TRIBUTES have been paid to a businessman hailed as the embodiment of all that is special about the region and known affectionately as ‘Mr Eldon Square’.

The life of Gordon Allanson, 86, of Tudhoe Village, near Spennymoor, was celebrated at a service in Durham’s Elvet Methodist Church.

Born in Crook, he started working in the pits of Roddymoor and Brandon, spending 18 years as a mining engineer and then planning engineer with the National Coal Board, before moving into construction.

In the early 1970s, Mr Allanson was headhunted by Capital and Counties as project manager for Newcastle’s Eldon Square and took up his post as centre manager when it opened in 1976.

Paying tribute, his son Glyn said: “Eldon Square was the phenomenal success of the retail rebirth of the region that inspired John Hall to build the Metro Centre.

“In public they were rivals, but in private friends with deep mutual respect, knowing each other for decades thanks to common starts with the coal board.

“My father was passionate, not just about Newcastle, but the whole of the region, and beyond his day job he worked in an official capacity with various crime prevention panels, the Northumbrian Tourist Association and the BBC Advisory Board amongst many other organisations.

“He had an impact on everybody he met. He had a deeply moral character and we will all try and mirror and carry on the example that he set.”

Speaking at the funeral service, Brian Forbes-Turner former chairman of the Eldon Square Merchants’ Association and managing director of Bainbridge & Co said: “A true gentleman. The embodiment of all that is special about the North-East and it’s people.

“He was a charming, friendly, gracious man with a natural, quiet authority, plus a passion for seeing things executed correctly and fairly.”

The Queen and Prince Philip officially opened Eldon Square in their Jubilee year, with Mr Allanson going on to host a stream of celebrities.

Mr Forbes-Turner said: “Princess Margaret in the mid-70s was most impressed by his smooth company as was Prince Charles 10 years later. Indeed Gordon, I think, rather relished the stream of visitors becoming teased for it.

“Among his favourites were some of the sporting heroes because we had that huge recreation centre right in the heart of the shopping malls.

“And many of those reflected Gordon’s own personal qualities. Muhammed Ali – a vigorous champion. Björn Borg – quietly efficient and tenacious. Dickie Davis from ITV – suave, chatty, putting you at ease. Indeed Gordon was regularly on TV himself as well as popping up in the newspapers, always ready with a quote and a knowledgeable comment.”

Among the politicians he entertained were Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher.

On his retirement, he spent much time painting and in his prize-winning garden. He is also survived by his wife Mavis, who hails from Darlington, children Jill and Roy, and granddaughter Beth, who has just started on a teaching career in Durham.