South Shields always had such special shops

HIGH CLASS ... Miller & Co grocers, latterly Riddick's shoe shop.
HIGH CLASS ... Miller & Co grocers, latterly Riddick's shoe shop.

NO ONE who visits Shields town centre can be unaware that it is going through painful change.

I remain optimistic that it will pull through. We just have to stay on its side, as it always has on ours.

The 365 redevelopment plans have yet to win me over.

I don’t know, for instance, why another supermarket is pencilled in, when all the trends indicate that people are in flight from the big grocery retailers and are returning to high street independents.

I also feel sorry for the businesses in and around Garden Lane, Charlotte Street etc, which face being banished to Simonside industrial estate (fine to reach if you’ve a car, not so great if you haven’t).

And I worry about what buildings will be lost.

Some have been singled out for preservation, I gather, including the one here.

You’ll recognise this as what was latterly Riddick’s shoe shop, on the corner of Fowler Street and Keppel Street.

But in its early days it was Miller & Co, grocers – very high class ones, too.

This is from an advertisement in which it was promoting English and Continental produce, including French and Italian goods.

It also delivered daily, by van, to your home.

Much later, the store was Hinton’s (where I can remember encountering yoghurt for the very first time, bizarrely enough)

The picture is from a little brochure for Shields which has recently come my way, published in The Borough Guides series and dating, I would think, from the early years of last century.

In a way, it’s a little hymn to the town centre and the businesses of the era: Learmounts in King Street (now the carpet shop next to Lloyd’s Bank) who were book dealers but also, weirdly, sold their own ‘Learmount’s Neuralgic,’ for toothache and nervous ailments; also Bain and Co, opticians, whose shop frontage was adorned with a huge pair of spectacles over the sign. I’d love to have seen that.

And there was Grant’s the jewellers: how sad was the recent news of the death of Bill Grant, so warmly remembered from the family’s old shop, on the corner of King Street and Waterloo Vale, with its beautiful, elegant interior, hardly changed, you could imagine, since its opening in Victorian times.

Now we find ourselves in uncharted waters – treading water, it sometimes feels like, while the town centre is redrawn.