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Old October 17th, 2009, 12:42 PM   #1
Newcastle Historian
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Remembering HISTORIC NEWCASTLE - Old Photos, Maps, even Stories . . .

CALLERS FURNITURE STORE on Northumberland Street was destroyed in a huge fire on 30th November 1969, but was re-built on the exact same spot and re-opened in 1971 . . .

For those of you who do not know about this famous Newcastle store, the name of the shop was pronounced ‘CAllers’ and not ‘CORlers’ (as in phone-callers) though it may at first look like that with it’s spelling!

Anyway, on the evening of Sunday 30th November 1969, there were crowds of excited children and parents looking around the Callers animated Dickensian-themed display. Remember, the display at the front of the shop was was, and had been for many years, the BEST Christmas Display in Newcastle, in the days prior to the emergence of the 'Fenwicks Christmas Windows' in 1971.

With the Callers Christmas Display, you could actually ‘walk in’ around the large recessed arcade windows, even when the shop was shut.









On that November evening of 30th November 1969, some mechanical characters in the Callers' display caught fire and led to one of the worst fires Newcastle City Centre had seen for decades. Back in 1969, the shops were always closed on Sundays, but the street was still full of people enjoying the Christmas lights. This was a time when it was still part of the A1 and a busy thoroughfare at all hours.

It was mid-evening when a barman in the Northumberland Arms, looking across the street, saw a display figure in the window of Callers smouldering and sparking. He told his manager, David Richardson, who promptly dialled 999. Also, on that November evening one of the crowd there saw a thin plume of smoke rising gently from one of the mechanical toys in the display, and he also rushed to a nearby telephone box to call the Fire Brigade. "Within two-and-a-half minutes of my call," said the Manager of the Northumberland Arms, "all the windows shattered with a crack and the building burst into flames."

Within a few minutes the entire display, built mostly of papier-mâché and polystyrene, was alight, the flames being helped along nicely by the electric fans powering the toy windmills decorating the ceiling of the store’s arcade entrance. The fire quickly took hold, spreading throughout the shop and into the building’s upper floors by the time Fire Brigade arrived. In fact, the blaze took hold so fast that nearly 100 firemen, from Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham, armed with three turntable ladders, took hours to bring the blaze under control.

At one point they had to stand clear of the building because of the danger of collapse.

The red glow was visible over the City Centre and much of Newcastle and further afield around Tyneside. As police closed Northumberland Street, firemen tried desperately to contain the blaze, but the flames spread to Michael's nightclub and Richards fashion shop. Pat Watters, chief of the Newcastle Gateshead brigade, said the blaze was the biggest in Central Newcastle "for many years, and it was made all the worse, he said, because the furniture in Callers shop was highly flammable.” The firefighters could do nothing to save the building, but their efforts were vital in ensuring the flames did not spread any further, or leap across the road to the other side of Northumberland Street, which would have been disastrous. The near-100 firefighters using 15 appliances and struggled for about five hours to bring the blaze under control, with another four appliances used to extinguish the conflagration using high expansion foam.

It was the start of one of the biggest blazes ever to hit the City Centre, and was to cost the Callers £2m, a massive amount 44 years ago. Thankfully, only three people were injured including the leading fireman

Below are photos of the fire, some taken on Northumberland Street, and another around the corner on Saville Row, where there was also an entrance to the store. This 'Saville Row' bit actually remained open long after the eventually newly built Callers store closed, as Callers Pegasus Travel Agents.







Durham County and Northumberland County Fire Brigade engines wait at the southern end of Northumberland Street, to help putting out the Callers fire . .



That is ROY CALLER (one of the Callers brothers) in the above photo, standing next to the policeman.





This was the worst fire seen in the City Centre for years, causing upwards of two million pounds (in 1969 money) worth of damage. Callers and the adjacent Van Allan and Richard Shops were completely gutted. The building façade was declared unsafe, and demolished shortly afterwards.

Miraculously, only three people were injured.

This next short paragraph, is my own 'personal' memory of that day . . .

A friend of mine called me that evening, to say he had seen the fire, and he drove me down to town and we both watched it from a nearby car park!! Looking back on that now, we were both being a bit ‘ghoullish’ doing that, perhaps! But, I remember we stayed because we were so fascinated by it - we just could not believe that our fabulous CALLERS shop was being destroyed in front of our eyes, and that we would never see it (as it had always been) again!

BELOW, is a photo of the 'shell' of the building, just after the fire had died down . .





After the fire, Callers was indeed rebuilt and reopened a year or so later, with large ornamental pebble-dash style panels above the shop window (see below, re these). I remember it still had a good space for a ‘window display’ at the front, but it wasn’t quite as good as the previous buildings ‘arcade’ style . . . perhaps understandably!

While Callers Northumberland Street store was being re-built throughout 1970/71, the business continued to trade in some good temporary premises around the neighbouring parts of the City Centre. At Saville Row there were various frontages (see next photo) and similarly along Prudhoe Street (see photo a 'bit' further down past the next two). Prudhoe Street led off Northumberland Street on the opposite side to the site of Callers destroyed store, roughly where the Eldon Square entrance / Northumberland Arms Pub, now are.


The temporary 'Saville Row' shops, in 1970.



Below is the temporary 'Saville Row' shops again (a bit further to the RIGHT of the above photo) courtesy of 'maxtoon', from Post 192 of this thread . .
image hosted on flickr



The temporary 'Prudhoe Street' shops, in 1970.



Then, after Callers finally closed down for good, in the early 1980s, the new building changed hands a few times, it was even a branch of Hamley’s toy store for a while, and is now HMV. Remnants of the “Callers pebble dash cladding’ that was above the front window of the new shop (this feature is now long gone) can actually still be seen at the back of the building (see photos, taken in 2005). The remaining cladding at the back is at first floor level, as the new Callers was built with the T Dan Smith plan in mind of eventually being linked to a first floor level segregated pedestrian deck. The (then) BHS/C&A new building nearby (now BHS/Primark) was also designed to receive the pedestrian deck that never arrived, as can be seen from the 'support blocks' sticking out at first floor level, that appear around that building. (Photo of BHS/Primark building NOT shown here on this post)

Taken by me, in 2005. The back of the '1971 re-built Callers store' (now 'HMV Records') . .


Taken by me, in 2005. The back of the re-built store (now 'HMV Records') . .



Written later, on 1st November 2009 . . . I have just found the below 1971 photo of the FRONT of the re-built store. This shows those ornamental 'Pebble Dash' panels on the front of the shop, that all these years later after Callers closed down (as shown above in the above two recent photos that I took in 2005) are STILL THERE around the back. ALSO below this photo are two other 1970s photos of the front of the store, showing that "John Collier" had joined them in the building, by then . . .





Two Callers 'Advertisements'. The first is from the 1970s (showing the NEW store in the advert) and the second one is from when they were still in the old store, in 1960 . . .




And, SOME MORE old 'Callers Adverts' (their SLOGAN used to be . . "Callers, The Home of Good Furnishing") . . .


. . . .



AND, a rare item to see nowadays, an actual "CALLERS Plastic Carrier Bag" from their Gift Department in the 1970s . . .




HERE is another photo of outside of the 'old' store (that burnt down) shown as it was at Christmas 1964, courtesy of the Evening Chronicle, on December 7th 1993 (nearly 30 years later) . . .



ANOTHER photo of the original old Callers Store, seen in 1943 on the left of the below photo of Northumberland Street . .



INSIDE the original Callers Store - photographed in 1966 . .



THE BELOW photos show the part of the Old Store that I remember the most. The fantastic "walk around" windows, that (as far as I can remember) you could walk around day or night.


CALLERS CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAYS . . .

Some are taken from inside one of the walkways during the Christmas Displays in the 1960s, some looking out towards Northumberland Street (during the day and then at night). Fantastic memories, courtesy of the Facebook Site called 'Classic Photos of Central and East Newcastle' . . .





1 - As mentioned in the actual article about the fire at the start of this post, the original pre-fire Callers Store had large ‘walk in’ recessed arcade-style windows, that you could go in and walk around to look at the window displays, even when the shop was shut. This next photo shows one of the recessed 'arcade window displays'. You can see that it is one of the windows inside the recessed arcade area, because the floor 'in front of' the window is made up of the ornamental arcade floor material, rather than of the normal Northumberland Street paving stones. This photo is dated exactly 12 months before the fire, at "Christmas 1968" . . .



2 - Another 'recessed arcade' window display from "Christmas 1968" . . .


3 - This 3rd newly-found photo is dated "Christmas 1969 on Newcastle City Libraries 'official photostream' Website. If the '1969' date is correct, this is a quite SAD photograph, as it must have only been taken a very few days before the 1969 fire destroyed the entire store. Remember also . . the FIRE itself actually started in one of these recessed window displays, just like this one (perhaps in this 'very one', who knows) . . .


4 Another Christmas Display in the covered arcade of the original Callers building, at the front - Date unknown, but probably (like those above) 'Late 1960s' . . .


5 YET another Christmas Display in the covered arcade of the original Callers building at the front - Date unknown, probably (like those above) 'Late 1960s' . . .


HERE are six more "Callers at Christmas" photos, from the late 1960s . . .








Here is a unique photo of Callers, taken in 1970 from the newly built nearby 'John Dobson Street Flats', showing the actual construction taking place of the NEW Callers building in the massive gap on Northumberland Street. It even shows the small 'link-through' Callers store on Saville Row, that became Callers Pagasus Travel Agents. A GREAT photo to find!!! This same 'new Callers building' was until very recently 'HMV Records' and is now 'JD Sports' . . .



6 - Not an 'old' photo, but this is a dramatic photo of the famous "Callers Clock" which was paid for by the Caller brothers, who owned the store, and stood outside the Callers Store throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until it was moved to its current location outside Haymarket Metro Station, where it still is today . . . This is really, the LAST 'physical evidence' remaining today in the City Centre, of Callers ("The Home of Good Furnishing") and their very long-standing presence on the Newcastle Retail Scene!



7 - Another 'Callers Clock' photo, taken on 4th December 2009 . . .



8 - This 3rd Callers-clock photo, also taken on 4th December 2009, shows the 'dedication' details on the clock, revealing it was erected in 1972 (outside M&S before being moved to its 'permanent' spot outside the Callers shop on Northumberland Street) as a celebtration of their '75th' Anniversary (1897-1972) . . .



9 - The next two photos show the Callers Clock in its modern-day location in the Haymarket, in 2016 (1) With all clock faces removed for repair, and (2) With the repaired Clock Faces being re-fitted. . .




10 - AND, here is the clock being presented to the City, in 1972. This article is from the "Newcastle CITY NEWS No. 143", dated September 1972 . .



MORE MEMORIES of Callers, from other Forum Members . . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Watters View Post
July 29th 2011.

Just looking at the photographs of Callers store in Newcastle.

I worked as Creative Director of McConnells advertising the year after the fire, they handled the advertising for the Callers Group. We were producing the Christmas cards for the following Christmas, and any designs which featured 'candles' were immediately binned.

A simple mistake for a new designer, but thank heavens the client never saw them.
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Newcastle Historian View Post
July 30th 2011.

Always interesting to hear from people who lived through the times when an event happened!

The main personal memory I have of the Callers Fire, is that my mate rang me up and said that he had borrowed his Dad's car and that "Callers was on fire" so we should go and watch it.

Which we did!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stagknight View Post
August 7th 2011.

The Callers Fire of 1969

Going back to the first post on the site, the one I first came here to read actualy, I have some more information on how it came to be.

I was four at the time but remember that I had been taken to see the display the actual Saturday before the fire, by my grandfather. That year one of the displays was a "gnome fishing in a Hotpoint twin tub washing machine" similar to the one below.



Information about the day of the fire . . .

It was a man on his way home from work that discovered it, as he was having a look while it was free of children, He noticed the smoke coming out of the gnome and went to get help.

The big problem was that at the time there was not a phone box on Northumberland Street, due to the crowded pavements it would have been impractical to add one. The gentleman actually ran down to the fire station on Pilgrim street and rang the emergency bell on the door, as he was explaining to the duty fireman what the problem was the front window of Callers exploded out into the street due to the rapid combustion of windows full of polystyrene, shredded paper and rather volatile paints.

The rest you know, I got the whole story when I was eleven and was at an event held at the fire station for children of St Johns officers, again I was with my grandfather.

The photos you have of the fire were on the wall in the event room and I asked a fireman who actually attended that fire. It turns out that Chief Fire officer P. Watters had asked for the army to attend at the hight of the fire. Had they been unable to contain the fire with in another 30 mins he intended to blow up the buildings around Callers to prevent the fire spreading all the way up the street.

The prevailing wind was blowing up the street and they felt that they might lose most of the street as far as Northumberland Road. It was in the end saved by a drop in wind speed. The fire was carried live on Tyne Tees TV program 'Today at Six', live from the road by presenter Charlotte Allen, a very early outside news broadcast for the station.

As an addendum to it all, after the rebuild of the block of stores, a pair of phone boxes was erected near the end of the store in the entrance to Saville Row. They were paid for by Callers . . . "Once bitten twice shy".
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Newcastle Historian View Post
April 29th 2012.

Callers of Northumberland Street.

The Evening Chronicle yesterday (Saturday 28th April 2012) were asking for people to contribute their memories of the famous Callers store, on Northumberland Street . . .


.

Now, in some ways the most "Historic CALLERS Photo" of all.

Here are the 'Caller Family' just after they had arrived in the UK from Belorussia in 1900, Louis, Isaac and Charlie Caller can be seen on this amazing photo. Their origins as 'Cabinet makers' can also be seen . . .




It was their descendants, Roy and Ian Caller who ran the famous store (and its branches around the North East) in the 1960s to 1980s period. Roy B Caller was born in 1924 and Ian D Caller in 1930.


Finally, here is another copy of the above photo, plus one more "equally old" photo of the CALLERS FAMILY that emigrated to England, plus some explanatory narrative . . .



.
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Old October 17th, 2009, 03:58 PM   #2
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had no idea that's how the previous building met its demise. do you have any pics of it still standing?
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Old October 17th, 2009, 06:24 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnypd View Post
had no idea that's how the previous building met its demise. do you have any pics of it still standing?
Hi Johnny,

Yes, the Callers Fire was one of the famous events in the region, back in the day! The only photo I have available at the moment that shows the full original building as it was, was actually taken AFTER the fire . . . sorry it's so small.



However, I have a wealth of books and pamphlets from that era, so I will try to find the time to have a look through them, and if I find a decent photo I'll 'scan it in' and post it on here. I cannot find any decent ones on the net.




LATER EDIT (NOV. 2009) - Photo of the previous building, now added to 'Post One'.

.

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Old October 17th, 2009, 06:34 PM   #4
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Nice post historian ..

I think i've probably got a few images of the original store somewhere .. will try and dig them out and get some posted
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Old October 18th, 2009, 12:49 AM   #5
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That looks like another great building we lost, I think I may stay from the thread in future, it's too depressing seeing what we once had.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 01:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigchrisfgb View Post
That looks like another great building we lost, I think I may stay from the thread in future, it's too depressing seeing what we once had.
Yeah, I think you should stay off this thread Chris, with all the GREAT stuff that will doubtless be appearing on here . . . you could end up SUICIDAL!

Nah, you'd better be on here mate, I wanna know what you 'young-uns' think about the "City that you have never seen". Having said that, it won't all be about that, often it will be a celebration of things that are still here, but showing them as they used to look a, few years back.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:17 PM   #7
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posted by - maxtoon, January 24th 2009 . . .

I just had to post these ...

Absolutely amazing to see how things have changed in Newcastle over the years !!!





.

Last edited by Newcastle Historian; August 17th, 2012 at 07:33 PM. Reason: To reveal the 'YouTube' Image
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:35 PM   #8
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posted by maxtoon, January 26th 2009 . . .

Ok guys, as requested !!

enjoy ....

Haymarket looking towards Town Moor 1966
image hosted on flickr


City Centre Looking West Over Pilgrim St, Grey St 1966
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The Civic Centre and Haymarket 1966
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The RVI, University and Haymarket, looking North to Town Moor 1966
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Haymarket looking towards Town Moor 1966
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Grainger Market, Monument and Old Eldon Square, 1966
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by hollow man 26th January 2009
Got any pics directly over where eldon square now is maxtoon?

Reply by maxtoon 26th January 2009
sure do ... how about a side by side comparison 1966 and 2008 . . .

image hosted on flickr

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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:47 PM   #10
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Originally posted by maxtoon, February 5th 2009 . . .

On the subject of by gone era's, thought you might all find these interesting.

Enjoy . . .

Pilgim Street, 1940s, showing Fire Station
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Northumberland Street in the 1950's, when it was still part of the main London - Newcastle - Edinburgh A1 road!!!!
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Market Street, 1950-55
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:53 PM   #11
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Originally posted by maxtoon, February 12th 2009 . . .

Thought you'd like these images of the quayside from bygone years . . .

The Swing Bridge & the Quayside, 1900's . . NOTICE, there is NO Tyne Bridge
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The Quayside from Tyne Bridge, circa 1970
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Newcastle Quayside in the 1930's
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:58 PM   #12
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Originally posted by maxtoon, 19th February 2009 . . .

Check out this image of Forth St/Stephenson Works and the area behind Central Station from 1972 ...

Also note the demolition work at Neville St/Grainger St junction, which is when the old 'Douglas Hotel' which contained the famous 'Long Bar' featured in Get Carter, was demolished . . .

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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:05 PM   #13
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Originally posted by maxtoon, 20th February 2009 . . .

Two of Newcastle's OLD Bus and Coach Stations, now either no longer in use or not there any more . . .

GALLOWGATE COACH STATION
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MARLBOROUGH CRESCENT BUS STATION, 1976
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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:13 PM   #14
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Originally posted by maxtoon, 23rd February 2009. . .

On the subject of Pilgrim St, I thought you might find these interesting ......

Pilgrim St Fire Station from the North - Modern view
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Pilgrim St Fire Station - Same view in 1933
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Carliol House from the South - Modern view
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Carliol House from the South - 1928
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1930s Pilgrim Street
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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:26 PM   #15
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Has anyone got any pics of what was before Monumant mall, both on Northumberland St, and at Monument. Though it's a fairly new building, I was only 3 or so at the time it was complete.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:28 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by johnnypd, March 2009 . . . I think i'll have to agree with you there. in all honesty it's disgraceful. let's rebuild the ymca building:



With reply by maxtoon, 24th March 2009

The YMCA Building in all its glory!! The street to the left is the long lost High Friar Street which joined Newgate Street. It was split when Clayton St originally joined Blackett Street. The street runniing left from Clayton St is St Andrews Street which ran from Clayton St up to and past St Andrews Church.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:35 PM   #17
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Originally posted by maxtoon, 3rd July 2009 . . .

Speaking of the Central Station here's some old photo's I though you might like:

CENTRAL STATION IN THE 1950's
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1920's POSTCARD
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IN THE 1950's
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THE FAMOUS (LONG GONE) DIAMOND CROSSING - SAID TO BE THE LARGEST RAILWAY CROSSING IN THE WORLD (TAKEN IN THE 1960's)
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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:47 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by WilfBurnsFan on 6th September 2009 . . .

I was interested to see that the new access road from Sandyford Road into Northumbria University has been named 'Day Street' after a demolished street on, or very close to, the new. Just a gesture, I suppose, but it displays historical awareness.

Reply by Newcastle Historian, 6th September 2009 . . .

Hi WilfBurnsFan - Here is the mentioned DAY STREET, from my parents street map of Newcastle (which I now own) from the 1950s.


Originally Posted by toonlad, 7th September 2009 . . .

Looking at that map of Shieldfield (above) it almost seems like the motorway only replaced a big rail yard - so the communities of Shieldfield have been a bit isolated since even before the Central Motorway was driven through!

Reply by Newcastle Historian, 7th September 2009 . . .

A slightly 'wider' view of the 1950s City Centre street plan, showing more of the "pre-Central Motorway" City Centre, Shieldfield and Sandyford street-plan.

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Old October 18th, 2009, 09:41 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigchrisfgb View Post
Has anyone got any pics of what was before Monumant mall, both on Northumberland St, and at Monument. Though it's a fairly new building, I was only 3 or so at the time it was complete.
Chris,

This is where Monument Mall is at Northumberland St (corner with Blackett St) - so this shows the buildings that were replaced by Monument Mall there.

image hosted on flickr


I will find a picture of 'further along' Blackett Street, near Grey's Monument and post it later on, and I may have a colour picture of the above corner.

Cheers.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 09:48 PM   #20
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Thanks, it's interesting to see.

Personally, by that picture I don't think we lost anything with that building, I much prefer Monumant Mall to that, though somemay find it bland, I personally think it's one of the best modern/newish buildings Newcastle has.

P.S. For the love of god, will this thread go onto page 2 soon.
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