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The Winlaton Story

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Part 6.  Public Houses

Winlaton seems to have had a surfeit of public-houses and beer houses compared with other villages of comparable size. No doubt owing to the occupations of the villagers the thirsts which had to be quenched were greater than normal. Although we still have a fair number of public houses left in Winlaton there has been a gradual reduction in the past years. At Blaydon Burn stood the "New Inn", which, in its day, was the meeting place for the shooting fraternity of the district. "The Rose and Crown" in North Street is reputed to be the oldest tavern in the area, a stone dated l621 being found during alterations carried out there a few years ago. Almost next door to the Rose and Crown stood a beer-house. Near the Sandhill is "The Turf", which in the days of Crowley was known as the "White Swan", while across the way stood the "New Inn" which stood derelict for many years. Its last purpose was an army billet during the war. Then we have the "Crown and Cannon" which was rebuilt in 1904.

In Back Street stood a very old pub "The Royal Oak", being better known as Carson's, after its tenant of many years standing or sometimes jokingly as the "Cricketers Arms", through the members of Blaydon Cricket Club meeting here after their matches. In the year 1828, the Wesleyan Methodists held their services in the long room of this establishment for a period of ten years, which was instrumental in the present day chapel being built in Litchfield Lane. It was here also, that the Chartists held their meetings in the period of near civil war in 1839. Two very old public houses dating from the time of the Crowleys stand in Front Street "The Queens Head" and "The Highlander". Next to "The Highlander" stood the "Old House Inn" and opposite, on the site of the telephone box the "Black Boy", where Thomas Batey spent his last hours before being murdered on Blaydon Bank in 1860. Both were demolished many years ago. Readers who are familiar with Winlaton will realise that there are two other inns remaining.

"The Commercial", which was known as the Corner House and the "Vulcan", not surprisingly named after the patron saint of smiths. Both of these taverns seem to have been used for public functions such as inquests, public meetings, sports and flower shows, indeed the Commercial was noted for its quoits team.

In 1767 there stood another public house in Winlaton named the Duke William, the site of which is unknown, but was probably built after 1746 and named after the victor of Culloden, William, Duke of Cumberland. The most famous public house in the Crowley era was a pub named the "Blacksmith's Arms", which stood on the south side of the Sandhill, upon the site of the new extension to Mr. Naylor's shop. It also had a nickname, being known as the "Clock" in later years and was burnt down to the ground in 1928. It was described in 1760 as consisting of, "seven good fire-rooms, with a brew-house and brewing vessels, malting stable and cockpit thereto belonging". Between 1745 and 1759 it was tenanted by one Joseph Errington, who, besides running the pub, was also a barber, bookmaker and a part time auctioneer. Behind the pub during Errington's occupation was the village cockpit. At an auction sale here at the Smith's Arms in the year 186O, a woman living at Dockendale Hall, bought an old bureau for 4/6d. After the sale, she with difficulty prevailed upon a nailer, a neighbour to assist her in removing it, he, in forcing it open by the middle, discovered some papers and loose gold. together they made it fast again; collected more help and took the bureau away whole. In getting it out, one of the papers fell and the gold jingling was noticed by one of the assistants, but the nailer saying it was only a bag with a few nails he had put out of his pocket, was believed. After getting it home and dismissing the assistant, the purchaser and her friend went to work and took it to pieces and were paid for their trouble with several purses and papers of gold to a considerable amount. She gave the nailer five papers untold, which enabled him to pay his debts and purchase a house and shop to work in, which "amounted to upwards of £200" and was told by her to apply again if he wanted more, hut he was satisfied and looked upon it as a particular case of providence, being "deep in debt and out of work, with a sick wife and a small family". It was remarkable that this piece of furniture had passed through several sales during the preceding forty years; that none of the gold was of a later coinage than James III; and was in possession of an opulent family in the neighbourhood of Newcastle in the year 1715.

These old publicans seem to have had many sidelines but of course they were not restricted by licensing laws as they are today. Every year until his death in 1754, Young Ambrose Crowley's birthday (August 14th) was celebrated by horse-racing on Snook Hill, foot racing in the Hall Garth and cock-fighting at the "Blacksmith's Arms". The publicans were the only ones allowed to sell refreshments at these functions.

This is a deep contrast to the darts matches and leek shows of today which seem far less colourful but probably safer.

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© Copyright 1971, R. Anderson

First published in The Bellman (the Blaydon Urban District Council newsletter) No 21, April 1972.