Wearside Echoes: Make mine a pint

TIMES INN: Trading in Wear Street in 1850s. Building closed in 1920 and incorporated into Pickersgill shipyard. Rebuilt in 1985 and still trading.
TIMES INN: Trading in Wear Street in 1850s. Building closed in 1920 and incorporated into Pickersgill shipyard. Rebuilt in 1985 and still trading.
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TIME has been called on the history of dozens of Wearside watering holes.

The pubs of Southwick, North Hylton and Sunderland’s north-side estates are the focus of the latest book by local historian Ron Lawson.

“There have been some wonderful pubs in this area over the years, and still are, such as the Grade II-listed Tram Car Inn. The exuberant Jacobean-style architecture is amazing,” he said.

“I was fascinated by the name of the architect too, Hugh Taylor Decimus Hedley. I did a bit of digging and found out he was the tenth child in his family – hence the name Decimus.”

Ron, a former member of Sunderland’s Licensing Committee, developed an interest in pub history in the 1980s and has written six books on local taverns within the last year.

His previous volumes featuring pubs of the city centre, Fulwell, Hendon, Deptford and the East End have all sold in their hundreds, and Ron is hoping the latest will prove just as popular.

“I must say that I enjoyed writing this one, as quite a lot of the information was new to me. But I’ve enjoyed writing all the books, as pub history in general fascinates me,” he said.

“I lived at Red House for a while, but didn’t really know many of the local pubs. I had the odd pint at the Smith’s Arms, but usually went to Southwick Conservative Club. That’s gone now, though.”

Other long-gone watering holes such as the Earl of Durham, Sportsman’s Inn, Southwick Cottage, the Shipwright’s Arms, Old Mill Inn, as well as the Smith’s Arms, are featured in Ron’s new book.

So, too, are many of the pubs still serving north-side drinkers, including The Dagmar, Hylton Castle Arms, Mill House, Quincey’s, Shipwright’s, Times Inn, Wessington and Tram Car Inn.

“This time around I have included several closure notices, which are fascinating documents. They have never been published before, and show just what pubs were like in days gone by,” said Ron.

“The one for the Sportsman’s Inn in King Street, for example, states that the premises were ‘old and dilapidated’ in 1909, with the earth closet and urinal in the backyard being in a bad state of repair.

“Another 1909 notice, this time for the Shipwright’s Arms in Stoney Lane, reveals the backyard urinal was ‘very much exposed’ and that backdoor trade made facilities for police supervision ‘bad.’

“Possibly my favourite notice, though, is for the Earl of Durham, which was on the riverside at North Hylton. It was built into the hillside, on a steep bank, with 15 wooden steps leading up to it. Just yards from the door was a ten foot drop, which must have proved a dangerous obstacle for anyone who had enjoyed a few pints. Indeed, the notice states the pub was in a dangerous position.”

Birds, animals and biblical figures all proved popular pub names, with the Duck and Kangeroo to be found at Red House, the Dray and Horses in Carley Hill Road and Noah’s Ark at Victoria Street.

Pubs named after trades, sports and even ghosts drew in drinkers too, such as the Cauld Lad at Hylton Castle, the Glassmaker’s Arms at Sunderland Road and the Rower’s Arms at Collin Place.

And almost a dozen ship-themed pubs have flourished over the years, including the Schooner, Ship Inn, two Shipwright’s Arms, the Southwick Boat House, the Slipway and Shelter Deck.

“At one time there were three pubs in North Hylton for a population of just 369. That’s 123 people per pub – the normal is 800 to a thousand. So the area was certainly well supplied!” said Ron.

Other snippets unearthed by Ron include the 1878 prosecution of Elizabeth Dobson, landlady of the Earl of Durham, who was fined five shillings for selling “adulterated whisky and rum.”

Just a few years later, in 1906, Castletown Inn landlord George Farrow was fined £10 for allowing betting on the premises – the equivalent of more than £3,000 today.

Other to fall foul of the law included Henry Todd, of the Shipwrights, who was found drunk on the premises in 1892, and John Tracey, of the Pemberton Arms, who “permitted drunkenness” in 1909.

“This is a book which should appeal to anyone with an interest in pubs, the history of the area or people looking into their family trees. It is packed with dozens and dozens of names,” said Ron.

“All the old photos I use are official, as I was given access to the Vaux and Scottish and Newcastle collections, and I have researched as many of the landlords and landladies as possible too.”

l A Historic Look At The Pubs of Southwick and The Estates North of the River Wear is available directly from Ron at £6.99. Contact him on 520 0570 for further details.