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Exhibition? Now you're talking; BEER.


IN Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts searched for The Golden Fleece. John and Yvonne went on a quest to bring back the Queen's Head, The British Lion and The Atlas. Their haul also included The Ship, The Waggon and Rector House.

John Boothroyd, senior librarian at Gateshead Central Library, and library assistant Yvonne Kennedy have been plotting the history of the town's pubs for an exhibition at Gateshead Central Library; Bars, Beerhouses and Breweries of Old Gateshead. Yvonne is teetotal, John admits to not drinking that much, but both have been completely consumed in beer, breweries, pubs and people for the past 12 months.

And, judging by some of the visitors' comments, the display is reviving a few memories and bringing "good old days" right up to date.

"Look at The Seven Stars, it doesn't half look posh," is exactly the sort of comment they wanted to hear from an elderly lady. "Ee, that's where your Auntie Alice lived," simply endorses their dogged pursuit.

"It's been very much a team effort, a lot of detective work done by people like Yvonne," says John. "The public don't see all the local history material in the library, so it's an opportunity for us to show what we have, rather than keeping it behind locked doors. Last year, during Local History Month, we concentrated on Gateshead High Street with its ribbon terraces and shops, and this year we asked ourselves, what's going to appeal? Generations have moved away to the likes of Allerdene and Wrekenton, but they still remember the old High Street and its pubs and we have asked them for their memories.

"You don't have to be a drinker to enjoy the exhibition, it's social history as well. Pubs had all sorts of different uses; some were music hall pubs and some had big meeting rooms where magistrates would meet. The sheriffs of County Durham met from medieval times at the Old Cannon at Sheriff's Hill, hence the name.

"We looked at what was going to be of value and did a pub crawl to include all the pubs in the old county borough, the Teams, Saltmeadows, Low Fell and so on, but not Felling, Dunston and Birtley, that would have just been too much at the moment.

We're looking at putting it all on a website."

One of the most impressive exhibits is an Ordnance Survey map of 1898 which shows Gateshead High Street at its longest, before any demolition work had begun. At its peak from the late 1800s to the 1920s, there were more than 30 pubs on the highway - then part of the Great North Road - along with a string of shops and offices running from Bottle Bank to Old Durham Road.

There is indeed a pub on every corner. Work on the new Tyne Bridge in the late 1920s cleared much of Bottle Bank and Church Street and also much of the east side of the thoroughfare. Successive road improvements have further carved it up with those corner pubs being sacrificed in the name of progress.

However, we are treated to a jigsaw of history - albeit one with pieces missing - which shows how society's priorities have gradually altered, even in a relatively short period of time.

The Black Horse, for example, is believed to be the oldest pub in the borough. Thomas Wilson in his 1843 poem The Pitmen's Pay (or A Night's Discharge to Care) wrote that it was "one of the finest houses in Low Fell for cock fighting, cuddy racing and all other pitmen amusements on their pay nights". One verse of the epic works bears comparison with Robert Burns.

"There's Dick that married Barbara Bland, More famous far for drink than hewing; And Peel as drunk as he can stand, Reeling and dancing like a new 'un."

The Gateshead Arms, built in traditional Northumberland stone, was also a meeting place for the Association For The Prosecution of Felons. At one of their 1840 meetings, members expressed great concern that fruit and vegetables were being stolen from local fields.

Nicknames are always a point of interest, too. The Prince of Wales was always referred to as the Hen and Chickens, possibly because of the feathers on the sign. Curley's was the Phoenix and was named after the well-known boxer Will Curley who ran the pub for 40 years. The Old Nag's Head was Tot's after the long-term manager Thomas "Tot"

Anderson. It was a popular port of call for seamen who would bring souvenirs back from their travels. The walls were decorated with wine-skins, a swordfish, strange weaponry and ships in bottles.

One visitor's comment has John Boothroyd smiling, then heading off for more research. "I was born in St Cuthbert's Road," the chap says, "and The Victoria was always known as the Underhand."

John says: "Some older folks have come in with photographs - it's always wonderful to collect new information. Architecturally, some of the pubs were very grand and we've highlighted all the traditional stone-built pubs on the map - the Borough Arms, the Victoria - and also the rebuilds such as the Aletaster and The Seven Stars, which I describe as Edwardian Tudorbethan in style.

Most of the grand ones were owned by Swinburn's Brewery and include the Central, the Metropole, The Half Moon on Swinburn Street and The Royal which was a lovely old building on Prince Consort Road. Rowell's Brewery had The Crown which housed their offices and had function rooms as well as being a pub. The brewery itself ran between East Street and the High Street."

Rowell's New Brewery was founded in 1840, was enlarged in 1913, then taken over by Newcastle Breweries Ltd in 1959.

"Tuckers was the most important brewery site near the railway line," says John, "and the Barras brewery was near there too with cellars under the railway." Isaac Tucker & Co's Turk's Head Brewery was established in 1790 and was reported in 1891 to be "the first to introduce pale ale into the neighbourhood". The company, with 50 tied houses, was taken over by Whitbread in 1967 and was served with a compulsory purchase order a year later by Gateshead highways department which had it demolished in 1970.

"The exhibition has caused such a lot of interest around Gateshead," says John. "People are even arguing about which side of the street a pub was on. We had the Northumberland Arms down as being on Coatsworth Road, but it was actually on Chandless Street. We pinpointed its position from a lamppost on a photograph and worked it out from there. In fact we have sometimes used an image which may not be the best one of the pub, but it shows it in relation to other landmarks such as the Tyne Bridge. We felt that was important for people to get their bearings. We also haven't set out to be the experts, just to say this is the story in the best way we can tell it, but if you know better, please let us know."

Memories freshen, and the elderly lady has a photograph pointed out by her middle-aged son. "There's the Northumberland Arms," he says. "I went in there as a youngster; I shouldn't really have." Donkeys years may have passed since, but he looked as though he was going to get an old-fashioned clout.

We haven't set out to be the experts, just to say this is the story in the best way we can tell it


NICKNAME The Phoenix, Gateshead, known as Curley's.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 13, 2008
Previous Article:Why playing the name game gives me food for thought; FOOD.

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