talk entitled A Night at the Pictures on the history of Newcastle’s cinemas. (See below for details).

Scala Cinema by night

The Scala had ‘ a spacious tiled entrance, with marble staircases approaching the dress circle’. Its capacity was 1,200 and it cost £7,000 to build. At first it too held variety shows but these were soon abandoned. It eventually closed only a fortnight after the Electric (by now renamed the Heaton) on 1 July 1961.

Lyric

The Lyric on Stephenson Road was a latecomer. It opened on 6 January 1936 as part of ‘Newcastle’s new corner of entertainment‘ that also included the Corner House, which opened two days later. The cinema was designed by the architects of the new St Gabriel’s estate so that it was in keeping with the neighbourhood. The auditorium ceiling and walls were predominantly pink. A dado rail in the stalls consisted of ‘a series of black and silver bands, giving a realistic effect of relief, as if the walls were completely cushioned all round.’ The front of the circle was ‘picked out in pink, gold bronze and bright vermillion’ and the walls ‘enlivened by perpendicular and horizontal lines in brilliant reds and browns.’

lyric cinema by night

The original plans still survive and it’s hoped to put them on display in the People’s Theatre which now, of course, ensures that the building remains a much loved Heaton institution.

Walking distance

And these were just the cinemas in Heaton itself. There were many more nearby: Byker was even better served than Heaton.

The Sun in Long Row, Byker Hill (1909-34) was a family-run business, established by Carl Albert Aarstad, who came to Newcastle with his brother from Norway when a very young man, became a successful merchant and by 1911 was living on Heaton Grove and running his own cinema with his wife, Annie, and son, John.

The Apollo ( Shields Road, 1933-41 and 1956-83) was bombed in World War 2 but eventually rebuilt to the original plan. And Byker was also home to the Bamborough (Union Road, 1913-59), Black’s Regal (later Odeon, Shields Road, 1914-72), the Brinkburn (1910-60), the Grand (1896-1954), the Minerva (later Imperial, 1910-63), the Picturedrome (1910-60), the Raby (1910-59). Amazing!

Much of the above information comes from Frank Manders’ ‘Cinemas of Newcastle‘ (Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2005) where you’ll find much more fascinating information.

Memories

Muriel LaTour (Nee Abernethy) remembers:

There was not a cinema in the area I did not go to on a regular basis. My mother was a movie buff. I did tend to avoid The Imperial on Byker Bank and The Bamboro on Union Road, both of which were known as ‘flea pits’. The Brinkburn was not too far behind them, but as I knew the boy who helped in the projection box and who got me in for free, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers. There was also the Black’s Regal (which became the Odeon). That was a posher one even though it was in Byker! The three main ones actually in Heaton were, The Heaton, known as The Leccy (from The Heaton Electric Palace), The Scala on Chillingham Road and The Lyric on Stephenson Road, all of which I was a frequent patron. My mother’s friend was in the ticket box at The Lyric, so again I would get in for free and sit through the movies twice.

Norman Pretswell remembers:

My grandmother lived on Morley Street. There was an old cinema up there at the top of Shields Road where it curves round towards Walkergate, called, I think, The Sun and you could actually get in there for jam jars. You could take half a dozen with you and you could get in. That was the payment. You’d get cheaper seats… I think it was only a penny or a halfpenny to get in with money… But it was a real what you’d call a flea pit, with wooden floors and not much of a rake to it, so it wasn’t easy to see the screens.

March talk

0n 19 March 2014, Freda Thompson will give a talk on the history of Newcastle’s cinemas, entitled ‘A Night at the Pictures’. Afterwards, we’ll have an informal chat about our local picture houses and hope that some audience members will be able to add to our collective knowledge.

The event will take place at the Corner House Hotel on Heaton Road. As usual, please book for the talk to ensure you’re not disappointed and be in your seat by 7.15 so that we can offer any unclaimed places to people on the waiting list or who come on spec. To reserve your place, contact Maria Graham: maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 0191 215 0821 / 07763 985656. FREE to members; £2 to non-members.

200 Heaton Road

In 1898 there seem to have been just two (unnumbered and unnamed) houses on Heaton Road north of Heaton Baptist Church (apart, that is, from the separately listed Jesmond Vale Terrace): one was occupied by John Henry Brown, a cycle manufacturer, and the other by a builder named John Wilson.

The Falmouth Hotel

But two years later this part of Heaton Road looked very different. Building in the neighbourhood had continued apace and progressed northwards onto what had until very recently been farmland and the same John Wilson is listed in the trade directories as the first resident of 200 Heaton Road, the southernmost address in the block between Meldon Terrace and King John Street, the shop which, in 2013, is The Butterfly Cabinet cafe.

Originally though, as you can see from the photograph below, the block was primarily residential. John’s immediate neighbours were J Davidson, a tinsmith, and A W Penny, a ‘gentleman ‘. John himself though is more difficult to fathom. He had been born in Milton, Cumberland (not far from Brampton on the Newcastle – Carlisle Railway) and was by this time 45 years old. He was married to Elizabeth, a Scot. There were no children living with them in 1901 but the couple was affluent enough to employ a live-in housemaid and kitchen maid.

John had lived in Heaton for a good few years by this time. In 1887, he was already described as a builder with an office address in Heaton Park Road. By 1892, he was still a builder, living in Heaton Grove.

But in the early 1900s, although his primary occupation is still given as a builder, he’s also described as a wine and spirit merchant and it’s clear from directories, newspaper reports of brewster sessions and the photograph below that in the early days, an off licence operated at number 200, together with the adjoining 1 and 3 King John Street and that John Wilson owned the business premises and lived above or next to the shop. It’s called the Falmouth Hotel in unsuccessful applications for a ‘full’ licence to sell alcohol in 1899 and in this photograph but that name doesn’t appear in the trade directories.

200 Heaton Road

The building itself is interesting. Visitors to the Butterfly Cabinet will testify that it’s a fair size. It incorporates what were originally numbers 1 and 3 King John Street and there have been various alterations over the years both to turn the three houses into one address or convert them back into separate flats.

The business lives on

John Wilson only lived and operated a business on Heaton Road for a couple of years. By 1903, a Thomas Blackett had succeeded him. Thomas had been born and bred locally. In 1887, he ran a stationer’s shop at 117 Shields Road. In his early forties, he was living at 31 North View and his shop had moved to 73 Shields Road. By 1895, he was still running the same shop although he had moved house again to 6 Guildford Place. But by 1901, his line of business had changed completely. Thomas was now a wine and spirit manufacturer and, as well as the now converted shop on Shields Road, he had shops in Heaton Hall Road (21), Jesmond, Sandyford and the west end. He was living at 23 Heaton Hall Road with his wife, Jane, six sons and daughters and a servant. Thomas Blackett died in 1912, leaving what was a fair sized estate of almost £15,000. The business he has built up lived on though. 200 Heaton Road didn’t change hands for another 20 years.

Sweets and buns

In the early 1930s, new flats were created at 200A and B and the shop became a confectioner’s, called firstly Burton’s and then Steel’s. Steel’s survived through the Second World War although, possibly in response to sugar rationing, by the end of the war it had been turned into a baker’s, part of a small chain which also had shops in Jesmond and Sandyford. Some older residents might even remember it?

A long time dyeing

In 1950 the shop changed character again. John Bradburn, originally from Ipswich, had started a business in the centre of Newcastle way back in 1831. At that time, he described himself as a ‘velvet, silk and woollen dyer’. By 1881, when he was 71 years old, he employed 6 men, 5 boys and 7 women. He died in 1890 but, as with Blackett’s, his business continued to thrive and 60 years later it expanded into Heaton. By this time, the firm was described as ‘dyers and cleaners’ and had branches in the west end and in Gosforth. Later a shop was opened at 265 Chillingham Road. The company’s office was at 55 Shields Road. In the early 1970s, however, after 140 years, the company seems to have closed completely.

Can you help?

Here the trail goes cold until recent years when first Belle and Herb and then The Butterfly Cabinet made the corner of Heaton Road and King John Street one of Heaton’s favourite haunts. Can you help us fill the gaps in our knowledge ? If you have any information, memories or photographs of 200 Heaton Road, please get in touch. You can either post a comment above this article: click on ‘Leave a reply’ just below the title. Or alternatively, email Chris Jackson.

Heaton Station: a whistle-stop tour

Heaton’s place in history is bound up with railways so we thought we’d chug along its stations’ timeline to see what we could find. The original Heaton Station was on the first railway to pass this way – the line from Newcastle to North Shields and later Tynemouth, which opened on 18 June 1839. The station was situated just to the North East of what later became called Heaton Road. The precise construction date is a little uncertain but there are press adverts which mention trains stopping at a station at ‘Heaton Hall Lane’ as early as 1841.

Mention of Heaton Hall Lane Station, May 1841

Advert in ‘Newcastle Journal’, dated 15 May 1841

The first mention we have so far found in news reports dates from 1844 when a passenger walking home from the station after dark fell from the bank by the lead factory into the Ouseburn. By the mid 1840s, there were already plans for a new line to Berwick, which meant that Heaton was destined to become an important junction. The stretch from Heaton to Berwick opened on 29 March 1847. This illustation dates from that time. Thank you to Alan Morgan in whose book ‘Heaton: from farms to foundries’ it appears.

Drawing of the original Heaton Station, 1847

Drawing of the original Heaton Station, 1847

Royal visit

Here is a selection of news stories featuring Heaton Station in its early years.

On Friday 28 September 1849,  Queen Victoria travelled down the new east coast line on her return from holiday in Balmoral. A public holiday was declared in Newcastle and although the weather was inclement,  the crowds were undeterred:

‘Heaton Station was the point at which her majesty entered the borough of Newcastle, and here was a profuse display of flags and ornamental devices in flowers and evergreens.’

‘Commencing at Heaton Station a long and dense crowd lined the railway to the Ouseburn Bridge and even the hills some distance from the line were covered with spectators.

While she was here, she opened the new High Level Bridge. This picture of the royal train that day is from the Illustrated London News.

Queen Victoria's train in Newcastle

In August the following year, there was another local public holiday when the queen and her family again passed through Heaton, this time after after stopping in Newcastle to open the new Central Station on their journey North.

New station

In 1861 advertisements inviting tenders to build a new station and station master’s house at Heaton appeared in the press. This would explain why the next photograph, dated 1886, looks quite different from the much earlier drawing.

Advert for tendeer for new station and station-master's house

Newcastle Journal, 6 May 1861

The original Heaton Station

Heaton Station, 1886

This photograph is published by kind permission of Beamish Museum and John Moreels of Photo Memories.

Then on 6 November 1886, when the track was also widened, The Newcastle Courant announced that work had begun on a completely new station which

‘is situated to the west of the present one. … bridge building will be necessary as the platform will be intersected by lines of rails. These works are giving work to a large number of men, and as a large amount of house-building is going on in the locality, that part of the town presents quite a brisk appearance.’

On 1 April 1887, the old station closed and on the same day the new one opened on on North View on the opposite side of Heaton Road. Again the photograph below is published with the permission of Beamish Museum and John Moreels of Photo Memories.

'New'Heaton Station

‘New’ Heaton Station

Notorious murder

Moving into the twentieth century, an incident took place which brought Heaton Station to the attention of the whole country. On 18 March 1910, John Innes Nisbet, a colliery employee who lived in Heaton, boarded the 10.27am train at Central Station to deliver wages to Widdrington Colliery. When the train arrived at Morpeth, Nisbet’s dead body was found. He had five bullet wounds to the head.

A key witness was Nisbet’s wife, who had gone to Heaton Station to talk to her husband while the train was stopped there. She claimed that she saw the man later identified as John Dickman, the alleged murdererer, sitting in the same carriage as her husband. Dickman, who had also previously lived in Heaton, was found guilty on what many people believed to be unsubstantiated circumstantial evidence. He was hanged but long afterwards the case was cited by opponents of the death penalty.

Suffragettes

On 17 October 1913, suffragettes were reported to have attempted to burn down Heaton Station. According to contemporary press coverage, one of the porters had smelled burning: he saw smoke coming from the direction of the ladies’ waiting room and upon investigation found a large cardboard box behind one of the lavatory doors. It contained open tins of oil, fire-lighters soaked in oil and a piece of candle. It had been positioned in such away that, once alight, it would ignite the contents of the box and then the door. Had it not been discovered, the station may well have been destroyed as it was constructed almost entirely of wood. A few weeks previously Kenton Station had been burned to the ground and earlier that year, a bowls pavilion in Heaton Park destroyed. All three incidents were thought to have been perpetrated by suffragettes, who at this time were accelerating their campaign for womens’ right to vote. 

More information about Heaton Station

That takes us to 100 years ago. Heaton Station finally closed on 11 August 1980 in preparation for the extension of the Metro system. The following photographs are reporduced by kind permission of Alan Young, railway photographer and author, who was brought up on Meldon Terrace. They date from 1972.

Heaton stationHeaton StationHeaton Station, 1972 <

Further information and more images can be found at the Disused Stations website.

Can you help?
If you have information, memories or photographs of Heaton Station or Heaton’s railways, please get in touch.