The Co-op store, Billingham c1960

This neo classical building with art deco influences was once home to the Co-operative store in Billingham. The Co-op was on the corner of Station Road and Belasis Avenue. Though the Co-op is no longer there, the building still remains. We think this photograph is dated from 1960.

6 thoughts on “The Co-op store, Billingham c1960

  1. Both comments above are right on the money. The rear wall of the store (away from the photo) had a long counter, with an assistant serving each of the departments. Above the assistant’s head was a spring-loaded apparatus that propelled a “traveler,” a metal clip on two wheels, which rode a taut wire to the cashier’s “cage” (literally: it had heavy iron bars and was accessed through a locked cage-door.) The cage was located mid-way between the doorways (the main one on the corner and the one under the word “hall”) so there was a spider’s-web of wires overhead in the store. The assistant would take the customer’s money, put it with the hand-written bill (carbon paper between 3 copies, if memory serves) in a brass tube that opened and closed when twisted, and inserted it in the clip on the traveler, overhead. (S)he would then pull down on a wooden handle, which loaded the spring in the device and “kicked” the traveler over to the cage.
    In the cage, the cashier would check the assistant’s arithmetic and put a bill copy with the necessary change in the tube, and pull the handle to send it back to the assistant, who would by then have wrapped the merchandise (or put it in the customer’s bag – no plastic bags in the 50’s!)
    If this procedure seems like excessive zeal for security, bear in mind that the Co-op in most villages (for such Billingham was then) was the biggest business in town. There was Upton’s for furniture and radio/TV, but the rest, before the advent of Billingham Town Centre, were largely family butcher, grocery, shoe-repair and sweet shops. A raid on the Co-op would be something akin to robbing a bank. (Incidentally my grandfather, Henry Lowery, who died in 1915, was a committee member and one of the watchmen in the Co-op in Windy Nook, Gateshead, during the Joe Noble murder in 1907, (see
    The nearest department stores were Binns’ and Marks and Spencer in Middlesbrough. Most families made a weekly trek to Stockton or the Boro’ for the “big” shopping. It was also a bus trip to Stockton to Co-op head office, to pick up the “divvy,” the Co-op dividend, which was paid to customers each year. I’m 69 today, but I remember Mum’s Co-op customer number: 14687.


  2. The picture was taken during the 1970s or early 80s as the supermarket is in operation and the co-op cloverleaf logo is being used.


    • I remember those, your money was put in a container, then they pulled on a toggle and it would travel on a wire above your head, then the container was put in a tube, if I remember right it ran by vacuum. I used to live in Tibbersley Avenue & Wooler Crescent.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.