The Wooden Slipway Off Granville Parade

written by Fred Moore

Another story was told to me, this time by a Mr William Cottage, now deceased, who was a well known and respected carpenter and joiner who was born in Sandgate around 1885-86 and had lived locally all his life. Mr W Cottage was known to his friends as Bill and this story is about his father, Frank George Cottage who came and settled in Sandgate as a single young man around 1880 and at that time lived in Wilberforce Road (which was then known as Chapel Street).

Frank had an artificial left leg and was a boot and shoe repairer by trade. He opened a small business repairing boots and shoes in a small black painted shed which stood where the beer barrel store of the Ship Inn now stands, very close to the sea and the Parade.

Before the second world war a wooden slipway supported by old railway rails exte3nded from the top of the sea wall onto the beach right oppoosite Granville Road West (which in earlier days was named Seaview Street) and the black shet where Bill’s father undertood his repairing.

This slipway was used, as I remember in the 1920’s and 30’s by local fishermen to bring their fishing boats up from the beach. As a child, I never doubted its use, other than a slipway for the boats, and it was not until I had listened to Bill’s story that I learned of its original use.

In and around the 1880’s and 1890’s, during the summer months, Colliers would bring coal to Sandgate from Newcastle. These flat bottomed Colliers would come ashore on a high tied in line with the slipway and hold themselves in this position by ropes fore and after until the tide receded.

The coal carts would be pulled onto the beach alongside the Collier and when these horse-drawn carts were loaded with coal would be pulled up via the slipway, past the little black shed where Frank would be repairing shoes, into the Seaview Street and across the High Street into Gough Road. There they were unloaded in a coal year, the business at this time being run by the well known local business family of Claysons.

It took several days to unload these colliers and the crew would meet Frank Cottage over a pint of beer in the Ship Inn and friendship would have been formed. When the Collier finally sailed for its return journey to Newcastle the local boot repairer was missing, he had boarded the Collier and sailed for Newcastle.

A notice in the small window of the little black shed read something like this “Closed. Re-open in several weeks time” and when the Collier returned Frank Cottage was aboard to reopen his business again, almost penniless having had a good drink-up in Newcastle.

He later got married and settled in Devonshire Terrace. His wife found it necessary to let out some rooms to subsidise Frank’s earnings as on rare occasions Frank would go missing on a trip to Newcastle, leaving his family rather short of cash.

Later, when the black shed was pulled down to make way for an extension to the Ship Inn in the form of a gent’s toilet, Frank Cottage continued trading as a local boot repairer in another shed at the back of 5 Devonshire Terrace until his retirement in the late 20’s.

As a boy, the teller of this story, Bill Cottage, would relate how in wintertime before school he was expected to carry buckets of coal up to the occupants of the rooms let out by his mother, sometimes five flights of stairs to the top floor.