When the lights went out and shops were forced to close - memories of South Shields during the 1970s crisis

South Tyneside had a winter to remember almost 50 years ago – but it had nothing to do with a white Christmas.

And as the threat of blackouts return once more this year, we look back to the days when shops shut in the week before December 25 and we got used to three hours in the dark each evening.

It was back in the early 1970s when Britain was in crisis.

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The country was struggling with rising inflation triggered by the oil crisis and talk of power cuts to help conserve energy supplies were rife.

How the Gazette reported the power cuts in 1973.

In South Tyneside, sales of candles rocketed as winter and Christmas approached in 1973 and Derby Street baths, Bolingbroke Hall and South Shields Central Library all shut.

Because of government restrictions, Binns in South Shields announced it would be closed in the week before Christmas unless alternative lighting could be found, while F W Woolworths, in King Street, said only the second floor would be open for the sale of food.

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Woods in Ocean Road temporarily closed its doors on December 19 because of the power crisis but K.Lee in Fowler Street declared it would be doing its best to stay open.

As a result of restrictions on street lighting, most of the lights on the town’s John Reid Road, except at pedestrian crossings, were disconnected.

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Bolingbroke Hall was one of the venues which had to close during the power crisis.

A three-day working week was introduced to cut electricity consumption as coal stocks at power stations dropped seriously low.

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And the North-Eastern Electricity Board warned South Tynesiders to expect three-hour-a-day power black-outs.

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Mercantile Dry Dock in Jarrow managed to beat the power black-outs by harnessing the generators of two ships at the yard to provide essential lighting.

Binns in South Shields was affected by the power cuts.
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Nine scenes to remind you of life in South Tyneside in 1972 as we step 50 years ...

Who remembers the power cuts of the 1970s and how did you pass the time to get through them?

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Do you remember the Christmas when we cope during early evenings of darkness?

Get in touch and tell us more by emailing [email protected]

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The Derby Street baths were among the buildings to close during the 70s blackouts.
An excerpt from the schedule of cuts for South Tyneside.
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Working by candlelight during the power cuts.