Dickie Smiths, Billingham Green

In the 1950s and 1960s “Dickie Smiths” newsagent shop was known by practically every person living in Billingham.

I was brought up on the Junction Estate on the north side of the railway but my Mother paid a weekly visit to the Co-op on Belasis Avenue for the shopping, this was because we were registered there for our food that was still on ration, she continued doing that even when the rationing came to an end, when the new town centre started to come on line she switched to Broughs, this will have been in the late 1950s, during our visits to the Co-op we passed Dickie Smiths, I had a year at Billingham South Modern School and visited either Dickie Smiths on the Green or Jack Bruces in Mill lane for my sweets.

During those times there were quite a few newsagents in Billingham but “Dickie Smiths” was probably the best known, its location on the Green close to St Cuthberts Church, the Methodist Central Hall, the main Co-op and the Picture House on Belasis Avenue as well as three pubs and a social club meant there were always people in the area.

The whole area was thriving, there were more shops close by in Mill Lane and Station Road as well as on the North and South sides of the Green.

The catchment area for newspaper deliveries was very large, stretching from the Railway Station in the North to the Green in the South, I knew about half a dozen of my peers who delivered newspapers for “Dickie Smiths”.

The road outside of the shop was known as West Row, since renamed West Road, there was also a North Row and an East Row, the latter housing the brewery, I believe the buildings on the South side were just known as The Green, they backed on to a row of very old cottages known as South View , these were built long before ICI appeared so they had an uninterrupted view down to the River Tees.

At the far end of the shops was the Half Moon Cafe, we had a couple of family get togethers in the room above the cafe.

The two bus shelters have since been replaced by a single shelter and been moved nearer to the church lych gate, I don’t know why there were two bus shelters outside this parade of shops, during the 1960s there were two operators stopping at the Green, United and Durham District Services, United went from Hartlepool to Middlesbrough and DDS from Sedgefield to Stockton, most of the other services ran along Belasis Avenue.

I think this photo is from the mid 1960s, the cigarettes being advertised are from that period, the YZ chewing gum machine is also typical of that time as is the weighing machine on the pavement, does anybody else remember trying to weigh a bunch of mates for a single penny?, the first would get on and put the penny in, the next would put his foot on the platform and press down while the first got off, this continued until we had all been weighed, when the last one stepped of the scales would lock until another penny was put in.

Kids never miss a trick do they?.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

18 thoughts on “Dickie Smiths, Billingham Green

  1. Great memories of this area and this shop in particular.
    I remember buying reduced price 7” singles that regularly came into the shop when the jukebox from The Half Moon Cafe was updated.
    I’ve still got the copy of “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes I bought there; I just don’t have a centre bit with the right size hole in to play it any more!!!

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  2. Hi Bruce – that is a great photograph! My grandfather, Richard Knox, owned Knoxes and The Brew Shop on Station Road in the 1970s and I am desperately trying to find a photo of the store front from back then – do you have any ideas on where I could find such a photo? I live in the U.S. now and rarely make it back to the north of England 😦
    Thank you, Diane (Davis)

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    • hi, there is a Facebook group called `Billingham Pictures` hundreds of old photos from Billingham, Wolviston, Haverton Hill etc, should take a look, you might strike lucky (there’s over a thousand members)

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    • Hi Diane

      Most of my photos of Billingham pre date the 1970s, I started taking photos about 65 years ago and I still have most of my negatives, photography was an expensive hobby in those days so shot selection was important.

      I did a lot of travelling to take photos so Billingham was neglected as I would be in places such as Scarborough and Whitby and all of the coastal villages in the area, Northumberland, Scotland, Cumbria, The Dales and North York Moors and the Peak District were well documented in my photos, but, as is usually the case familiarity breeds contempt and my home town was ignored.

      A few years ago I put together a photo album of my school years and I made a huge number of contacts in the process many of whom supplied me with photos, I am still in touch with many of these people and it is they that send me many of the photos I post on PSA.

      I will certainly ask around to see if anybody has a photo such as the one you are looking for, but there are no guarantees.

      Was your Grandfather a Billingham lad and if so was he in any way related to Harvey Knox who lived in Cotswold Crescent.

      Bruce

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  3. There use to be 2 bus stops close together at Norton too on the main road opposite the TA place. One was used by Cleveland Transit and presumably Stockton Corporation prior to that but that’s before my travels and the other by United. In NBC times the 224/7,270/1 which went to Billingham and Hartlepool used the United stop. I think that some services to places like Sedgefield and Sunderland might have stopped there too although I never caught them. The Sunderland on was probably joint between United and Northern as United and Northern ran too many joint services to count.

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  4. Thank you Bruce for the story and the photo, I loved the classic bus shelters. You mentioned Durham District Services. This reminded me of a schoolboy romance with a farmer’s daughter who lived near Sedgefield. I used DDS (the D4 I think) for the journey even though the last bus was at 8.45pm. I sometimes used to cycle and loved the trip home in the dark to Wolviston and on to Stockton. I moved to to London in 1963 but my older brother lived the rest of his life in Billingham and regularly did his shopping in the new shopping centre. I am now retired and live in Epsom in Surrey.

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    • It must of been near Wingate on the old A19 to Wolviston, a lot of the X-class were from the Sedgefield & Fishburn area, Dot Hall was a farmers daughter.

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  5. Further to my earlier post, does anybody remember Benny Ford the barber, kids were sat on a board across the arms of the chair while Benny wold chat to the other older customers while cutting the kids hair, how he never cut an ear off still amazes me to this day, Benny was one of life’s great characters.

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    • Hello

      If you look at my posting of “Billingham Green As I Remember It” you will see a comment by one of my junior school friends Ian Dalrymple.

      He tells a little tale about Ben Ford.

      If you put Coleman into the search box you will find all of my postings.

      I had my haircut at Treloar and Horne on Station Road, it is still a hairdressers to this day, so I didn’t suffer at the hands of Ben Ford.

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    • Oh Boy do I remember Benny Ford. When you got too old to sit on the board you stood behind the chair with your hands on the chairback. When he wanted you to turn your head to the left he would slap you on the right side carrying his conversation on with somebody he knew. He put me off hairdressers for 40 odd years.

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  6. Being a Billingham lad born in the late 40’s I knew Dickie Smiths well, I too went to Billingham South School until my final year when I went to Faraday Hall, it’s amazing Faraday has long been demolished but Billingham South remains.
    The area of Dickie Smiths was a thriving community until the new town square opened, I used to go for mothers shopping every Saturday along Station Road and then onto Dixons farm for eggs..
    My mother one told me that she went out with Dickie Smith for a while and once jokingly said if she had married him we could have been rich, as it was she married my dad who was always employed around the Anhydrite Mine in I.C.I

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  7. I remember buying my sweeties at Dickie Smith. Still on rationing we’d get 2 oz.. in a little cone-shaped or 4 oz. If we were lucky.

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  8. Great photo! Very nostalgic. Dicky Smith was a respected member of the community of Billingham and was a JP. I remember him signing my parents’ passport application in 1970.

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  9. Most days (September 1953 – October 1955), I walked from Stokesley Crescent to the bottom of Central Avenue to catch the United service bus (No 53?) to Darlington, where I attended St Mary’s Grammar School. One day a week, however, I set out earlier and walked on to Billingham Green and bought The Junior Mirror and The Junior Express at Dickie Smith’s newsagents to read on the bus. I haven’t seen any reference to these junior newspapers for decades (does anyone remember them and exactly how long they were available?).
    Joe Stephenson

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  10. When I was on C shift 5 Urea plant in the early 1970’s it was usual on a morning shift to arrange for one of the lorry drivers to give one of the shift an unofficial lift up to the Green for Bacon sarnies from the cafe on the same block as Dickie Smiths.

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