Watering Holes

Sat. 30th Sep., 2000

Until fairly recently, Newcastle Breweries had a virtual monopoly in pubs on Tyneside. The distinctive blue star with the little city skyscape was as familiar on every main street as bus stops and 'phone boxes.

The Government decided that other beer providers and publicans should be allowed into the market and deemed that Newcastle Breweries should give up some pubs, although it still has a majority.

For many years the Newcastle Brewery had a corporate colour scheme and theme to all of its pubs. This involved black borders, white panels and thin red lines. The interior decor was sparse, with grimy dull yellow painted anaglypta wallpaper. The years of tobacco goo did nothing except deepen the patina on this expertly chosen hue.

"The Free Trade Inn" is located on the banks of the Tyne to the east of the city and maintains the older look.

Its wonderful view of the river and the city was threatened by a plan to build a tower block directly in line. Protest groups were formed, petitioners gathered thousands of signatures. The great and powerful forces were deaf to all objections. The only thing that stopped them in their tracks was a nasty cold draught of economic reality when the project stared bankruptcy in the face.

So, the view is saved for the present. I have no doubt that someone will look covetously on that vacant plot and just itch to fill it with their own image of immortality.

If you look carefully at the walls in the picture opposite you can see that goo coated cream wall covering.

I must emphasise, that this pub is independent of the Newcastle brewery, Their image is now more snappy.

It is not what you might call sizzligly up to date, but they have tried to theme their outlets to appeal to the local crowd.

The range of drinks on sale is much wider in these "Free Houses". The 1980s saw a revival of smaller local breweries.

The ales on offer here include Mordue's "Workie Ticket", an allusion to the dialect phrase for an annoying person, possibly trying to cheat at the expense of friends or colleagues.

Below is a view of the once "Raby Arms" named after the north south route through the Byker housing area, that in turn was named after an illustrious local family.

Notice the little footballs serving as lights, and the predominantly black and white stripes. Now what could that mean?

This turn of the 20th century building was a Newcastle house for many years and was eventually sold to a local brewery. The landlord resurrected some trade and turned away from the previous  clientele of crooks, swindlers and drug dealers to encourage more ordinary and law abiding folks.

His efforts were in vain, however, as the brewery went into liquidation (as if it wern't liquid enough to start with!!)

A new management appointed by administrators has resumed the drugs encouragement, and it is now  awaiting a buyer.

Photo copyright Mr. Jimmy Forsyth

Most people will have their favourite pub, and have memories of the olden days when beer was so cheap and the company was friendly and real. Well, here is one at the beginning of Scotswood Road, once home to more pubs than any other street on Tyneside. This picture was taken in the early 1960s. There has been a pub on this site since 1830 when the houses were built. It is still a pub, and its modern incarnation can be seen on Gay Newcastle, now called "The Yard".

This is the fate of many small public houses. This was the "Rose and Crown" Walker Road. I remember this being a bustling place in the 1970s, but it has been closed for 15 years now.

The "Tyne" is situated on the bank of the Ouseburn as it flows into the Tyne. The large brick road viaduct behind is Glasshouse Bridge, built in 1878. There was a glass industry  and a crossing of the Ouseburn here since the 1640s. The pub appears to be 1910 or so. Its lively live music evenings are fun and sometime spill into the "garden" under the bridge arch.

Here the narrow lane, Maling Street, leads up to Shepherd's Scrap Yard and warehouses.

Here, under Glasshouse Bridge's big brother, Byker Road Bridge, built in 1878 is the Ship Inn. It is adjacent to the Byker City Farm, popular with children and adults alike. This area was heavily industrialised until the late 1970s.

The surrounding area is undergoing an up market swing. A trendy new watering hole has opened in part of the old Cluny Whisky Bonded Warehouse nearby and other warehouses have been turned into flashy new flats.

It may well be required for the Ship to become more pretend old rather than actually old. The incomers will feel happier in a plastic theme park rather than the real thing.

Inside, Landlady, Lorna, pulls a pint for the thirsty customers. Those pumps are gas assisted so not requiring shipbuilder's muscles to draw the foaming brew from the cellar below.

Families are now welcome in most pubs. Here visitors from the City Farm enjoy a lunchtime drink and natter. Note, more of the yukky yellow wall covering!

Those with long memories for television may recognise this image from the title sequence of "The Likely Lads". It is of  Lime Street, Byker Bridge, the truncated chimney from the Cluny Whisky still, and the Ship Inn behind the trees.

The new Metro bridge is just visible beyond the road bridge, and the 1869 rail bridge beyond. See the comparative pictures at the foot of the Byker page.

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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