Matthias Robinson & Sons, department store, Hartlepool was opened in 1875 when Mr Robinson opened a drapery shop in Lynn Street which he quickly expanded into the shop next door. He then bought the large building next to his large drapery shop Manchester House, and called it Lynn House. As his business further grew he took large premises on the other side of Lynn Street calling it The Coliseum and in 1912 bought buildings in Whitby Street which he called Birmingham House.
Robinson also built large stores in Stockton and Leeds. The department stores sold almost everything including clothing, furniture and homeware and carpets. Robinson himself was a JP, on the first town council of West Hartlepool and built one of the large properties in Westbourne Road as his home.
Children for many years looked forward to the Robinson's Christmas Bazaar when Santa would arrive at the station and travel to the store on a house on wheels.
Robinson's stores in Hartlepool, Leeds and Stockton were taken over by Debenhams in 1964 and although the Stockton and Leeds stores remain as Debenhams, the Hartlepool store was demolished around 1970 along with the rest of Lynn Street.
The fashions suggest the 1930s and these ladies are obviously awaiting some kind of fashion show in a department store. It could be Robinson's ? Hill Carter ? Gray Peverell ?
The photo has possibly been taken in a basement to one of these stores as the ceiling looks low and it could be a store room indicated by the stacked chairs above the ladies on the right. There also seem to be a number of mirrors arranged on the beams.
HHT+N 14More detail »
Robinson's differed from the other West Hartlepool department stores in being spread over several different sites, the company having expanded by taking over other premises. Matthias Robinson, having spent six or seven months with a local draper, opened his first shop at 79 Lynn Street in September 1875. The staff consisted of one female assistant and an errand lad. Expansion followed quickly :
By Christmas, the upper rooms were added as a mantle and millinery showroom
Spring 1876, more rooms were added
Spring 1878, Hutchinson's at No. 77 was bought for the 'fancy trade'
Spring 1886, The adjacent shops of Brewis and Malham were bought.
At this point, Robinson owned all the premises on the east side of Lynn Street between Catherine Street and Thomas Street. After structural alterations and a new facade, these were incorporated in to a single building which was named Manchester House. There was then further expansion. Birk's Coliseum on the opposite side of Lynn Street and the corner of Lamb Street was bought and stocked with furniture and hardware. Goodson's premises, also in Lynn Street, was bought and renamed Bon Marche.
In Spring 1895, the branch at Stockton opened but was destroyed by fire in 1899 and replaced by a larger structure. This was designed by the architects Harry Barnes and Frederick Coates of Sunderland and was built with a steel frame encased in plaster. Called the Coliseum, it opened in May 1901 and had 48 departments and a cafe/restaurant.
As well as the shops, Robinson's had various works. Two were in West Hartlepool, in Lambton Street and at the back of Lamb Street, and one was in Stockton at East Street and Wellington Street. The latter manufactured furniture and bedding and had its own electricity supply from three 50hp gas engines.
Lynn House, on the other side of Catherine Street from Manchester House, was opened on 21st March 1907. It stocked clothing, mercery, and boots and shoes. Its opening was announced in a two-page advertising spread in the Northern Daily Mail the previous day. This has provided much of the material for this note and, not unnaturally, it spoke very highly of the new premises. The architects were Harry Barnes and his new partner Charles P. Burton of West Hartlepool. The building was described as "thoroughly modern and up-to-date in every respect while possessing something of an old world charm". It was claimed to be the first example in the town of ferro-concrete construction and said to be fireproof as there was no danger of the collapse found during fires in ordinary steel framed buildings. The corner window was the "finest in the town" and was only possible because the larger separation between the supporting columns achievable with this type of construction. A feature of the upper parts was the use of faience that did not use a high glaze and so avoided unpleasant reflections. The circular windows were decorated with paintings (by Boanson & Son) of the other Robinson premises in West Hartlepool and Stockton. The building was lit by electricity and heated by gas radiators of the "latest and most approved type".
By this time, the workforce numbered over 400. The next expansion was the purchase in 1912 of buildings on the corner of Musgrave Street and Whitby Street. These re-opened in 1913 as Birmingham House. Robinson's played an important part in West Hartlepool with children for many years looking forward to the the Christmas Bazaar when Santa would arrive at the station and travel to the store on a house on wheels.
Matthias Robinson became a substantial figure in West Hartlepool, being a JP and a member of the first council of the town. One of the large properties in Westbourne Road was built as his home, though it is said that because of his wife’s bronchial trouble the family moved to Stockton on doctors’ advice. They lived at Hartburn in a property called Landieu.
The furthest the Robinson company reached was Leeds where they occupied premises in Briggate, later extending into King Edward Street. It was regarded as an up-market shop, though not quite as smart as the branch of Marshall & Snelgrove. This and the rest of the organisation was acquired by Debenham's in 1962 in a £2.8m take-over. With the opening of the Middleton Grange shopping centre, the Hartlepool shops were doomed and all were demolished in the late 1960s. The Stockton and Leeds shops continue as branches of Debenham's.More detail »
Taken during demolition, the image is taken in Musgrave Street looking west towards the Central Stores. To the right of Robinson's Lithgow's Pram Shop can just be seen.More detail »
This drawing is from a Robinson's advert in the N.D.M. Bon Marche was one of the early Robinson stores and occupied the premises previously owned by Goodson's in Lynn Street. The exact location has not been found but the letter box might imply it was on the corner of Freeman Street.More detail »
This was on the opposite side of Lynn Street from Manchester House and Lynn House. Note the whimsical addition to the Cafe sign of a hand pointing to the shop entrance. The sign above the entrance says 'Visit the Zoo' (which was presumably the pet shop).More detail »
Birmingham House opened in 1913 as part of Matthias Robinson's empire in West Hartlepool. It was on the corner of Whitby Street and Musgrave Street(the street sign is on the building). This part of the store advertises Bedding, Bedsteads, Upholstery and Furniture.
Trolley bus lines can clearly be seen in the picture.
Next to this part of the store to the left of the picture is Lithgow's Pram Shop in Musgrave Street.More detail »
Taken in 1966 very soon before the store was closed, this is Lynn House which was the Gents' Outfitter department of Robinson's. On the far right of the picture, on the opposite side of Catherine Street, the edge of Manchester House (Robinson's first premises) can be seen.
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On the opposite corner to Lynn House was Manchester House which was the first of Robinson's large premises in Lynn Street. This part of the store at the time sold ladies 'mantles' and haberdashery.More detail »