Time to take another dip into the wonderfully informative booklet series, The Streets of South Shields.
In Volume Five of the series, compiled by the Workers’ Education Association, the authors concentrate on Tyne Dock.
Today Andrew Grant shines a light on the Gazette’s old office that used to play such a vital role in that part of town.
“The South Shields Gazette was founded in 1849,” reveals Andrew.
“It is England’s oldest local newspaper, and we must not lose sight of the respect and admiration this prestigious achievement deserves. Up until recently the main Gazette premises presided in Chapter Row.
“For many years the full responsibility for the printing and production of the Gazette was carried out at these offices.
“However, in 2014 they took up residence in Oak Terrace (Beach Road).
“Such was the importance and popularity of our local paper, there was a branch office at Tyne Dock, on Hudson Street, to serve the west end of our town and the community of East Jarrow.
“At the back of the office, up a steep hill which was known as No 1 Bank, are railway lines which ran over Tyne Dock Arches to the staithes.”
Andrew explains that the office was situated near the bottom of Hudson Street, opposite Bede Street and Dock Street.
“Its presence was another pointer to remind us how busy and important Tyne Dock really was,” says Andrew.
“I am told by an acquaintance of mine that the interior of the branch office was rather splendid, with lots of wood panelling. It could be quite intimidating, where a person felt obliged to speak in hushed tones.
“This particular lady went on to say she particularly enjoyed looking at wedding photos of local couples which were displayed in the windows of the office, and was further pleased when she and her husband became one of these wedded couples.
“Fortunately the building where the Gazette branch operated has stood the test of time, and is still used as business premises to this day.
“Its distinctive appearance is not in keeping with surrounding properties. In the 1950s Hudson Street was laced with old type terraced housing, shops and pubs.
“Olive Pinkney, a member of our group, shared her memories regarding the use of the Tyne Dock branch office with me.
“She told me, ‘In the late 40s, my friend, John Forster, sometimes worked in his dad’s newsagents shop in Taylor Street.
“‘He remembers customers would come in the shop with adverts and birth or death notices, to be placed in the Gazette.
“‘They had a scale which worked out the cost of any advert, and they would pay at the shop.
“‘John would then take their advert, ride over to the sub-office in Hudson Street on his bike, and hand it in.
“‘A few times a week, a van from the Gazette’s main office would come to collect these adverts. He told me that this sub-office covered all Tyne Dock and High Shields.
“‘We have to remember there weren’t many people who had telephones back then.’
“Olive’s memories helped to bring the branch office alive for me, as did further memories which came from Margaret Binnie.
“Margaret’s father, James McMurdock (known as Mac), was manager of the Tyne Dock Branch Office for many years. He worked there with a Miss Gladys Garbut whose sister was the first female Police Sergeant in the area.
“On the back of the Gazette there was a blank area at the top, and Mac used to put in the stop press news at the Tyne Dock branch before handing the newspapers out to the paper lads.
“When the Tyne Dock branch closed down, Mac was sent to take over the Jarrow branch were he worked for many years with a Mrs Simpson. In his latter years Mac worked in the main branch of the Gazette in the despatch department until his retirement in March 1985.”
l The Streets of South Shields group meets on a Wednesday, between 10am and noon, at the Central Library.
For more details about the group and the new Life Story courses, please contact Janet Wylie on (0191) 4554830, 07954413542 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org