Alleyways of Northallerton
Today we’ll learn about the cinemas of Northallerton followed by one or two rude anecdotes.
At the same time, we’ll be walking around the alleyways of Northallerton and Romanby coupling that with more, sometimes rude reminiscences. I’ve mentioned them twice so you have been warned!
There is also some talk about our time in the flat on South Parade where we had a wonderful happy, hippy and musical time in the early ’70s.
Oh, and a tale that includes some special, err “herbal material” and two detective constables…
This walk was carefully planned on the flat to help with my recuperation following a “AAA” operation so skillfully conducted over 8 hours by Miss Hansrani and the vascular team at South Tees Hospital. I’m deeply indebted to them for my life and the ability to walk and remember these wonderful things.
Now that I have your undivided attention, here we go.
The Planning Meeting in The Lion
I see George in the Golden Lion for our usual Friday evening meeting reviewing our labours from the previous few days and discussing the detailed plans for the YR outing next week. George has planned a flat but interesting walk around Northallerton. This is largely to help with my recuperation and I’m very grateful. He’s planned a 5 miler that takes in as many of the alleyways and ginnels that breath history into our wonderful home town. He’s arranged it for Tuesday so that we can attempt a more adventurous outing on Thursday that will involve the use of our old farts bus passes but that’s another story. There are, of course, copious amounts of brown liquid required throughout the evening to ward off any threat of dehydration and the resultant effect on our respective brains seemed to make the wit and banter even more witty and significantly more bantery. In fact, after four hours of this fun, George announces that he was going home as Dot is waiting outside in the car. He shakes hands, gives a manly hug and says, “See you next Tuesday”. I laughed my beer back into the glass then giggled like a schoolboy all the way back home in the knowledge that whilst it was said in innocence it is still bloody funny after 6 pints of Paul’s excellent ale.
Peter calls for me at home and we start our walk from Winston Court and make our way along Quaker Lane then past the ‘Lyric’. Actually, it’s New Life Baptist Church now but to us, it’ll always be the Lyric Cinema.
The Lyric was built in 1939 and believe it or not, it was a state of the art multi-purpose establishment with both cinema and theatre capabilities. It was even capable of shows on ice but I don’t think that was ever commissioned or used. The Lyric closed due to lack of use but it is one of the few times that I have sympathy with the people that didn’t use it as the lack of investment meant that in the winter it was Baltic at best and sometimes even colder. In its heyday, it had 750 seats and it was two-tiered with stalls and a circle or balcony. In my early teens, it cost nine old pence – 9d (about 4p) to get into the Saturday morning matinee and 1 shilling and 9 pence 1/9d (about 8p) to go into the stalls for the evening screenings. To go upstairs it cost 2 shillings and 6 pence – 2/6d (about 12.5p). Folks that remember old money will recognise this as half a crown which was the most wonderful coin and had significant buying power. Down in the stalls at the back, there were a number of double seats where courting couples could settle in without the impediment of an armrest to get to know each other better! I’m sure there are many films that can’t be remembered due to the encouragement of that wonderful, safe, darkness cloaked environment 🙂 I would be nearly 16 before I had the pleasure of accompanying a young lady in those seats and even with an enthusiastic participant, it would be many months of double-jointed wrist action before I managed the hooks on a bra with one hand.
Sonny and Cher were singing “What Now My Love”.
Cinema Delux opened in 1913 on Romanby Road. Initially, it was used for silent films with piano accompaniment but was eventually fitted with a sound system. It was situated at the back of the General Post Office opposite Yorkshire Cancer shop. It became Forman and Renders sales room so if you’re old enough to remember that and wondered why the main salesroom was on an incline you’ve now got the answer!
Al Jolson was singing, “Swanee River”
We meet the others at the Parish Church and make our way past the Oddies and down the first alleyway that used to divide Crows field with the Vicarage. The Vicarage is now a housing estate so you can imagine the size of the gardens in their day. As we cross Sun Beck I remember the lane that used to follow this route. It delimited the long gardens of the high street shops and dwellings and a field that is now the car park and within that field, near the bridge, there was a wooden barn that was covered in pitch that would melt and run in the summer sun. If you brushed past it you’d end up with a black oozy mess on your clothes and the result would be a bollocking from your mum, it was known locally as Carters Motel.
Ella Fitzgerald was singing about a “Small Hotel”
I feel a tale coming on and share it with my friends. It’s a bit rude so please bear with me! We used to play in that barn when we were about 11 or 12 years old. It was dry and relatively clean and still had some straw stacked as bales on a kind of mezzanine floor above some stalls. We’d gone into the barn during a game of hide-and-seek and had only been in there a few minutes when we heard voices. We thought that it was the farmer so we scrambled up into the straw and hid behind two bales. It turned out that the two people who entered the barn were nothing more than lovers but we couldn’t now declare ourselves so we nervously kept our heads down and hoped they’d go away soon.
What happened next if it had been witnessed by contemporary youth would have required months of counselling and a major compensation claim. As it happens the performance only lasted a few minutes and we learned something rather more than the mathematics of ‘two becomes one resulting in three’ but when they left we just got on with our game of ‘hide and seek’.
The Shirelles were singing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
We’re on the car park proper now. This was long unkempt gardens back in the day and the entrance from the High Street was the Central Cinema. My Uncle Bill worked at all three cinemas over a 60 year period and he thought the greatest film of all was Gone With the Wind.
When a new blockbuster came out, quite often there would be a procession through town to advertise it.
Click on any image and you can page through them at full size…
The Central was the second cinema in Northallerton. It was opened in 1920 with 418 seats and these diminished over the years until there was only 380 in the 1950s. It was demolished to make an access road into the car park in 1962.
I remember going to see Swiss Family Robinson there in the early ’60s. It was possible to get in free if you snook through the gardens that were behind the shops and housing terraces that ribbed the High Street. You then climbed a wall that was old and had plenty of hand and footholds that enabled a swift ascent. The other side was quite smooth so you had to jump down from the top of the wall into the outside gents toilet. In the winter this could be a dangerous manoeuvre, especially if the aim of the users had been poor and the frost had done its work. You then had to wait until someone came into the toilets then swiftly make your way, looking nonchalant, to the second row of seats towards the front of the stalls. You stuck out a bit if you actually sat at the front so it was always best to make a bee-line for the second row! We would have a cigarette already lit to make us 13 and 14-year-olds look older – it never did! On the odd occasion, the person who had a legitimate ticket would come back into the auditorium and be confronted by the lady with the torch demanding proof of entry. These ladies were trained in anti-espionage techniques and were highly effective… It was always an awkward moment for the unsuspecting (and innocent) victim as you tended to throw away the torn part of your ticket the moment you went in and not expect to show it again when you’d been to the loo! The Central tended to be known for screening the Hammer Horror films at one time. It was demolished to make way for the entrance to the car park.
The Nashville Teens were singing “Tobacco Road”.
We follow the path adjacent to the Applegarth School and my mind is working overtime as I imagine spirits of our young selves careering around the playground on a single roller skate with a book balanced across it. We’d sit on the book and someone would push us at breakneck speed zig-zagging between stones that were placed about 6 feet (2 metres) apart. We lost a lot of skin off our fingers as we clung to the book but forgot it when we managed to manoeuvre our way to the end without hitting any of the stones. Rather than discouragement Mr Oliver the Headmaster would adjudicate if it was his turn on playground duty and Miss Wise would clean us up when we fell off. I have sublime memories of this school and the fabulous teachers, my infant-childhood was idyllic. See the links at the bottom of this article for ‘A Christmas Tale’and ‘Northallerton Schools’
Chuck Berry was singing “School Day”
Sun Beck and Castle Hills
We turn right to follow Sun Beck behind the flats and work our way across a single plank bridge and over a piece of land that always flooded in the winter and allowed us to skate on ice that formed on the water.
We cross the next footbridge to the base of what we refer to as Low Castle Hills then over the style and on to Springwell Lane and back towards town.
After two hundred metres we turn into a new alley that leads to Romanby Road and onwards under the bridge towards the railway crossing.
This is what has always been referred to as the “Low Line”.
During the war, there was a route that joined the Low Line adjacent to what was the Cow and Gate milk processing company. It was cunningly referred to as the ‘war line’ and was meant to be a by-pass if the station got bombed. The embankment is still there but, sadly, the bridge that spanned Willow Beck has now gone presumably to stop people using this lovely walk and establishing a public footpath through use.
This long since abandoned branch line can be traced along the old cinder track that is still evident. It crossed Willow Beck over the fourth of what we called Four Bridges and continued north running past what is now Lewis’ house at the top of the hill just west of the Castle Hills houses. The north point of the cinders that were the ballast for the track base can be followed from a point between the junction of the Wensleydale Line at Castle Hills Junction and the East Coast mainline. In the spring there were hundreds of dog daisies followed by an equally impressive array of poppies.
When we were in our early teens we would ride motorbikes around the part of the cinder track embankment near Willow Beck. We couldn’t afford to buy one outright so we would beg and borrow the parts and assemble them ourselves. We learnt a lot and ended up with machines that could have killed us but it was part of growing up and we had an incredible time.
The Shangri-Las were singing “Leader of the Pack”…
We walk past the Romanby clock and memorial garden and it’s beginning to look good. A little further and we’re in another alley cutting through to the Close.
We turn right and walk the length of The Close and discuss numerous evenings with girlfriends and the dangers of an amorous clinch in a bench seated car on a sloping driveway. A front bench seat was highly recommended for teenagers in the 1960s and was even better than the double seats at the cinema. The handbrakes; however, were ever prone to a quick release due to the enthusiasm of the moment! The resultant backward trajectory of the vehicle would only be detected when there was an encounter with the opposite wall or hedge. The noise of the jolt would result in two sets of eyes peering just above the dashboard then desperately adjusting clothing that had inadvertently become somewhat loosened due to the heat in the car. This would be closely followed by those same eyes desperately looking, either way, to confirm the noise from the encounter with the wall had not been heard… it always had, the house lights would be going on like a scene from the Flintstones. The whole episode would have been enough to dampen the ardour of the most passionate; however, it would at least inhibit a possible increase in the ever-increasing population of the town.
…if you’re under 50 and born in the area then the handbrake may well have held!!
I wish I could say that Meatloaf was singing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” but that’s in another 15 years…
On to Ainderby Road and a brisk walk to Boroughbridge Road past the surgery and into Harewood Lane where George identifies an alley that I didn’t know existed.
We meet Mrs Watson, wife of Tom Watson who was one of the best teachers in school and I was lucky enough to have been taught by him. I can single out the great influencers of my life at both primary and secondary and he was definitely the man at secondary. He taught history but his claim to fame with me was encouraging me with English and I think he did a good job. He also encouraged us to aspire to anything we wanted, “It is within your grasp if you want it enough”, was his mantra. I tell Mrs Watson that and she promises to pass it on.
Harry Secombe was singing “If I Ruled The World”
At the end of this alley, we emerge on Orchard Close and on to The Fairway then Boroughbridge Road again. We cross the Low Line near what was the entrance to North Riding County Council Central Repair Depot my father spent many years there driving steam wagons and then labouring. I spent the first 9 years of my working life there too.
It’s over the crossing and under the station now making our way onto Malpas Road and into the back lane that joins the gardens of the houses on South Parade. As we pass number 15 there are many memories of life in the ’70s when we had flats 1, 3 and 4 and life was a mix of parties, guitars, a banjo, a fiddle, dulcimer, autoharp and much singing. All of this was enhanced by numerous joints, significant drinking, and, when we could fit it in (if you’ll pardon the pun), adventurous if somewhat amateur but highly enthusiastic love.
Fairport Convention was singing, “Come All Ye!”
We all had jobs most of the time and when we weren’t at work there was much to do with folk and rock groups but mostly impromptu music – because we could!
We also rebuilt cars but the projects were rarely finished. A beautiful Morris 6 with a Jaguar 4.2 litre engine came close but festivals and access to a crew bus that my sister owned meant Scotland was in reach and it easily consumed 8 of us with guitars, mandolin, banjo and fiddle but that’s another story.
Sandy Denny was singing “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”
Now here’s a tale that may be true – or not!
There was a rumour that there was once a party where a well-known pair of local detectives took a particular delight to “In the Court of the Crimson King” whilst nibbling away at some Mary Baker Chocolate Chip Cookies that had had the chocolate chips substituted with something alleged to be herbal and with mood-enhancing properties. They clearly weren’t invited and, if this story had been true and not a rumour we would have been very worried. They did have a couple of cans of beer and eventually left the party having satisfied themselves that we were not ‘smoking’ anything that we shouldn’t and giggled their way down the back steps trying to sing the chorus of the above but didn’t quite have the harmonious skills that King Crimson were able to achieve, well, at least, according to the uncorroborated local gossip. It was also thought that I had met them the following day in the High Street and asked if they’d enjoyed themselves. The reply was rumoured to be that they’d had a great evening, the music was exceptional but the beer was a little too strong and made them feel ‘funny’. Sadly, one of them passed away a few years ago but the other one went on to be a high ranking policeman so I’m glad that we can categorically state that this was obviously a figment of someone’s far too vivid imagination and that such scurrilous rumours really ought to be ignored.
I can hear the ghosts of Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchel, Woody Guthry and Rambling Jack Elliott but most of all I hear King Crimson as we emerge from the back lane.
Out on to South Parade and across to another alley that links it to Thirsk Road and emerges near the Drill Hall.
One of our team (I’ll avoid names at this point) stops us to indicate a railing that has a particularly fond, nay, amorous if not a little carnal, memory. We can see the strategic importance of that particular fence to a couple of eighteen-year-olds on a dark night. No lights and you can see to both ends of the alley. At our age, our knees are more prone to clicking than trembling but the memory lingers on. So there you go nearly 50 years later the body is in its 60’s but the mind is still teenaged!
The Rolling Stones were singing “Let’s Spend the Night Together”…
We’re over Thirsk Road now and heading through Boston Avenue where one of the part-time YR team lived many years ago.
Out on to Grammar School Lane and across the road to Hutchinson Drive where another alley takes us on to Colstan Road closely followed by another that I never knew existed onto Millfield Avenue and then to Crosby Road.
We’re making great progress now and the anecdotes are coming thick and fast as we’re regaled of childhood times playing football on the grass adjacent to the Co-op Store that stood many years ago on the intersection of the two roads.
On to Prospect View and a recollection of an escaped prisoner who was trying to steal a car belonging to someone that lived there. He was subject to local justice and was never reported but may well have had some issues with mobility and use of his limbs for a few days.
Hugo Montenegro was playing “The Good The Bad and the Ugly”…
Now we’re going past Greenhill Crescent and on towards Trinity Gardens via another cut that I’d never walked. More tales of football and childhood games from even younger days in the fields and allotments that preceded the current houses and flats. In the summer, small children would wear the minimum of clothing, shorts and baseball boots for boys and loose summer dress for the girls.
Bill Hayes was singing, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”
There are more reminiscences about childhood on Knottobottom Lane and expectations of parents. For instance, if it wasn’t peeing down you were expected to be out playing but you were also expected to be in for meals and any time set for return at night was non-negotiable and absolute. All of the meal and evening return times seemed to have been negotiated at a higher level so we were all governed by the same chronological rules and there was no issue with one of us being treated differently to the others.
Billy J Kramer was singing “Little Children (you better not tell on me)”
We walk along Valley Road and into The Crescent turning left onto Central Drive and through another cut back onto The Crescent and then to Elm Avenue.
On Bulamoor Road there’s talk of riding from the top on rickety bikes assembled by ourselves and held together with ‘billy band’, wire and various nuts, bolts and screws that were never meant for the job but we had no money so they had to do. Towards the bottom one or more of us would begin to wobble, we called it a speed wobble and once it started you knew that it was going to end in disaster. As the machine began its final convolutions there were two things in your mind;
1: this is really going to hurt, and
2: my mates are going to see me fall off my bike.
Ironically, number two was far more painful than number one.
The Mixtures were singing “The Push Bike Song”
We turn into Scholla View and find another alley that takes us adjacent to the school and, eventually to Turker Lane. George suggests we take Mowbray Road that will bring us on to Stokesley Road not too far from Stone Cross and the alley that will take us past the Leisure Centre, skirting B&M and onto Darlington Road.
The Standard has a reputation for good meals so we call in there and it has to be said that their “All day Breakfast” is a show stopper! I stick to something less ambitious which is equally tasty. Definitely recommended and a great end to a tremendous walk. Just over 6 miles with lots of laughs and great anecdotes.
Thanks to George Renwick for setting it up. G…x
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With: George Renwick, Brian Roberts, Peter Hymer, Peter Fleming, Grant McDonnell, Hayden Kirby
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