"Ebb and flow" which is centred around the Charley Clays Clothing Factory during the early sixties. The story focuses on different kinds of life in North Shields at that time - There's Helen Smith the young woman who dreams of a better life for herself, she wants to live like the rich people. When she marries Thomas Lattimer who is a wealthy banker she discovers that the life that she wanted is not all it was made up to be. Jimmy Mulligan who works for Hoults the butchers, lives over the road with his parents he has been in love with Helen since they were at school together. He tells her of his love and that he will wait for her no matter how long it takes. Allan Forster has been in and out of Borstal for petty crimes he dreams of one big job that will net him enough money to live the high life - He gets involved with Paddy Leonard a notorious hardman. A power struggle takes place in North Shields for supremacy. Paddy Devlin another bouncer, come gangster is running a protection racket


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For over a decade the battle of the sexes continued until men had to concede and women finally had standing in the home and workplace.

More and more changes followed through the fifties and men found themselves having to work along side many women.

The colloquial language used by men when working along side other men had to be curtailed and a lot of men found that they had to go to a local pub to let off steam.

The fight for sexual equality persisted when women who worked as hard as the men wanted to enjoy the money they earned. Some spent money re-modernising their homes. They felt that since they now had an income, they could make their houses as posh as some middle and even upper class houses. Nearly every home had a television set whether it was a slot or rented one from Redifusion it did not mater. Women saw a different kind of life on the television in the North East and they wanted a piece of it. For those who found themselves on the dole it was a different story. They fiddled both the electric and gas meters that were installed in the home and lived from hand to mouth.

North Shields was primarily a fishing town but new businesses were sprouting up and taking root. Since the onset of the First World War Smiths Docks a ship builders employed over one thousand local men. There were wood yards, and other industries bringing work to the unemployed. By the beginning of the 1950’s factories had sprung up on Norham Road all the way up to the Coast Road to Newcastle. Businesses were booming. H O Wills the cigarette factory began to make a name for itself selling woodbines, a cheap popular brand of cigarette. British Imperial Tobacco as it was better known then started in Bristol in 1786. HO Wills were the first to introduce cigarette cards in their packaging. His partner Harold Watkins opened in Castle Street until his retirement. Peter Lilly then amalgamated with Henry in 1793

Peter had snuff mill on the land of Yeo in Barrow Gurney. He retired in 1803 and it was Henry’s two sons who took over the business. Neither of them smoked and they opened a factory in Bedminster in 1886 it had a high tea room and a place to smoke hand rolled cigars. Their first Brand of cigarette was called “Bristol which was manufactured in London then “Three Castles “and Gold Flake. Their most famous brands were Woodbines and Embassy cigarettes which were the first to incorporate vouchers inside that could be save to redeem goods. Only women and young girls were allowed to roll the cigars and there was a stipulation of employment. No woman or girl was allowed to marry or take part in any gambling games.

When WD Wills died in 1865 over 2000 people attended his funeral at Arnos Vale Cemetery. The business continued to grow and factories opened up in Swindon, Dublin, Newcastle, and Manchester. They even opened a factory in Australia. The last son to take over the running of the business was Christopher 1969 when the brothers retired. Christopher kept it going until 1986 when the Newcastle factory closed.

The old factory lay dormant for over ten years before it was turned into luxury apartments. The brand name Woodbines and Embassy continue to this day.


There was money to be made and many of these factories flourished. At the bottom of Norham Road in North Shields you had Charley Clay’s a clothing manufacturer. He made everything from Shirts to pyjamas. During the war years they made asbestos suits and balaclavas for aircraft pilots. Then he began to branch out making woollen jumpers. One was worn by the North East comedian Bobby Thompson. The factory employed over 300 people and there were several departments. In the weaving department young school leavers would run the line supplying the machinists with thread. There were many different colours used.

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