One of Sunderland's oldest pubs reopens with a new look - Hendon's The Regale Tavern is steeped in history, and looking to the future

It’s been serving pints for almost 200 years, and now one of Sunderland’s oldest pubs is entering a new chapter as it aims to welcome more punters through its doors.

Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 1:18 pm

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Since The Regale Tavern opened in Hendon Road East in 1834, it’s witnessed the changing face of Wearside, from acting as a spirit store providing rum to galleons to serving up lunchtime pints for shipyard workers.

As the homes were knocked down around it, making way for industrial units, it’s stayed put and only closed, for the first time in its long, colourful history, due to the pandemic in March 2020.

Owner Tommy Ratcliffe, who’s been at the helm of the pub since 1997, used the time to transform the interior of the pub and has handed over the reins to sons Tom and Luke.

The Regale Tavern in Hendon has reopened after almost two years closed

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They spent six months doing major rewiring and plumbing works, rebuilding the bar and kitchen, installing new toilets and cosmetic works to modernise the pub, while also paying homage to its history. Future improvements will include external work to the Georgian structure and improving the accommodation upstairs.

After nearly two years closed, it opened to much fanfare last weekend and is open daily from 12pm until any potential Covid restrictions are announced by the Government after Christmas.

"It’s always been a proper, traditional pub and has so much history,” said Tommy who set up Sunderland-based building and plumbing specialists The Ratcliffe Group. "A lot of people remember it from the shipyards days and Bartrams would often have lunches here.

"Then Frederick and Mary Bingloe had it from the ‘50s to the ‘80s and a lot of people still remember them. I’m born and bred in Hendon and I’ve been coming to this pub since I was 17. Back then, it was in the middle of a really densely-populated area.

Luke, front, and dad Tom Ratcliffe celebrate the reopening of the historic Regale Tavern after their extensive refurbishment.

"When I took it over it still had snugs and a smoking room but I opened up the space and put a stage in. My brother Lukey was an entertainer and I used to put a turn on on Saturday nights and that was really popular, it became known for that.”

Speaking about the reopening weekend, Tommy’s son Luke said: “We had a great opening weekend and people were really impressed with how it looks, especially with how light and bright it is now.”

As part of Luke and Tom’s changes to the pub they’ve installed Sky Sports, are opening daily and are also trialling new drinks such as a guest real ale.

"We really want to see this pub flourishing again and felt it was important to keep it in the family,” said Luke.

The pub has long had a history with the nearby port

Pint prices have been kept low at the pub, with a pint of John Smith’s, as well as Carling, priced £2.80, Madri priced £3 a pint and the guest craft ale, an Atlantic pale ale, priced £2.50.

Situated between three port entrances, it’s also hoped that the pub will benefit from increased trade to the Port of Sunderland, which has undergone millions of pounds worth of improvement works.

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Barman Jay Ratcliffe pulls a pint at the recently refurbished bar which is emblazoned with the Regale Tavern hand painted signage.

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The interior has been completely transformed
Drinks prices have been kept fair
The classic Newcastle Brewery neon sign at The Regale Tavern which the owners hope to restore to its former glory.
The Tavern has many books containing the history of the Hendon area and the importance of the pub to the locals.
A warm welcome awaits the customers in the recently refurbished Tavern.
The Regale Tavern as it was in 1998.
The pub is full of memorabilia from tavern history.
Luke Ratcliffe inspects the beer lines in the underground celler they recently fully refurbished.