JUST after Christmas we published a picture of the Odeon cinema car park in Bishop Auckland in March 1966 as a challenge to our old car spotters.

They did not disappoint.

And, to be fair to them, there was a great deal of unanimity among them.

But there was also controversy. For example, most people identified the car on the left of the front row as a Standard 8, or perhaps a Hillman Minx, but Andrew Raine concluded that it was a Standard 10. 10 “You can tell the Standard 10 from the similar Standard 8 by the opening boot – on the picture, you can make out the two handles, low down on each side of the boot lid, but with the 8, you had to access the boot from inside the car by folding down the rear seats.”

The Northern Echo:

Yes, to keep costs down, the Standard 8 boot could only be opened from the inside although, innovatively, the rear seat was divided into two so you only had to fold down half of it to open the boot.

Next to the Standard 10 was a curious sporty model. Some said a Lotus or an Austin Healey Sprite, but most concluded that it was a Berkeley.

The Northern Echo:

“It’s likely to be the Foursome with its 492cc engine,” said Mike McLaren. “But sporty it wasn’t with a 0-50mph taking 30 seconds and 60mph being lucky on a good day.”

Andrew Raine just about agreed. “It looks to me to be a Berkeley SE328,” he said. “Identifying features are the chrome hinges at the front of the bonnet, and the cowled headlamps. It was designed by Laurie Bond of Bond three-wheeler fame, and built by Berkeley coachworks in Biggleswade, whose main business was caravan manufacture – they made the car out of fibreglass and powered it with a 328cc air cooled two-stroke motor cycle engine from the British company Excelsior.”

Berkeley only made cars from 1956 until they went bankrupt in 1960.

Is it too much to ask that someone may have a restored Berkeley so we can get a proper picture of one?

There was controversy on the railway side of the picture, where the distinctive “beetleback” was variously identified as a Standard Vanguard or a Jowett Javelin, both of which had that unusual rear shape.

But there was no controversy about the MG Magnette, which is the first car on the left hand wall and which everyone identified. In our ignorance, we thought MGs were zippy, sporty things, but the Magnette was a sturdy, family vehicle which was produced between 1958 to 1968.

The Northern Echo:

Several correspondents noted that every car in the picture is British-made, although if Mike McLaren is correct and there’s a Simca 1300 or 1500 fourth right on the front row, it would be the only foreign (French) vehicle.

So, drawing the most popular answers from submissions by Mike Crawley, John Lambard, John Middlemiss, Mark Cooper, Chris in Scarborough, Al Brown, Mike McLaren, Andrew Raine and many others, we suggest that our Odeon car park in 1966 features the following cars:

Front row (left to right): Standard 10, Berkeley Sports, Ford Cortina Mk 1, Ford Anglia, Morris Minor, Ford Prefect, Austin A55, Ford Anglia, Ford Consul Classic, Triumph Herald.

Second row (left to right): Austin/Morris Mini, Ford Zephyr Zodiac, Vauxhall Viva HA, Rover 2000.

Left hand side (starting with nearest to camera): MG Magnette Mk IV, Ford Zodiac (“(I think it’s the Loline model, so named because it has a lower roofline than the earlier “Highline” model,” said Andrew Raine), Morris Oxford Traveller, Austin Cambridge, Rover 2000.

Railway side (starting with nearest to camera): two Austins (these could be A30s, A35s or A40s), Austin Somerset, Riley 4/72, Standard Vanguard Mk 1, Rover 2000, Ford Zephyr.

OF course, not everyone was ogling the cars. “Also of note in the picture is the Bishop Auckland to Durham branch railway line which is squeezed into the top right corner,” says John Askwith, kindly sending in a similar view from the Weardale Railway Trust archives.

Our picture was taken from the Odeon cinema’s projection box whereas John’s is taken from a few dozen yards away on what was the Tenters Street road bridge over the railway.

The history of Bishop’s railways is complicated, but in 1842, the Stockton & Darlington Railway extended from Shildon, through the tunnel and stopped at South Church, with horsedrawn coaches pulling passengers into Bishop itself.

In November 1843, the S&DR went into Bishop and built its first station on the current station site. It’s line then swung east to Witton Park, over the Wear and north to the coalmines around Crook.

In 1857, the North Eastern Railway went over the Wear on the famed Eleven Arches viaduct and so joined Bishop Auckland with Durham. The NER line initially terminated at a station in Tenters Street, which opened on April 1, 1857.

The NER and the S&DR quickly united to build a joint station on the site of the S&DR’s first station, which opened in December 1857, and so Tenters Street was soon forgotten about.

The joint station rapidly grew into an unusual triangular shape, but in the 1960s was trimmed back to just one platform and now Morrison’s supermarket car park occupies much of its footprint.

The line to Durham closed in August 1968, and Shell Mex and BP used the track up to Tenters Street as a siding until July 1977.

John points out three other landmarks on his photo: on the left is the General Post Office and sorting office. In the middle are the Co-op buildings and water tower and at the top right is the Eden Theatre.