Gosforth, birthplace of such people as Alan Shearer and Donna Air as well as myself, is a suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne with a population of around 23,000 people. It’s the place where I spent the first sixteen years of my life. Therefore, I thought it was worthy of an entry of its own.
That was my house. It’s changed a lot since I left. There used to be a pair of massive holly bushes out the front which never had any berries. There was also a front lawn with a big stone bird bath. Looks like the garage has been converted as well. Oh, and there was a silver birch tree which has been removed. I suppose it was 25 years ago that I left now so you have to expect some changes.
It was a nice place to grow up. On the pavement there is where I learned to ride my bike. If you were to ride around the corner, then there’s the church where my sister got married and just past that is South Gosforth Metro station: the gateway into Newcastle city centre and Whitley Bay and all manner of other places.
This is South Gosforth Metro station. Back when I lived there, it was 10p for a child to go anywhere. If you added 5p, you could get a transfer onto the buses. 15p to get to the Metrocentre in Gateshead, where I used to spend many Sundays between the ages of 14 and 16. The line goes to the airport now, although it used to stop and Bank Foot and you had to get the bus from there. I remember doing a project at school about how far you could get in 24 hours with only £100. I included the 15p in my calculations of getting to the airport.
This was my first school. It’s now been knocked down and is apartments. There was abig stone wall running around the perimeter and a chain link fence that we used to climb around. There were little stone buttresses around the wall and you had to make it from one to the next without falling. It brings back lots of happy memories looking at the place, but I only remember the name of one teacher, Miss Davison. I think she taught me the last year I was there. The Head’s name was Mr Neesham and he used to smoke in his office. My proudest memory is singing the solo in the school nativity. The song was Once in Royal David’s City. I also remember winning the Easter bonnet competition with a huge top hat covered in chicks that Mum had helped me make. It fell off my head and broke on the way home and I cried.
When I did my post for C, I completely forgot that my first cinema experience was probably at the old Royalty Cinema in Gosforth.
It closed down when I was 5 but I have a definite memory of seeing a Superman film there. I thought it was Superman 3 but it couldn’t have been because that didn’t come out until 1983 so I must have my wires crossed. It’s apartments now, too.
After South Gosforth First School, I went to Gosforth Central Middle School. That’s also been greatly redeveloped since I lived there. This is the only picture I could find that shows it like it was.
The building in the centre was the toilet. I know it seems quite grand for a toilet but it was anything but inside. It used to stink and there was nothing but scratchy brown paper! Through the arches on the left was the woodwork room: scene of some of my awful attempts at woodwork including a hideous desk tidy. On the right, the closest classroom to the arches was my classroom near the end of my time there, when I had Mrs Massey. She was very strict but opened my eyes to the world of books and reading. I did so much reading and writing in her class. The great thing about Mrs Massey was that she didn’t take any nonsense and she didn’t give out praise that wasn’t deserved. That’s what made it all the more thrilling when you did get praised for your efforts. I wrote a book review once and she said it was one of the most passionate and emotionally charged pieces of writing she had ever read as a teacher. That kind of comment sticks. I also won the School readathon challenge when I was in her class by reading 11 books in a week. The first one was SE Hinton’s The Outsiders, I followed that up with something by Colin Dann (I was partial to a bit of Farthing Wood) and the rest gets a bit fuzzy. I also won the House Point challenge two terms running (despite a kid called Allan trying to beat me by buying and bullying House Point cards off people. He said he was going to beat me up because it was unfair that I won two in a row! I think he ended up in prison but that might just be a rumour.
There was a great music teacher there too called Mr Phillips. He encouraged me with my singing and helped me to prepare for an audition once. I know, I’m talking about teaching now and I was going to save that for T. This is supposed to be about Gosforth. There’s just so many memories tied up with this place especially. It was the best school I ever went to. It wasn’t all rosy, I remember that. I remember being very unhappy in one year but on the whole I loved my time there. I remember how nice and cosy the library was upstairs, an all day Disco for charity, hot dogs in rolls for school dinner, getting the apparatus out in PE and making pots in the pottery studio. Mostly I remember Wind in the Willows, our school production. It was my first experience of acting and, even though I had a small part (Reginald, the guy who gets his car nicked), I went to all the auditions and loved the atmosphere. I did so well, Mrs Scrutton gave me a big part in the next play.
Right, enough of that, I promise. Back to Gosforth.
Many of my days in the summer especially were spent here in Central Park. The layout is pretty much the same as when I was young, although the playground has been completely redeveloped. When I went there, there was just a climbing frame with monkey bars and a slide, a few swings and a Zebedee thing. I used to take my Action Force figures down there and play in amongst the trees when I was younger. The bowling green and tennis courts are still there, along with the memorial in the centre. It’s so similar in most ways that it really makes me quite sentimental.
My brother and I used to play Frisbee golf and I used to hang around with my friends, riding bikes and getting into mischief. It was such a familiar, everyday place because you had to walk through it to get to the High Street. pretty much every time we went shopping with Mum to Presto (as it was), we’d have to walk through the park.
This is where Presto was. It’s probably still a supermarket but I don’t know which one. It was part of a mini shopping centre with a John Menzies, a greengrocer and a few other shops. Outside of that was the High Street.
You can see Greggs on the right. There’s quite a bit of history there. Gosforth was the home of Greggs the bakers. Their main headquarters was just around the corner from my mate’s house. As a matter of fact, my Gran, Winnifred Lattimer, was one of the first people to work for them. She was the manager of the first Greggs bakery. She worked there for many years and, when she retired, she was allowed an allowance of bread every week. I know because I had to go and collect it. She was entitled to a small sliced loaf and half a dozen teacakes. It was like getting blood from a stone. The crones who worked in there at the time obviously resented having to give out stuff for free, even though she had worked for the company for so long. In I would walk:
Me: “I’ve come for Winnie’s bread, please.”
Crone: “Wet the bed, have you?”
Thanks for that. I can only assume that the comment was to reflect that I was early or something. It still hurt. Then they’d go scratching around in the back for the most stale stuff they could find to give me for my Gran.
The High Street was also home to Boydell’s toy store (where I used to get my Star Wars figures) and this place: The Gosforth Chippy. purveyor of the finest fish and chips in town.
Opposite the Chippy was the Gosforth Hotel and, next to that, what used to be a newsagent. It’s a pizza place now by the looks of things
That was where I had my first paid employment: a Sunday paper round. Here’s my route:
Sunday papers are heavy, man. I used to have two bags full. That would get me the £2.30 that I needed to go to the cinema (see C is for Cinema) or the Quayside market on a Sunday. Sometimes other kids would be sick and I could double my money doing another route. Best thing is, in all my time doing my route, it only ever rained once. I used to crack on the headphones and listen to my unpopular music (see E is for Eagles).
This is my old High School, further down the road. Back then it was Gosforth High School; now it’s Gosforth Academy. A sign of the times we live in I suppose. The Fox River style perimeter fence is a new addition since I left. I’ve driven past a few times and always wonder whether it’s to keep people in or out.
This is the layout I found on Google Maps. It looks like the buildings to the west of the field have been demolished and given to the Primary School. The West Wing is where my tutor group was and lots of my lessons but it looks like it’s all gone now. North of the field were portacabins and I had a tutor group in there too. That’s also where our RE teacher told us that he’d been in prison to try to impress us. It didn’t. That looks like a substantial building now. High school wasn’t the best time for me. It had its good points but there were more lows than highs and, by the end, I was glad to escape. I don’t remember that many teachers’ names. My form tutor was Miss Farquhar, I had Mrs Evans for Geography (my favourite subject at the time) and Mr Knill for Geology. All our houses were named after local rivers and I was in Tyne House (purple).
Just outside Gosforth was Jesmond Dene. It’s a lovely stretch of forested pathways following the Ouse Burn. I used to go down there with Dad and my brother looking for conkers.
Nearby is Paddy Freeman’s Park, opposite the Freeman hospital where Mum worked for a time. Dad used to take us there too. There’s a lake too where we sailed our remote controlled boats. Mine conked out in the middle once and I cried so Dad had to wade into the middle to get it out.
That’s most of my memories of Gosforth. A nice place to grow up. I lived with my brother in Benton for a bit while I did my GCSEs and then moved down south where the next chapter began. That was 1992.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this, then please check out my other entries in the Blogging from A to Z challenge.
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