The decade that changed Shields

The Market Place, South Shields, in 1956.
The Market Place, South Shields, in 1956.

“The 1950s proved to be a period of great change in South Shields.”

So writes Eileen Burnett in her fascinating new book, South Shields in the 1950s, ten years that changed a town.

And in words and pictures, the local historian goes on to explain how the fortunes of the town and its people were so dramatically transformed during that dramatic decade.

It makes for a truly educational and entertaining read, and covers all aspects of local life, from childhood and housing, to transport and work.

As Eileen explains: “Residents were beginning to put their lives back together after the Second World War.

“New housing estates and factories were built, bringing increased prosperity to the area.

“The decade also brought rock ’n roll and late nights out on the town, allowing young people to experience the new nightclubs opening in the area.

“Now a time of nostalgia, it was a period when people began looking forwards to the future, not back to the horrors of war, to kick up their heels and have fun.”

Through her writing and a wealth of wonderful old photos, Eileen explores this significant period in the town’s history by taking us on a journey that will appeal to readers of all ages: people who lived through those transitional times as well as those who were too young to witness the changes taking place.

In the introduction to her 127-page paperback, which is published by Amberley Publishing, Eileen says: “Born just after the end of the Second World War, I can still remember what it was like to walk around parts of the town in the 1950s.”

And she uses those memories to great effect, as she details the way in which Shields was to grow and prosper after 1950 – which marked the centenary of the year in which the town was granted its Charter of Incorporation.

“The prefabs replaced many of the houses in the town destroyed in the 1940s and those the council had demolished, especially on what is now Woodbine Estate.

“The 1950s marked the end of an era for many parts of South Shields.

“The sense of community and togetherness was sometimes lost in the march towards modernisation of everyday life.

“Most people still used public transport to travel to work and make recreational trips to the parks and the seaside.

“Some children would play in the street, many of which still had gaslight even though electric street lighting was introduced into the marketplace and Dean Street on August 17, 1896.”

Many people will relate to what Eileen says as she goes on to reminisces about the introduction of new-fangled, domestic appliances which “made for a revolutionary kitchen for the modern housewife, saving hours of work”.

“Demands for housing and other developments began to reshape South Shields, with new roads and purpose-built flats being introduced for the first time on new housing estates,” adds Eileen, who lives in Shields, and is also the author of South Shields Pubs (also published by Amberley).

South Shields in the 1950s ten years that changed a town costs £12.99.

l What are your memories of Shields in the 1950s?