From an ash toilet slum to a luxury new home in South Shields

A copy of the invoice.
A copy of the invoice.

Quite a long time ago, reader Stephen Gray kindly sent me a number of items and associated words relating to his and his family’s times in South Shields.

Unfortunately, the package was placed in a drawer (no names mentioned) and has only just re-emerged.

Memory lane  front covers  Home ownership

Memory lane front covers Home ownership

So apologies to Stephen. Anyway, I’m sure you will find his letter interesting, so over to you Stephen.

“I enclose a few items which may be of interest to readers of your column,” says Stephen.

“The first is an invoice for conveyancing the property 14/16 Robertson Street, South Shields, dated November 19, 1952.

“The work was done by the well known firm of George Scott & Son.

“The buyer was my grandfather Henry Gray, trawler mate sailing from North Shields. During wartime the family moved to Frosterly in Weardale to escape the Shields bombing.

“Henry found work in Wolsingham steelworks, working 12-hour shifts and walking three miles to and from work.

“Their rented cottage might be described as ‘basic’ having no electricity, inside water supply or even a flushing outside toilet.

“The toilet was a shared ash closet and neighbours took it in turns to empty it onto the fields.

“Coming back to Shields in 1952 was luxury indeed.

“Around 1970, Robertson Street was demolished in the slum clearance programme.

“My late father, Henry Rowland Gray, found work in the Weardale limestone quarries, graduating to rock drilling and shot firing.

“The pneumatic drill weighed 96 pounds and he drilled holes up to eight feet into hard limestone.

“On his return to Tyneside, he continued as driller and shot firer at ‘The Crusher’ in Jarrow, mountain of slag from Palmer’s blast furnaces, which was found to be a good road building material in the 1960s. The ‘Crusher’ is now a public park.

“Some years ago the Gazette published an article about the slag fallers of Jarrow. I wonder if you still have it in your archives and if it can be published again?”

Included in the package of “curios” supplied by Stephen are a number of booklets, the covers of which are included here.

“There is a Burrows Guide map of South Shields, published with the approval of South Shields Corporation, dating it before 1974,” adds Stephen. “Robertson Street is shown with many others now long gone.

“Also included is a home ownership handbook from the South Shields Commercial Permanent Building Society has some interesting advertising, including the well known builders, joiners and funeral directors Bell and Matthews.

“Finally there are two programmes from my young life, as a member, first of the Marine and Technical College Cine Club, and later the South Shields Amateur Cinematographers Society.

“In the 1970s, and 1980s film-making on super eight film was still a popular activity.”