The Peacock on High Street West has served drinks since 1770. Staff are worn to a frazzle.
But they’re invigorated by the pub’s recent facelift. The scaffold will soon be to reveal the revitalised stonework. It has a pristine interior, delicious food, lovely beer and live entertainment. It’s even run by rock stars since the Futureheads took over in October. A noteworthy establishment.
The only harrumphing voices belong to those who insist: “Huh. It’ll always be the Londonderry to me.” But they should reconsider and this is why.
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The name change, affected in May 2017, wasn’t done on a whim. The Peacock was the original moniker. It was redesignated The Londonderry in 1834, not after the city, but after a perfectly appalling family.
The full title of one of these oafs was Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 6th Marquess of Londonderry.
His statue stands in Seaham. The Londonderry statue in Durham depicts his grandfather, whose hobbies included giggling about the Potato Famine (Charles Vane was renowned for his meanness towards his tenants in Ireland during the famine and donated just £30 to the relief fund, while spending £150,000 renovating his Irish mansion).
The Charlie depicted in Seaham was born in 1852 and soon learned to regard with complete contempt anyone less fortunate than himself; which meant pretty much everyone.
Despite inheriting the coal mines which made his vast fortune, he had particular disdain for miners. An especially low point came in Silksworth in 1891.
During its 102-year history, 126 workers would be killed at Silksworth Colliery. Survivors were always whining about stuff like that, along with poor pay, awful conditions and generally doing the worst job imaginable. In 1891 this caused a strike.
In those days unions didn’t call strikes without very good reason. But Charlie was having none of it.
He owned the miners’ homes (charging them a hefty rent) and sent in a squad of impolite bailiffs to throw them, their families and possessions out onto the streets.
This charming fellow died in 1915, but mourning didn’t extend far beyond the bedroom in which he snuffed it. He was succeeded by his antisemitic son Charles, a Hitler admirer and cousin of Winston Churchill - who detested him.
In anticipation: I neither want to, nor can, re-write history. I don’t want any statues to be removed, or streets re-named but it will always be The Peacock to me from now own.