30 thoughts on “St John’s Church, Alma Street

  1. Thinking about some of the history of the forties and fifties how many people remember the first unofficial Credit Scheme to Buy clothing that was running in Stockton at the time. There was a lady who lived in Newtown who would give you a clothing ticket to buy clothes at say Doggerts for a value of Ten pounds, then you would pay her back at a nominal amount say five Shillings per week until you had given her back her ten pounds plus a one pound profit to her, this lady would also be given a percentage from the shop as to how much all her customers paid for the clothes they bought… This was called the Clothing Ticket System, unofficial, but highly lucrative for the lady running the scheme. I think the lady’s name was Annie something or other. I remember all our school clothes came about this way and all our best clothes too. This was the only way poor people could afford to purchase such items.

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    • Ben my late wife had her own business going alongside the ticket lady, the women living round about at the time knew she always had money. They would get a ticket value £5-10-15 come round to Joan and change it into cash, Joan gave £4-7-12 our children were always well dressed using those tickets, it was always the same women coming they would pay off the loan and get another ticket then straight round to see Joan. I often wondered why they were so ready to get cash at quite a cost to them. Being on an unaccompanied posting at the time Joan was in Stockton and I was in Aldershot coming home every weekend on my motor bike on Friday night back on Sunday 600 mile round trip for six months October to March. Joan sometimes had to lift me off the bike on the coldest nights and pull out the newspapers under my leather coat, no proper bike leathers then.
      Many things have changed not all for the better and even today young people can fill a house on pay later schemes or borrow at massive percentages, so that has not changed.

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    • It used to work the other way around too. I remember at least one occasion when my mother bought a Doggerts ticket from a woman in Parkfield for less than its face value. The woman had a five pound ticket and offered it to my mother for four pounds cash, which she must have needed at the time. Mam then used the ticket to buy clothing for us kids.

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    • Reading about the unofficial credit scheme operating in Stockton, reminded me of a gentleman called Fred (I forget his surname) who also operated such a scheme. He had a shop somewhere off Wellington Street I believe. I know he was very much into photography as a hobby and became a very good friend of the family, especially when my father passed away in 1966. As I remember he was unmarried.

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  2. After being Demobed in 1958 I lived with my wife Marie in Alma Street I think no. 13 opposite was Bob Wallace a well known Stockton personality who was the secretary of old Co-op Club that became the Elmtree Club I think. We Shared half a house with a lovely old man called Tom Dodds who was part of the family that owned the Billingham Press. Tom was an old Boilermaker who had travelled the World but never married. Tom was a keen Stockton Football Club supporter and used to go to all the matches I played in at Victoria Ground. A lovely old man.

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    • Ben I was on the committee of the Elmtree club for nearly fifteen years, Bob Wallis was treasurer and brilliant at the job. We took over what had been the Co-op Club which was at the time we’ll run down, there were some real battles between those of us wanting to upgrade the place and those saying just sell cheap beer and do not waste money on decoration. We won and Bob negotiated the best loan ever allowing us to rebuild the bar and decorate the rest, the takings went up thousands in the first month of the new bar and decorating the hall. My memory of Bob is of a good friend and a very astute man. He had problems with his eye’s and had to retire, he was badly missed.

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  3. Talking about the murder by the Army Man Henry I believe he was on embarkation leave at the time of the murder, if I remember correctly he murdered an old Lady in her eighties. but I thought the Murder occurred near to the Docks. Maybe Anon can fill in the details, I believe he came from the Eastbourne Estate originally. I remember as a kid a group of my friends and myself went on a walk to Thorpe Thewels and when we were having our break with a sandwich and a bottle of water under the Railway Arches now demolished, this Henry Boy who was a very big boy for his age at the time came along and relieved some of us with our packed lunch and water bottles..I think he went to Newham Grange School…

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    • Benny, not sure but I think the murder was at York or near to. I think he was stationed in the barracks there. I wouldn’t repeat what he did to that old lady.

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      • Bob, We are talking from memory when we were youngsters living round the Gashouse, when the guy was arrested he was also charged with the one at York.

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      • Back to the murder Bob, I know what happened to the old lady that was murdered and I agree with you it is not the sort of thing to be mentioned in detail on our site… Needless to say he paid he full penalty for his crime.

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    • When we were walking to school on the morning, the police had Ford Place cordoned off, he was from Eastbourne Estate & all his siblings attended Newham Grange School.

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  4. My grandparents lived at 23 Alma Street and I was christened at St Johns and later when my mam and dad moved to Darlington Lane I had the privilege of attending St Johns school, I remember the church had a wall all the way round it and as kids we used to play in the grounds, or if not there on the railway bridge that led across to Newtown, running up and down trying to catch the steam from the many trains that passed under it, there seemed to be a shop or a pub on every corner. I remember Dowsons on the corner of Alma Street and Hume Street and hanging around outside the gas house pub waiting for my grandad who I would walk home with and if I was lucky he would buy me sweets. I have many happy memories of the gas works estate and it was our playground, and little did I know it at the time I would marry the daughter of my mams best friend who lived in Hume Street, it is hard now as I drive through this area to imagine the amount of houses shops and pubs that all flourished there and the lovely community that once existed there, but in context I also remember the cold damp houses with their outside toilets old tin baths and coal fires that were grimy. When we moved to Darlington Lane I remember at the time Roseworth was mainly green fields and to have a modern house with all that freedom seemed at the time like paradise, so yes I remember that place and time with great memories but I also still recall the hardships, but what we could do with nowadays is a good dollop of that community spirit that existed then.

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    • Gordon, I have many similar memories of that area. I lived for a while at 53 Hume St with my parents and grandparents. Next door to us lived my best friend at the time Michael Hodgson. We also played on the bridge and went on adventures across it to Newtown.
      I have a memory of being very frightened that the vicar would come knocking on our door(s), as one day while playing in the church grounds, Michael and I managed to ring the bell and run like ,,,,,,
      We had a bonfire in the street on Nov 5th, and later enjoyed rides on the horse powered carriage that visited the area.
      Very soon after starting school at Mill Lane we moved to Newham Grange Estate where I met up with Michael again and also Malcolm and Donny Heath plus lots of others at Newtown Junior School. We continued our adventures on the building site as the estate continued to grow. As our interest in football and cricket grew we had a short walk to Newham Grange park where we played football, cricket, and when the snow came tobogganing.
      Happy Days

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  5. Alma Street was Just at the top of the Bank that comes from Newtown opposite I think Leeds Street where the old Leeds st Fish and Chip shop used to be, Arrowsmiths was on one corner and Guthries Taxis on the other. St Johns Church was opposite the old Gasworks at the end of Alma street, There was a Famous Fish and Chip shop just before you go to the Church. LITTLES Fish and Chips, Opposite Littles Fish and Chips shop was FRED DOWSONS Grocery Shop. Fred’s Shop and Fred was an image of the Ronnie Barker show Open All Hours, Fred even looked like Ronnie Barker and the Shop looked like the one in Open all hours. Mrs Helen Bott could be seen all hours in the St Johns Church as her late Husband was the Vicar until his untimely death in the early Forties. Mrs Bott lived close to the Church, She could be seen riding her old fashioned sit up and Beg bike all over Stockton to visit elderly and Sick Parishioners, she never stopped even into old age she would still ride her bike being a regular hospital visitor to the sick. Mrs Bott lived a very frugal life and many of her friends over the years provided her with Tea and cakes on her travels, Mrs Helen Bott was given an MBE in later life in recognition of all of her Charity work over many years. In finishing I could never understand why such a lovey Church, Church Hall, and associated buildings should be demolished as they were, they should have been preserved, for posterity but suffered the same fate as many other Historical Buildings did in Stockton through lack of vision by the powers that be… .

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    • The Church Hall was opposite the Gasworks in Ford Street, the houses that can seen on the right were in Ford Place where a murder took place about 1950.

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    • Dear Ben Brown,
      My grandparents ran the Littles fish shop, and there are other stories about them on this site. My father grew up there, as did my Aunt, Dorothy, and my Uncle Derek, who still lives in Stockton. Across Alma St from Dowsons, diagonally from the Fish shop, was, I remember, Milwards the butchers.
      I remember Mr Dowson closing his shop and squeezing into my grandparents’ parlour, along with everybody else, to watch the Queen’s Coronation on the new fangled television, in brown Bakelite, that Grandad had bought for the occasion.
      There was another shop, always closed and locked, on the fourth corner of Alma and Hume Streets.
      I remember St John’s Church as having excellent brick walls to play football against. And if we had a cold, we were sent around the corner to breathe in the fumes from the gas works. Luckily, we seemed to have thrived on it!
      I agree that flattening the area and building tower blocks was a mistake.

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      • I was always fascinated as a child when I went into Little’s fish shop because they had a device for making the chips they placed a potato on the cutter at the bottom then pulled on a long handle and the chips fell into a bowl underneath ready to be cooked, strange what things stay in the mind of a child, I can still see clearly that contraption from all those years ago, as regards the fumes Chris I don’t know if they cured colds but the were pungent enough to take the lining off your nose but as you say thrive we certainly did.

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        • I remember that device as well Gordon, when we used to go in the shop of a night & ask for chips with plenty of scraps on after playing football at the tech. school in Allison Street, you will remember some of the lads, Brian & John Skerritt, Nigel Fishburn, Joe Rayner, John Moody, Errol Bulmer, Brian Abbott & Ben Gunn to name a few.

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          • I think that the Skerritts lived opposite us when we lived at no. 19 little Airton Street for a while. Joe Rayner was related to our family in someway did he live top end of Allison Street? Nigel Fishburn once took me to a relatives farm which was near Wynyard and I knocked about with Brian Abbot who I think lived on Hume Street and what can you say about Errol Bulmer who lived in Alma Street I was in awe of him with his good looks and quiff, though I was more in awe of his sister who I fancied like mad but for a young lad was way out of my league, good times a plenty were had though.

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            • The Skerritts did live opposite you in little Airton Street & Joe Rayner lived in big Airton St. next to Alfie Appleton. Brian Abbott lived in the second house from Airton St. same side as The Royal Albert in Hume St.

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    • Alma Street ran from Bishopton Lane just before you turned into Stockton Station opposite Leeds Street of the famous fish shop. It went towards the Gas Works ending at Ford Street alongside the Gas Works. St Johns was Church of England my Father Charles Philip Mee was confirmed there by the Bishop of Jarrow although his own church was St Mary’s Norton, the Stockton Library Staff told me all those waiting to be Confirmed would go to one Church for the event back then.
      There was also a Church Hall and Sunday School, during the war this became a British canteen where workmen from all the works in Stockton could get a three course lunch off ration, we apprentices from Browns Sheet Iron Works would walk down from Prince Regent Street for the meal which cost us four pence which Arthur Brown paid he wanted his lads fit and healthy the men who went with us had to pay eight pence and for that you got soup main meal and pudding. We worked eight until five with one hour lunch break on normal days there was enforced overtime some days.
      St Johns was the main Church for the Gas House area which when I studied the history was built from green fields into a thriving community then gone in just under one hundred years. There was also the Catholic Church still on Norton Road and at least two Chapels long gone.
      Those of us still here with memory of that area knew a bustling place of pubs shops and wonderful people, doors never locked and helping each other, they may not have had much in goods or money but they had spirit and pride.

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      • The two churches were the Norton Road Congregational Church on the corner of Tennant Street, their Church Hall was in Alma Street next to Arrowsmiths & North Terrace Wesleyan Church on the corner of Hume Street, which had its hall in the basement, these churches were as popular in the Gashouse Area as St Johns & St Marys.

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      • Frank. I attended The church on Norton Green and when confirmed it was at St Michaels also in Norton and that was by the Bishop of Jarrow, So things didn’t change much from your fathers day to 1950 when it happened to me.

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    • There is an old street map on this site showing where it was , although I’m not sure which thread it’s attached to, I’m sure the Picture Stockton team will point you in the right direction if you ask

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