Newcastle in film: Payroll

In Payroll (1961), directed by Sidney Hayers, and based on a novel (1959) by Derek Bickerton, the Johnny Mellor (Michael Craig) gang plot the robbery of a factory's pay delivery. Though set, until the final denouement (in Norfolk), entirely on Tyneside (apart from a bizarre continuity-collapse shot of a level crossing at East Sheen station) once again not a single character speaks with a local accent. The novel was set in Birmingham.

The Payroll has hitherto been taken from Lloyds Bank in Grey Street in a Humber Super Snipe (here seen passing a 31A trolley bus on its route along Market Street towards the Central Station)

which takes an odd route via the Haymarket and Percy Street

down to the Quayside. Maybe this is a cunning way of confusing potential robbers.

But by the time the gang have got themselves ready the Humber has been replaced by an armoured van.

On a dry run they follow it in a Land Rover towards the Monument as a trolleybus for Denton Road Terminus passes along Market Street.

A policeman in a long white coat unwittingly assists their progress. There's a good view here of Mawson, Swann and Morgan, a rather posh shop that sold luggage on the ground floor and books in the basement. It later became a branch of Waterstone's.

This time they pass the Odeon in Pilgrim Street

and are soon back on the Quayside.

Seen through the Land Rover's windscreen the van crosses Redheugh Bridge.

On the day of the actual robbery the gang uses a tipper truck to ram the armoured van. Here it is seen stuck in traffic on the Tyne Bridge.

Once again the local police offer some help. The constable is wearing the distinctive ('Newcastle United') striped band on his cap used by Newcastle Police for a few years in the 1960s. The driver is wearing his old army leather jerkin - a great signifier of other ranks/lower classes in British films.

As it heads back it passes the 'tower wagon' used to repair the overhead trolley bus wires. Newcastle trolley buses had blinds for Gateshead destinations over the Tyne Bridge even though the wires never extended south of the Tyne - so there is no obvious reason for the vehicle to be crossing the river. The posts and hooks for the former tram overhead (removed in 1951) can be clearly seen. In the right background a Class V2 2-6-0 leads a heavy freight train towards Manors. A pigeon looks on.

The armoured van itself is stuck on the Swing Bridge.

There is a subplot. Mellor is having a dalliance with Katie Pearson (Francoise Prevost) the Viennese wife (at least they apparently met in Vienna - she speaks French when stressed) of the 'insider' who has provided the gang with the designs of the armoured van and its route. Here they separate after a tryst outside the Central Station. Katie is probably off to catch the train home to Tynemouth

where she lives opposite the Plaza in Parkside Crescent. As one of Bainbridge's of North Shields removal vans goes past, Mellor drops her off from his Sunbeam convertible

after a passionate hour in the sand dunes near Seaton Sluice.

When Pearson discovers the affair he burns his share of the loot setting fire to the house in the process. Katie beats it

as a Tynemouth Borough fire engine arrives on the scene.

She runs for a Newcastle Corporation bus which for some reason is operating along the Grand Parade (they never did)

and has stopped at a newly painted Tynemouth bus stop (they changed from black on white to white on blue around this time). (In the distance can be seen support vehicles for the production making a rare appearance on camera.)

But she hasn't escaped: the widow (Billie Whitelaw) of one of the security men killed in the raid has followed her, and as the bus sets off in the direction of Whitley Bay

and then mysteriously crosses the Tyne Bridge

she seeks her revenge.

The 1961 'tie-in' edition of the novel.

Shooting the film in Grey Street.

Some more about Payroll locations here.


  1. Really good locations in this film. I was wondering whether you knew the lock up where they stash the car with the dying colleague (sorry for the spoiler there!) after the robbery?

  2. It appears to be the Quayside. See which also has more on Payroll locations.

  3. Do you know where the Victorian crescent of terraced houses featured in the film is, Could it be Chester Crescent in Sandyford?

  4. Workers running out of factory. BTH works Rugby.

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  6. Really very nice locations in this film!!

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