Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Farewell to Acklam Shops…

I had a sad moment last night, and one that came about by sheer providence. I was driving away from BBC Tees at 10.30pm, and as I did so there was broken-down car blocking my usual lane home. So I took an alternate route back, and ended up driving through Acklam. For those of you unfortunate enough not to have an intimate knowledge of Middlesbrough’s outskirts (where have you BEEN?), Acklam is a leafy little suburb with a nice duckpond and a row of pretty shops.

That’s how I remembered it anyway – yes, if you’ve read Wiffle Lever To Full then you might recognise Acklam as the area where my Gran lived, in the little bungalow that I visited every weekend. She lived on Rievaulx Drive, and the shops and the Endeavour pub are just around the corner. I haven’t been round there for a lot of years, so I decided last night to park up outside my Gran’s old house and have a quick wander round the block.

And the shops are gone! All of them. They were once a little hub of activity, where the kids rode up and down on their Raleigh Choppers and the grown-ups eyed up naughty cream cakes in the window of Shipman’s Bakery. There was Mr Murray’s Newsagents (mentioned on Page 4 of Wiffle Lever!) where I had Doctor Who Weekly and Star Wars Weekly reserved for me – erm – weekly, and Hinton’s Supermarket, which always smelt of cats for some reason. And a butchers and a grocers, both of whose names escape me. Well come on, what do you think I am, some sort of compulsive retentive saddo?

But last night every single shop front was boarded up and disused, which made me feel far sadder than I was expecting.  30 years ago, when I was five, it was hard to imagine a day when the good people of Acklam would ever turn their backs on cream cakes. I leaned against a lamp-post (the same one that Lisa Wheeldon and I used to play ‘The Lion The Watch And The Wardrobe’ underneath) and indulged in a little melancholic reflection.

If I’d closed my eyes, I’d probably have been able to picture my Gran pottering out of the butchers with a nice side of pork for tea, and a free bone and bag of giblets for Tina, her wild-eyed dog. But I didn’t close my eyes, because it was after 11pm by this stage, and some of the characters lurching out of the Endeavour looked a little bit tasty.

Anyway, I had a wander round the block again then drove home. Maybe the past is sometimes best left untouched, kept safely under lock and key in a warm, sepia-tinted corner of the mind. I probably should have left Acklam Shops where they’d stayed for the last 15 years at least… in my head.

And I probably should have offered a hand to the bloke whose car had broken down in the slip road of Hartington Road 45 minutes earlier, but that honestly didn’t strike me until half an hour after I’d gone to bed.


  Andrew T. Smith wrote @

I had a similar experience not too long ago when they opened up Gateshead Car Park for the last time. Now the car park itself I can give or take even if it was cool to stand on top of.

What was both magical and heartbreaking though was that some builders had obviously left some entrances to the indoor market and shopping area open by mistake. Quite a few of us scrambled down through the now abandoned shops and for me it was kind of heartbreaking to see it all going. It’s a shit hole and it does desperately need what is happening to it but it’s also where I went with nana to pick up her pension, where I got my first fish, my first video games and vhs tapes. I almost cried that day. Soft shite.

  bobfischer wrote @

I know exactly how you feel.

I guess I like to assume that, even if I haven’t been somewhere for years (decades, even), the buildings and people and memories are somehow stored in aspic exactly how I remember them, just awaiting my return. And it’s always slightly heartbreaking to go back and discover that life has moved on immeasurably in your absence.

I wanted to buy my Gran’s old bungalow back last night, as if that would somehow make it 1981 again. I wouldn’t live in it though, I’d just keep all my bloody stuff there.

  Nathan wrote @

I used to pass there several times a day as I wound my way between Acklam Hall and Kirby College over the past 12 years or so, and it’s been pretty run down for a long while. A real shame when things like that happen.

  John Cavanagh wrote @

Hello, i know your post was some time ago but i just thought i would say that the butchers you mention could have been my grandads
JJ Cavanaghs, he also had a shop in norton, stockton!

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah wow, really? The row of shops I was talking about were just next to the Endeavour pub. I was down there again recently, and they’re still all boarded up – it’s really sad.

Can you remember when your Grandad had the shop? I would have been a regular visitor with my Mum and Gran from about 1977-1985ish.

  John Cavanagh wrote @

Yeah that will have been around the right time! He had the business from the early 60s onwards to the late 80s i think.
Sad the shops have gone! He is still alive and kicking at 88 and has fond memories of the shop

  bobfischer wrote @

Ah, brilliant! Thanks for letting us know. I would definitely have seen him every weekend then, we used to go on a shopping run along all those shops pretty much every Saturday in the late 70s and early 80s. Happy times.

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