The Handyside Arcade was a popular spot in Newcastle City Centre for music and arcade game fans in the 1970s and 80s. The arcade was demolished in 1981 to make way for the new Eldon Gardens. Today the only remaining evidence of the life of George Handyside is a monument in St. Johns Cemetery, Elswick.
George’s story is one of rags to riches. He was born in 1821 into rural poverty, moving aged 26 to Berwick upon Tweed with 17 shillings in his pocket, the modern equivalent sum of £68. It was enough to open his first shoe shop. The shop became a factory and the factory became the core of a network of 50 stores from Aberdeen to Newcastle. George had a genius for business that turned small investments into major employers in the North East. He complemented his shoe business with businesses in farming, transportation, advertising and pharmaceuticals.
In his later years, George turned to property development in Newcastle. He was responsible for large-scale projects both within the city centre and along Westgate Road. His 90-unit Handyside Arcade was not completed until two years after his death in 1906. His properties in Elswick were mostly for labouring classes and amongst them, at 12 Bentinck Crescent, George built his own home.
When he died, George was one of the richest men in Newcastle but had no children, having never married. His estate left £92,000 for distribution amongst charities in Newcastle. The largest recipients were the Northern Counties Orphan Institution and the Northumberland, Durham & Newcastle Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye.
Bradbury, J. (2007). Evening Chronicle, ‘Quack Doctor’s tale is great medicine, Available here (Accessed: 13/06/2018).
Lost Britain – Handyside Arcade, Available here (Accessed: 13/06/2018).
Morton, D. (2015). Newcastle’s ‘lost’ Handyside Arcade-readers recall the Percy Street attraction, Available here (Accessed: 13/06/2018).
Wikipedia. (2018). George Handyside, Available here (Accessed: 13/06/2018).