Display of South Shields’ past drew the crowds

Paul and Maureen Thompson with local photographer Bill Clavery at the display.
Paul and Maureen Thompson with local photographer Bill Clavery at the display.

As mentioned recently, local history group the Streets of South Shields held a farewell display in town.

The group, which is a Workers’ Educational Association project, held the display, featuring stalls made-up of photos and memories covering a wide range of subjects rooted in South Shields’ past, at St Hilda’s Church.

And the woman behind the group, Janet Wylie, hailed the event as a resounding success, with lots of people (including a couple from Cumbria) keen on finding out about the likes of Wright’s Biscuits, the Old Cellar Club, the Town Hall Garage and Wiggs music shop.

Janet got in touch to say: “The exhibition was a complete success.

“The minute the doors opened, the people arrived and they kept on coming.

“After a hugely successful Saturday we thought Monday would be quiet, but no, a number of people attended both days.

“One couple came from Carlisle especially to attend.”

Janet said the exhibition not only brought people together but also created a great deal of interaction between colleagues who had worked at the same places.

“It wasn’t just a case of people going around looking at a set of photos,” explained Janet. “It was people getting involved and telling their stories.

“The place was buzzing.”

Janet said the Wright’s biscuit stand was swamped, with “the girls dressed up in their garb doing a great job chatting away to everyone and joking on”.

She added: “St Hilda’s was a great venue because not only were people interested in the exhibition, but they could also view the church, some for the first time.”

However, for one visitor, it was a very much a nostalgic return.

“On visitor, Alan Aspin, told me that he was christened at St Hilda’s – 88 years ago,” added Janet, who said the display generated a real treasure-trove of stories.

“A bank manager from Martins bank (which later became Barclays) had some fascinating memories which I wrote down, and they will be included in any future exhibitions.

“He worked at Martins bank in Boldon Lane and Stanhope Road, just over the road from Wright’s. He worked there from 1963 to 1971, and told me that Martins did all the banking for Wright’s.

“He said that every Tuesday at 10.30am he would go over to Wright’s to discuss the company’s finances. He would be given a cup of coffee and a Craven A cigarette at each visit.

“He was also allowed to fill up his car from the private petrol pump in the factory’s grounds, which he got at cost, while his wife looked forward to the food hamper he received from the firm every Christmas.

“Evelyn Brundle (nee McNamee) brought in some fascinating memorabilia from Wright’s.

“One was a working recipe book from the bake house where her father worked.

“She has kindly donated the book to the Wright’s stand and also allowed me to copy other memorabilia.

“Evelyn worked in the office while her mother also worked at Wright’s, which was where she met Evelyn’s father. Evelyn’s mother wrote a list of the people who had worked and married there – brilliant.

“And the stories went on and on, I can’t tell you the level of interest, you had to be there!”