Geordie Jeans and Maws Pies: Remembering Sunderland’s shops of old

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SLIP into your Geordie Jeans, grab a Maws pie and take a trip back in time to Wearside’s shops of the past – thanks to the Echo’s archives.

Binns, Joplings, Blacketts, Kennedys, Liverpool House, Hills and Joseph’s all served Wearside shoppers for decades, offering everything from toys to the latest fashions. But smaller shops are still warmly remembered too – from Doggarts, Maws, Books and Geordie Jeans, to Share’s, Louis’s Milkbar and uniform specialists Caslaw Brothers.

Books fashion store in 1973.

Books fashion store in 1973.

“Sunderland has a very rich shopping heritage. By the 1890s you could buy virtually anything in the dozens of town centre shops,” said Echo archivist Susan Swinney.

“Big stores like Binns obviously drew the crowds, but there were dozens of family-owned stores too. Rich or poor, working or middle class, there was a shop for you.”

Wearsiders initially flocked to High Street East for their shopping – where butchers, grocers, bakers and drapers, including the first Binns store, enjoyed a roaring trade.

The industrial boom of the mid-19th century, however, saw Fawcett Street become the commercial heart, with shops lit by gas lamps staying open until 9pm each night.

“Once the new Central Station opened in 1879, the shopping area started to change once again, with stores relocating to High Street West and Bridge Street,” said Susan.

“JT Calverts, on the corner of High Street West and Lambton Street was the largest, but Havelock House, on Fawcett Street and High Street West, wasn’t very far behind.

“Other stores, such as Joplings and Tuer, Kennedy’s and Blacketts, started to expand too and, once the station was finished, Henry Binns moved his store to Fawcett Street.”

Other early stores included Grimshaw’s, a tea specialist based in the Elephant Tea Rooms, as well as Baccy Ward’s – a tobacconist who sold an “ounce of twist” for 3d.

There were restaurants and tea rooms galore too, including Lockhart’s, the North of England, Edward Binns, Mengs and the Queens Hotel – which catered for 110 diners.

Jewellers, ironmongers, opticians, grocers, newsagents, tailors and pubs thrived as well, as did the Assembly Rooms with its troupe of Kawooka Minstrels entertainers.

“Sadly, the days of local family-owned shops in Sunderland town centre have all but disappeared – and Binns, Hills, Books, Blacketts etc have all gone too,” said Susan. “But at least we have these photographs to remind us of what once was. Just looking at the photo of Maws is enough to make your mouth water for pie, peas and gravy!”