Christmas Day in the big hall

Sue and Pete with Santa
Sue and Pete with Santa

WE had a massive response when we asked for memories of the Owton Manor Community Centre which is 50 years old this year.

Some of the best came from Sue Thornburn who lived at the centre for more than nine years while her mum and dad were the caretakers.

In the second and final part of Sue’s memories, she looks back at Christmases in the centre.

Sue had the perfect place to try out her new toys on Christmas Day when she was a child.

Even if it was icy outside, she and her brother Peter would ride their new bikes to their hearts content in the grand hall of the Owton Manor Community Centre in Hartlepool.

Her mum and dad, Albert and Marjorie Kingston, were the caretakers at the centre from the day it opened in 1963. All of the family lived in the flat above the premises.

Sue, now 51, remembered: “At Christmas, me and my brother got new bikes or a space hopper when they were all the rage. 
Like all children, we used to ask if we could play on them.

“We got to play on them in the big hall.”

She has memories too of her dad’s busy job as caretaker during the festive season.

“Sometimes, he used to stay up most of the night to cook huge turkeys. Some of them were up to 40lb for all of the Christmas dinners.”

And the New Year’s Eve dinner would get so popular that a buffet was put on with two sittings in the side room near the kitchen while the dancing carried on.

As Sue and Peter, now 56, grew older, the two-bedroomed flat became too limited for the family. But instead of having to move out, centre officials built another bedroom onto the premises.

It meant Sue could enjoy even more of a fantastic childhood. It’s been a trip down memory lane which Sue has loved.

Our thanks go to her for sharing her past. We’re hoping many more will do the same.

Contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email