32 thoughts on “Stockton High Street c1960

  1. I have just discovered this lovely shot of the High Street as I remember it before moving to London in 1963. It has generated 31 replies and I am not surprised. I will resist the temptation to put another ‘chapter’ on this but, enough to say, nostalgia can be tear-jerking and, as one commentator from Lowestoft has said, we must look forward. Nice to see a comment from Julie Povey (nee Smith) who was at Newham Grange School during my time there.

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  2. True Bob, I wondered why I was standing in the bedroom an hour ago and walked back out, it was only when I got into the kitchen and saw the washer I remembered I had gone for the wash basket. We all have senior moments Bob and they come more often. The main events in my life are as fresh as the time they happened as they are connected with some dynamic event and war time could not be more dynamic. Each day to us lads with our maps and little flags of all countries brought fresh interest as we updated, or if things stagnated wondered what the Generals thought they were doing, we could have won the war for them in half the time, or so we thought in our bravura at the time. I can tell you the names of almost all the army camps in Sinai and the Canal area of the Middle East but I spent much more time in Germany and have problems remembering the places, one was full of adventure the other fairly boring. My children refuse to play Trivial Pursuit with me because I leave them standing on the history and geography questions but do not ask me who won the last ‘X’ thingee, I do not have a clue. Norton at the time we talk about was still a Village with the old village schools and the Churches which we all attended even if it was only to show we had Sunday best clothes. Apart from the very few of us with any sort of transport the village was our life until we started to move to High schools although we still came home to the familiar after school, basically it was sixteen years in the same place doing much the same thing under what some would call traumatic conditions, we must admit we got so used to it we did not feel too threatened as our parents did, kids are like sponges, they soak it up and shake it off. The reason I write so much on here and other places is Miss English at RHS set the seeds that lay dormant for many years then rooted after I was given an electric typewriter progressing to one of the early computors and then to a fairly new laptop and printer. An old School friend Sid (Sig) Mason has just indulged and with the help of Stockton Libraries plus a Granddaughter in Canada we have managed to make contact so even more shared memories to come. Marjory (Davidson) London is back in contact and we have had a few chats, she remembered me and where I lived quite clearly. Not many of us left Bob so we do need to get things down whilst some memory is left. Now what was I in the middle of doing?? Oh yes get the stew on, err or was it empty the washer, I will probably end up doing something else entirely.19/03/2012 14:02:38

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  3. Go up to the garage, half way up the garden, what am I going up here for? What happened yesterday? can’t remember but like you Frank as an old Nortonian my memory bank never fails me. Yes there is a difference in our age group and you have a lot more memories than me, but when you start mentioning names and places we are on the same plain. A lot came flooding back to me as a man from Norton and being stationed at Norton in the police. On night shift I went into places I never dreamed were there and also having the local knowledge sometimes put me one step ahead of the suspected criminal. Norton still gives me great pleasure and I can sit on the Green and reminisce. 19/03/2012 10:31:07

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  4. Bob, it could well be the age difference as when I went to Norton Board Gerry Lumley who went to school with me lived on the farm next to the Alms Houses which Les Barker later lived in. The farm next to the Church certainly had ducks and geese they also let the cattle onto the green two or three times a year, something to do with it being common land. The ducks needed to go onto water to clear the eggs, aparently they can become poisonous or cause illness, I do not know as I would never eat them, I know some went into cakes during the egg shortage in wartime. My Father had to work at his haulage business during the day so it was normally after he came back we walked the ducks across the green, that was pre-war and during the war, after we just kept geese until I went in the army. We did get ducks flying in but in those early years of bombs and gunfire I think they were frightened off to further inland, I know they did come into the Quarry on my Uncles farm at Hart Village. As to age difference Bob, 8 years is a big difference when we are kids, I took little note of the kids in the class behind or in front at school and those of us who played on the green kept clear of the bigger lads, Ray Robinson, the Carrigans, some of the Mill Street lads, I did not mix until I joined the Army Cadets, we had to mix then. The funny thing being, when I started going to the big boys dance halls at sixteen I danced mostly with much older women as they were the ones who could dance well, it did not faze me at all, I learned a lot from them and even some new dance steps?18/03/2012 17:49:38

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  5. Frank, there seems a lot happened that I unfortunately have missed in the difference in our ages in our young days, which can only be 8 years between us. I can never remember geese or ducks been taken to the pond. The farm adjacent to the Green which was Lumleys. I was always around the farm and very friendly with Jack the son but never saw ducks or geese on his farm. With the wild fowl visiting the duck pond we would see but not often a pair of ducks on the pond. The whisper went out amongst us kids and we’de dash down there to see them. Nowadays you can see probably 100 at a time there. They do nest in the wooded area on the right at the entrance to the churchyard and when hatched they march down to the pond.16/03/2012 15:59:35

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  6. Frank, not all was as it seemed. Pre-war, during and for a while after there were ducks on the pond. My Father would walk our ducks and geese across the Green from Mill Lane for an hour on the pond, they needed water to clear the eggs which he ate or sold for consumption. We would sit on the circular seat watching them, then walk them back home quacking their heads off. The farm next to the Church kept ducks on the pond and other small holders around the green would walk the ducks to the pond. The thing being the traffic through, the area was very light as few had transport so the risk was not too bad even in very hungry times, someone walking down the High Street with a bag that was going squawking mad would have got you noticed. We had wild ducks coming in back then but they are wise birds and as the sun went down vanished off the pond and the green into various nesting holes some in the church yard, they are also brilliant watchdogs the slightest sign of intrusion and the racket will wake the dead. As to the comment on clothes, there was myself and my sister both going to high school so we got new from Maxwells, no cut or hand me downs. I have said before it took a lot of years for me to realise I had a wonderful childhood and also to know my parents made a lot of sacrifices for whch I am sure I never repaid them. As to the planning for Norton most of the village was church land, some still is, and it certainly was in the 60’s. We also had Lawyers, Doctors and top ICI Management living on and around the green and High Street, the planning department trying to do a wrecking job would have got very short shrift indeed. I understand Red House School had a long and expensive fight to get the extra buildings built within their own grounds, trying to change the area back then would be impossible. I tell my grandchildren about keeping animals including rabbits for food but after ours managed to get into the pigsty where the pigs ate them, we found the fluffy tail bits and that is all, Dad gave up on them, but he was a dead shot with a catapult and often came home with a brace of wild rabbits tied to the back board of the truck, he said it blew the fleas off as he drove. Within the area of the Green and High Street we had the richest to the poorest living almost cheek by jowl, that was the pattern at the time. My future wife lived at the bottom end of the high street and I never met her until years later because the two did not mix. At least we do not have the abject poverty we once saw every day and thank goodness for that, I did hear a chap complain he was so poor he could only get some of the sport channels on cable?? I do not even have cable, does that make me on the bread line??16/03/2012 15:35:32

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  7. There weren’t any ducks on the Duck Pond when I was a lad, Frank. Those were hungry days, when we kept rabbits in hutches for eating, not as pets. Norton would be worse off than you think if it hadn’t been for some dedicated men in town planning in the sixties. A friend of mine in Brunei was an architect from Stockton who worked in town planning at the time and they had a big battle getting preservation on Norton High Street and the Green or else the whole of Norton would be a modern housing estate and shopping precinct today. I’d hope that planning can prevent the destruction of Norton as an urban village, for its the village atmosphere that gives it value. 16/03/2012 10:48:05

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  8. Frank P Mee mentioned the demolition of the old Tram Sheds in Norton High Street and I wondered if there are any old photographs of these buildings? I remember them quite well because during the war my father served in the N.F.S. (National Fire Service ) and the old Tram sheds was their headquarters and where the brigade trained at weekends and spent Saturday nights on call. As was mentioned a lot has changed in Norton and sadly not all for the better! 15/03/2012 15:26:13

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  9. Frank, even Norton has had its moments, the row of houses next to the Yorkshire bank where my wife lived the first few years of her childhood were removed in the thirties and the bungalow row of shops built totally out of character. After the war some buildings on the other side of the High Street were knocked down and a featureless office building put up which then stood empty for years. It has now been transformed into housing with a softer look although to me brought up in Norton, still out of place. The old Tram sheds in the middle of the High Street, not much to look at but part of our history then went, plus a row of very old cottages and a very modern care home built, which may be nice but not in character whith that section of the High Street. Red House School own just about everything on the North side of Norton Green and now we hear they are negotiating a modern housing complex on the site when they leave shortly, if that exits onto Norton Green it will be a complete disaster. I am often on the Green and the traffic now is almost too much, at least we will get rid of the mad school rush where I have seen 4x4s run straight across the grass before today. I am waiting for the demand to remove the trees and grass compounds down Norton High Street to make more car parking, it is hopeless trying to get along there at times, I pity the bus drivers and it will happen as King car and the need to park right outside the place you are going to seems to rule. The shops are well used as they are in walking distance of housing areas it is quite vibrant compared with other shopping area’s although with todays belt tightening people are using local shops again. The Green is still a good recreation area, those ducks on the pond must be the best fed in area, as the weather warms up the Green becomes a safe playing area for children as it was in my childhood so all is not lost ‘yet’ – let us hope not too much changes in the future.15/03/2012 10:20:15

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  10. As Frank P Mee already said, we can’t go back. To survive, the town must go forward. I’d just like to see some sympathetic architecture replacing the old dilapidated buildings. The central characer of Stockton High Street is anchored in the Town Hall, the Shambles and the parish church and these should be preserved. Replacement buildings for the shops, pubs and cinemas should reflect the tradition. The Swallow Hotel is an example of a building that alters the character of the town and persoanlly, I’m happy to see it go. On the positive side, the riverside, the redevelopment on the south bank and other improvements are huge improvements. When it eventually comes to replacing buildings lining the High Street – as one day it will need to happen – one can only hope for a bit of sensitivity by the town planners and architects involved. Norton is a good example of what can be achieved when proper attention is paid to tradition. 15/03/2012 07:57:42

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  11. We were last in the area in October 2011, we stayed in Yarm & were amazed at the improvement in the river there. I believe that because of the Barrage the river is at a constant level. It was very clean & there were many water birds enjoying the beautiful habitat. We also walked along the riverside at Stockton & were amazed at the changes there, so the improvements to my home town are not all negative.14/03/2012 13:06:05

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  12. Paul you do not know what you are missing, my wife and I often visited Newcastle for a wander around a meal and visit the music arcade, we still thought it a place to visit and so is Stockton. Park your car on the riverside, walk to the Victoria Bridge across and back down the other side of the river to one of the bridges and back to the car. A nice walk along a clean river with boating activity going on, masses of swans and ducks and a view of Stockton you could not have seen a few years back unless you worked at Heads. I drive at least once a week over the Princess Diana Bridge, pass the housing which I think looks quite nice to the new foot bridge, walk onto that and look back at the College which looks, and is high tech, the other side from the college being developed, it was just a dump a while back. The bridge itself, to me an engineer, is a lovely sight. I stand in the middle enjoying the view up and down the river and feel the slight shiver in a high wind, I know the allowances it has to move unlike the more solid bridges. Wander on down to the Barrage now refurbished and quite a view in itself from the top of the bank car park with refreshments in the nearby Hotel. Take the boat up river to Yarm ,you could not have done that at one time, the barrage made it possible. Drive round the ring roads and see the lovely floral displays that have won Stockton top prize and I am hoping they have seen Sarah Ravens bring insects back programme, a few swathes of wild flowers would really make a difference. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I am told – some like regimented, some like higgledy piggledy and talking about some continental towns if you look closely at some tourist sites you see more regimentation than you would think. The High Street is clean and tidy with floral displays, we still have a variety of buildings in size and shape, one side of the town has hardly changed yet the comments are about one smallish end of it. The old Empire was an unused pit when I went to Sloans playing Billiards, some of those many Hotels were poorly maintained and not in full use, I think some of the owners were glad to get rid of them. Yes we lost some good buildings but many others needed to be lost. Just about every high street in England is changing, have you been in Birmingham lately, I recognised nothing but thought the new looked smart. Visit Stockton, do not take other peoples word for it, look around, cross the new bridges, visit the newly refurbished town library when others are closing theirs then comment. As an aside I am not in the pay of the Council and do not even vote for the main party, I go for the people who look after our particular area and very well too even if they are in a minority. That cleared up I am proud of Stockton and happy to live out what time I have left in the Borough.14/03/2012 11:32:21

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  13. Interesting that Tim Hardy mentions 60s buildings in Newcastle now being demolished. T Dan Smith was responsible for the demolition of one third of the classic Eldon Square in that city. Wasn’t he also involved with Poulson in the Castlegate venture, which involved demolition of a stretch of the High Street including the Vane Arms? So the Victoria building was knocked down but what about the Lit & Phil building (to be replaced by a miserable shoe box building) or the Empire (replaced by a hotel now closed)? The old classic Stockton High Street is gone and will never be replaced. I haven’t wanted to visit for some years. Someone give me an update. Is it now fast food places, bingo parlors, shops for lease or boarded up? Middleborough! – surely that must be one of the worst dumps in the UK. How could Middlesborough outshine the Stockton of old? 13/03/2012 22:04:47

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  14. Maureen I have to agree, the last time I was in Lowestoft it was the bare bones of the place it once was. Had the Council at the time here not had the guts to go for it, what would Stockton have been now. They are still looking ahead thank goodness and it is about the new young population not us fogies steeped in tradition. It was only years later I saw what an idylic childhood we Green kids had, parents who could afford to send us to high school and provide us with our wants, many did not have that chance for various reasons – I do remember almost half my class at RHS leaving at 14 because they had to help support the families. History is in the mind of the beholder, nostalgia is not history, it is wishing for things long gone and never coming back. The Council at the time were working with grants so had to cut the clothe to suit, removing renovation and replacing crumbling front walls would have taken them out of the comfort zone and we would probably have moaned about the extra cost, there is no pleasing some of us.13/03/2012 16:15:24

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  15. The glory of the old Stockton High Street was the non uniformity of its buildings, the differnce in styles, its higgledy piggeldy roofline, the size of the shops where two or more ‘units’ had been combined to form a larger frontage. So yes the facades could have been left in situ with the businesses being carried on behind the frontage down towards the river. One doesn’t need to go to Bruges to see a successful implementation of the idea. In Chester ‘the rows’ are a fine example of the objective in action. My greatest regret was the demolition of the Victoria Buildings,a fine looking mock gothic edifice.13/03/2012 15:47:51

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  16. True Bob, Brugge is lovely as are many Towns in Holland and France ruined by the war they were rebuilt with war reparations something we did not get. In my travels in Germany I saw whole towns rebuilt duplicating the Facade and behind modern buildings. Those building at that end of the High Street had metal ties holding some of them up and round the back huge balks of timber shoring them up, part of that bank as with the Globe were built on Sandbanks and if your memory is good you will remember the number of times the paves had to be relaid near Finkle Street as they washed away with underground water. I was in town one day when with a crash the front of one of those buildings just collapsed, knocking down the fence along the pavement, I could not see them doing anything with that. People moving from the old street houses into the new Roseworth and Hardwick houses thought their dreams had come true and now they are knocking them down and rebuilding, I do not hear anyone shouting to keep what was there. Progress is inevitable and how far do we go, the lovely Cleveland Hills should be forest not moor, the old schools put back as they were? there would be uproar. The Council in my opinion do a good job bringing things into Stockton, they are trying to get more interest into the High Street but if all their efforts do not bring custom into the Town then they fight a losing battle.13/03/2012 14:24:14

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  17. I agree with you Frank, you can never go back to the way things were! The same things have happened in the town where we live now (Lowestoft). I think most people look back to their youth with rose-coloured spectacles & a certain amount of nostalgia, I know I do. Time marches on and we must look to the future but looking back is part of the human condition after all!13/03/2012 14:00:54

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  18. Regarding the old buildings that were neglected by their owners and rat infected I must say that things could and should have been done at that time. Using the perfect example, I have visited Brugge in Belgium. They have wonderful facades which are from the early days of architecture. They have been preserved. This is what should have happened in the town. The new precinct is full of small outlets which could have been the small shops of bygone days.13/03/2012 13:23:33

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  19. Everyone (including me) who shops at an out of town location so they can park their car for free, close to the shops must take a share of the blame for the decline of the traditional High Street – go anywhere in England where there is an out of town centre and see for yourself. There are some dreadful places in West Yorkshire, and across the Midlands etc. You need to go to a big city where there is the resilience to fend off out of town retail – small towns can’t do it. No wonder their High Streets are in a spiral of decline. Stockton deserves credit for trying to resist this and turn things around. As to the comments about the block replacing the Vane Arms etc – the old buildings were rotten. Why didn’t their owners do something about it??? My parents applauded when the rat infested places were pulled down, and so did my grandmother who was glad when her old house off Parliament Street was pulled down & she was allocated a new council bungalow. Some people would have the whole country turned into a Heritage Theme park. What’s wrong with a mix of old and new? Also, let’s remember the state of the river – what a stinking mess (literally) it was. Full marks to the authorities for the massive effort needed to clean it up and turn it into the attractive site it now is.13/03/2012 12:11:51

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  20. Frank P Mee
    We all seem to have an opinion when it comes to Stockton High Street although my motto in life is never go back, it is never the same. As one who remembers walking into Stockton Market with Mother pre war and during the war for food, for the things we could not get in the local shops, and most of the fresh food was produced locally in the many Market Gardens around Stockton and Norton they all had stalls in the market at that time. We loaded up and got the ‘O’ bus back to Norton Green, it was essential in the need to feed us at that time. The only place we could buy clothes of any kind was in Stockton, school uniforms at Maxwells and suits at the various Taylors in the town. At that time the streets of Stockton thrived, there was a ready supply of customers who were within a few minutes walk of the town. Pre-war there was mass unemployment, you would find people waiting until the market was closing up as they dropped the prices and even gave stuff away. Then we had six years of shortages followed by another six years of even worse shortages, when the 1950-60-70’s came in we wanted change. There was not too much money even then so the quickest and cheapest way was to take everything out and start again. The Council at that time did what they thought right and in hindsight it is easy to complain, I do not remember too many complaints at the time as the decrepid buildings were knocked down and we got new in their place. We have voted with our feet by shopping at out of town markets and supermarkets, the market as we knew it was doomed from then, that makes us all guilty we cannot blame the Council wanting to make the HIgh Street viable in other ways. I still do some shopping in Stockton and visit the Library, never have any trouble parking though sometimes it is hard walking at my age so I get as close as I can. It may be an idea to put some residential housing in the High Street although who would want to live there on a Friday and Saturday night, I would not. The buses need to be routed through the High Street for the people without transport and it is far safer to keep them all on one side. I look forward to the time we are using the River front, there are plans for that though nothing seems to be happening as yet. The market and the shops will go in the future as with all town centres, it will all be a memory of times that may look good in hindsight but were not to those who lived them.13/03/2012 11:29:28

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  21. How about reverting back to traffic running up and down either side, as it used to be? Of course it would be much lighter because the main traffic is already established in Prince Regent St. and River road. Secondly, along the centre of the High Street planted with trees and used for full length market and parking. Thirdly, some residential houses put back into the High Street and only keeping the banks and essential shops. Get rid of the eye sore empty shops! The Castlegate shopping centre and Wellington Square would provide all the shops needed, but OH wouldn’t the High street look lovely. 13/03/2012 02:31:00

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  22. I respect the comment from the Picture Stockton team. Whereas most people would agree that, in hindsight, the redevelopment of the High Sreet (mainly the Castlegate Centre), could have been better, there are many other factors which have contributed to the reduction in quality shops in Stockton and other similar sized towns around the country. The national trend towards ‘out of town’ shopping with easy parking is one reason that people shop elsewhere, but Stockton also has to deal with the proximity of Middlesbrough which has risen to be the dominant force in retail in the Teesside area. This doesn’t only apply to shops, leisure was also an important part of the town, and cinema’s have also disappeared from the High Street and moved to the surrounding area. Then there is the current financial problems facing businesses and individuals alike. The loss of large stores such as Woolworths and Littlewoods was a blow, but then many smaller retailers are also finding life difficult at the moment, not just in Stockton, but nationally. It is interesting to witness the changes taking place in Newcastle, some of the city centre buildings from the 1960’s which lacked style and character are being demolished, hopefully to be replaced by something more sympathetic to the surroundings.12/03/2012 10:43:49

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  23. While we do try to represent the views of our visitors as faithfully as possible, as employees of Stockton Council we do need to moderate comments made about the council – it is they who make this site possible after all.09/03/2012 16:04:46

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  24. I remember on Norton Road near to the Turks Head (in fact it was next door to what was a chap who repaired cycles and sold bits of timber, hardboard, nails and screws), a house which was supposed to be a graded building. Builders knocked it down and they were in trouble with the Council over this. It would be at the same time maybe as they destroyed the High Street. This building was no better than all the buildings removed for the new High Street. Double standards??09/03/2012 13:07:00

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  25. Like many other High Streets when these developers pull down lovely old buildings and replace them with something modern, its all about making profit. Like the other many comments, Stockton High street was magnificent in its glory days. I spent many hours on market days as a boy walking up and down the market, and in later years drinking in the many pubs in the high street. I live away from the area now but was in Stockton high street about 3yrs ago and could not believe how drab and uninviting the place was. 09/03/2012 10:34:21

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  26. I can’t agree more, I thought the same when I saw this picture. Such a shame the High Street was spoilt, it makes me sad to see it when I visit these days, haven’t lived there for 40 odd years but still regard it as home. With a bit of luck they may put it back as it was with the Market right down the middle, we can but hope.08/03/2012 15:17:06

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  27. I would have been about 14 years old when this lovely picture was taken, this is possibly one of the nicest pics showing Stockton High Street at its best. In contrast to today, the High Street is ruined. With the next generation of redevelopment why not bring the High Street back to its former glory.06/03/2012 19:23:12

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  28. Stockton High Street used to have a bit of class about it. The decline seemed to start in the early 70s – I believe it was the Dan Smith/Poulsen crowd that “redeveloped” the High Street from Finkle Street down to the old Empire site. A whole block including The Vane Arms was demolished. I haven”t been to the High Street for 20 years but on my last visit it seemed incredibly tacky. Has it improved ? I hope so but somehow I doubt it. Downtown centres have most places lost ground to out of town hypermarkets.

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  29. Does anyone know when the council changed the High Street – the photo shows cars parked in the centre of the street. I can remember this, but I haven”t been to Stockton for years. It is a real shame that the High Street isn”t like it used to be

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