Dickie Smiths, Billingham Green

In the 1950s and 1960s “Dickie Smiths” newsagent shop was known by practically every person living in Billingham.

I was brought up on the Junction Estate on the north side of the railway but my Mother paid a weekly visit to the Co-op on Belasis Avenue for the shopping, this was because we were registered there for our food that was still on ration, she continued doing that even when the rationing came to an end, when the new town centre started to come on line she switched to Broughs, this will have been in the late 1950s, during our visits to the Co-op we passed Dickie Smiths, I had a year at Billingham South Modern School and visited either Dickie Smiths on the Green or Jack Bruces in Mill lane for my sweets.

During those times there were quite a few newsagents in Billingham but “Dickie Smiths” was probably the best known, its location on the Green close to St Cuthberts Church, the Methodist Central Hall, the main Co-op and the Picture House on Belasis Avenue as well as three pubs and a social club meant there were always people in the area.

The whole area was thriving, there were more shops close by in Mill Lane and Station Road as well as on the North and South sides of the Green.

The catchment area for newspaper deliveries was very large, stretching from the Railway Station in the North to the Green in the South, I knew about half a dozen of my peers who delivered newspapers for “Dickie Smiths”.

The road outside of the shop was known as West Row, since renamed West Road, there was also a North Row and an East Row, the latter housing the brewery, I believe the buildings on the South side were just known as The Green, they backed on to a row of very old cottages known as South View , these were built long before ICI appeared so they had an uninterrupted view down to the River Tees.

At the far end of the shops was the Half Moon Cafe, we had a couple of family get togethers in the room above the cafe.

The two bus shelters have since been replaced by a single shelter and been moved nearer to the church lych gate, I don’t know why there were two bus shelters outside this parade of shops, during the 1960s there were two operators stopping at the Green, United and Durham District Services, United went from Hartlepool to Middlesbrough and DDS from Sedgefield to Stockton, most of the other services ran along Belasis Avenue.

I think this photo is from the mid 1960s, the cigarettes being advertised are from that period, the YZ chewing gum machine is also typical of that time as is the weighing machine on the pavement, does anybody else remember trying to weigh a bunch of mates for a single penny?, the first would get on and put the penny in, the next would put his foot on the platform and press down while the first got off, this continued until we had all been weighed, when the last one stepped of the scales would lock until another penny was put in.

Kids never miss a trick do they?.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

ICI Discoverers

Following on from the earlier contributions, my Dad – George Mills – was instrumental in getting the scheme going in 1961, 62(?). Al Hart and Ray Teigh, already mentioned are names I remember from then, and Keith Robertson was also involved. Early courses were run from Stubb House, Ireshopeburn, near Winston, and I came up a couple of times to visit. As a 12 year old speccy grammar school swot (Grangefield) I was very impressed by the tough lads on the courses, with their exotic (to me!) hair styles – quiffs and DA’s, and all the stuff they were doing which was very much based on Dad’s long connection with Synthonia Scouts. The photo is a presentation piece made by Apprentices, given to Dad when we moved away from Billingham, down to ICI Severnside, in 1965. Dad died at the end of last year,  would have been 100 next week!

Photograph and details courtesy of Rob Mills.

ICI Discoverer Camp of 1966

Further to the post by Jeff Taylor of the ICI Discoverer Camp of 1965, here is a photograph of the Discoverer Camp of 1966.

For those not familiar with ICI and it’s apprentice/youth trainee schemes, the Discoverer Course was character building and a pre-cursor of the team building events held today.
The course was held at a tented camp at Ingleby Greenhow. The term “Discoverer” meant that over the two-week period of the course, both the ICI youth management team and ourselves, were to discover what leadership, decision making and team working skills we possessed, if any. The participants on the course were 17 and 18 year-old apprentices and process youths from both ICI Billingham and Wilton, who had to put themselves forward for selection for the two week course. At the camp we were divided into teams and then coached in outward-bound skills by a team of Instructors, Jeff Taylor being one of them. The head Instructor was Frank Sterret, seated front centre, he was one of the youth training managers at ICI Billingham.


The activities we were engaged in, included, rock climbing and abseiling on the Wainstones, forestry skills, that included tree felling and retrieval, with Forestry Commission staff and constructing timber structures, as can be seen in the photograph back left, we also did night hikes and a three day hike, where we were given a set of map coordinates with which we had to hike to a given destination. To prove we had plotted our route correctly, we had to leave evidence of our “visit” at the said coordinates, like leaving a note under a pile of stones, which was checked out later by the Instructors. During these hikes we had to sleep out in bivouacs that we had to make from branches, heather and bracken.


There were also plenty of onsite activities, including, kitchen duties, cooking on old army stoves with the camp cook, Bert Blackmore and cleaning out the latrines, I can still smell the Racasan fluid now !!. And who can ever forget the early morning “Wakey! Wakey!” call for the cross country run, ending with a crawl through a stream culvert and finally the ice cold shower. I also can remember returning home after the course was finished feeling totally knackered and sleeping for the whole weekend. What great days, we were very lucky young men to have the opportunities that ICI afforded us.


I have tried to name as many of the ICI Billingham participants as possible, apologies for any incorrect or missing names… but it was 55 years ago!!

Photograph and details courtesy of Mick Haines.

ICI Discoverer Camp, 1965

This is the first ever Discoverer Camp at Ingleby Greenhow in June 1965. Ray Teigh instructor back row 1st left, (myself) Jeff Taylor back row 6th left, Jimmy Embleton back row 7th left, Frank Sterrett instructor middle row 1st left, Robert Crallan middle row 3rd right.

Photograph and details courtesy of Jeff Taylor.

Umpleby Farm

This is a picture of one of the farms in the area owned by the Umpleby family. They also owned Primrose Hill which I know is no longer and another farm which I don’t know the name of, maybe California farm which is still there today.

Image and details courtesy of Jacqui Lewis.

Bailey Street School c1960

I am doing thing on behalf of my sister Lynn Luke (Cooke) some names may be wrong but here goes… Bottom row far right David Donaldson, second row from bottom – Lynn Cooke, 4th along – Christine Price, last on the right of same row – Susan Donaldson.
First girl on the third row – Carol Pearce, second to last on the same row – Pat Grange?

Photograph and details courtesy of Jeff Cooke.

Ayres Saddler, Yarm

A recent query by Anthony Ayres about one of his relatives being the landlord of Ayres Inn in Yarm brought to mind a photograph I have in my collection showing Ayres Saddlers in Yarm. It is possible that the man in the shop doorway is the same person who was landlord at Ayres Inn, Cliff Thornton discovered that J. Ayre was an innkeeper as well as being a saddler, Cliff also said that Ayres Inn was in fact the Cross Keys, now known as The Keys. I was wondering if the group of people standing by the trestle table may possibly be the Ayre’s family. The person with the child is standing in the entrance to Danby Wynd, the Wynd is still there but the entrance has been widened, the Wynd is on the West side of Yarm High Street, the same side as the Cross Keys with about eight buildings between them.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

A Snow Covered Yarm Road c1964

This picture was taken from the second floor window of 37 Yarm Road, Stockton-on-Tees in the winter of 1964. It shows a section of Yarm Road covered with snow in front of the Church of the Nazarene. From August 1954 to July 1965, I stayed in the room behind the window of 37 Yarm Road which was hired as the company hostel for overseas employees of The Power-Gas Corporation Limited in Stockton. I worked as an engineer-trainee in Power-Gas under a sponsorship offered by the Education Department of Hong Kong government.

At the time when I took this picture, I felt quite excited as it was my first time to see snow in my life since I came from a place with no snow all year around. Power-Gas company was very generous to let me taking a part-time day-release advanced course at Constantine College of Technology for me to complete the academic requirements for admission to the corporate membership of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (I.Mech.E.). During the academic year at Constantine, I worked very hard studying all the relevant textbooks and notebooks in my hostel room after finishing my daily work in Power-Gas office. I passed all the internal examinations at Constantine college and the external I.Mech.E. examinations with flying colour by the end of June 1965.

Photograph and details courtesy of Kwok Wong.