I’ve recently been looking through some family papers and I’ve found a school report going back to the summer term of 1939. It’s from St John’s School, Billingham and concerns my late mum Doreen Birtle nee Wright. She was doing well as her class position of 3rd out of 43 indicates.
Strangely the only subject in which she topped the class was in Nature Studies. Well the years passed and in 2001 Doreen was very proud when her granddaughter was awarded a first class degree from Cambridge University. In Natural Sciences of course.
I found a book in my late mother’s effects. The inside cover suggests that it was given to some/all Billingham Residents in 1937. I took photographs of the front and inside cover together with the first three pages but it was the ‘Presented by Billingham Urban District Council’ that took my attention.
This pictures shows my grandad, Thomas Barrow Starr, and my grandma, Florence Starr, when they got married in 1919. My grandmother’s previous husband had disappeared in the First World War.
My grandad himself survived the war, quite by accident. In 1914, every man jack wanted to be in the war “that would be over by Christmas”. To join up meant going down Middlesbrough. On hearing that grandad had walked from Portrack to Middlesbrough to get recruited, the recruiting sergeant asked “don’t your feet hurt”. On being told “just a bit” my grandad was marked down as “flat feet”, unsuitable for soldering, as the recruiting station was overwhelmed. This kept him safe, even when, later on, conscription came in.
My grandad had wanted to get into technical education in Stockton, and although he passed the entrance exams his family could not afford the fees. Accordingly, the rest of his life was spent labouring. For a time, he worked on a cogging steel mill at the Malleable, which must have been the reason he became quite deaf.
I only knew him in his last ten years, when his lungs were so bad, he was permanently on the sick. The last job he had was with lime kilns at the Malleable works, which must have been deadly. His working days finished when one day he arrived home at 17 St Anne’s Terrace, Portrack, only to hang over the garden gate, absolutely exhausted. Each day of the rest of his life, he would walk to the end of the street and stand in the alcove of the Portrack Pub, with his cap and long overcoat, out of the wind. What a waste.
This shot was taken from an upper floor of the Furness Shipyard Offices, possibly from the window at the end of the corridor. The shipyard gates and gatehouses can be clearly seen, I haven’t had time to research or date this image, judging by the lack of vehicles and the workers on bikes or foot I think this could be as early as the war years or as late as the mid 1950s, it is very likely my father was working at the yard when this was taken 1939-1962. I was hoping the hoarding advertising Digger tobacco would help date it but that particular tobacco was on sale from 1917 until the 1980s. One of the houses on Hope Street on the far side of the line is where my paternal Great Grandparents lived, my Grandfather and his two brothers were born there, my Grandfather worked in the shipyard, his two brothers both worked at the power station on Haverton Hill Road. The white building in the distance I think must be the Queens Hotel. If anybody knows anything about this station or can give an approximate date I would love to hear about it.
The Brown Jug on Norton Road where my Aunt, Annie Fawcett began work as a barmaid for Joe Cartwright.
A photograph of Annie standing behind the bar where she worked for 35 years before retirement, “Miss Annie Fawcett reckons she has stretched out her left arm over a million times to pull pints for customers”. The other photograph is both Annie and Joe Cartwright, plus my other Aunt, Violet Wren and her husband Billy, who also worked there. Over the years, my Mother worked in the off-licence shop and my sister often did baby sitting (I’m not sure who had the pub at that time).
This picture shows Elephants from Billy Smart’s Circus travelling along Norton Road toward the High Street. I don’t have a date but somebody with a knowledge of Stockton may recognise the building next to the railway bridge with the writing on the roof. The car parked near to the shops certainly has a 1950s look about it.
With the impending demolition of the Castlegate Centre, I thought the site visitors might be interested in these two photographs. I believe they were taken not long after it opened in 1972. Note the stepped pavement which was removed in later years.