Tin baths and nails - you got it all at this Sunderland store

J.T.Brumwell's ironmongery in High Street West.
J.T.Brumwell's ironmongery in High Street West.
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Two shops - which Wearsiders may remember well - make up our Wearside Echoes spotlight today.

Brumwells and Strother’s were, at one time or another, mainstays on High Street West - the same building at one point.

Strother's in High Street West.

Strother's in High Street West.

Both are now a part of Sunderland’s history but Philip Curtis, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, has taken a look back to their heyday.

At one time, Wearside had a number of family ironmongery and hardware shops throughout the city.

One of the longest serving shops of this type belonged to J.T. Brumwell.

It was situated at 3 High Street West, and it was across the street from Bishopwearmouth Church which is now The Minster.

Competition from huge hardware stores on retail parks has seen the demise of many local hardware shops. A few still survive today in the city but the days of such shops being situated in High Street have long gone.

Philip Curtis

J.T. bought the business from Thomas Dodd who had originally established a shop there in 1863.

But it was JT Brumwell who extended the premises in the 1890s and, by the close of the nineteenth century, he was dealing in both silver and copper goods as well as in lamps and fittings.

One of the great features of the shop was the amount of stock that it always had on display outside the building and at the front of the premises.

Brumwell’s served Wearsiders well for most of the twentieth century, and managed to survive both the First World War and the Second World War.

Strother and Son's harness shop.

Strother and Son's harness shop.

But eventually, it was taken over in 1985 by J.T. Strother’s, which was a similar hardware firm.

At that time, it could be found in John Street.

Strother’s had moved around the town since it was first established in 1886 at 58-59 High Street West, which was just down the road from the Kennedy’s store.

It was an extension of the family business which was run by William Greenfield Strother, who also sold saddles and harnesses further up High Street at number 7.

That premises was next door to the site where the Empire Theatre was later built.

William was a master saddler, and he both made and supplied harnesses for the many horses that were heavily relied upon at that time on Wearside.

But his skills did not end at harness making.

He also made hoods for the very early motor cars.

William’s son was Fred Greenfield and he was just as enterprising.

He kept up the link with cars and, in 1924, he began a motor engineering company which could be found in Holmeside. The business also had premises in Vine Place.

J.T. Strother’s main hardware shop in High Street West was extremely popular with Wearsiders, and that was partly down to the fact that it occupied an excellent position within the town.

As a result of that, the business prospered throughout the early decades of the twentieth century. They offered plenty of goods for the Sunderland shopper.

They stocked everything from nails to tin baths.

All this changed in April 1941 when, during a Second World War air raid, the shop was destroyed and the firm relocated into premises in John Street.

It could be found across the road from Joplings, and next door to the rear entrance of Woolworths.

There, Strother’s remained until its final move, which was in 1985 when it again relocated.

This time it was into 3 High Street West, which was the premises where J.T. Brumwell had first opened over a century earlier.

It brought to an end 122 years of trading in the city by Brumwell’s.

But Strother’s continued trading in Brumwell’s old premises in High Street West until the clamour in Sunderland for city centre wine bars eventually took its toll.

The business closed down which meant the shop could be altered and redeveloped into a wine bar.

Philip said: “The sale of ironmongery and hardware which had carried on in the same premises for well over a century came to an end.

“Competition from huge hardware stores on retail parks has seen the demise of many local hardware shops.

“A few still survive today in the city but the days of such shops being situated in High Street have long gone.”

Do you have any memories of Brumwell’s and Strothers?

Or is there another aspect of Wearside history you would like us to spotlight.

Get in touch by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk