60s Spirit
Sat. 16th June, 2001

Here is a section of Percy Street from Leazes Park Road on the extreme left to the boundary of the latest extension to the Eldon Square Shopping complex, Eldon Gardens.

This new rather up market section of the shopping mall was built during the late 1980s and replaced a rather quaint cast iron and glass arcade on two storeys with a rectangular main concourse and two entrances on Percy Street. It dated from the early part of the 1900s.

 Handysides was home to the Henry Osborne tool shop, a canteen and sub depot for the Corporation buses, the famous Club A'Gogo, and a hippy bookshop called Ultima Thule run by Newcastle poet Tom Pickard. There were groovy sounds shops, a most up to date electrical equipment shop and several second hand shops.

This was the centre of energy for the Newcastle version of the  Summer of Love, and its faded utilitarian woodwork and cast iron was redolent with memories from the 1960s.

The Club A'Gogo, two rooms above the bus canteen, was the home for the Geordie beat group, The Animals. Eric Burden Hilton Valentine, Charles Chandler, John Steel and Alan Price played weekly with other guest groups including the Merseybeats and The Invaders. In 1964 they were lured to London by Micky Most.

© Newcastle City Libraries

A remnant of the facade to Handysides
New Eldon Gardens replaced Hanysides
Arcade as it was in 1967
Girl talk 1967
Above the old entrance
Eldon Gardens is on two levels
Interesting use of mirrors in the roof

© Newcastle City Libraries

Here, at the site of the A'Gogo today's shoppers dodge between chromium plated emporia and glide on tiled floors in a film set.

The year before The Animals went south to fame, The Beatles came to Newcastle. They played at the Majestic Ballroom, a brief Rank Organisation use for the New Westgate Cinema at the junction of Clayton Street and Westgate Road. Worried parents demanded that the Police mount a chastity patrol on the ticket and concert queues to stop any sexual behaviour.

Only a few months earlier the contraceptive pill had been launched at the Family Planning Clinic, unleashing sexual freedom. No amount of parental protests could close Pandora's box.

Newcastle also had its free outdoor concerts on the Town Moor. The tradition continues later this year with the Festival of Love, when youngsters are expected to flock to the Moor at the command of the Council and Big Business and get on with some loving.

1967 ushered in reforms to the Abortion Act, and The Sexual Offences Act. The first allowed women the right to choose, the second allowed men to engage in gay activity in private if they were over the age of 21yrs.

Here in the 21st century version of Handysides Arcade the light floods in through the glass roof and the clever use of mirrors not only reflects the light but also gives an impression of greater size.

On entering this section of the shopping mall notices forbid radios, scooters, roller skates, and smoking. Before taking these photos I scanned the small print but photography was not mentioned. However, a rather wet behind the ears overweight and pompous pubescent person said that photography was also forbidden and asked me to stop.

I pointed out the notices and asked him to stop the gaggle of smokers in the same way. His reply was to say that he was reluctant to do so, "Have you ever tried to stop a smoker?" he said. With such a partial application of rules there may as well not be any rules at all, and I continued to snap away.

Outside, under the rather strange slanting bridge across Percy Street is the site of the entrance to the old arcade. This cafe bar has been themed as French as Cafe Noir, and as an Irish party place. It is now having a spell pretending to be a goose. In earlier times there were several popular pubs along here. Notable ones were The Hotspur, The Haymarket Hotel, and The Three Bulls Heads.

The modern versions of these places seem less popular, despite (or maybe because of) the glamour. During the redevelopment the architects were forced to include a rebuilt Three Bulls Heads in return for pulling down the old one. The original plans had shops galore, but the pub owner held out for the restrictive clause in the sale.

One Handysides entrance was here
The Three Bulls Heads

At the beginning of the 1960s we measured in feet and inches, spent pounds, shillings and pence, and parking meters were unknown. Foundations stones were being laid, however, and the simple certainties would soon change for ever. Lord Hailsham donned a flat cap to visit the city and was subjected to derision, but he left 50 million to fund a regional road building plan.
New Towns of Washington, Cramlington and Killingwoth were invented, and  T. Dan Smith had a vision of Newcastle becoming the "Brasilia of the North".

Meanwhile the students were calling for bigger and better busts. Ironically, "bust" was slang for a police drugs raid!

© Newcastle City Libraries

Rag float 1967
Under the new slanting bridge

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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