‘No one under 40 will remember this’: New book looks at Hartlepool stores

When Hartlepool Had Four department stores remember the role that famous department stores used to play in people’s lives – from direct shopping to socializing and wedding celebrations.

The book explores how it was built and developed and showcases the memories of more than 100 shoppers and store workers.

Writer Frances Wilson said that people under the age of 40 in the city may not remember the stores.

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People queuing up to sell Binns in 1954.

On Church Street, Hill Carter opened in 1898 and became the Blackts in 1937.

Meanwhile, Gray Peverill’s store was acquired by the Binns in 1902 and expanded in 1926 and Central Stores opened in 1915 from Whitby Street.

“Anyone under the age of 40 will not remember any of this,” Francis said.

Author Frances Wilson with her new book.

“You can actually walk in a rectangle around the old shopping center on Lane Street and all four of the stores.

“It’s just a nostalgic look at what they were and what people remember about them and parts of their history all together.”

The book was compiled after more than eight months of research by Francis and Gillian Smith.

The Ladies of Wales on the rooftop of Central Stores after the wedding of Erin Wells at Co-op Café in the late 1940s. Photo submitted by Shirley Sumter.

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Robinson’s has four stores and the last one closed in 1969-1970. The Blacketts closed in 1970 and The Central Stores followed in the mid-1980s.

The Binns were last to close in 1992.

“A lot of people remember Saturday as the day everyone went into town and did some shopping, but it was also a social thing as well,” Francis said.

Santa Fe Beans in the mid-1970s.

“A completely different era, a completely different time, when you think about what it’s like now to shop online or shop in major malls.”

Shops were also used to host wedding parties – and guests were taking pictures on their rooftops.

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

Back in the day, people were having a wedding in one of the department store cafes, then had their photos taken on the rooftop.

“In particular, Binns and Co-ops, they had weddings inside of them.”

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

“Other people said, as children, they could remember when they were shopping with their parents watching brides coming into the store to go to the coffee shop,” Frances added.

Three of the stores remain in the city as are the other buildings while Robinson has been demolished.

Speaking of her books, former elementary school teacher Francis added, “I just want people to have fun with them, and have good memories.”

When the Hartlepool Had Four shops are available for purchase on the top floor of the Central Hub, on York Road, the Owton Manor Library, in Wynyard Road, and the Local Study Center at Sir William Gray House, on Clarence Road.

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