Our Gateshead

Gateshead Memories: Shephard's Department Store

When you walked into Shephard’s department store the sweet counter was straight in front of you. Muriel (who attends our lunch club at Teams and Bensham Community Care) worked on the counter at the popular department store.

“The miss-shapes from Terry’s were the most popular, but my favourite was Milk Tray.”

Shephard’s was Gateshead’s popular department store. Originally selling just shoes and boots, it became a leading retailer by the 1920’s selling a range of items. In the Gateshead town centre branch, the goods on sale spanned over three floors with 30 departments.

Kathy, who also attends the lunch club, worked on the linens which was just to the left and towards the back of the store.

“They would make up a bed for display with different linens. The table cloths were beautiful, they were hand painted.”

Kathy and Muriel knew all to well how smart the staff had to be and the hierarchy that took place among the staff. Kathy said;

“My Mother would have killed me if I had failed the inspection of uniform.”

“The women on the make-up counter thought they were a bit better than the rest of us.”

Speaking of one of the senior members of staff, Kathy said “she was the ‘First Sale’, she was smart and always had a suit on. She had bleached hair, you never saw people with bleached hair back then. Her word was law.”

Although there was a hierarchy of the staff, the customers were the top of the tree. This was illustrated by the marked contrast between the staff canteen and the public cafeteria.

“The staff canteen was nothing special, but the cafeteria was lovely, it had the best view of the Tyne Bridge.”

Both Kathy and Muriel remember the ‘Shephard’s money’, a credit scheme operated by the store, with legal sellers working door to door. They’d make their house calls on Fridays after payday, collecting the repayment for any Shephard’s money that had been taken out on the Monday before. Whilst all of this was above board, there was also a ‘grey market’ in Shephard’s money.

“There was a woman on every street who would buy your Shepherd’s money.”

Kathy and Muriel shared their memories as part of a memory book project that Teams and Bensham Community Care facilitated two years ago with the help of Equal Arts and Awards for All. The attendees shared their local memories on many subjects that we’ll continue to share over on our new blog https://teamworkgateshead.wordpress.com

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