ARE you missing the shops? Physically going out, looking in the shop windows at the various displays, seeing what's on offer, what takes your fancy, just browsing...

Lockdown has made all that impossible. So many people are shopping virtually, online, and for those who do go out, it is no longer a pleasurable linger. It is mask up, in, out and home in a hurry.

So let's step back in time in Durham City to when shopfronts really were shopfronts, each individually laid out and decorated, usually by independent shopkeepers who wanted to make their windows as memorable as possible.

This great collection of images has been kindly lent to us by Michael Richardson, of the Gilesgate Archive, and if you can tell us anything about any of the shops pictured, we'd love to hear from you. Was it your family that ran one of them?

Today's front cover shows an amazing moment in British history: the day in 1949 that sweet rationing ended, with people queuing round the block to get their first sugar rush for nearly a decade.

General rationing started on January 8, 1940, soon after the Second World War broke out. Sweets weren't restricted initially, but with sweet factories usually being clustered around the docks of great cities like London, Bristol and Liverpool – so they could make easy use of imported raw materials like sugar and cocoa – they were vulnerable to air raids and so supply quickly became limited.

On July 26, 1942, the rationing of sweet and chocolate began, with each person over five being restricted to seven ounces a month – that's just one bar of chocolate each per month. Older people often handed over their coupons to their children or grandchildren, but even having coupons in your sweaty hand was no guarantee of a sweet reward as there were so few sweets in the shops.

Finally, on April 24, 1949, sweet rationing came to an end and, as you can see, everyone wanted to get their tastebuds on lemon sherberts, flying saucers, barley sugar twists, liquorice, jelly babies, Fry’s chocolate creams, pear drops and cola cubes. The queue is tumbling out of Adams' sweet shop on Silver Street and down the steps into Back Silver Street.

And this was the problem. Even though sweets had been derationed, sugar was still restricted, and immediately there was not enough supply to keep up with demand.

With the country on the brink of confectionery anarchy, the government brought sweet rationing back four months later.

Sweets remained controlled until February 5, 1953, by which time, the government had released enough sugar to create enough sweets to satisfy the greatest demand.

On that derationing day in 1953, the sweets that were the best sellers were toffee apples, sticks of nougat and liquorice strips.

So that's the story attached to today's front cover picture. If you have any stories to go with any of the other pictures, please email