Did you know…

Marley Close, Stockton-on-Tees was a Former Intelligence HQ for the Royal Navy? This building has been described as the first radio station the Royal Navy had which was capable of intelligence gathering at the outbreak of World War One. It was based in Stockton and eventually became part of a network of sites feeding information to the military. The “Y Station” has been described as the first line of defence against Zeppelin raids.

A local historian described how staff slept in bunks on site. Radio masts were dotted around the building, which was powered by large batteries. The house was purchased from the Navy in the 1920s and has been a private home since then.

The “Y” service stations was a network of British intelligence collection sites established during the World War 1 and used again during the Second World War. The sites were operated by a range of agencies including the Army, Navy and RAF plus the Foreign Office (MI6 and MI5), the General Post Office an receiving stations ashore and afloat. There were more than 600 receiving sets in use at Y-stations during the Second World War.[2]
The “Y” stations tended to be of two types, for intercepting of the signals and for identifying where they were coming from. Sometimes both functions were operated at the same site, with the direction finding hut being a few hundred metres from the main interception building. The sites collected radio traffic which was then either analysed locally or if encrypted, passed for processing initially to the Admiralty Room 40 in London and during World War II to the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bob Wilson (Wiki primary source).

The Pinnacle, Billingham Green

This shot taken along the south side of Billingham Green shows St Cuthbert’s Church in the background and the three storey building known as ‘The Pinnacle’ by many people, it was also known as ‘Robson’s Folly’, its proper name was ‘Tower House’.

The story is that John ‘Tatie’ Robson wanted to extend his cottage along West Row but was refused permission, his response was to build upwards, this building is the result. In its later years it was the office of a solicitor, it was demolished in 1963. The funny thing is that I was born and brought up in Billingham and must have passed this building numerous times but I never ever noticed it.

Image and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

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.

Company hostel of The Power-Gas Corporation Limited, Yarm Road

I stayed in the house on the right side of the Church of the Nazarene in Stockton from August 1964 to July 1965 when I was employed by The Power-Gas Corporation as a trainee engineer after my graduation from the then Hong Kong Technical College (now known as Hong Kong Polytechnic University) with sponsorship from the Education Department of Hong Kong Government.

The house was the company hostel for overseas employees of Power-Gas. On my first day at Power-Gas, I was received by the Personnel Manager Mr F.A. King who was a very nice fellow. He told me that he had been to Hong Kong when he served in the Royal Navy and that he enjoyed Chinese Dim Sum very much. My training schedule in the company was arranged by Mr. King, which included 6 months in the design office, and 6 months in the fabrication workshop at South Works, followed by one year as an assistant resident engineer at the construction site of East Greenwich Gas Works near London. During the two years period with Power-Gas, I also completed an advanced course at the Middlesbrough Polytechnic which helped me to qualify for corporate membership of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers. I enjoyed the time with Power-Gas very much and still remember everything at Stockton and London.

Image and details courtesy of Kwok Wong.

43 Grove Street, Stockton

A (1940’s?) photograph of No.43 Grove Street, which is off Yarm Road near Northcote Street. This building is still standing and still looks pretty much the same.

The building to the right looks like a workshop, still there and currently for car repairs, and can we see the letter “T” and maybe the “Y” of “TYRES” in this photograph? Behind and to the left is the boundary wall and a wing of The Stockton & Thornaby Hospital. It looks like No.43 was a pub/shop/off licence, with the original doorway being cut into the corner of the building.

Older trade directories show: 1890 – George Raw, beer seller, 1914 – William E. Shaw, beer retailer. Now, if it was a pub? did it have a name?

Photograph and details courtesy of Jonathan May.