Bustling Blandford Street and its great array of super shops

A busy Blandford Street from around 50 years ago.
A busy Blandford Street from around 50 years ago.
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It was a must-see area of Sunderland’s city centre - especially for shoppers keen to grab that latest bargain.

But Blandford Street recently made the headlines for a different reason when business urged people to use it or lose it as they battled for the area to be improved.

Blandford Street in the 1960s.

Blandford Street in the 1960s.

Today’s Philip Curtis of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, looks back on the street in times gone by.

The recent announcement of shop closures in Blandford Street has no doubt brought sadness to many of the older generation of Wearside shoppers.

They can recall the street’s glory days of the 1960s and ‘70s. At that time, the street was a busy, bustling thoroughfare and many of the shops were run by local families.

But this is an area which started out in a very different fashion.

Blandford Street was actually developed in the 1850s and was mainly residential.

By the turn of the century, however, a few of the houses had been turned into shops. Even then, it still retained its residential feel and had its own public house, which was called Blandford House.

But the times were changing and it was the Second World War which brought real change to the street.

After one intensive air bombardment of the town, the south end of the Central railway station was temporarily closed and week-end shoppers from the outlying districts began to use the street more.

It was conveniently situated and the tradesmen made the most of their opportunity.

What was once a quiet residential backwater, with boarding houses that were patronised by theatre folk, gradually began to quickly alter.

It changed into a street which was packed with shops to meet every requirement of the keen customer.

By the 1960s, Blandford Street was a must-see area for anyone shopping in the city centre.

On its corner with Union Street was Blacklocks the Jewellers on one side and Swinhoe’s on the other. Further up, shoppers could call in on Leadbitters the chemist, Bedan Fashions, Freemans and of course Arrowsmith’s, which was one of Sunderland’s two great book shops (Hills was the other).

The north side of the street boasted Hector Grabham’s, the decorators, and Leveys wallpaper shop.

There was F. Stewart Brothers who, along with Cowper, Shaw & Co which was across the street, specialised in fireplaces.

If you were hungry you could always drop in to the Wimpey Bar or buy your fish from Arthur’s Oyster Bar.

Hairdressers were popular and there was Thurstons and Marcelle Hair Fashions which offered exclusive hairstyling. The street even had a shop which sold and repaired typewriters. Who remembers Dacks?

Music lovers were served by Katie Elwen who always stocked the latest sheet music.

And at the top of the street was Bergs on one corner and Knightalls on the other. Bergs was run by a local Jewish family, and it was the place to go for the latest record releases.

It also sold radios, tape recorders and toys.

Knightalls occupied numbers 1-4 in the street and stocked quality furniture as well as carpets and curtains.

Earlier this month, current retailers in Blandford Street spoke out after the Echo reported that independent clothing shop Arc was set to close, with owner Adam Clarke bringing an end to his family running shops in the city for 90 years.

Mr Clarke is closing down because more shoppers are going online or taking their business out of town.

Robert Robson, owner of Rob’s Quality Butchers, urged shoppers to return to independent retailers or risk losing them.

Do you have memories of the old shops of Blandford Street?

Get in touch and tell us what you loved about them.

Which eras do you recall and which shops did you love to visit?

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk