The Binns days of Strawberry Time and the Bear Pit

The bread shortage in 1975.
The bread shortage in 1975.
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The history of Binns has been examined by Philip Curtis of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

Here is his final instalment.

The Binns sale in 1960.

The Binns sale in 1960.

Disaster struck when most of the Fawcett Street premises were destroyed after a bombing raid in 1941.

Within three days, the store was operating again from the converted motor store in Holmeside but many staff were laid off.

The rebuilding of the west side of Fawcett Street began in 1949. The new store opened in 1953 with five storeys. The same year saw the House of Fraser secure a majority shareholding in the company.

The east side was rebuilt in 1962 and featured a spiral staircase leading to the restaurants and furniture department. The food department was on the ground floor - who can recall Strawberry Time at Binns?

Fawcett Street in 1962 with Binns on both sides of the street.

Fawcett Street in 1962 with Binns on both sides of the street.

Eventually an underground passage was opened in the store leading from one side of Fawcett Street to the other. Shoppers could then move from one side of the store to the other without having to cross the busy road.

Binns was noted for its restaurants and at one time advertised four of them. In the 1960s The Gay Tray and the Bear Pit were very popular. The Gay Tray was self-service and the Bear Pit was a grill and griddle with the latest trend in snack bar catering – a Dutch idea of split level counters which allowed you to see your meal being prepared in the open cooking area.

In 1968 Binns introduced its own credit card and the store’s continued success led to a massive face-lift in 1972. However in the 1980s its customer base began to diminish and in April 1989 the furniture building was vacated and

unfashionable departments including the food hall and fabrics were closed down.

The spiral staircase in 1963.

The spiral staircase in 1963.

Unfortunately, this was not enough to save the store, and in December 1992 Binns closed its doors for the last time.