When Shields had 800 butchers

Bullock's butchers.
Bullock's butchers.

The recent series of articles by Olive Pinkney about corner shops in Tyne Dock, South Shields, prompted former butcher Kenneth Bullock to get in touch.

He comes from a family of “shipping butchers” who traded in that area (name-checked in one of the articles), and remembers many of the businesses mentioned by Olive in Time Of Our Lives (including his dad’s butcher’s shop and Walker’s the chemist).

Today, he shares his memories of those times.

“I used to deliver meat to ships that came into Tyne Dock,” remembers Kenneth.

“We delivered meat as far as Cleadon Village.

“My grandad, Cuthbert Bullock, was a butcher for 50 years.

“He had a tiny little shop, in Redhead Avenue.

“He used to buy a beast (a bullock) in Newcastle and then walk it back to Shields, and kill it outside the shop.

“My dad, George, served his time as a butcher with my grandad.

“He then got his own shop in Hudson Street.

“I served my time at that shop.

“Walker’s the chemist was opposite the doctors’ surgery and my father’s shop was opposite Emma Pearson’s newsagent’s shop.

“It was a very busy little shop.

“Emma used to take a jug of tea over to my dad’s shop every morning.”

The butcher’s in Hudson Street was open from 8am to 5pm, with half day closing on Wednesday and Saturday.

On a Sunday, Kenneth and his dad would travel to North Tyneside, to places like Bellingham, where they would buy eggs and rabbits from the local farmers.

“We used to buy about 100 rabbits a week for the shop that the farmers used to catch and sell.”

A rabbit, in those days (some 60 years ago) cost about 1s and 2d.

“I was there (Hudson Street) until I was 19 when I joined the RAF in 1954.”

George Bullock died while Kenneth, who was initially stationed in Scotland, was still in the air force.

After serving his final year in the RAF at West Hartlepool, Kenneth returned to Shields, and the butchering trade.

But it soon became clear that as a result of house and business demolition around about, the Hudson Street shop would not be viable for very long.

“Everything was being pulled down, and there was no business left for me.”

As a result, Kenneth joined the Hebburn and Jarrow Co-op as a butcher.

He was there for a year, before making quite a dramatic career change, joining Cigarette Components, where he worked for 22 years – until he was made redundant.

It was then, 34 years ago, that he returned to his original trade, and opened a butcher’s shop in Stanhope Road.

During his thirteen and a half years there, Kenneth sold both beef and pork as well as sausages, made from a “secret” family recipe.

But he was particularly well known for making leek puddings, made with suet.

“I used to sell thousands of them every week,” says Kenneth.

“I also used to sell a lot of spotted dick,” adds the 81-year-old.

During his grandad’s times, there were 839 butchers in South Shields, today, says Kenneth, there are just three such privately-owned businesses.

What are your memories of going to the butchers or the fishmongers during years gone by? Nothing pre-packed in those days.