5 thoughts on “Shakespeare Arms, Smithfield c1935

  1. I’m trying to find information on Ellen Owens (1903-1905), who married a Frederick Wilson (1897-1964) in 1927, Stockton-on-Tees. On their marriage certificate, Ellen is stated as residing at 12 Smithfield. Her father, Thomas Owens, is stated as deceased.

    By the early 1930’s, Ellen and Frederick living at 14 Swainby Road, Norton. In 1932, Ellen died from heart failure aged 28. The place of death is registered as Stockton Union Workhouse.

    If anyone has any further information on Ellen, I would really appreciate your help.


  2. My grandmothers wedding certificate places her father James Scott as resident at 2 1/2 Smithfied in 1917, this article gives some interesting flavour to their lives, thank you


  3. I came across this very interesting article while searching for Smithfield in Stockton-on-Tees, whilst researching my family tree. I found an Irish relation living at 1.1/2 Smithfield in the 1891 census, his name was Michael Moran and he was a General Dealer, aged 52 and widowed, living with him were his 4 daughters and one son, all born in Stockton. Next door at number 2 is Joseph Harland aged 54 a Mariner born Whitby, his wife Elizabeth aged 55, has Beer House Keeper listed as her occupation. What an interesting street this must have been over the years!


  4. The Shakespeare Arms fell victim to a change in attitudes by the authorities towards drinking. In the early 1900`s it was decided that there were too many licensed premises throughout the country, many of a poor standard, and that local magistrates should not renew licenses if there were more in a district than the population warranted. At this time there were 21 fully licensed houses and 7 Beerhouses within 250 yards of Smithfield. Properties that were of a lower standard or had a bad reputation were most likely to be closed. These properties were reported to a compensation committee. Many changed to a different line of business such as grocers or confectioners.


  5. Henry and Annie Groskop (nee May, from Thornaby) retired proprietors of the Shakespeare Arms at 2 Smithfield, Stockton, outside the former pub with daughter Zillah, a photographer. The Shakespeare was acquired from John William Laybourn, the resident publican during 1898/9, but the site had a history of beer retailing back to c.1880, previous landlords being Thomas O”Key (1881), Joseph Smith (1886), Joseph and Elizabeth Harland (1891), J. Pillar (1894) and Thomas Hope (1896). 2 Smithfield was part of a fashionable and important Stockton street when Mary Ann Watson an established milliner and dressmaker was the occupant from 1851 to 1867, followed by Gerry Henry Green a tailor in 1871. In the 1861 census, a drinking house called “The Shakespheare Inn” with landlord William Brown existed at 6 Workhouse Street (later Knowles Street). The 1861 trade directory claimed the same “The Shakspeare Inn” to be in nearby Bishop Street. This pub was defunct by 1871 and not connected with the Smithfield site. Annie Groskop ran the Shakespeare Arms from 1900. It was her pub, although husband Henry Groskop was listed as the beer retailer in the 1900-1907 trade directories. Annie had previous experience from working at the Black Lion Hotel, Smeaton Street, North Ormesby. The Shakespeare was bought to even out the family income previously too dependent on Henries employment in the Stockton shipyards when work was available. The premises ensured continuous work for Henry who had lost an eye as a shipyard rivetter, although he eventually returned to the yards. The Shakespeare was a small, lively, front room drinking establishment served from the back room where the family lived (and upstairs too). Annie”s daughters (see t6091) were mainly brought up at Smithfield with most attending the St. Thomas Church School opposite their home (see top right corner of s466 by the huge tree). Annie liked a drink, but some of her daughters were teetotal. The Shakespeare”s clients were entertained by Annie”s youngest daughter Lauretta singing, and Henries father Gershon playing the fiddle. Lauretta was later taught to sing by the Middlesbrough musical impresario and borough organist Mr Felix Corbett. Some of her sisters were good pianists taught by a Ms Stoddart, and self -taught seamtresses learning on Leah”s sewing machine. The Shakespeare was popular with nearby cattle market regulars (occasionally an escaped animal was an unwelcome visitor) and shipyard workers, including those off the river ferry, but the pub declined along with the yards. Smithfield and its pubs could be very crowded on ship launch days. Everyone stood outside when the King and Queen passed through Smithfield and Hunters Lane on their way to the Ropner shipyard in 1917. 2 Smithfield survived the Housewife Lane Slum Clearance Scheme of 1925-29 that levelled one side of Smithfield during 1929, but the Smithfield pubs and traders customers from the densely packed and populated lanes around Thistle Green had been removed. Even St. Thomas”s School closed in Dec 1937 due to lack of pupils. Thus 2 Smithfield was solely a family home by c.1930, but “modernised throughout” with internal running water. The council acquired 1.5, 2 and 2.5 Smithfield in Dec 1938 with a view to demolition as the houses were within the proposed municipal development area, but the war delayed this. The houses were in poor condition and tenants often complained about smoke nuisance. The council decided the decaying and leaking roof at 2-2.5 Smithfield was beyond economic repair in March 1940, so the tenant(s) were re-housed. Annie went to Somerset Road, Norton, and then to daughter Olive. 1 to 3 Smithfield were demolished by July 1947, before the street as a highway was stopped-off by the council in June 1950. The post-war council offices were eventually built close to Smithfield, but confined to the old cattle market site. The town entrance to defunct Smithfield now leads to “The Square” car-park, and a disused garage wall separating Church Road (Paradise Row section) from the car-park marks the site of 2 Smithfield.


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