Chillingham Rd.

Heaton Shops
Sat. 8th June, 2002

Chillingham Road, named after a sleepy village in Northumberland, is the main commercial route running north south between the Coast Road and Shields Rd. It was constructed in the late Victorian housing boom to provide a spine to the grid plan of the neighbouring residential streets.

In true modern fashion, some side streets were given numbers rather than proper names, like the rather unimaginative American layouts. Other streets were given names of similar northern villages and famous people of the day.

The overall purpose was to serve the rapidly expanding Parsons Engineering works at the southern end.

Southern view from junction of Warton Terrace
1890s Tyneside flats

The older terraced housing is at the southern end of the street, near the railway lines. Originally laid for the massive engineering and turbine factory, the rail route formed part of the Tyneside electric coast loop, taking in Whitley Bay, Tynemouth and returning to the city viaNorth Shields and Wallsend.

The parallel route of Heaton Road to the west was a flourishing thoroughfare from the mid 19th century, but the burgeoning heavy industry required people, and that meant housing.

These Tyneside flats were a solution to the requirement for high density dwellings. They are far from poky; some modern flats are tiny by comparison. Their solid brick and stone construction has lasted well for around a century.

This view shows the northern flow from Shields Road. That skew bridge over the railway has been a traffic hazard for generations. It crosses the Tyneside Metro light transit system (successor to the electric coast loop), the main railway route to the Heaton carriage sheds, and the East Coast Main Line.

The horrors and disruption that would be cased by any attempt at rebuilding this bridge do not bear thinking about So, for the foreseeable future, the cars, vans and buses perform a daily dance of death at this point.

North view from Shields Road, with skew bridge in foreground
The Chillingham Public House

Beyond the bridge is the Chillingham Public House and the start of the older property. Standing well back from the road, these flats had small gardens at the front; an allusion to rustic idyll that was abandoned in later high density housing. The houses are squat and cubic, in contrast to the rather more spindly designs of just a few years later after the turn of the 20th century. The large looming carcass of Chillingham Road School stands proud in the midst of this original community.

Chillingham Road School

Right in the heart of the habitation is the junction with Meldon Terrace, and the main through link to Second Avenue, running parallel with and between Chillingham Road and Heaton Road. For years, first the trams then the motorbuses have dashed around this junction trying to make up time on the busy two or three minute headways that were normal until the 1980s. The service was reduced to five minutes and these obliging traffic lights installed to ease the flow.

The housing beyond this point is more commercial in nature and arranged in grand blocks between the grid of side streets.

Bus on service 1 emerging from Meldon Terrace

Here is the block between Rothbury Terrace and the hole where a church used to stand on the corner of the next street, Simonside Terrace.

The tall shop premises on the ground floor support grand storage and flats above. Those trapezium shaped stone lintels and tall narrow windows, combined with the steep pitched roof and Dutch flourishes on the dormer gables all shout
Edwardian, and a date of around 1908.

During the mid 1980s the corner shop was "modernised" and is now a monstrous triumph of extruded aluminium over taste.

Our local council is breathing light and air into the locality with renewed and wider pavements, tree planting, and flower beds.

Rothbury block
Original and servicable shop front

A little further north, at the junction of Cartington Terrace, is the truncated Co-op building of 1910. The adjacent shop premises to the left were demolished during the mid 1970s and replaced by a giant Portakabin design for the kwaintly named Kwik Save.

Not all retailers hack away at the language, as if correct spelling and usage were not difficult enough. We do not see Sainsburiz, or Marx and Spensa. We have yet to have a Bootz, a Fennix or a John Loo Is Us on every high street. So why Kwik Save? (I've just noticed that I am writing this on a Compaq computer! Woe to us all, the rot is here to stay.)

Co-op building
Co-op and a glimpse of Kwik Save

Just north of the Co-op, opposite Biddlestone Road, is the junction between the Edwardian housing on the left and the post World War 1 1920s stock on the right.

The modern world went mad and squandered an unfathomable amount of human and physical resources, and knocked the stuffing out of society. That change is so clear in the terrace junction.

The housing to the north of here is 1920s and early 1930s, solid enough, but lacking the massive and confident feel of the previous style.

The world had learned that the future is forever fragile and it was the dawning of the age of the ephemera, the temporary, the throw away, the pile it high and sell it cheap.

Nice late 1920s terrace
For safety and a cosy home, keep left

Heaton is a thriving community to the east of the city. Its mixed housing offers opportunities for families, single people and a large population of students.

The finals are now almost done and the would be graduates are moving out, to be replaced by another influx of fresh faces in October.

The longer term residents go about their daily business with hope and a future that was not so possible in the depressing days of mass unemployment in the 1980s and early 90s.

Parson's factory still makes massive turbines, but with only a fraction of the previous workforce, and the cheery optimism behind calling this road after a grand rural estate and picturesque village was not misplaced. The traveller north moves from the industry grime to the leafy fields in just over 1 kilometres.

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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