Shopping before the supermarkets

Hudson Street at Tyne Dock. Picture courtesy of Bill Clavery.
Hudson Street at Tyne Dock. Picture courtesy of Bill Clavery.

Today Olive Pinkney concludes her visit to the past, when corner shops were everywhere – selling everything imaginable.

She starts her look back at Tyne Dock by taking us past the fish shop, on Lord Nelson Street, and on to Jackson’s the butchers.

“A contrast of smells hit you as you went in; blood and sawdust.

“Hanging from the ceiling were large joints of beef, pork and lamb, alongside little furry rabbits.

“In the window, yards of sausages lay in a coil like an oversized snake.

“Mr Jackson had a machine where he put the meat in one end and sausages came out the other.

“Mam would send me for a rabbit, but I would keep my head down so I couldn’t see him skin it.

“Chicken was only sold at Christmas because it was too expensive to buy on a regular basis. Nothing was pre-packed.”

Olive recalls that in the middle of Napier Street was Lonsdale’s, another general dealers.

“Mrs Lonsdale lived with her family at the back of the shop.

“She sold any thing and everything you could think of.

“I remember clothes hanging from coat hangers all around the shop, balls, buckets and spades. It was like Aladdin’s cave to us children. The shop was still trading until the 1960s when demolition occurred.”

In nearby Hudson Street there was Bullock’s the butchers and Walker’s the chemist.

“Walking into the chemist, the first thing that hit you was the lovely coloured glass bottles standing on a shelf behind the counter.

“They were huge. I also recall the rows of ornate apothecary drawers with Latin writing on the front of them.

“My friend Pat worked at Walker’s from 1952.

“Remember, supermarkets were not on the scene yet, and so the chemist sold toiletries, perfume and talc as well as pain killers and medicine – and, of course, handled prescriptions.”

Talking of which, Dr Harrison’s surgery and home residence was also on Hudson Street.

“It was a large Victorian house with a housekeeper called Mrs Sandberg, who brought her family up there.

“Opposite Walker’s, on the other side of Hudson Street, was Emma’s.

“From a large wooden hut, she sold comics, books and newspapers, catching the trade from dockers on their way to Tyne Dock.

“I would think she would have been in her 40s or 50s. Her sister worked with her.”

Further down Hudson Street, towards the dock and on the right-hand side was the post office.

“It was run by Mr and Mrs Porteous.

“Carrying on down Hudson Street, and round the corner onto Slake Terrace, you were met with a lot of boarded up shops, but among them was Hanlon’s general dealers and Raine’s greengrocers.

“At Easter, Mr Raine provided our Sunday school with oranges which we received when we returned from our Good Friday march.

“Going back to Lord Nelson Street, on the corner of Frost Street was Jimmy Joseph’s general dealers.

“There were shops in Bede Street, Dock Street, Whitehead Street and at the top of Hudson Street. So many of them in such a small area.”

One of the shop owners was Tommy Jackson who had a couple of newsagents, , one being at the top of Stoddard Street.

“He actually started off on the front stairs of his flat in Bede Street, selling comics and books.

“You could take your old comics to him (which I did) and he would give you half the value of them. Eventually he moved to a small corner shops, and then on to a bigger premises.

“At the time, the area was pretty run down. The busy docks were the only industry in the area. I know my Dad was more out of work than in. With ever-growing families, there was overcrowding and so flats became empty as people were moved out into larger council houses.

“I look back with affection on the childhood I spent living in Tyne Dock.

“There were no pen pushers living there, only miners, dockers and railway workers. It was noisy, dirty and run-down, but I loved living there because I felt safe.

“It was like one big family. “These communities, dotted around the town, are long gone and we will never see the likes of them again, but just for a while it is nice to look back and immerse yourself in memories from the past.”

l Olive’s recollections are featured in the latest volume of The Streets of South Shields, which is produced by the Workers’ Education Association.

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 course, contact Janet Wylie on (0191) 4554830, 07954413542 or email her on

l Please let me have your memories of corner shops that you remember.