IN the days when everyone wore a hat, TJ Brown got ahead of the competition in Bishop Auckland by advertising his hat-shop in the 1911 coronation programme (Memories 412).

The town celebrated George V coming to the throne with processions and festivities, and the programme told what was going on.

Memories 414 told how Mr Brown had been born in South Church in 1875, and now Bishop Auckland historian Barbara Laurie has looked out a couple of pictures from her collection that were taken in his Newgate Street shop when he was retiring at the age of 80 in 1955.

“The insides of shops are more revealing than the outsides,” she says, and she’s right. Although the pictures are black and white, you can see a colourful, even lurid, overhead display of broad kipper ties, and you can smell the hatty mustiness of the shop as Mr Brown looks through correspondence surrounded by tough, tweedy materials.

Barbara also has a picture in her book, Changing Face of Bishop Auckland, that shows the interior of John Thirkell’s hairdressing shop on Newgate Street. Mr Thirkell, councillor and wig-maker to the stars at the Eden Theatre, also advertised in the 1911 programme.

“His was a splendid establishment with the shop opening onto Newgate Street and three separate entrances on Great Gates,” says Barbara. “I expect these were for privacy, with at least one reserved for ladies.”

Great Gates is an extremely minor alleyway off Newgate Street, and not even Barbara knows how it came by such a grand name – can you tell us?