Butcher’s has been meating and greeting customers for eight decades

Tram number 13 outside Henderson's the butchers in Roker Avenue just after the war.

Tram number 13 outside Henderson's the butchers in Roker Avenue just after the war.

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Generations of Wearsiders have hailed a family butchers as their favourite joint.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Henderson’s at 152 Roker Avenue – a store which thrived through the Great Depression of the 1930s, as well as the ration era of the Second World War.

Martin McGill is celebrating Henderson's Butchers 80th anniversary.

Martin McGill is celebrating Henderson's Butchers 80th anniversary.

And owner Marty McGill is also celebrating, after clocking up his 10th anniversary in charge – a role he took on at the age of just 19 on August 1, 2005.

“My mam Ann worked at Henderson’s when I was a toddler, and I became a Saturday boy here at about 13. I see myself in the business until I retire. It’s a business I love,” said the former St Aidan’s student.

The roots of Marty’s store date to Victorian times, when the Henderson family ran several butchers shops across Sunderland, including one at 66 Roker Avenue.

When the First World War broke out, however, at least one of the butchers – Robert Henderson – signed up to fight for King and Country. He was never to return home.

“Towards the end of the war dad was posted to Scotland, and he used to come home on leave with baskets of wild rabbits to sell in the shop - as they weren’t on ration at the time.”

David Henderson, son of founder Thomas Henderson.

During his service as a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery, the father-of-one was injured in France. He died from wounds on October 6, 1917.

His son Thomas, born just months before war broke out, never knew his father. But a legacy of £200 from Robert would, eventually, see Tom start the Roker Avenue shop.

“My dad had a tough childhood,” said Tom’s son David Henderson, who still works in the store. “After his father died, his mother married again – but she passed away just a few years later.

“His home life was difficult and, at about the age of 15, he ended up camping on Tunstall Hill for a year. But in 1935, aged 21, he got the legacy from his dad and started the shop.

“I believe it was originally on the other side of Roker Avenue, but it got too much sunlight. Back in those days they didn’t have fridges and freezers, so he moved across the street.”

Four years later, only a few weeks before the Second World War broke out, Tom met wife-to-be Irene at the Roker Hotel. The pair married after a whirlwind romance.

“Dad served in Africa, Italy and Sicily with the RAF, working as a butcher/cook in the officers’ mess, while mam kept the shop running in Sunderland,” said David.

“Towards the end of the war dad was posted to Scotland, and he used to come home on leave with baskets of wild rabbits to sell in the shop – as they weren’t on ration at the time.”

Henderson’s continued to flourish after the war, with Tom’s son Ronnie eventually taking over. It was Ronnie who employed Marty as a Saturday boy in the 1990s, and later sold him the shop in 2005.

“Things have pretty much come full circle for shops like ours,” said Marty. “After losing out on sales to supermarkets for several years, people are now starting to shop locally again.

“We source all our meat locally, so we know exactly what we are getting. On top of that, we make all our own sausages and burgers on the premises so people know they are buying quality produce.

“Feeding the people of Roker is a long, and proud, tradition for Hendersons – and one I plan to continue.”

• Robert Henderson, grandfather of Thomas Henderson, ended up in trouble during World War One.

The butcher, from 66 Roker Avenue, was hauled before Sunderland Borough Police Court in February 1916 after breaking black out regulations.

“I was told by the military about the light. They thought there was something like signalling going on,” reported Pc Sewell at the hearing.

“It was a bright ray of light, shining right over Stansfield Street School, coming through a tear in the blind of the defendant’s kitchen.”

Two special constables, Watson and McCue, were posted at the shop to keep watch for several hours but no signalling was spotted.

Robert, who later lost his son in the war, admitted accidentally breaking the black out and was fined 12 shillings.