A cup of Rosie Lee by the Sunderland seaside - and don’t forget the teapot

The hot water queue at Seaburn.
The hot water queue at Seaburn.

In days gone by, vehicles packed with families would head for the seaside.

One item was an absolute must in their baggage - the household teapot.

Queueing at Seaburn for the journey home.

Queueing at Seaburn for the journey home.

Today, Philip Curtis of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, looks back on the era when we were a region of seaside tea drinkers.

The sunny weather may have temporarily deserted us but it has brought families flooding to Roker and Seaburn for decades.

Today, of course, the journey to the resorts is made mostly by car.

And for many visitors, the trip to the coast often involves merely opting to go for a drive along the seafront to enjoy the atmosphere and views without even getting out of the vehicle.

In the 1950s, one of the most important items which was packed for any seaside visit was the family teapot together with tea, which was loose of course

Philip Curtis

It was not always the case, though.

Past generations of Wearsiders used to make their way to the sea front mainly by tram or bus. It made for a great and relaxing day out.

And it was always easier to get there than to leave as holidaymakers tended to return home all at the same time – and that was in the late afternoon.

As a result, long queues at the Seaburn terminus were a common sight and patience had to indeed be a virtue.

In the 1950s, one of the most important items which was packed for any seaside visit was the family teapot together with tea, which was loose of course.

Tea bags were not easily available then. At that time, tea was definitely the drink for the vast majority of Wearside people.

Coffee did not have the popularity that it has today and comparatively little of the beverage was drank by people at home.

Perhaps a bottle of Camp might have been in the larder or the odd sachet of coffee was purchased but at that time it was tea that was by far the more popular drink.

As a result, coffee tables were few and far between in most Wearside houses with many homes instead having a large oak or mahogany dining table which was covered by an oil cloth for meals. This was easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Even on the beach, a cup of tea was not be missed. However, there was one ingredient that could not be packed for a visit and that was hot water.

It wasn’t a great problem if you were planning to pay a visit to the seaside.

And that’s because both at Roker and Seaburn there were cafés selling it, and it usually came at 2d per pot.

The Bungalow Café at Roker and Notarianni’s kiosk at Seaburn specialised in hot water and it certainly was not unusual to see long queues of people waiting their turn to be served,

Those queues were usually made up of females, standing patiently with their teapots at the ready waiting to purchase the water. Seemingly few men would offer to do this.

Coffee was available around the corner in Notarianni’s main ice cream parlour but generally the public wanted tea.

Today of course there are no hot water outlets, no more queues, no tea pots or loose tea packed for the seaside visit.

The seafront is now packed with coffee shops, cafés and restaurants with a large variety of coffee on offer, and many of them come with continental names.

How many of our ancestors would have even heard of Mocha, Cappuccino, Latte or Americano?

Good old tea remains just that, or does it? Imagine our ancestors’ reactions upon ordering a cup of tea being asked: “Is that green, Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong, Assam, Iced or merely decaff?”

Who remembers those good old days of taking everything to the seaside that you needed for a cuppa?

And what about the queues. Were you a part of that good old tradition as you waited for hot water.

Or perhaps there is another aspect of Wearside history you would like to share? Is there an event, a bygone shop that you loved or a pub you would like us to remember, get in touch.

If you have seaside memories to tell us, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.