'Anybody under the age of 40 won’t remember this': New book looks back on Hartlepool department stores

Wedding pictures taken on shops’ rooftops and no online shopping – a new book looks back on a “completely different world” in Hartlepool.

Saturday, 25th June 2022, 4:45 am

When Hartlepool Had Four Department Stores remembers the role the iconic shops used to play in people’s lives – from straight forward shopping to socialising and celebrating weddings.

The book explores how they were built and developed and features memories from more than 100 shoppers and store workers.

Author Frances Wilson has said people under the age of 40 in the town might not remember the stores.

People queuing for Binns Sale in 1954.

Over in Church Street, Hill Carter opened in 1898 and became Blacketts in 1937.

Meanwhile, Binns took over and extended Gray Peverill's 1902 store in 1926 and The Central Stores opened in 1915 having first been in Whitby Street.

"Anybody under the age of 40 won’t remember any of this,” said Frances.

Author Frances Wilson with her new book.

"You could actually walk in a rectangle round the old shopping centre in Lynn Street and all four of these department stores.

"It’s just a nostalgic look at what they were like and what people remember about them and bits about the history of them all.”

The book was put together following over eight months of research by Frances and Gillian Smith.

Frances, who has previously written books about Hartlepool neighbourhoods Foggy Furze and Owton Manor, has said she wanted to explore the stores as none of them are around anymore.

The 'Wales ladies' on the roof of the Central Stores following the wedding reception of Irene Wales in the Co-op cafe in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy of Shirley Sumpter.

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Robinson’s was spread over four shops and the last one closed 1969-70. Blacketts closed in 1970 followed by The Central Stores in the mid 1980s.

Binns was the last to close in 1992.

"A lot of people remember Saturday as the day when everyone went into the town, they did a bit of shopping, but it was also a social thing as well,” said Frances.

Santa in Binns in the mid 1970s.

"A completely different age, a completely different time, when you think how now it’s Internet shopping or shopping in big malls.”

The stores also used to host wedding receptions – and guests would take photos on their rooftops.

"It was a completely different world,” Frances said.

”Way back, people would have a wedding reception in one of these department store cafe and then have their photos taken on the roof.

"Particularly the Binns and the Co-ops did, they had wedding receptions in them.”

During her research, Frances was also provided with a receipt of a wedding reception held in 1950 at The Central Stores’ Cafe. It had 60 guests and cost a total £11.76 at the time.

"Other people have said as children they can remember when they were shopping with their parents watching brides coming into the shop to go up to the cafe”, added Frances.

Three of the stores remain in the town as other buildings while Robinson’s has been demolished.

Speaking of her books, former primary school Frances added: "I just want people to enjoy them, have a good reminisce.”

When Hartlepool Had Four Department Stores is available to buy upstairs at the Central Hub, in York Road, Owton Manor library, in Wynyard Road, and local studies centre at Sir William Gray House, in Clarence Road.

Postage can also be arranged by emailing [email protected]

Copies cost £5.