Remember Maurice Gerald at 6 Bigg Market, Newcastle?
Given my interest in both retail history and local history more generally, it’s always a pleasure when people drop me a line to share their memories – especially when it concerns something that up until then I know very little about.
I was intrigued therefore to receive an email from Norman Gerald – prompted by my previous post about George Rye & Sons’ shoe shop in Newcastle’s Bigg Market – telling me about his father’s business that used to be situated almost directly opposite:
I’ve been looking at the various sites covering the history of the Bigg Market. My father had a wholesale draper’s business at No. 6 from, I think, the 30s until the 50s. The business was called Maurice Gerald, and he had his name over the door in very large letters.
Do you know of any archives showing that part of the Bigg Market in that period? The adjacent alleyway originally led to a garage, later a gown showroom. There was also a small clothing factory.
Incidentally, I believe that 6 Bigg Market had been a restaurant before my father changed its use so it has now gone full circle.
I’d appreciate any help that you can give me.
Never having heard of Maurice Gerald, my first step was to Google the name – unusually, however, searching for “Maurice Gerald” in combination with either “Bigg Market” or even just “Newcastle” brought up nothing. It really does seem to be a business that history (or at least the Internet) forgot.
It was rather easier to work out what occupies 6 Bigg Market today. As Norman rightly pointed out, it’s now a restaurant – presently the well regarded Little Saigon on the ground floor (and before that Simply Greek and Miami Blues[broken link removed]), with the famous Rupali curry house upstairs.
Having identified the building, I was able to turn to David Lovie’s great little 2001 book, The Buildings of Grainger Town. Though it’s a few years out of date now, the book is still an excellent guide to more than 200 specific properties within the Grainger Town area. 6 Bigg Market, it tells us, is Grade II listed, and would have been built as a house in the mid to late 1700s, at about the same time as the Cafe Neon building next door at No. 8.
In recent years I’ve built up quite a good collection of local history books, photographs and postcards, particularly relating to the area around the former Bainbridge’s site (with frontages to Market Street, Grainger Street and Bigg Market). Though the Bigg Market does often feature in old photographs, there aren’t very many shots looking up towards Newgate Street from the bottom; more often, the views are like the one below, looking down Bigg Market from Newgate Street towards the grand (and much missed) old Town Hall.
I was really pleased therefore to find a photo on my computer of the Bigg Market in the 1950s, with the Maurice Gerald fascia clearly visible – you can see the photograph in question at the top of the page. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if – just like the George Rye example before – the Maurice Gerald fascia is still there, merely covered up under subsequent layers of signage. It’s difficult, unfortunately, to make out much else about No. 6 from the poor quality of the scan, and because of all the market stalls obscuring the shopfront, but the building is easily recognisable to anyone familiar with how it looks today.
Needless to say, Norman and I would be fascinated if anyone can share anything else that they know about Maurice Gerald – whether it’s more photographs, or just interesting memories. Feel free to post a comment below, or send me a message via the contact form.
Looking forward to your contributions!