Wearside Echoes: New book the toast of 2012

MINERVA HOTEL: Bought for �8,500 by James Crisp in 1857. It seated 300 diners and had a High Street frontage of 24ft and an East Cross Street frontage of 96ft. Closed in 1944.
MINERVA HOTEL: Bought for �8,500 by James Crisp in 1857. It seated 300 diners and had a High Street frontage of 24ft and an East Cross Street frontage of 96ft. Closed in 1944.
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A NEW book on old pubs is the toast of 2012.

The historic watering holes of Sunderland’s city centre are the focus of the latest book by local historian Ron Lawson.

“I’m sure it will bring back memories for people. After all, thousands upon thousands will have enjoyed a drink in at least one of the pubs mentioned,” he said.

“It is just a shame that so many of our wonderful old watering holes have now disappeared. A great many of the buildings were absolutely magnificent.”

Ron, a former member of Sunderland’s Licensing Committee, developed an interest in pub history in the 1980s and has yet to call time on his lengthy research.

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

“I was brought up on the Ford Estate, where the only pub was the Ford Hotel. As I grew older, I would meet up with friends in the town for a drink,” he said.

“One of my favourite pubs was the Dun Cow, next to the Empire Theatre. We used to drink in the upstairs bar, which was a lovely place as I recall.

“Another favourite pub was the Hat and Feather, again close to the Empire and a haunt of many a theatre performer. It later became Ye Olde Transformer and then Greens.”

Long-gone watering holes such as the Temple Bar, Strawberry Cottage, Palatine Hotel, Queen’s Hotel, Plough, Oak Bar, Minerva Hotel and Grand Hotel are all featured in Ron’s book.

But so, too, are many of the pubs still serving city centre drinkers, including the Ivy House, Londonderry Hotel, Borough, Beehive, Museum Vaults, Royalty, Ship Isis and Sinatra’s.

“The Oak Bar was apparently a great favourite with police officers, while the Minerva Hotel could seat 300 diners and the Plough later became a boys’ club,” said Ron.

“Another thing which has disappeared is the old merchant navy canon behind the Windsor Castle. It used to be used as a ‘glancing post’ by passing carriages, but went missing years ago.”

Birds, bees and bells proved popular pub names in the city centre, with the Bee’s Wing to found at Numbers Garth, the Blue Bell at Waterworks Road and the Dog and Duck at High Street West.

Pubs named after trades drew in regulars by the dozen too, with the Boilermaker’s Arms trading at High Street West, the Bricklayers Arms at the railway station and the Brewer’s Tavern in Back Villiers Street.

More than a dozen taverns with the name Board also flourished over the decades – with Board inns to be found at Back Nile Street, Walworth Street, Johnson Street and Numbers Garth among others.

“The name had nothing to do with board games like chess or draughts,” said Ron. “Back then, you could pay a small fee and open your living room up as a pub.

“You just had to put a board up outside, saying you were selling beer. Many people didn’t bother to name their pubs – hence they got called Board Inns.”

Just to confuse matters further, there were four pubs with Bridge in the title, three with White, six with Royal or Royalty, four with Crown and another four with Lambton.

“The Bridge Hotel in Sunderland Street was the former home of the Lambton family,” said Ron. “It was not known as a pub until Wearmouth Bridge was built in 1796. A meeting was held at the pub in 1834, to propose the formation of a Literary and Philosophical Society. Dr William Clanny, inventor of the miners’ safety lamp, became the chairman.”

Other snippets unearthed by Ron include the 1896 prosecution of Joseph Sweeney, landlord of the Blandford House, for allowing betting on the premises.

Just a few years later, in 1916, Farquar Deuchar – the licensee of the Empress Hotel – was fined for undergoing hospital treatment contrary to an order made under the Defence of the Realm Act.

Others to fall foul of the law included Frederick Larkin, of the Albion Tavern, James Britton of the Black Swan and George Robinson of Blandford House, who were caught supplying alcohol out of hours.

“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,” said Ron.

“This is a book which should appeal to anyone with an interest in old pubs, as well as local historians and people drawing up their family trees. It is packed full of names, dates and information.”

l A Historic Look At The Pubs of Bishopwearmouth is available directly from Ron at £7.99. Contact him on 520 0570 for further details.