Sad Streets

I noticed yesterday that an old post of mine about my childhood in Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne, was attracting some interest. It’s one of the interesting things about running a blog that, quite often, an old post you thought was dead seems to get someone’s attention who sends it  on to some others and then, all of a sudden, it’s getting dozens of readers. I’m not sure who or what was having a look at this particular one, but it did spur me on to try to dispel my hangover after the staff Christmas lunch by having a look around the web to see if anything new had turned up since I last posted about Benwell.

At first I was delighted to find this photograph, taken sometime in the sixties,  showing the old trolley bus terminus at Delaval Road. This view is eastwards, looking along Benwell Lane towards Newcastle itself. The road going south towards the river (to the right) is Delaval Road and the complicated system of wires overhead enabled the electrically powered trolley buses to turn around and head back into town. These buses were phased out when I was little, but I remember them quite clearly, especially the rather comical palaver involved in trying to keep them attached to the wires.

To the left of the picture you can see a wall with trees behind. This marked the southern end of a small wood (“The Spinney”) inside which was the small cottage we lived in. The road behind the camera, the continuation of Benwell lane, is Whickham View.

It was nice to see this picture. It made me all nostalgic. Benwell was never actually Belgravia, of course. It wasn’t at all a wealthy neighbourhood and parts of it were quite rough, but my childhood there was pretty happy and there was a real sense of community to the place, helped by the presence of lots of little shops and good transport links.

Now look at essentially the same view, taken in 2009.

Superficially, the area hasn’t changed that much but all the shops are boarded up and all the houses abandoned. Even the road itself is in a state of disrepair. In fact, all the once busy streets leading down towards the Tyne to the south of Benwell Lane are now quite deserted and the whole area scheduled for demolition. You can see many more pictures of this depressing scene here.

I moved away from Newcastle in 1982 when I went to University. I therefore missed the terrible effect that the recession of the 1980s had on the streets I had grown up in. It also had a direct effect on my father, who separated from my mother when I was about 12. He ran a small business selling educational supplies (paper, pens, art materials etc) to schools and pre-school playgroups. Most of it was wholesale but he also ran a small shop which, at first, was on Benwell Lane. In fact it was one of the two shops you can see by the light blue car in the first picture, although this snap was taken a while before he took it over. I think it was a cake shop before that.

After some modest success he moved just along the road a bit to slightly larger premises on the corner of Whickham View and Delaval Road, i.e. just to the right of where the camera is positioned on the opposite side of the road to the greengrocers.  He lived in a flat above this new shop, which formerly sold wool and was run by an old lady called Mrs Ludgate.

As time went on and the recession bit harder, the social and material fabric of Benwell gradually deteriorated. There were increasingly frequent burglaries and car thefts. It became a no-go zone at night. His  business started to fail and debts began to mount. The stress of watching the neighbourhood falling apart and coping with the constant threat of break-ins at the shop and his flat eventually got too much for him. He packed everything he could into his van and fled to the South coast to live with his sister in Weymouth, leaving the dilapidated shop and all his debts behind. I’m sure there’s a similar story behind all the other empty shops in Benwell.

Looking at these bleak photographs of the deserted streets and houses of my youth filled me with sadness, not least because they seem like portents of the future of British science. In ten years time will we all be poring over pictures of abandoned observatories and research labs?

About these ads

32 Responses to “Sad Streets”

  1. Just be sure to keep the military jets gassed up.

  2. Thanks for the pictures. I’m from Wallsend and of a similar age to you. I remember those buses and the previously tidy streets, now sadly in a state of disrepair.

  3. telescoper Says:

    I was actually born in Walker, but we moved to Benwell when I was just a baby. My grandparents (on my mother’s side) lived in Walker, but they both died quite a long time ago. The house they lived in, in Beverley Terrace, has now also been demolished.

  4. have been looking at your photos with much interest and appreciation as my husband’s family all come from Benwell (I am doing the family history) – in fact his great uncle William Bramble (ex Sheriff and Alderman) used to live at Benwell Hall and his great grandparents had a cobblers and hardware shops on Adelaide terrace -my mum in law was born in Beach(Beech?) Street and is still alive at 86 though very confused most of the time… It was good but sad to find out what happened to your father as I used to buy goods from him when I was in the area for my craft business until I came and found the shop closed. He was a nice man, friendly and helpful -sad that it turned out so badly for him and hope he is happier now. Doubt he will remember the lady from Lowestoft who used to come from time to time but pass on good wishes. thank you for the great but depressing pictures -such a shame to see those lovely houses allowed to rot – shameful!

    • telescoper Says:

      Anne,

      After he left Benwell, my Dad settled in Weymouth near his sister, also called Anne, who had moved there many years ago. He was much happier there than he had been in Benwell, and found regular work playing with local bands – he played the drums part-time, in case you didn’t know. However, he had a major heart attack a few years ago from which he never fully recovered. He passed away in October 2007, aged 67.

      I should point out those pictures aren’t actually mine, I found them at the website I’ve linked to on the post.

      Peter

  5. Peter
    This a brilliant blog. I used to love going into your dads shop when I was young it has brought back memories.

  6. Mick Fothergill Says:

    Did you have an uncle George who lived up Alnmouth way?

    • telescoper Says:

      Mick,

      Sorry for not replying to your comment. It slipped through. Yes indeed, my Dad’s older brother George still lives in Alnmouth.

      Peter

  7. Fran Knight (Nee Mallett) Says:

    Hi Everyone
    I love these photos, I was born and raised in Beech Street, we used that cobblers often. I also married and had 3 of my 4 children there, that place is ‘home’ and will always be so tho I am now 260 miles from it in the cotswolds.
    Keep the pics coming.
    Cheers Fran

  8. Your Uncle George taught me as a trainee Dental Technician i remember he used to give me a lift home when he visited your family, he had a Ford Cortina at the time. I actually lived on the same block (Whickham View) and remember Mrs Ludgate very well!

  9. Sorry meant to say i saw him last year at a colleagues leaving bash , he looked very well

  10. Peter

    I was born (1953) and bred in Benwell, and it always saddens me to see the state of the old place now.

    If you want to see some old photos, go to ‘Oldfphotos of Newcastle West End’ on Facebook, and have a look at the Benwell group. There are some great shots.

    Regards

    Malc

    • telescoper Says:

      Malc,

      Thank you so much for this. I searched through the (nearly 1500) pictures there hoping to find one of Pendower School, and there it was right at the end, number 1411! Posted a comment.

      Peter

  11. Peter

    Had you started at the back it would probably have been photo number 90, such is life. Those photos are selectable by area now, so if you find the Benwell area, it should all be Benwell. Not like stating the obvious is there!! Pendower School was not too far from where I lived, Benwell Grange Road, just off Hodgkin Park Road. Some of the really old photos, and postcards show the park in its prime, with the dean all clean, and the paddling pool at the bottom of the dean. It has now been decorated with shopping trollies, garbage, graffiti and other such detrious. a crying shame really.

    Regards

    Malc

  12. greentreedisco Says:

    whey aye man, grew up there in the 70’s the “spinney” as you called it was called “the Lillia” in my youth ,great place to grow up,still have spooky dreams about being in that old primary school mind.

  13. My wife and \i bought a beacon house (one from which others were measured) in 1956 or thwereabouts. we lived there for twelve years before moving to Durham. Our son was born in the Westgate road hospital. The shops I remember were jacks fish and chips, near the top of Deleval Road, a very good butchers next to the Co–op greengrocers, and the newagent on the opposite side was the wool shop, and next dor was a dairy. Happy days. Petro; from the local garage on Westgate Road was 3s and 4d per gallon. By the way Jacks fish and chip shop had a joung musician who visited on some Fridays and if he played a tune on his guitar he recieved free fish and chips I was told by Jack he was called Hannk Marvin.

    • telescoper Says:

      The wool shop was owned by a lady called Miss Ludgate, although that may have been after you were living there. My Dad bought the shop when Miss Ludgate died, sometime around 1980.

  14. Malc Hill Says:

    I remember a shop at the top of Deleval Road, I think it was a Post Office. We used to walk to the Lower John Marlay school, around 1975-6, and stop off at the shop for a couple of Embassy cigs, which cost 3d each, and the wifey behind the counter would give us a couple of matches buck shee. Nowadays she would probably be hung, drawn and quartered, and her family exiled in shame for such a wilfull act of child abuse!!

    • telescoper Says:

      The Post Office was just down from the wool shop, on the same side. I don’t remember it selling cigarettes but you could definitely buy them individually from the Barber’s shop on Benwell Lane. I don’t remember the name, but there was a little window out to the street where they dispensed the tabs.

  15. Hi there,I was brought up in the area,wayside. Was up there 2 weeks back,took my wife up there,I also live in Weymouth now,moved away in the early 90’s. Its sad to see the state of the place now but gotta say Im glad to be away from the north east!
    What was your Dad’s full name,just wondering because my father inlaw is Weymouth born and bred and also played in local bands,may well of known your father!

    Simon

  16. I was thrilled when I found, quite by accident, your article ‘Sad Streets’ – I lived in one of them – 66 Denton Gardens. That street along with Deleval Road and Benwell Dene Terrace have now all been demolished. It’s a sad sight to see just a huge swathe of land where only the lamp posts are left standing. They’re not even the lovely old ones, just long metal poles. I travelled on that bus – the No 33 regularly. The 33A went on along Whickam View. I could walk up Denton Gardens and see a bus leaving the terminus but never needed to panic because another would be there waiting. They ran every few minutes – wish I could say that where I’m living now (Somerset/Wiltshire border). You’ve inspired me to start blogging, just posted my first which is also about Benwell. Thank you.

    • Phil(ip) Mantey Says:

      Took me more than 2 years to see your post !
      I lived at 56 Denton Garden until 1967 when we moved to Denton Burn .
      I still live in the north east in Victoria Glade , near Newcastle United Academy .
      Had a lot of fond memories playing in the street in Denton Gardens and Hodgkin Park.

      Trying to remember who was at 66 ? Must have known you .
      People I remember , Mark (Cavigan? )The last flat on the left hand side before the council Houses. The Hullahs , Brian and Steven .
      Keith Naylor , he became a fireman. John Vasey , Paul and Anne Hopkinson , their mam was a piano teacher , Debora (think her surname was Lec) , Susan Ord and some other faces I can’t put names to at the moment.
      There were so many of us all played together in the street , happy days !
      Phil

  17. Peter Wood Says:

    The Post Office at the top of Delaval Road was part of what was called ‘The Dairy’, might also have been called Weddel’s Dairy. A lady called Alma used to work there. Found this blog Googling ‘Old Benwell’ as I had to enter ‘New Benwell’ as my home town on Facebook. Was shocked to see the demolition and predemolition views on Google Earth and Steetview. Is Mick Fothergill the brother of Janet Fothergill?

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, I saw the area on a trip home for Xmas. It’s all completely gone now, flattened and grassed over.

    • Peter Wood Says:

      Just dipped into this site as I often do…saw my name along with my brother Michael’s could have knocked me over with a feather.
      We lived at 31 Benwell Dene Tce. Went up a few weeks ago so sad. All those memories all those families wonder where they all are. Would love to hear from anyone who remembers me including you Peter.

      Kind Regards
      Janet Farnham(nee Fothergill0

      • Peter Wood Says:

        Think I got a bit mixed up with replying!! hope this gets through.

        It’s Peter Wood I was trying to connect with and anyone who remembers me…Janet Fothergill. Just talking to Mary Sullivan this morning, still my best friend in the whole world she lived in Denton Gardens.

        As before would love to hear from anyone who knew me back then.

        Kind Regards

        Janet

      • Mick Fothergill Says:

        I remember me!

      • Peter Wood Says:

        Hi Janet, musn’t have seen you since 1966 when we moved from Delaval Road to Walkergate. In 1969 moved south and have been there ever since. Never thought I would be happy living close to the River Thames (in Oxfordshire).

  18. Peter Wood Says:

    Well Peter, didn’t know you lived in Delaval Road can remember you in Denton Gardens maybe visiting Grandparents? any other names you remember? wonderful memories,do You remember the Sullivan’s, Mrs Sullivan still on the go and she’s 94!!!

  19. Janet Fothergill. Says:

    Have been wracking my brains trying to remember the name of the couple who ran the shop at the top of Benwell Dene Tce……Mr. Rifkin, (Before the Bells) He also had a shop at the top of Denton Gardens(fruit&veg) next to Dentons the bakers him and his wife lived above the shop lovely couple.

  20. […] here, as it happened before I started blogging, but perhaps its time to write something. Here is an excerpt from an earlier post about Benwell that refers to my father’s relocation to Dorset from his (and my) home town of Newcastle upon […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,795 other followers

%d bloggers like this: