Sunderland’s second-oldest pub to reopen after years of neglect

An historic pub which has witnessed the changing face of Sunderland is set to reopen its doors.

The Boar’s Head in the East End, which dates back to the eighteenth century when it was a popular tavern for sailors and workers from the nearby port, has been closed for around a decade.

But, after a major renovation and investment, it will operate as The Boar’s Head Bistro from tomorrow evening.

When the new owners got the keys two years ago, it was completely uninhabitable after years of neglect.

Tens of thousands of pounds, including a £60,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, have been ploughed into breathing new life into what is thought to be the city’s second oldest pub.

Thirty new jobs have been created by the venture in High Street East, which also includes a new balcony beer garden, and five guest rooms which will be available within the next two months.

New managers Lisa Fairweather and Karen Miller say there’s been a lot of anticipation surrounding the opening.

“The local community have taken such an interest in what we’re doing,” said Lisa. “It’s a place which holds so many memories for people. It has a really colourful history and it’s important to keep that alive. My own grandmother used to drink here.”

The walls feature art works, including a mural by artist Tommy Conlon, depicting local East End and Hendon characters such as Peggy Potts, Atta Matta, fighter Jack Casey and infamous serial killer Mary Ann Cotton.

Lisa added: “It was the history and the views which really appealed to the new owner. If he hadn’t bought it, there was talk it was going to be demolished, which would be a crying shame. The Heritage Lottery Fund and Sunderland City Council have given us a lot of support. We’ve also worked with Sunderland Antiquarian Society, who’ve been a real inspiration in terms of the decor.”

As many original features as possible have been kept, including the original wooden joists in the bedrooms and the signage font, in the style of famed designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

New additions include the building of a balcony onto the rear of the site, which offers uninterrupted views of the banks of the Wear.

Lisa said: “The river is going to be the central focus of the Tall Ships Race next year and it would have been a real shame to have a derelict pub as ships from across the world come into the city, so we’ve put up flags to welcome them.

“Heritage is a real part of the Sunderland’s City of Culture bid and we really want to tie in with that.”

Though the site will have more of a restaurant focus, it will serve draught beers, such as Shipyard Beer, in honour of its location, and Estrella, as well as cocktails.

Food-wise, it will operate as a deli and coffee spot from 9am each day and will be open late serving classic pub meals and sharing platters, as well as daily specials which will change according to what’s available at the nearby fish quay.

As part of the renovations, the adjacent Youll’s Passage, once notorious as a side alley where people would be press-ganged, will reopen.

Lisa said: “It was well-known that people would be dragged into the alley and then be sent off to sea and you wouldn’t see them again for 15 years.”

Sunderland’s oldest pub is thought to be nearby former Clarendon, now The Butcher’s Arms, dating back to 1753 in licence records and possibly back to 1724 when there was a building on the site. The Boar’s Head, which also operated as The Boar’s Head Hotel, opened soon after.