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.

Umpleby Farm

This is a picture of one of the farms in the area owned by the Umpleby family. They also owned Primrose Hill which I know is no longer and another farm which I don’t know the name of, maybe California farm which is still there today.

Image and details courtesy of Jacqui Lewis.

The Globe Picture House c1900

This photograph of the first Globe in Stockton shows it to be a cinema, there were a number of theatres in Stockton around the turn of the 19th/20th century, The Empire, The Grand/Plaza, The Theatre Royal come to mind, cinemas were just starting to be opened at this time. The recent completion of the later Art Deco Globe renovation prompted me to post this photograph.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

Kulaz Barbers

This is a photograph of Kulaz barbers at 6 Silver Street.  I would love to know the history of this building with its unusual design and the fact that it has two emblems situated on both sides where the barber signs are.  One is engraved 1835 and the other 1905.  Can anyone help?

Photograph and details courtesy of Gill Burns.

Congregational Church

The Stockton Northern Gateway Townscape Heritage project is a five-year scheme joint funded by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It aims to improve the historic environment at the northern end of Stockton High Street from Regent Street up Norton Road to Queen Street, focusing on a series of restoration projects of identified historic buildings and works to the surrounding area. It builds on improvements that have already been made to the historic environment of Stockton Town Centre through Stockton Heritage in Partnership (SHiP) and Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) projects. The work will also complement the current Stockton Globe restoration project, due to be completed this year.

Part of the initiative will involve the re-landscaping of Tennant Square on Norton Road at the northern end of the project area. This small urban pocket park marks the site of the once imposing Congregational Church and so before the landscaping can be carried out, an excavation of the site will be undertaken by Tees Archaeology working alongside local volunteers

We would love to know if any photos exist of its interior, perhaps taken during a wedding or christening. Do you have memories of trips or events? Did you watch its demolition and did you take any final images? What happened to the internal fittings and furniture? Please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. If you have any information that you would like to share or are interested in the excavation project of Tennant Square, please contact Fiona Riley, Townscape Heritage Project Officer, or 01642 524551. It would be great to think that the excavation reveals some small detail of its role as the heart of a vibrant and democratic church community.

Image courtesy of Teesside Archives.

The Theatre Royal and Plaza

A recent comment on the Theatre Royal in Yarm Lane led me to older comments about the similarity of the building to the Plaza Cinema:

One of the images shows the Theatre Royal after it was damaged by fire in 1906, the interested bystanders appear to be standing in front of The Garrick, in the background is the Holy Trinity School.

The other image is of the Plaza Cinema in Bishop Street, it must have been a theatre originally as the box arrangement stuck on the front of the building was built to house the projectors when it was converted, this feature was fairly common on quite a few old theatres, most of which have long since disappeared. After the fire at the Theatre Royal it was replaced by a roller skating rink which later became that well known venue The Maison De Danse.
On one of my earlier postings I listed the cinemas I had visited in Stockton over the years, I didn’t mention the Plaza as I didn’t know it existed, never having been there, I was pleased when this photo was sent to me, it came with another shot from the other end of Bishop Street with the Grand in the foreground and the Plaza in the background.

Images and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

Royal Rink, Yarm Lane, Stockton

The Royal Rink (roller skating) was built on the site of the Theatre Royal, and later became the Maison De Danse (No.21 Yarm Lane). This in turn became Riley’s Snooker & Pool Bar, The Players Lounge and most recently a bar called Room 21. Was the rink converted into the Masion or was it rebuilt? Did the Maison look anything like this on the inside? with the curved roof being quite distinctive.

Image and details courtesy of Jonathan May.