memories of John Clay Street

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memories of John Clay Street

Post by shadypete » Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:00 pm

In the past, I've written to this forum to moan about how Shields has changed for the worse since I was a kid (I could moan for England :)).

But it's true that so many of the areas that I loved when I was growing up have been swept away. I never visit Shields without kicking myself for not taking pictures of the old streets before they were destroyed.

And I often walk down them, in my imagination.

One of my favourites was John Clay Street - there was nothing special about it, but somehow, it always seemed to have such a nice atmosphere about it.

I lived on the other side of Dean Road, so I often had to go down it if I was walking into town. Marsden Street would have been just as convenient a route, but I seldom chose it, because it was so featureless compared with its companion - maybe just two shops - whereas John Clay Street seemed so much more interesting.

Walking down from Dean Road, it began with a baker's shop on the left-hand side (lovely bread), then terraced flats with tiny little garden areas in front of them, and walls about a foot high, with the stumps of railings that had been removed during the war. Then Maxwell Hall, with windows under street level (I sometimes wondered how dark those rooms must be). I always thought Maxwell hall looked so incongruous, shoe-horned into a terrace rather than standing on its own. Then another baker's on the corner - it was my job to go and get cakes there when my family felt like a treat for tea.

Then came some waste ground, with a pillar-box on the corner (never did find out what had stood there originally), then the one and only factory in the street, Mary Harris Gowns. I often remember hearing the machines going on hot Summer afternoons, and whenever Coronation Street featured Mike Baldwin's clothing factory, I'd always think 'I bet it's about the same size operation that Mary Harris gowns was'.

After that, if I remember rightly, it was all shops on the right-hand side, all the way down to Chichester Road, with quite a few shops on the left as well. I think it was the quaintness of the shops that gave the street most of its odd charm. One shop on the right was a grocer's, and further down there was a chippy (best fish and chips I've ever tasted), but mostly it seemed to be little shops that sold nothing in particular - shops that made you think 'how on Earth does it manage to stay in business?' I remember one that had a shabby, fly-blown window display of toys and other odds and ends - I'd never go past it without looking in the window and wondering why anyone would ever want to go inside.

Towards the bottom, side-streets would get shorter and shorter as they had to accommodate the curve of Chichester Road - I remember Harold Street, that I'd have to visit to take money to our coal-man, which seemed to have only a dozen or so houses in it.

There was one feature about John Clay Street that I've never seen anywhere else, and that was the street lights. Instead of a bulb, each one had a set of fluorescent tubes set in a structure that looked a bit like an electric fire. The lovely pink glow they gave is one of the things I remember best of all.


Re: memories of John Clay Street

Post by baldy.smith » Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:11 pm

A well written monologue Pete.
I remember John Clay Street very well, although I lived at Laygate.
I used to often go to a second hand shop on the left hand side going
in the direction you describe. I used to go in and rummage, looking
for very old 78 records which I used to collect at the time, picked
up some very rare ones for next to nothing.



Re: memories of John Clay Street

Post by nesr012 » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:15 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - you just took me back fifty years.

We lived at 150 Chi Road where the back door almost opened onto Harold Street. The chip shop like you say was quality, and I always remember the taste of the Sweet William and chips in the newspaper wrapper - can smell it now; mind you it had to be good with Moffat Street chippy just a hundred yards or so away.

Do you remember the larger Alsatian dog that stood guard outside the bookies on the right hand side as you walked down the street - seemed like a monster to me as a child.

I can recall all of the places you mention and the bombed sites like I was still there - great memories, and, I like you wish there where more photo's of that time and area.

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Re: memories of John Clay Street

Post by sless » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:38 pm

was the chippy called

my dad used to take me when i was a kid

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Re: memories of John Clay Street

Post by homesick » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:05 pm

My mam's aunt owned a second-hand clothes shop in John-Clay St. Annie Cook was her name .She also had stalls at Shields' and Chesterly St markets.My grandparents were Lizzie and Jack Cook and they lived at 208 Chi. Road,above Moffat's barber shop.Wonderful memories.

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Re: memories of John Clay Street

Post by malaymac » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:24 pm

Shady, that was a wonderful walk down memory lane just now. Thanks for sharing such precious memories. :D
nesr012 wrote: The chip shop like you say was quality, and I always remember the taste of the Sweet William and chips in the newspaper wrapper - can smell it now; mind you it had to be good with Moffat Street chippy just a hundred yards or so away.
It's just amazing how you could have two of the best chippy's in Sheels, within such a short walk.
For me, it was the lemon sole........heaven on earth..... :D

Oh, almost forgot, which shop was it that used to do fresh bread and plate pies ? absolutely delicious. :D

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Re: memories of John Clay Street

Post by mazza » Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:04 am

My grandparents used to own a newsagents in john clay st in 70's/80's Hazel & George Richardson

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