Care for the elderly in Northumberland.
Holly Atkinson from Norma James of Corbridge popped in for a cup of tea and a chat with our resident Mary Robson, who worked for over 30 years at the designer boutique.
Mary moved into one of our brand new ensuite rooms at Charlotte Straker House in May this year.
Mary told us how she started work at 15 at “high class tailors” Willoughby and Purvis in Fore Street in Hexham. She then moved to Kathleen Queen’s dress shop at the top of Battle Hill and then from there, she was invited to work at Norma James.
On her first day she was asked to help “dress” the window with a selection of the shop’s designs, and she did such a good job she continued to dress the window each week, for the next 30 years.
“Norma always designed the Christmas shop windows, and she dressed them beautifully, with vases of seasonal flowers”, Mary told us. “I used to choose the clothes and accessories for each week for the mannequins in the window and I loved the creativity of the job, and having the responsibility of deciding which outfits to feature and display.”
Mary obviously has a real eye for colour and design and she described her favourite outfit – a navy blue skirt from the designer Basler, paired with a neat primrose yellow jacket and blouse embroidered with matching primrose accents.
She then told us about choosing her wedding outfit in 1974.
“I really wanted a peach coloured suit, but couldn’t find anything suitable. So I went to Newcastle and walked around Binns, Fenwicks and Bainbridge’s until I suddenly saw a gorgeous navy suit – with a short skirt, a white bibbed blouse and tailored jacket. I bought it immediately, and was married in navy blue!”
Mary told us that Norma James used to regularly buy over 600 pieces from the Basler design house, and some patrons would visit the shop to buy every single item from the collection in their size, to wear in the following season. In those days, smart tweed suits were very popular, paired with matching hats and accessories.
“There were some extremely smart ladies, perfectly turned out in tailored suits. They were very stylish! I became friends with many of the society ladies from Hexham and Corbridge and used to dedicate a whole morning to helping them select outfits for the coming season.” she said.
When she left Norma James, Mary partnered with her sister, and set up her own dress shop in Heddon on the Wall, called Delmar Fashions which featured lots of outfits from Bellino and other similar designers.
Holly and Mary had a great chat about past and present customers and staff, and before she left Holly presented Mary with a £100 voucher from Norma James of Corbridge and a card with hand written best wishes from the staff.
Mary said, “I loved working with Norma, and made some great friends at the shop. I’m going to really enjoy choosing an outfit with the voucher – thank you so much to the staff at Norma James Clothing and to Holly for coming in to have a chat about the old days in Corbridge – it’s really made my day.”