North East historian delves into the past of Gateshead's old pubs

A new book by historian John Boothroyd gives an insight into the history of Gateshead's old pubs

The Central bar in Gateshead, pictured around 1850
The Central bar in Gateshead, pictured around 1850

A goat which greets visitors to an art gallery has come a long way from its pub past.

The carved animal in Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead once stood above the door of the Goat Inn on Bottle Bank in the town.

The pub was given its name in 1672, probably after the belief that the town’s name was a corruption of Goat’s Hill.

The pub was demolished to make way for the 1928 Tyne Bridge.

It is one of an array of drinking holes highlighted by John Boothroyd in his new book The Old Pubs of Gateshead , from Summerhill Books at £4.99.

John, former manager of Gateshead Council’s local history service, lives in Ryton.

In what was clearly a labour of love he visited 25 of the surviving pubs to gather tales from their past.

They are among the 148 licensed premises pictured in the book, which defines old pubs as those appearing in trade directories from 1889 to 1939. Later pubs are still discussed as part of a wider picture.

The Goat Inn on Bottle Bank in Gateshead
The Goat Inn on Bottle Bank in Gateshead
 

Although there is much concern today at the rate of pub closures, John shows that it is nothing new.

Most of the pubs which were open for business in 1945 have been swept away, mainly due to the wholesale redevelopment schemes in Gateshead.

Many served the packed terrace streets and industries which saw the town’s population surge from 12,000 in 1820 to 125,000 in 1920.

Because of the sheer numbers of pubs involved, John has restricted his research to central Gateshead, Teams, Sheriff Hill, Wrekenton and Low Fell and has excluded Dunston, Whickham, Birtley and Felling.

Survivors include the Central bar, built in 1854 and which was recently refurbished. It was the setting for a scene in the film Women in Love, starring Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed.

Gateshead’s long High Street was punctuated with more than 30 pubs, including the Old Nag’s Head, run by the Anderson family.

Their dog, Monty, developed a taste for whisky and beer and when inebriated would hop – or stagger – on to trams outside the pub and have to be retrieved by the family from various points on the circuit.

The Phoenix, known as Curley’s, was run for 50 years by champion boxer Will Curley.

The British Lion had a stuffed pony in a glass case, while the Redheugh Hotel featured a stuffed Jack Russell.

Ruth Sheldon, Museum Assistant at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, cleans a wooden statue of a goat, taken from the Goat Inn pub on Bottle Bank
Ruth Sheldon, Museum Assistant at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, cleans a wooden statue of a goat, taken from the Goat Inn pub on Bottle Bank

Choice pub names were the Greenland Bear, the Crystal Palace and the Rector House.

John says: “What I set out to do was to try to tell the history of some of the old pubs of Gateshead, many of which are no longer with us. It is also about the richness of the people who used them.”

And what of the future?

“This is not a happy period for the local pub,” says John.

“The pub is still a place to chat and unwind, a place to celebrate and commiserate life’s occasions.

“But lifestyles have changed. The world is a very different place from even 30 years ago and publicans compete in a crowded market place.

“How many Gateshead pubs can survive, what tactics will they be using to keep and win business?

“What will a book on pubs have to say in 20 years’ time?”

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