Back on City Road 

1 May 2007

Exterior of City Road

The exterior of the City Road building still proclaims the name of its former owners

Lucy Purdon’s article, Growing Up with Tyne Tees, mentioned legendary show The Tube and the building that was party to both it and Ghost Train with Nobby the Sheep and the villainous Barry Mafia. Now Stephanie Rickaby, who works in the building today, brings us up to date.

I remember the monumental and life-changing event that was reading the birthday cards, just before the cartoons, and resisted the urge to mention it when I met Bill Steel’s son in the pub once. Funny thing is, the old Tyne Tees studio on the City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne still exists with its famous walkway into the building. Only now, guess what? It’s all offices. Don’t tell me that surprised you. The big tube walkway leads into part of the building that has been bought by an evangelical church group which, considering the size, location and history of the building must have been monetarily blessed by the Lord. That, I admit, was a bit of a surprise to me.

The other part of the building where all the other studios and offices were now houses a freelance singer-songwriter, a small call-centre and an even smaller company the details of which I don’t know. The rest of the rooms are empty.

Old studio door

A studio door no longer leads to a studio

I know this because I recently joined the small call-centre and was given a grand tour. The corridors are narrow, with a grey and navy blue theme. Everywhere there are rooms with plaques above the doors reading ‘Props’ or ‘Unoccupied/Occupied’ with a slider should you choose to use it, and empty studios, cavernous with wires and pulleys and with enough space to receive the Gift of Tongues in the evangelical church. Most haunting of all are the proudly framed photographs of shows gone by that just crop up randomly, such as HeartBeat and the aforementioned Ghost Train with photos of the cast, so sure this was their big break.

dressing room 6

Dressing Room 6 as it is today

The whole place looks like a film set impression of a TV studio. Forgotten rubber plants and wires-running-under-the-carpets abound. Rumour has it the place is haunted – it’s definitely got that Marie Celeste feeling, just as if it’s been refurbished rather than forgotten, only nobody told it. A white figure has been caught pacing up and down on the security cameras.

I have heard it said that Mike Neville was something of a diva who once held up an entire flight because he was running late for his plane. Some of you might remember him going over to the BBC part-way through his career? I am told this was due to him being repeatedly ‘tired and emotional’ at work.

As to the Egypt Cottage where Paula met Michael, it’s still there but bizarrely never seems to be open through the early part of the afternoon, and sometimes not at all. Almost as if it too has half a foot in the eighties. The thing that upsets me most about it, is that as a super-provincial child (Darlington,anyone?) the Tyne Tees building was The Telly. It mattered. Seeing it now obviously puts it in perspective, but it has marred my memories. The birth of the celebrity age in places outside London surely owed something to that building. In the 60s, TV was a daily miracle, in the 70s it was for the enlightened people and in the 80s it was your daily bread, Amen. Fitting, therefore, that the Ancient Egyptians believed in Gods On Earth, everyday magic and (allegedly), overpriced beer and slave labour.

Glad to be working there though.

You Say

1 response to this article

David Armstrong 20 March 2014 at 4:55 pm

As a 6 Year old child (1951) I lived in an old house, 42, Richmond Street (off Crawhall Road) about one hundred yards to the rear of the then ***new Tyne Tees Studious. I went to the long demolished Royal Jubilee School, adjacent to City Road and attended St. Anns Church. There were four Pubs in the ‘general vicinity’, The Egypt Cottage, The ‘Rose and Crown’ opposite the Egypt Cottage (on City Road). I and other children played on the grassy banks, adjacent to the ‘Rose and Crown’. The kind Manager let us all into the Pub one Sunday afternoon and we sat on high bar-stools sipping ‘free lemonade’. The Sun Inn (still there even today). There was another pub, situated behind and ‘near to’ the Tyne Tees Studious in Barton or Burton Street ?, long demolished Name Unknown. I remember clearly the ‘Twisted ROPE Chimney on City Road (The Rope coil was reputed to have been made by mistake, the ‘wrong way around’ and the builder was supposed to have committed suicide because of the error and jumping off the Chimney. There was also a haunted Police Sub Station, in Crawhall Road, near the Tanners Arms (now a engineering office).

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