What Stockton High Street Looked Like Before the Castlegate Centre

by Matt Falcus

A major change is happening to the southern end of Stockton High Street, removing a landmark that has been a constant for the people of the town for almost 50 years.

The Castlegate shopping centre and the Swallow Hotel were opened in 1973 as a modern addition to the retail and leisure offering in central Stockton.

Complementing the shops and businesses already on the famous High Street, it added a modern shopping mall full of different sized stores, a market, restaurant and multi-storey car park, as well as the hotel and its leisure centre.

But now, half a century on, time has been called on the Castlegate in Stockton, and it is to make way for a large open space stretching towards the River Tees. Throughout 2023 the shopping centre has been demolished and the site cleared.

The hotel has also been removed.

Readers of a certain age will, in fact, remember what it was like in this part of town before the Castlegate Centre and Swallow were built, and that is what we’re looking at in this article.


Stockton High Street Before the Castlegate Centre

Take a look at this picture and you’ll see just how full of life this southern end of Stockton High Street was before making way for the Castlegate.

The site was home to a collection of older buildings, comprising shops, pubs, hotels and other businesses. Many also had residential spaces on upper floors.

Famous businesses include Wilsons store, plus the Royal Hotel, Black Lion, William IV and Vane Arms pubs.

Some of the buildings were very grand and elaborate, whilst others more simple.

By 1970 this entire block had been cleared and the foundations were being built for the new shopping centre, with many residents lamenting the loss of what was there before.


The Swallow Hotel Site

Originally the northern part of the Stockton Castle site and its moat, as this was lost and the High Street developed, the buildings along this eastern side were added and improved over time.

A large house occupied the so-called Castlegate Corner for many years.

On the corner where the Swallow Hotel stood, originally a theatre was built occupying much the same site.

This was the Castle Theatre, which was built in 1907 and opened the following year.

It later became the Empire, and was converted into a cinema.

It was demolished in 1968 to make way for the new hotel.


Do you remember this part of Stockton Hight Street and the businesses there? What do you think of the plans for the new open space and the loss of the Castlegate? Leave a comment below.

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