51 thoughts on “Dickens D.I.Y. shop. 1953

  1. I recall all of the Dickens’ branches and had a Saturday job at the Portrack ‘hypermarket’ in 1979/80 when they were about the only place open on a Bank Holiday Monday. I worked in the garden centre under Malcolm ‘Adam’ Eden and Peter Bennett. Pay was 4 quid a day plus a fish’n’chip lunch, which later went up to a fiver a day – but no lunch.
    The most memorable bank holiday to me was the one during the major store refit when they had Portakabin toilets in the car park. The sewer blocked and most of the car park was at least ankle deep in effluent. Dynorod were called out and once the chap had located some manhole covers and poked his rods about, the level eventualy fell. At which point Albert Dicken handed me a ‘chitty’ and told me to collect a 4 foot yard brush and start sweeping. I was only wearing normal shoes, incidentally. Some time later (it was a large car park) he surveyed my handiwork and said there’d be a little extra something in my pay packet. When I got home that night there was a ‘tide mark’ about halfway up my calves. My mother told me I’d better get my jeans in the wash sharpish… and forty-odd years later I’m still waiting for the ‘little extra something’.
    As an aside, one of the ladies who worked in the garden centre was the mother of a girl at Norton (Albany) school called Donna Davis (or Davies), I heard they moved to Scarborough after I’d left Albany so I never did get to ask Donna out 😀

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  2. David Addison, is that Francis Greenwell that lived Ruby Road? I remember her well,
    Her mam, God bless her, told me Francis had gone to New Zealand. Do you have an address for her?

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  3. I was talking to my Grandkids the about Thornaby and Punphreys, where my sister Norma Preston worked.
    Today’s urban living has evolved to large shopping malls and automobiles.
    From 1942 onwards I lived above Moore’s store on Eldon St. Hornsby. In those days was a self-contained unit that allowed everyone, particularly old people, to walk to stores and services.
    Eldon St. and Cobden street had Moore’s, Mr. Orams, Gaunts Butchers, Paleschi Ice Cream, Rickabys, Eldon St Fish shop, Scott’s Paper shop, Humphreys bakery(great flatcakes) and more. Mandale road and Five lamps so much more.
    A place where people lived, worked, shopped and knew each other. A place full of Character and Characters.
    Eat your heart out modern impersonal society.
    John Preston
    Los Altos, California

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  4. I got a part time job at Dickens around 1997 by pestering Albert Dicken and Alan Watson as often as I could get over to the Portrack Lane store. They were great times for a school lad. I worked on the security check point and also would occasionally get out in the delivery vans. I then worked in the store selling all sorts on goods and remember some of the competitions the sales lads had selling those plywood wall boards and seeing who could carry the most at a time. Prior to sales, I used to assemble kitchen units in what used to be the leisure centre and then the sales days when the car park was full and the cars were backed up in both directions on the main road. Does anybody remember the big Buick that used to bring santa at Christmas?

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  5. A sad announcement. Terence Dicken died peacefully in hospital on October 8 2012, after courageously fighting a long illness for over 3 years. He will be very much missed by so many people, he was a wonderful kind very knowledgeable man. He was my father and my whole life’s inspiration. Sleep tight Dad.

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    • Beryl, I used to live very near to your dad in Thornaby and ask your mother if she remembers me. I have a feeling she and I were in the same class at school, either Westbury Street or Robert Atkinson. Sorry to hear of Terry’s passing.

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  6. I worked in the Washington Tyne & Wear branch from 1986-1995 on the Timber department. What a great place to work. It wasn’t just a job it was like working with family, I would give anything to be back amongst some of the best people I have ever met………as long as the wages were better ofcourse, great times.

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    • Yes you are right it was a great place to work, the customer service was second to none knocks spots off B&Q . I worked on hardware then on the garden centre and just before I moved on the timber section, some people did not like Jim Gales but I found him really good to work for, shame there are not any photos. I would not mind working for them right now as I approach retirement.

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  7. I referred earlier to my grandparents managing the Thornaby Gallons shop and living above, around the 1920s. I have recently found out that their shop address was Swarthmore Terrace. It was knocked down, I believe. Would this be the same shop – the map shows that Swarthmore Terrace was off Mandale Road.

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  8. Bob, I worked at Gallons in 1966 at the age of 15. I worked with a Mrs Green and Mrs Petty, our manageress was called Ronnie (Veronica). Our temporary manageress was called Margeret Spencer – the names you mention were earlier. The Doctors name I remember were Dr Mcgrath, Dr Galloway, Dr Storey, Dr Macinally who was a chain smoker, I never ever saw him without a cigarette in his hand, and in 1969 Dr Pinto joined the practice. I remember the chemist as Rounds then the last year before closing became Goulds. My sister Valerie worked at Thompsons who took over gallons on George Street and Mandale Road. Our area manager was called Mr Wilson.

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  9. Joyce Teasdale, my sister Ann Wilson first job was at Gallons in Mandale Road, she’d be 15 the school leaving age in or about 1953/1954 when she commenced there. She left and went to Pumphreys Icing Sugar. It’s possible Gladys Fulton [her sisters were Anne and Clara Fulton] worked there also. The Drs you mentioned I recall as being: Drs Danahar, Galloway and McGrath, Dr Danahar was Irish and liked a tipple or two, I once had to take out my own stitches in his surgery because he couldn’t see straight due to drink, his hand was shaking so he lent me the scalpel, afterwards we sat and talked, its said that he had been married to a Dublin Guinness heiress, Dr McGrath was without doubt Thornabys number ONE citizen, a real caring professional gent, Dr Galloway I can’t remember. The chemist was a Mrs Round t/as Rounds The Chemist, did she sell out to the Gould who you mention?

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  10. Hi Terry – It was great to read about the history of where Dickens started, but I am curious (after many an argument with my father), what has now happened to the Dickens hardware stores? Did they all close down, or sell out to B&Q?
    PS. You may remember me from Station Road … I use to work at Socla with the Watersons.

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  11. Its a sunny day in Stockton today and I was searching online for B&Q diy shop and found this page! I now know a little bit more about Stockton and this is now my official homepage when I start up my computer. I noticed that the advert for Dickens is on YouTube.

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  12. I worked for Bob Dicken as a lorry driver just at the time the first Portack building was being put up and came in to use. I remember Bob as a very nice man who was always in control clip board in hand. Albert at Norton shop and Terrance at Thornaby shop. They all stay clear in my memory and remembered as a wonderful family. When the mega store was on the go I always said with pride “I was there working when Bob had his dream ” Dreams do come true when you work hard like the Dickens family. Sorry to see Bob has past over he was a gent. Regards to Albert and Terrence, also fork truck driver, think it was Dave.

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  13. I remember going into the shop in Norton Road as a kid with my father in the early 1970’s. I then worked at the Portrack Lane store in about 1982, my first Saturday job, paid 75 pence an hour! We used to carry solid oak doors over our shoulders to restock the displays all day long for a fiver. Minimal health and safety compared to now but we did genuinely know about the products.

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  14. Thanks for reminding me about the tins of biscuits Dorothy, we used to have 16 tins, 4 rows of 4. When the bicuits started to dwindle down, the broken biscuits were all bagged into half pound bags to be sold, people used to go crazy for them and were all sold out very quick. We also had a chair for the customer, we multi tasked by being polite and talking to the customer whilst serving them and if you got a customer who was not happy with her purchases it was rectified with a smile even if the customer was to blame. Our saying was ‘The customer is always right’, even though some were wrong. Still happy memories.

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  15. My Gran (Daisy Bowes) used to trek from Danby Road to shop at Gallons on Norton Road on the corner of Queen Street. I used to go with her when I was on holiday from school, she shopped there until it closed. The shop was as Joyce Teasdale describes the one at Thornaby, biscuits in their big square tins with their lids removed so you could see the contents and the chair placed at the front of the counter for customers to sit on whilst they shopped, happy memories of shopping with Gran, thanks Joyce for bringing Gallons to mind.

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  16. Thanks to Joyce for filling in a lot of details about working for Gallons. When we were little, we still did some shopping at the Tilery branch, and I remember the blue sugar bags. I was so fascinated by the skilful way things were packed up.

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  17. Hi im glad someone else remembers Gallons,it was a nice old building.inside all on one wall were all wood small drawers where all the herbs were kept,cherries,ground almonds etc.we had to weigh the sugar in blue paper bags,same with the butter ,lard,etc on greaseproof paper.The counters were all marble and very cold.We had to do everything in those days clean and dress the big windows,scrub the floors and all the counters,stack the shelves,do deliveries on a bicycle,tidy the the big cold dark warehouse at the back.we done this and much more before we got to serve customers,which you got to do at the shops busiest times.It was cold, no heating to a parafin stove in the back room,id do it all again if i could it was a beautiful shop inside and out,i worked from monday to saturday 8am to 8pm for half a crown a week.such good memories.

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  18. I have just chanced on Joyce Teasdale’s comment about working in the Thornaby Gallons shop. When my Mum was little, her family, Albert & Elizabeth Ellis and Albert 2nd, lived above the shop. I expect my grandfather was the manager then. Albert died in 1950 but his other daughter, Peggy, continued to work for Gallons. My grandfather went on to be a Chief Inspector but earlier he had worked in the Bowesfield road branch and possibly South Bank. I wonder whether anyone has any memories of the Ellis family’s time in Gallons.

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  19. It’s great reading the comments of peoples fond memories of Dickens. I’m the son of Albert Dicken and worked at the stores for 10 years before we sold to B&Q. I appeared on the TV advert which was aired in 1976 and have posted it on our website. It was a great advert and I’m sure many of you will remember it. View it at: http://www.athomefurnishings.co.uk/about-us.html

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  20. Norton Road shop was on three levels because you went up from Street level, up the famous steps, go through the shop and down to the basement at the back, then there was the upper floor. There was another floor above that for stock only, it was a very busy shop, hope this explains things okay.

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  21. Yes I did work at Dickens for a time in the later part of the 60s and like everyone Terry I”m so sorry to hear about Bob. I worked in the mill and warehouse in Portrack and for you in Norton Road think it was on 3 levels or am I wrong? Also in Mandale Rd with your sister Jean.

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  22. I was one of Terrys many customers from Norton road and many a time he would help me find a few screws to do a certain job at home and always happy to give advice when asked. When brother Albert opened the big store at Portrack I went along to have a scout around and was very impressed. Albert was showing a group of suited people around the store and stopped me and asked me what I thought of the new store and I replied “will one of your sales people find me three two inch size twelve screws please” and Albert replied “those days are over now Ken you have to buy by the dozen”.I”m afraid I upset him by saying “bring back Terry he”ll find me a couple”. Nice man Albert like the rest of the family right back to his dad when I used to buy plane making kits from him.

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  23. With reference to our shop in mandale Road, this picture was taken about 1953, or so, in the picture is Bob Dicken, the older one who sadly died last year. I am the younger one,I am 71 years old and remember this picture as if it was yesterday. I can name all the articles in the shop, there was every kind of tool you could think of.

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  24. What a blast from the past this site is .I was given it by Fran Instone (Greenwell) when I was at our local Farmers market here in Christchurch New Zealand. Gosh” Dickens shop I remember it so well, as a kid I was often in there buying things for my dad.Great smells of cut wood.Good Days.

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  25. Dear A Latif. We were at 54 Mandale Road and had a big sawmill at the back of the shop, later on we had a very big sawmill in Darlington Street near the railway, there was also Coultas And Shaw big joinery factory in Stephenson Street also Laddercraft who made ladders had a joinery shop in Stephenson Street. There was also Terry Greens shop in George Street who made small toys of wood, he later moved to Mandale Road and took over Mr Snaithes plumbing shop, next to Easifit the shoe shop, does any of these places ring any more bells with you, if you have any more questions just ask Terry Dicken..

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  26. Drs Galloway, MacNally geesh and Dr Pinto i remember them they were my drs as a kid 🙂 that is a blast from the past. Sorry for your loss. My mother worked in the back of a woodmill? in and around Mandale or George street, i seem to remember ( i was about 4!) playing in the back area sat on a floor of the softest wooddust and the old man who i think was the boss made me a little trolley with wheels and i remember distinctly shovelling the dust into the truck 🙂 all i can visualise is it was a big building with one desk/ bench to the left with a big open door? and some huge “dangerous” saws in the other corner was this your place? i would love to know my mother has passed so i cannot ask the relevant questions be interested to know if this was your shop my uncle also sadly passed ran Kaufmans lino and carpet shop. i wish i could see more photos of the area Please some one submit some 😦

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  27. I am sorry to learn of Bob Dickens death, we were the same age and at Holy Trinity together. Bob was a keen e-mail sender and I recall him being very sad when his wife was very ill just before her death some years ago. God Bless them Both in Faith and Resurrection. We are but travellers in transit in our earthly lives and some people make the journey more pleasant. Thanks Bob, see you Norman.

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  28. Dear Stevan Murray. I would like to thank you for your very kind comments, at this sad time, Bob and I got on with most of our customers, if you would like any further imformation, please email. Terry Dicken.

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  29. i am sorry to hear about your loss bob was my boss at portrack rd and although we never had a great deal to do with each other i always remember him to be a fair and decent man…. GOD GRANT ME THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE. THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN. AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE……. god bless you and all of the dickens family in this time of sorrow.

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  30. Dear David Mills. Thank you for your kind message, our object when we were in Norton Road was to give people a help to do jobs they needed to do around the house etc, in them days people would try any job big or small, and often with our help they would go a lot further doing bigger jobs, that is how we made such a huge sucsess. Terry Dicken any comments greatly appreciated.

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  31. To Terry Dicken, Sorry Terry yes Elizabeth was your sister and Alberts twin then there was Jean ,and Bobs children are Michael and Susan. Bobs children were only tots when i worked for you,seems a long time ago now Terry,sorry i dont have Mchaels e-mail address. Hope to hear from you terry. Tony Scott

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  32. Terry, I was too young to know you and your brother Bob but I do remember seeing you in the shop on Norton Rd which I often visited with my dad.He got lots of good DIY advice from both of you. My dad is no longer with us but I know he would join me in expressing his condolences on your loss.

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  33. Dear Tony Scott. Thanks for the comments,Elizabeth was my sister, and twin to Albert, Bobs Children were Michael, and Susan, I also have a sister called Jean, I remember you very well Bob used to tell me you were sending him emails, and Bob was sending you emails,if you would like to send me some emails, I could send you some, if you have Michaels email address, he could give you my address. Terry Dicken.

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  34. Dear Ken Rhodes. THank you for your kind comments, about my Brother Bob, we built up a good business in Mandale Road Thornaby, then Norton Road Stockton, and also in Portrack lane, and thanks to our many good staff, we were well known through out England. Terry Dicken.

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  35. May i send condolences to the Dicken family on their loss.I knew Bob from Thornaby and Norton Road along with Terry and Albert and i went to school with their sister Jean.

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  36. I am so sorry to hear Robert Dicken has passed away, he was a fine man and did have a good sense of humour,i have been getting a lot of e-mails off him and recently they have stopped. I would like to offer my condolences, to michael and elizabeth his children ,and the rest of the family,

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  37. Robert Dicken passed away in North Tees hospital on the 2/8/07 he was a strong willed gentle man with a good sense of humour and will be missed by his family and friends

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  38. I remember the shop on Mandale Road in Thornaby. I myself worked a few doors away in Gallons the grocery shop which was later taken over by Thomsons. Nearby was the doctors surgery Drs Galloway, MacNally and Goulds the chemist. There was also a army stores. On the corner of this row stood the Sadlers public house. I remember your shop as my dad used to shop there a lot. My maiden name Hobson. Oh what memories to be treasured!

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  39. Thanks for your response and the history of the Dickens business. Interesting your comments about service, my dad would agree with you that service at Dickens was second to none, that”s why he shopped there all his life I guess. I have noticed in Australia that small hardware shops are making a big comeback, all based on Dickens type service. They actually know their products and their applications. A pleasent change from the big hyper markets who operate on a cut price basis, very little service and in my opinion cheap substandard products. Yes, Dickens indeed was ahead of its time.

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  40. Terry and Bob, It has been most interesting looking at this site which has given me days of fascinating viewing and caused me to add my bit where appropriate (I hope). I think we must be about the same age 78, I went to school with Bob who was at Trinity in 1939. It was places like Teesside, Wearside and dare I say it Newcastle! that made the profit for this country to make it what it used to be, Great Britain. You only need look at this site to see the true past and the grit, muck and sweat that paid the bills and built the companies which have now been driven out of business.

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  41. tony scott i also remember all the names you have mentioned so it would appear that we were there at the same time… i beleive that i was offsider to both you and terry brown terry used to do the run through m/boro, redcar, and whitby and if i remember rightly you did the darlington west harlepool run… bob buttler used to take all the wood shavings from the mill to a chicken farm…albert always had a pen in his mouth …dont know their real names but there was also yogger…and mucky billy…alan watson once gave me a beating cos somebody had written about him on the toilet wall and then signed my name under it.

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  42. Dear David. Thanks for your comments, yes we were the foreruner to your modern hypermarkets but our family set it all going, we started in 1878 in a shop in bridge Road, run by my great grandad, he was a saw doctor in them days cicular saws were as big as six foot in diameter, and he could lift them lay them on his anvil and set the teeth, and as time progressed through the years, and in 1951 we moved from Stockton to Thornaby, every body thought we were going down hill, but that is when we taking wood etc to local markets, and the shop in Mandale Road was going from stength to strenth, we opened a sawmill in Thornaby and in 1958 opened a shop in Norton Road Stockton, and we were suplying other shops all over the north east then in 1963 opened the warehouse on the south of Portrack Lane, next to where Asda is now, in them days it was Tony Walker trailers, and things grew bigger and bigger, and in 1969 to 1970 we opened on the north side of Portrack Lane which was then about the biggest D I Y company in Europe, the foreruner of your large hypermarkets today, so by giving a good service it paid off, and if service was as good today as it was back in our days people would be a lot more do it yourself, which now seems to be declining, hope this explains some of our movements, any questions I would do my best to answer. Terry Dicken.

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  43. I was often in Dickens stores with my dad who bought his DIY stuff there. I reckon it was a concept way ahead of its time when one sees the number of mega DIY stores around today. Dickens staff were always friendly and willing to give advice on the various jobs dad was undertaking at home.

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  44. I used to drive for Dickens, and for a brief time was transport manager,I remember a few of the lads who worked there when I was there. George Cole, David Homer, Terry Brown, Alan Watson, Bob Butler, Ronnie King, Terry Cooper. The Dickens brothers were all hard working men, Albert always had a board in his hand and use to run round like a mad man to get the vans loaded. Good times though and a lot of good staff!

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  45. i also worked for dickens both in this shop and on portrack rd. Does anyone remember the day one of the trucks was involved in an accident right out the front of the portrack depot…i was working with terry brown alan watson albert dicken

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  46. I used to work for Dickens on Norton Road as a school leaver and remember the wages were very poor, (sorry Terence) I got the sack for bad time-keeping. but luck was my side I did get a better paid job for Asda, West Row and were the best years of my working life.

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  47. I remember the local tv and radio adverts for Dickens. With quotes like, Dickens makes it Easy.. Was that the official strapline for the company? Did B&Q buy the Dickens store in Stockton? I recall the new garden centre being redeveloped and opened just before B&Q was built.

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