Looking Back

editorial image

Stephen Fry, though not the TV presenter of that name, is seen walking his dogs in snow outside Panama Cafe on Whitley Bay’s sands in this picture.

The cafe was just below the Panama Dip on the Links, with a large sign advertising biscuits made by former London firm Peek Frean.

The imposing building of the Prudhoe Memorial Convalescent Home can be seen above it in the distance.

Stephen Nott Fry was born around 1857. He was the elder son of Isabella and Edward Fry. His father sailed pleasure boats from the beach, and Stephen helped out. His younger brother Charles became a blacksmith.

Stephen was a diver, and it is said that he worked on the Panama Canal, which is how he came to call his beach cafe Panama House, a building made from reclaimed parts of ships. In the 1911 census, it is listed as having seven rooms.

He married Mary Maria Mitcheson at St Paul’s Church, Whitley Bay, in 1882.

Their daughter Mary Winifred was born in 1883 and son Stephen Kenneth was born in London in August 1889, being baptised at St John’s Church in Southwark. At www.ancestry.co.uk it is possible to trace Kenneth Fry departing from Southampton on May 19, 1920, on the SS St Paul to Los Angeles, listed as an actor.

He was discharged from the Canadian forces in 1918 suffering a leg injury.

He settled in California as a salesman with Beatrice Bales, previously married to Otto Hovestadt, and step-daughter Beatrice Maude, born in 1919.

Stephen Fry died at home at 43 Ilfracombe Gardens, Monkseaton, on May 30, 1912, leaving £1,602 and 10 shillings to his widow.

If anyone has further information to offer, they should ask for Discover at North Shields Customer First Centre on (0191) 643 5270 or email discover@northtyneside.gov.uk