Mill Lane Shops, Billingham

Mill Lane in Billingham was one of a number of shopping areas thatexisted before the opening of the new Town Centre in the 1950s. The shops themselves are still there and in use, barely changed in the intervening years.

I have a number of family connections with Mill Lane, an Aunt who worked in Jack Bruce’s newsagent for over 40 years, my uncle David Leek had a DIY shop for many years in Mill Lane, David is now retired but Leeks DIY is still in existence, a Brother-in-Law had a motorcycle shop in Mill Lane and my Father worked in the shop.

At the far end of the road can be seen the Picture House on the left and the Co-op on Belasis Avenue to the right, behind the Co-op can be seen the brewery chimney, there was a small park directly across the road from the Co-op where all the kids streaming out of the Saturday Matinee gathered to re-enact the films they had just seen, we could be Hop-along
Cassidy or Superman or Brick Bradford or one of numerous other characters, brilliant times.

I have a marvellous memory of one of those days, my great friend Brian Storey and I had seen seen a cowboy film at the matinee, it was a standard tale about warring between the cowboys and what we then called Indians, after the usual murder and mayhem there was a scene at the end where the enemies became friends and became blood brothers by cutting
their wrists and holding them together and declaring that they would remain friends for ever.

Brian said we should become blood brothers and I thought it was a great idea, silly nine year old’s we might have been but stupid we weren’t, we wandered down to Charltons Pond, known to us as Cowpen Lake, and pricked our fingers on a Hawthorn bush and pressed them together and swore our oath, it seemed to work alright as Brian and I remained firm friends for the next sixty five years.

I am sure there must be many such stories in the memories of so many people, before Brian’s passing we had both written our remembrances of our formative years and we both remembered this story vividly.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

The Globe

I made my first post-restoration visit to The Globe this evening for “An Evening with photographer Ian Wright” the well known Northern Echo and Evening Dispatch photographer whose photos of up and coming popular beat combos in the early 1960’s put the then Globe Theatre on the musical map!
Hosted by, I think, Pam Royle and also featuring Ray Laidlaw the Lindisfarne drummer, and last group to play the Globe before it became a cinema and then bingo hall. The evening was an excellent trip back in time with of course some brilliant black and white photographs from the man himself .
Having been on several ‘hard hat tours’ of the Globe during its extended restoration, nearly typed expensive there, I was impressed by what I saw from the circle seats and the stunning art-deco paint schemes and attention to detail in the finish of the building and this evening was a free event too so too good to miss ! With thanks to Sophie Owens of SBC for details of the gig which did appear to be well supported especially by people who could say “I was there!”.

Photographs and details courtesy of David Thompson.

William IV, Stockton High Street

A recent comment by Roy Buchanan (posted in ‘The Old Order Changeth’) about the loss of the buildings in the High Street, prompted me to post this image. The William IV was one of my favourite buildings in that part of the High Street, it was built during the reign of William IV 1830-1837. William IV was the younger brother of George IV who died childless, William had many children but all illegitimate, he was succeeded by his niece Victoria. He was known as the “Sailor King”. The architecture is so very different from the Georgian style that came before this and the Victorian style that followed it. The arched window is the most prominent feature but the thing I remember most is the glass top panel in the entrance door, it had a beautiful engraved image that caught the light at certain times, unfortunately I can’t remember what the image portrayed, I am hoping that somebody will know what it was. The door was recessed and I think there were two steps up to it.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

‘The Old Order Changeth’

These two shots show the South East section of the High Street between Finkle Street and Castlegate, the first shot is of the old part that was demolished in the late 1960s, some of the shops have their windows whitewashed in readiness.

The second shot is of the replacement Castlegate Centre under construction. I understand that the Castlegate Centre is its self to be demolished.

I am interested in architecture and there were some very interesting frontages amongst the old buildings, the Castlegate Centre is very much of its time, its main saving grace was the use of bricks for the main frontage, this softens the more intrusive concrete.

One of the things I liked about the old style of shops were the window displays, nowadays there are large glass fronts mainly plastered with posters and notices, shops inside of malls have glass fronts even though there is no natural light outside, the tradition of having shop windows is alive and well but the use as display areas has just about disappeared.

Images and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

Thornaby Battle Of Britain Memorial Service, Sunday 12 September 2021

Thornaby Town Council held their first post-Covid Battle Of Britain Memorial Service at the Airmans Statue on Thornaby Road on Sunday, 12 September.
The service was led by Padre Robert Desics from St Marks the Evangelist and St Peter ad Vincula Churches and was attended by both the Town Mayor Councillor Steve Walmsley and his wife Councillor Sylvia Walmsley , Leader of the Thornaby Independents Association. Master Aircrewman Ian McCabe from RAF Leeming and himself a former Stockton air cadet represented the Stockton & Thornaby Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association and the Standards were carried by Roy Smith and Ian Hindmarsh.
Following the service the congregation moved to Thornaby Cemetery were local schoolchildren placed Remembrance Crosses on the graves of the fallen within the War Graves Plot.

Photographs and details courtesy of David Thompson.