Washington County Durham


Memories of ...

Factories - RCA Records & Subbuteo

The RCA Record Factory

Which stood on the site of the former Blackfell Army Camp.
[ Radio Corporation of America, later RCA Victor. ]

Press Clipping

RCA Sign


Clearance and Preparation of the Site began in May 1967.
The Official Opening took place on 7th May 1970.
The RCA Record Factory closed in 1981.


The RCA Record Factory

Armstrong Industrial Estate
[ Under Construction ]

Get your Bearings

Junction: A182 & A194(M)
View looking south down the future Washington Highway A182 towards The Galleries Shopping Centre.
Note Village Lane passing
(diagonally from upper-left to middle-right) between the Fine Fare Warehouse and the RCA Factory.

After the closure of RCA, Dickens Home Improvement Hypermarket started trading from the former Record Factory.
They were later followed by B&Q who (mid-1990s) built their current premises on the land between RCA and the Roundabout.

[ Thanks to Ged Parker, Chairman of Washington History Society, for the above information. ]

Aerial - RCA Record factory
View looking north up the partially built Washington Highway A182 towards the A194M Roundabout.
RCA Record Factory (left) and Fine Fare Warehouse (right).   Route of Village Lane running horizontally between the two.
The current B&Q DIY Store/Warehouse was built on the large plot of land just north of the RCA Factory.

Aerial - RCA Record factory
The beginnings of Armstrong Industrial Estate at the north end of the A182 Washington Highway.
Blackfell Village will be built beyond the road containing the long line of vehicles.
The RCA Record Factory is centre picture.

RCA Construction
The RCA Record Factory on the Armstrong Industrial Estate

[ Thanks to Adrian Lupton for contributing the Aerial / Under-Construction Photographs in this article. ]

RCA Staff & Pop Stars

Sad Cafe
Sad Café visiting RCA, November 1980.
[Thanks to Chronicle Live]

Bonnie Tyler
Singer / Songwriter Bonnie Tyler visiting RCA.
[Thanks to Jon Mason]


Mary Lyall - 45s
Mary Lyall sorting 45s, April 1972.
[Thanks to Chronicle Live]

Staff checking the quality of LPs, July 1971.
[Thanks to Chronicle Live]


Bait Time
Canteen Meals were pre-packed & frozen.  They had to be cooked in a microwave oven, 1972.
[Thanks to Chronicle Live]


Dickens Home Improvement Hypermarket

Armstrong Industrial Estate.
[ In the former RCA Record Factory ]

Dickens DIY
Dickens Home Improvement Hypermarket - Opening Day, 1984 - in the former RCA Records Factory.
The Record Factory closed in 1981.

( I bet the ice-cream man made a fortune! )

Former RCA Record Factory / Dickens / B&Q Site

View from ALDI Supermarket Car Park on Armstrong Road
[ Construction of DPD Warehouse ]

DPD develop site
The site is being developed into a Warehouse for DPD, an International Parcel Delivery Service.
The modern, purpose built, B&Q Store can be seen on the right horizon.
[ Photo: Ernie Guy, Member of Washington History Society, 19th August 2021 ]

Former RCA Record factory
Looking up the A182 Washington Highway towards the A194M Motorway
(left to A1M, right to South Shields)
Blackfell Village (left).   Today's B&Q DIY Superstore (centre-picture)

The site of the former RCA Record Factory, Dickens DIY Hypermarket and the first B&Q DIY Store
can be seen between the current B&Q car park and Armstrong Road.

Subbuteo Table Football Factory

Crowther Industrial Estate.

Subbuteo Factory 1982

[ Picture thanks to Subbuteo On-Line's Stephen Hurrell ]

•   •   ◊   •   •

Did you know Subbuteo was manufactured in Washington for less than a year in 1981/82?
They did a classic lock, stock and barrel move from Kent, relocating staff who settled in key-worker housing with kids in local schools.
Government loans and grants, employment recruitment and training were paid by the Corporation.

Six months later they were taken over by Waddington's and the shock decision was to relocate again, to Leeds.
Everything had to be paid back!

[ Comments from Ged Parker, former Subbuteo Player and Member of Washington Development Corporation. ]

•   •   ◊   •   •

Back in the early 1960s my mates 'Bunse', 'Stubba' and I were big Subbuteo Fans.
We preferred playing this Super Game with its green baize Football Pitch laid out on the floor, rather than on a table.
One evening we were playing in the spare room of Stubba's home in Glendale Avenue, when his Dad
came in to inform us that U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated!

[ Jim G ]

•   •   ◊   •   •

The Former Subbuteo Factory 2022
The Junction of Crowther Road and Tilley Road - almost 40 years later.

•   •   ◊   •   •

Subbuteo Football Pitch
Subbuteo Football Pitch

[ Thanks to www.subbuteo.com ]

•   •   ◊   •   •

Any idea where the name Subbuteo came from?
It's named after a small, Swift-like, British Bird of Prey, Falco Subbuteo.  The Hobby!