Wearside Echoes: New book on old pubs is the toast of Barbary Coasters

HOPE TAVERN: operating in 1840s in Dixon Square. Closed in 1960.
HOPE TAVERN: operating in 1840s in Dixon Square. Closed in 1960.
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IT’S time to raise a glass once more to local historian Ron Lawson. A pub crawl featuring the historic watering holes of Monkwearmouth, Fulwell, Roker and Seaburn is on offer in his latest book.

“This is the fourth in my series about the old pubs of Sunderland. I’m sure it will bring back many, many memories for people,” said Ron.

“I’ve tried to include old photos where possible, and I’ve also researched the details of former landlords and landladies of dozens of the pubs too.”

Ron, a former member of Sunderland’s Licensing Committee, developed an interest in pub history in the 1980s and has been delving into the topic ever since.

His previous books on the pubs of Hendon, Deptford and the East End have sold in their hundreds, and Ron is hoping his latest will prove just as popular.

“I wasn’t all that familiar with Sunderland’s north-side pubs before I started researching the book, so it was all new and interesting for me,” he said.

“My father’s family were all Barbary Coasters, but I was brought up on Ford Estate and didn’t drink over there very often. Most had gone by that time anyway.”

Long-gone watering holes such as the Aberdeen Arms, Aquatic Arms, Bath Hotel, Beehive, Black Horse and Black Lion are all featured in Ron’s book.

But so, too, are many of the pubs still serving drinkers north of the river, including The Blue Bell, New Derby, Roker Hotel and The Sunderland Flying Boat.

“The name Blue Bell was obviously very popular. There have been five Blue Bell pubs in the Fulwell and Monkwearmouth areas – three on the same site,” said Ron.

“Trade directories show a Timothy Tooley was running one of the Blue Bell taverns at 14 Broad Street/5 Blue Bell Yard in 1827. This was bombed in November 1941.

“Another of the pubs was based in Liddell Street in the mid-1800s, and the third site, still in use today, stands at the corner of Sea Road and Fulwell Road.

“Three Blue Bell pubs have been housed on this land. It was once quite an isolated cottage pub, and I’ve traced the names of the landlords back to 1827.”

Other popular pub names included Board – with Board taverns to be found in Folly End, Quayside, Wear Street, Whitburn Street, Church Street and Ropery Lane.

“These all operated in the early to mid-19th century – but the name had nothing to do with board games like chess or draughts,” said Ron.

“Back then, you could open up your living room as a pub. You just had to put a board up outside, saying you were selling beer – hence the name Board.”

Just to confuse matters further, there were 13 pubs with ship in the title, three called the Newcastle Arms and another three named The Olive Branch.

The most confusing of all, however, must be the Wolseley Hotel in Millum Terrace – now better known as The Wolsey.

“It is believed to have originally been named after Field Marshall Lord Garnet Wolseley and was owned by Sir Hedworth Williamson in the 1890s,” said Ron.

“The sign outside the pub, however, mistakenly featured Cardinal Wolsey, an advisor to Henry VIII, and it stayed that way for years.

“Nowadays the pub is known as The Wolsey and still features a picture of the Cardinal. This is a pub which has caused great confusion over the years!”

Snippets unearthed by Ron include the 1884 prosecution of Thomas Richardson, landlord of the Cricketer’s Arms, for “harbouring a policeman while on duty.”

Just a few years later, in March 1929, the new landlord of the Pilgrim Street pub – Thomas Charles Stockdale – was fined £10 for diluting the beer.

Other landlords to fall foul of the law include Frederick Harrison, of the Alexandra Hotel in Dundas Street, who was caught supplying alcohol out of hours.

And John Grieg of Shore Brewery, in Wear Street, was hanged at Durham on August 8, 1816, for the murder of mariner’s wife Elizabeth Stonehouse.

“One landlady who was known to keep a very strict pub, however, was Elizabeth Ann Vickery – known to all as Ma Vic,” said Ron.

“She was the licence holder of the Engineers Tavern at Sheepfolds in the 1920s, and the first lady chairman of Sunderland’s Licensed Victuallers Association.”

Other pubs to feature in Ron’s book include The Clipper Ship – once run by the father of double agent Eddie Chapman, who was awarded an Iron Cross by the Nazis.

The collapse of the Jack Crawford Hotel on May 2, 1889 is also mentioned, as is a devastating fire at Roker Gill Hotel on September 24, 1870.

“It was a wooden building,” said Ron. “When it caught fire, the licensee had to run all the way to Barclay Street to summon the fire barrow.

“Of course, by the time it finally reached his pub, the building had burned down. His family was saved, but they lost one of their pet dogs in the blaze.”

Ron’s favourite entries, however, include the Look Out Inn at Millum Terrace and the Sheet Anchor, which was based in Dundas Street.

“They are certainly my favourites picture-wise,” he said. “The photo of the Look Out is superb – I liked it so much, I put it on the cover of the book!

“But the one of a bow-tied George Stoddart, of the Sheet Anchor in Dundas Street – pictured behind his pristine bar in May 1932 – is marvellous too.”

l To order a copy of A Historic Look at the pubs of Monkwearmouth, including Fulwell, Roker and Seaburn, priced £7.99, contact Ron on 520 0570. Copies of his other books on the pubs of old Sunderland can also be ordered.