18 thoughts on “Foundations of the Castlegate Centre, Stockton c1970

  1. Only a pity the site is not like that now then we could build a Shopping Complex that Stockton could be proud, of instead of the building they eventually built there and forever will be a blight on the High Street, Stockton.

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  2. Gordon and Keith thank you for the input it is what is needed to bring out the warts and all story of Stockton and it needs to be told no matter how different our memories of those times. Sorry Keith I disagree with you on not being reminded of the squalor of some parts of Stockton it is all part of the same story and it was most certainly run down starting from people being moved from the Town to Council Housing as early as 1927, the next thirty years with virtually no maintenance done the smoke from thousands of chimney’s burning coal, the smogs and dust from factories and mills it was our dirty old town.
    People were not frightened away they moved to the new housing every one craved, modern area’s with open greens and breathable air new schools and rows of shops, nice new clean pubs and clubs what was not to like It was the trend in every town in the country and over the last twenty odd years having traveled a lot every town centre is suffering the same fate not just Stockton, In many towns there are old buildings that have been listed then fall into decay because a use cannot be found for them, the rate payers foot the bill, there is no point in saying we will keep something if no one really wants it.
    Stockton may not have ticked all our boxes over the last 60 years but they have done a lot, a clean river that Stockton people plus many others can use for water sports, a University we can all be proud of and now a High Street make over which brings people back into town. It will never be the shopping centre we all knew as that time has passed, out of town retail parks with plenty of free parking has done that. Our children and grandchildren have their own idea’s on what Stockton needs and going back to the past is not on the agenda as they do their bulk shopping on line, the past is just that passed and will continue to change as the young ones put their make on things.
    I honestly think our time has been and now gone, we made mistakes though as my Mother often said “no point in crying over spilt milk” Stockton will be here long after we are gone.

    Gordon I loved school the Richard Hind Senior was actually two schools, I was in the Technical side and our class was only 18 pupils when I started and fell to fourteen by the time I left just before Christmas 1944. Most over the years did well and it was down to the Miss Dufney, Eggy Plummer, Bill Williams, Miss English, Mr Dawson and Miss Du something or other who taught French. Even Mr Dobing the art Master took an interest because we were a small number. It did mean I had to visit the Head Master for the usual six of the best on at least a weekly basis sometimes more often as discipline was not my strong point, it did not hurt him or bother me, it was part of schooling. That education made me reach out for further education in the forces and after and with my Laptops and I-pads still learning even showing my daughter today how to find something she had lost on hers, still life in the old dog yet.
    I promise my last word on this. I hear big sighs all round and thank goodness for that.

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    • Good points well made Frank and I respect your right to say them and your point of view much of which as I say I agree with. I also went to the technical side of Richard Hind but there were 44 pupils, Eggy Plummer was the only name I recognise from my time there and I sincerely believe the teachers, like the school, were tired and worn out and they resorted to the cane or anything else they could lay their hands on instead of a little more patience and just teaching people. However it taught me valuable lessons in life and I have done alright for myself, despite dire warnings from Mr Rosser the head of what life held for me, I hold laptops and the like in high regard otherwise how could we communicate in this manner. You will not hear any big sighs from me, Frank, for as I have said, I enjoy your memories and I respect other peoples opinions, for a lot of brave men have fought and died so that we are able to do so, keep well Frank.

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      • Gordon you are obviously younger than me, I saw three Head Masters at Richard Hind and we were only the second of the T classes. Mr Webster was retiring the year I started and I remember singing Christmas Carols at his house in Hartburn when he did retire, Miss Duffney dragooned me into the choir. Then came Mr Rawlings a nice chap who would discuss the reasons I deserved the cane which I usually did. Then Came Mr Rosser who never questioned why just bend over and whack. The T class started when local industry realising they were losing their men to war work wanted boys with Techical training and Maths as a back up, as I had missed out nearly a year of Languages whilst at Northallerton they put me straight into the T class though we still did French.
        The Teachers were all very good and being a small class they had a chance to give some one to one training Math’s came easy to me though some struggled the final Exams only two failed in our form the larger classes had many more so it showed.
        A picture in the Gazette tonight shows the fountains and it is crowded which is what I mean saying Stockton now belongs to this generation they will put their own stamp on things having a lot more say than we ever had. Stockton will go on long after we are gone and as my Granddaughters now live in new housing back in Stockton with more being built who know what it will become in the future, nothing will be as we knew and grew up with and why should it be?

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        • Frank when I started at RH the 4th year was ‘T’ meaning Technical. When I reached the 4th year it had changed to ‘W’ which was Woodwork. Presumably having the same lessons as ‘T’. The other half was ‘F’ French for the Academics.

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  3. Ruination of a great High Street. Vandalisation on a massive scale, the frontage they destroyed was beautiful and should have been preserved.

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    • I agree with you. In 1969 I was working at Barclays Bank Ltd which was at the end of the demolition line. The Yorkshire Bank on the other corner wasn’t included in the plan. I can remember seeing, through our rest room window on the first floor, the wrecking ball swinging to knock down the building next door. I was only 19 at the time but it got to me. That row included the wonderful home made sweet shop, Laesers (spelling might be wrong). We used to clean them out of chocolate truffles every week! That was probably one of the last days before we moved into the temporary wooden ‘toy’ bank at the other end of the High Street.

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    • Sorry cannot agree Malcolm and Viv, yes Viv you did spell Laesers correctly, the lovely chocolate shop next to the Vane Arms Hotel one side and Mastermans then Woodroffe the other side.
      Those of us who had lived with the town in its run down un-maintained state for more than thirty years, our parents much longer welcomed the changes we were the people who threw out all the pre war furnishings and bought G-plan, we wanted change.
      We drank in those falling down buildings Custom House, Vane Arms, Black Lion, William 1V, and the Royal, played Billiards in Sloans at times went to shows or films in the Empire building saw them without the rose coloured specs.
      Behind all those buildings were the old smashed warehouses and old housing rat infested and stinking from a river that was tidal not clearing itself properly so the smell in the High Street was unbearable during hot weather.
      Money was still in short supply, interest rates somewhere above 17% so we took what the Town could afford and got a clean bright under cover shopping area, we loved it not forgetting our summer lasts just four months, shopping in the Market could be a cold wet experience.
      Remembering the High Street only came about from around the 1850’s, before that being town houses had the same idea’s existed for keeping things as they were we would never have had a High Street.
      As a very old Stockton person I applaud the changes especially now some of the worst of the modern buildings are gone and we have a bright new centre which my grandchildren love, it is their town now not mine and they will in time change it all once more, there may even be people who want to keep the Castle Gate Centre as a monument to the past or to put it another way my time.

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      • I have been to Bruges in Belgium. Buildings damaged by bombing and gunfire during the War, in much worse state than Stockton had ever been. Looking at that place now, all the facades kept or repaired to there previous past and all architecture in beautiful condition. Surely Stockton could have managed the same.

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        • Bob think of the circumstances. Stockton town centre was not damaged in the war, well not badly,any Government money went to London Coventry and other cities bombed to bits.
          This country was badly in debt as war ended and the Americans withdrew all aid immediately we did not get any further aid until the Marshall plan in 1947-8 of which mainland Europe got the lions share. They started from scratch rebuilding from the old town plans Germany included, I spent much time on the Continent and saw new towns rise from the ashes, a shortage of building materials meant a lot of it was reclaimed. In the Rhineland cities they moved whole areas miles from where they once stood. France, Belgium, Holland all had to be rebuilt so got the bulk of any money going, we poor old Brits had to tighten the belt and get on with it. You are talking 20 years after the war money still short, old equipment and tools, shortage of everything and a runaway inflation, we were very lucky to get what we did.
          Yes it could have been done had there been firms or business groups to fund it there wasn’t, some money came from the North East business plan though costs were cut to the bone plus it all ended in chaos and prison sentences.
          Hardship and shortages from the 1930’s to the sixties was more than enough for us we wanted something bright and new. Even now 70 years after the war we are still trying to get it right and once again struggling with the finances of it all. It all comes down to what we can afford the 1960-70 were not good times and now it seems neither are the 2015’s. I rest my case.

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          • Frank, I remember in the 50’s and 60’s working at Head Wrightsons Thornaby. They seemed to get plenty of money. Buildings were added, many people got employment and the good times had arrived. They were encouraged to start an R&D dept where they bought the Friarage at Yarm and a massive house near to the Golf Course where they changed it into living quarters for specialist workers from out of the area until such times as they could re house themselves. Work was plentiful and a lot of overtime worked. I still think that Stockton was backward in coming forward. Not forgetting Dan Smith and A N Other. Who were imprisoned for fraudulence for receiving backhanders and poor working standards.

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            • True Bob, Ashmores built South Works, the Railway carriage building factory came and went, ICI built Wilton and extended Billingham, housing estates were going up right left and centre, the Town Centre stayed mainly the same, a few projects that added nothing to the town, so where did that money come from. I cannot answer that question though a guess would be Government overspending and Banks lending at high interest rates, plus of course with all rebuilding projects vast over charging for the work hence the eventual jail sentences.
              The forces were not getting any of it I could only afford a motor bike, the tradesmen I knew were not getting it apart from working all hours and the families suffering, people were not flying out to warm exotic places, Blackpool or Skegness would be the limit of workers one week holiday’s and Politicians spouting “we never had it so good” should that we have meant them. Housing was mainly rented with the Council owning vast estates. Joan and I bought our first house at the Mortgage rate of £13/10/0 a month, it seemed like a millstone round the neck and my friends said I was stupid when we could rent it gave me what I have now when a lot of our friends rented all their lives.
              I suppose that was normality to us at the time we got on with living as best we could, you played with the hand you were dealt.
              My Grandchildren read what I write with some disbelief, they never knew houses without bathroom or central heating, they never knew a time before multi media and phones, they never knew gaslight, all things that made my generation what we became, we pulled on the boots and got stuck in, that is what Stockton gave us the will to win through, Good old Richard Hind nothing is impossible they told me if you have the guts to go for it.

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        • I agree whole heartedly bob when they knocked the old buildings down they tore the heart and the character out of the town, sure there were old buildings and old warehouses, but the warehouses could have easily have been knocked down and buildings renovated to preserve what was a unique high street, you only have to walk round London to see what is possible, I too am a old Stocktonian and I spend less time in the town now because of the mess planners have made of the high street and surrounding areas, change is good, modern is good but it has to be balanced by what was, it is no use saying change is good all the time if it is to the detriment of what was our history and memories I too used to frequent these “dilapidated buildings” and I must say they were full of character and characters, as regards the river sure it was dirty it was a working river in those days but I can never remember the smell of it permeating the high street as suggested this is my point of view I embrace modern technology but I believe it should be tempered by our history as regards the market you only have to go anywhere there is a decent market and people flock to them, anyhow this is my point of view which I will not try to foist on other people, sorry to ramble on like this I usually try to make my comments short and to the point.

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          • Well put Gordon and certainly not a ramble, I also express my views as I saw it through mine my parents and grand parents eye’s. If you had worked in Stockton next to the river as I did you would certainly have smelt the river and one hot memorable night we were driven out of the Greyhound Pub by the vile smell of the still river at low tide, those mud flats stunk and the river was dead, no fish no vegetation we never wanted to fall in there.
            Carry it back to beyond our time we would still be living in round houses with thatched roof a central hearth and the animals in one corner a fiefdom of the Duchy of Durham. How far do we preserve and what. Should we have kept the townhouses so no emporiums, should we have kept the hundreds of street houses outside toilet no bath a single cold water tap? Well we saw the exodus to Roseworth Hardwick and other estates with happy people in homes with all mod cons which also meant the eventual end to the market as they had their own shops mobile vans and traveling salesmen.
            Nothing is forever, as I said in my previous post my Grandchildren love the changes to the town and they are the future not us, mind I did think it a big improvement but “hey” we all have every right to our own thoughts on things. The more opinions we get on this history forum the more interesting it will be to those reading it when we are long gone and they living in a far different town I would opine.

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            • I am from a very similar era as you Frank and I love to read of your memories as they are much the same as mine, I agree with your statements on the river which was as bad as you say if not worse, but I don’t agree it detracted from the high street itself, and also your comments on the housing having been one of those families that benefited from a move from the old gas works houses to a house on Darlington Back Lane which at that time was surrounded by countryside that a youngster like me could wander safely in and the birds sang instead of coughed, and I also agree we have to move forward but I also believe a lot of our memories and heritage should be preserved and protected I am primarily talking about Stockton High Street the one that I grew up in and loved, and I still believe a lot of it should have been retained because it had character the trouble with these modern centres is that you could literally be any where they are soulless, yes functional but just have no character, as I say Frank I am not far behind you in your thoughts and ideals I just believe in the case of Stockton High Street it could have been handled a lot better. I am a Norton lad too having grew up in the Norton Avenue area, I am also a former Richard Hind pupil though my memories of that establishment are not as rosy as yours, so I do look forward to reading your thoughts and memories on places I used to frequent as a lad growing up and learning about life, the dance halls the pubs the area in general which when I drive round now is populated by the ghosts of people I knew, grew up with, had fun with, fought with, and loved, so as you say Frank we will agree to disagree on some of your points which I am sure over a couple of pints could be resolved very easily, keep well Frank and keep the memories and thoughts coming as I say they run almost parallel with my own and makes me think back myself and I enjoy them.

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              • Gordon I agree with your comments about the High St which in my opinion had the soul ripped out of it. The modern buildings were without character , the entire history of Stockton was demolished and frightened people away for good. A while ago I wrote in this column that people should not be constantly reminded how run down the place was.. I still stand by my comments.
                Thank you Gordon and Bob for your comments.

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                • Looking down the wide and open vista of the High Street, from the Parish Church, on a warm Spring Sunday morning, was pure bliss. A reminder that Winter Blues were over and the world could be yours.

                  But according to the Art Master at Stockton Grammar (…..196!) he remembered the town before it became commercialised, with the introduction of the cinemas and big stores. My guess is that before 1935 Stockton would have looked rather like a more prosperous Yarm ( maybe with soot stained brickwork, however!).

                  With a bit of thought and effort, and keeping development out the hands of the T. Dan Smiths of the 1960s, Stockton could have been the jewel of Teesside. It’s a miracle we still have the Town Hall and Church!

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