If ever you want to find out about the pubs of Sunderland, Ron Lawson is the man to turn to.
The retired BT engineer has just completed his ninth book on pubs in the city and there’s much more to come from this font of a vast amount of knowledge.
To back up his immense knowledge, he has a collection of 11,500 photographs which all relate to pubs in the area.
“You’ve got to have an interest,” he replied when we asked whether he was ever tempted to hang up his pen.
“It is amazing how many people are interested in this sort of thing and they like to be able to go back and look at old photographs.”
His latest book, retailing at £8, is titled A Historic Look At The Pubs Of Hendon And Grangetown. It has the lovely subtitle of ‘A reference book for the pub buff, the genealogist and the historian’.”
I was collecting information with being on the licensing committee. I knew every pub and I visited them all as part of my position. There was a tremendous amount of history thereRon Lawson
It is a veritable goldmine of information covering who owned each pub, every licensee, and when the pub closed if relevant.
Ron, vice president of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, explained: “I was on the licensing committee for Sunderland before it was taken over by the local authority in 2005.
“I was collecting information with being on the licensing committee. I knew every pub and I visited them all as part of my position. There was a tremendous amount of history there.
“I did my own research and I went around photographing the the pubs themselves.”
The book looks at hostelries such as the Addison House, Admiral Duncan, Alma, and the Excelsior.
In the case of the Alexandra, for example, Ron points out that the pub changed names after first starting out as the Alexandra Hotel, then became Porcupine park, and then The Alexandra in April 1992.
He points out the licensees from as far back as May 1938 when it first opened with Walter Newman Cannon as the licence holder, followed later that same year by Leslie Bubb.
For 25 years, Ron has investigated pubs in the area and published books about them. His Hendon and Grangetown research is his ninth work.
He was a magistrate who covered adult crime, family court and licensing.
It all contributed to a plethora of knowledge and fascinating researcher.
He referred to himself as a “compiler” but he added: “I have never looked at how many hours have gone into this. It is just an interest.”
This 58-page book is packed with information and photographs.
Who remembers the Maple Bar in Ford Street, Hendon?
It had licensees including Mrs Margaret Walton in 1874, right through to Thomas Hazard in 1952 before it closed in 1963.
There was the Parade Hotel stretched from 1880 to 1989 when Raymond Carr was the licensee. It closed in 1996 and was demolished seven years later.
The New Regale Tavern in East Hendon Road also features and Ron has highlighted its history from 1834.
It includes lovely little details such as the figures listed in the trade directory who were linked to it in the 1800s, such as Richard Bellass who was a ship’s carpenter, and George James, who was also a trimmer.
The wonderfully ilustrated Bush Inn - which then became The Bush and The Rovers Return - is pictured with a dray outside.
The Smyrna Hotel was in South Durham Street and was owned at one point by John Crosby of The oaks, Sunderland.
Widow Jane Wright, Harold Aiston, Thomas Chilton, Joseph Jackson and Phillip Savage all held the licence in its lifetime before its closure in 1940.
The Stork was run until 2003/2004 until it was closed and boarded up.
Yet these are just snippets of a great read for anyone with an interest in the pub history of Sunderland.
Every page of A Historic Look At The Pubs Of Hendon And Grangetown is filled with names, dates and information. It is intricately detailed.
Ron is already considering the details for his next planned volume and thinks it will centre on Ryhope, Silksworth and South Hylton.
Others could follow.
Ron explained: “I have got all the details on everything for the old County Durham area.”
In the meantime, his latest publication is available to buy.
To find out how to get a copy, give him a call on (0191) 5200570.