NEXT Saturday (July 1, 2023), two venerable institutions of Shildon celebrate their 125th anniversaries: the Dean Street football ground, the home of Shildon United, and Hackett & Baines, the Harrods of Main Street.

The two are coming together for an exhibition in the Old Working Men’s Club, where attendees will get a free 20-page history brochure and a chance to win a limited edition print, while down the road in Dean Street, there’s a day of footballing activities.

Let’s kick-off with the football side of the story…


THE first recorded game of football featuring a Shildon side was in February 1884 when Shildon First travelled to Rushyford Juniors for a game of two halves that were each 35 minutes long.

The Shildon men were much bigger than the Rushyford juniors and scored first, a lead they maintained until 15 minutes from the end when the ball burst and the game had to finish with Shildon the victors.

In the 1890s, there were several teams in town – Shildon Town, Shildon Rangers and Shildon Heroes – and among the pubs they met in was the Surtees Arms on Byerley Road.

The Northern Echo: The Surtees Arms

The Surtees Arms was also known as the Grey Horse but was converted to flats a few years ago

The Surtees, which had Shildon Lodge Colliery behind it, had already had one brush with fame as, at the birth of the railways in 1825, innkeeper Daniel Adamson had placed his horsedrawn stagecoach on the Stockton & Darlington Railway and offered his customers a brand new travel service. He ran his coach for eight years with his son, also called Daniel, who had been born in the pub in 1820 – young Daniel went on to be the driving force behind the Manchester Ship Canal in the 1880s.

In the early 1890s, Surtees landlady Sarah McNaughton encouraged Shildon’s footballers to meet in her pub by levelling and draining her nearby field so that they could play on it. However, it still had a pronounced slope.


Despite Mrs McNaughton’s magnanimity, in December 1894, the secretary of Shildon Town wired the secretary of Darlington Juniors that he found it impossible to raise an eleven of men willing to travel to play at Feethams for a 3pm kick-off.

“The juniors went on field, and, setting the ball in motion, dribbled it down to the goal, banged it past an imaginary goalkeeper, and claimed the match as won,” said a contemporary report.

The Town secretary resigned in despair, and his club united with the Rangers and the Heroes to form Shildon United.

The new team was obviously strong as in February 1896, they were unbeaten at home that season until Eldon Albion arrived for a friendly and, aided by the wind, put five goals past Shildon in the first half without reply. In the second, Shildon managed only four and so lost.

“Some of the Shildonites are said to have behaved in a very unsportsmanlike manner, the referee and visiting players being mobbed and pelted with mud and stones,” said a report.

The Northern Echo: The Shildon cyclists whose velodrome in Dean Street was taken over by the footballers 125 years ago

Shildon's cyclists who allowed the footballers to use their Dean Street velodrome

At the start of the 1897-98 season, Town entered the second division of the Northern League, but their lowly finish second bottom of the table was put down to their poor ground, a situation they remedied by taking over a cycling track behind Main Street. The velodrome was large, as crowds of 3,000 had watched cycling events there.

The Northern Echo: George Ellis with his grandson , also called George , in Dean Street , Shildon.

In Dean Street, with the football ground behind

That summer, the footballers did some preparatory work so the new ground, known as the South Durham Athletic Ground as the cyclists and cricketers still used it, was ready for the first match of the 1898-99 season. It was a friendly, against Bishop Auckland, with the visitors winning 5-1 – the first goals to be scored at what is now known as the Dean Street Ground.

Facilities were still pretty basic, but good enough to enable United to become semi-professional in 1907 and join the North Eastern League.


On March 25, 1921, the £4,000 grandstand at the ground was officially opened by the club’s president, Michael Watson.

“The new stand is constructed of steel and brick and the seating accommodation is approximately 1,000,” said the North Star newspaper. “The structure has been erected from drawings prepared by Messrs Kitching, Lee and Archibald of Darlington.

“The stand is covered with asbestos tiles. Dressing rooms for the teams and officials have been provided. The new building has cost about £4,000.”

The Northern Echo: A snowy Dean Street seen from the air around 1960

A snowy Dean Street seen from the air around 1960

Despite the stand’s capacity, 6,500 spectators were present for the first match which the visitors, Darlington Reserves, won 1-0.

The stand, known affectionately as “the pagoda”, is now more than 100 years old and although Alex Ferguson brought a Manchester United side to mark the switch-on of the Dean Street floodlights in 1987, it still retains that old time feel from when boys would bunk up on each others’ shoulders to see over the slated wooden fence – and, perhaps if no one was looking – tumble in for free.


The Northern Echo: Hackett & Baines shop in Main Street, Shildon, in 1970

Hackett & Baines shop in Main Street, Shildon, in 1970

THERE was no Mr Hackett and there was no Mr Baines. Not in Shildon, at any rate. But there was a young man called Jack Tarry who had no obvious Shildon connection.

But when he arrived in 1898, the buzz of the place – the pits, the wagonworks, the market, perhaps even the new football ground on Dean Street – made him want to tarry awhile.

He spotted that the garden of Pear Tree Farm, in Main Street, would make a good place of a shop and so he got his father, George Tarry, a successful housebuilder from Leicester, to build one.

The Northern Echo: Florence, Philip and Jack Tarry

Founder Jack Tarry with his wife, Florence, and son, Philip

When he opened selling workwear – pit boots, pit hoggers, boiler suits – he needed a name. As he’d previously worked in pawnbrokers belonging to Mr Hackett, in Hartlepool, and Mr Baines, in Kettering, he married the two together to make a respectable-sounding business.

The Northern Echo: Hackett & Baines, Shildon

Hackett & Baines shop in Main Street, Shildon, in 1936

The shop in Main Street developed into a department store selling everything from crockery to corsetry, hosiery to haberdashery, tents to train sets, and from the 1920s until 1968, there was a branch in Billingham. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a school outfitters branch in Newton Aycliffe.

And it specialised in the old-fashioned notion of customer service where nothing was too much trouble.

The Northern Echo: Phil Tarry, son of the founder Jack, in the Shildon shop

Phil Tarry, son of the founder Jack, in the Shildon shop

In the 1990s, with Jack’s grandson Philip at the helm, there came a big switch into furniture, especially chairs and beds, usually available for next day delivery, and this gave H&B a new lease of life – for 20 years until Covid struck, it had a branch in Darlington.

Now H&B, still family-run, concentrates on its Main Street store, which has expanded over the years so that although it is only two storeys it has 11 different floor levels, and on celebrating the day 125 years ago that Jack Tarry gave up on the rail Mr Hackett and Mr Baines and set up on his own under their names in Shildon.


The Northern Echo: Eddie Swift

THE Shildon 125 exhibition will be launched at noon in the Main Street club on Saturday July 1 by 85-year-old Eddie Swift (above) – one of few footballers at any level to have been player, magic sponge man, committee member and chairman all of the same club.

Born in Bishop Auckland, Eddie played for Bishops and for Whitby Town before joining Shildon in the 1950s. He was in the team which reached the FA Amateur Cup quarter-final, against Walthamstow Avenue, in 1959.

The Northern Echo: Eric Thompson

The exhibition will be open to the public from 1pm to 6pm, and then on many days throughout July. People visiting it will receive a free brochure written by Mike Amos, and anyone who becomes a Friend of the Durham Amateur Football Trust (annual membership is £5) during the course of the exhibition will be entered into a draw to win a framed print of a painting (above) by acclaimed Shildon-born artist Eric Thompson – now of the Bondgate Gallery in Bishop Auckland.

It shows three short-trousered urchins trying to bunk into the Dean Street ground without paying, some time in the 1950s – one of the urchins may well be Eric himself.

Details of the trust and of the winner on the website: