top of page

Border Voices: Recording Memories, Session 2

Photographs by Richard Clayton.

Another fabulous session at The Custom House listening to and recording memories of living in St Hilda's. The recordings collectively entitled "Border Voices" will be listenable by visiting the the MyPlace garden on North Street anytime after July 25th. Just search for QR cards dotted about and scan them with a smart phone to hear a story

Hilda's, I only hope I can do justice to all we heard at the session. Steve Waller, who made the model of the St Hilda's area, showed his model of St Mary's RC Cathedral and this superbly crafted piece caught the attention of the group and the memories flooded out.

The group remembered ceremonies held there such as the Annual Corpus Christi Procession and the influence the priests had on the community (even those who weren't Catholic). It brought me back to a time, many years ago when I was chosen to present my school's Lenten Collection money to the bishop, how proud I felt - life has been pretty much downhill since then! The model sparked memories of the differences between the local Catholic and Protestant communities. No one could remember any particular animosity, only that the two communities were very separate and any mixing was minimal. They had separate schools and churches and were very reluctant to visit each others' places of worship. Marriages between different religions were discouraged, though some did take place. Catholics who married Protestants were denied the full Catholic Marriage ceremony, Nuptial Mass, and had to promise to bring children up as Catholics.

We then went on to discuss the market held in the Old Town Hall Square. This was a massive, lively event with a wide range of stalls, a fun fair and there is even a record of a travelling group of Six Nations Mohawk Tribesmen offering healing and teeth pulling in the late 1800s. One of the group, Moses Carpenter, is buried in Linthorpe Cemetery

Len recalled his father's butcher's stall and helping at the stall from a very young age. It was obvious he'd had a great time there, his eyes lit up when he talked about it. He remembered lots of stallholders' names and

also his dad sometimes buying him a pie and peas as a reward for helping out.

What came across from all the speakers was their memory of living in a safe, close and localised community. People tended to keep to their own streets, John recalled meeting an old neighbour who now lived a few streets away and asking them if they had moved away.

There was diversity though, Middlesbrough was a port and increasing industrialisation meant new people moved into the area. The group recalled The Kenya Cafe where foreign sailors would congregate, The Carlisle Club where Irish workmen lodged and Teresa Harrington's fish and chip shop. Lots of old firms were remembered: Garnett's, Fentiman's and Lowcock's Lemonade. You could almost feel your mouth beginning to water at the memory. John remembered, as a child, going to the pictures with friends and sharing a bottle of lemonade and a bag of Greco's wafers. Nobody wanted the last drink from the bottle.

Some fascinating memories were shared. As a young boy Len came across L.S. Lowry painting his picture of the old Town Hall and not being very impressed by the matchstick figures, thinking he could do better himself. He also recalled his dad telling Lowry to move on as he was stopping customers coming into his shop. If only they'd known how famous Lowry was to become.

Len also remembered hearing of an accident in the 1950s, when a wagon went down a hole in the road into what was thought to be a monks' tunnel or passage way. The rumour was that this led all the way to Whitby Abbey so the monks could travel there if necessary. I've tried to research this event, but haven't had any luck to date, but THIS DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT TRUE - I'll keep on looking.

Of course we came round to the subject of pubs, after all there were certainly many of them. By 1868 there were 69 pubs and 127 beer houses in Middlesbrough. In its early days Middlesbrough had the reputation of being very rough. A Presbyterian minister who visited the town said that in no other town had he seen sin so rampant as in the streets and lanes of Middlesbrough. The pub names remembered were: The Ship inn, The Captain Cook, The Steam Packet, The Robin Hood, The Coach House, The Queen's Head and the Gladstone Hotel. Jim's dad was the last licensee of the Gladstone Hotel and Jim recalled drinking the last pint there before it closed in the 1960s - fond memories.

There's so much more to tell and hopefully there will be more sessions and more precious memories of life in a lost community.

Finally, here's a taster of one of the stories.

119 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page