Busy Bustling Billingham, Mid 1960s

This is the Billingham I remember from my teenage years, it was a great place to grow up in, the council was very forward looking and live music in the Town Centre was one of many things they did to enliven the town.

The five piece band, the drummer is hidden in the middle, could be The Johnny Taylor Five, they were often to be seen performing in the Town Centre. I don’t know if the crowd were there to see the band or were already there and taking advantage of the live entertainment.

One of the things that sticks in my mind about Billingham Town Centre was the fact that you would always meet somebody you knew or somebody you didn’t know who would speak to you, always friendly, Billingham people.

Brown Brothers & Taylor was one of the first shops to open in the Town Centre, this was in the mid 1950s, Finlays was a favourite place for youngsters as they had a record department where the young ladies behind the counter would play records of your choice, as in Leslie Browns in Stockton there were a couple of listening booths where we would get crammed in and listen to records by the likes of Guy Mitchell, Lonnie Donegan, Adam Faith and many others, the staff were very good as they knew full well that we had no money with which to buy records and most of us didn’t even have a gramaphone, this is what we called them before record player became the usual name, on which to play them.

At this time Billingham had fish ponds and aviaries in the Town Centre, not acceptable nowadays but an interesting feature at the time. A very lively place.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

12 thoughts on “Busy Bustling Billingham, Mid 1960s

  1. We lived in Hartlepool in the early 70s and my dad liked to go to Billingham shopping centre and I recall that they had a cage with little monkeys in it in the toilets!

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  2. Excellent image of my younger days. This is where I first heard live music. Also shown are people dancing and smiling. Shops busy. So vibrant.
    When I return to Billingham, as often as I can, these are the things that I look for.
    But it’s not the same. Yes, anyone will talk to you. And I love the contact, freely given by the current Billingham folk. But the buildings have been destroyed by a town planning decree which was not necessary and can’t be reversed.
    Greetings from Nova.

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  3. The “Jonny Taylor five”…….. until very recently a friend of ours John Taylor used to perform in the George & Dragon in Yarm….. could it be the same?

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  4. The group on stage was Del and the Falcons not as Bruce says Johnny Taylor Five. I was there that day, as in the photo the place was heaving and at the end the boys were mobbed, quite a scary experience.
    Members of the group were
    Merv Jones on drums
    Peter Embleton vocalist
    Paul Butler lead guitarist
    Malcolm Willis bass guitarist
    Paul Clasper rhythm guitarist

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    • Billingham is thought to have been founded by a group of Anglo-Saxon Germanic tribes people known as Billa’s people, which is where the name Billingham may have originated from. During the 1914 First World War, Billingham was chosen to be the site of new chemical works for the manufacture of explosives, the new plant was completed after the war had ended, so, the Brunner Mond Company took over the site, and converted it to manufacture fertilisers. In December 1926, Brunner Mond merged with three other chemical companies to form Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), who took control of the plant. ICI no longer operates in Billingham, having sold many of its businesses in the 1990s, creating a downward slide in the town’s fortunes.
      Between 1923 and 1968, Billingham had its own urban district council which built, among other things, the Billingham Forum, Kennedy Gardens, and Billingham Golf Club. It was absorbed into the County Borough of Teesside in 1968. In 1974 Teesside County Borough Council was abolished being replaced by the County of Cleveland which had four districts, Hartlepool, Langbaurgh, Middlesbrough and Stockton on Tees. Billingham was then part of Stockton on Tees. In 1996 Cleveland County Council was abolished with Billingham being part of a new single council for Stockton and Billingham. The population in 1961 was 32139, recorded as 99% white, a figure far below the national average.
      Billingham is home to several religious communities, the largest of which is the Church of England, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England parish covers all of Billingham, the Clarence’s, Cowpen Bewley, Newton Bewley, and Wolviston. The Roman Catholic community is served by three parishes, Regular RC mass attendance in the town is around 756, The ‘other; Christian community is served by two Methodist churches, one Baptist church, and a Pentecostal Church. There is also a Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), and a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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  5. I remember Finlays well, and the record booths. Records were relatively expensive, even 45’s, so there was little likely hood of me buying records on a regular basis, until I had acquired a Saturday job, in 1963, whilst attending college. Was there a coffee bar inside?, or perhaps I’m thinking of the coffee bar further down, which became the haunt of motor bikers, some years before the Mods and Rockers of the mid sixties, came on the scene.

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  6. I remember the “brave new world” of the new shopping centre being with its helter-skelter ramp and two-storey car park. A great sense of anticipation and so glad when it opened! I grew up in Carlton but we did go to Billingham quite a bit, and later on I worked in ICI’s R&D labs there.

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