A historic gardener’s cottage could soon be dealing in pints rather than plants – to the delight of a village with no pub.
The cottage is part of the 18th Century walled garden at Gibside.
The move to find a new use for the building follows a campaign by locals to bring back a pub to Rowlands Gill, which has seen the trust open its estate cafe as a bar from 6pm-9m on Friday nights.
Working with Wylam Brewery, this was such a success that last year the bar was extended to include Saturdays during the summer and Fridays throughout the year.
The cottage pub idea emerged after the walled garden ceased being used as a car park last year.
Visitors now use car parks at the entrance to the estate, with the walled garden being used for community allotment gardening and for trust vounteers to grow vegetables, fruit and herbs for the cafe.
The trust is carrying out a feasibility study on uses for the cottage and one of the options is a pub.
“It ties in with the history of the site as there would have been a brew house producing beer for the estate,” said Gibside visitor services manager Emily Bryce.
“It is a lovely cottage and has an enclosed garden which could be used as a beer garden.
“The bar in the cafe tested the water and appealed particularly to local people who walk up from Rowlands Gill, which doesn’t have a pub. We are keen to expand a pub offer at Gibside and feel that there is potential.”
Last year Gibside attracted 180,000 visitors and expects that to grow by 20,000 this year.
A decision on what option to take for the cottage will be taken around May.
It is felt that the choice of having a refreshing drink after a walk would be popular with many visitors who ramble around the estate.
“The trust owns around 35 pubs but there aren’t many at the heart of a historic estate,” said Emily.
If the trust does opt for the pub plan, its name could reflect Gibside’s most colourful owner, the 18th Century Mary Eleanor Bowes.
She was a keen botanist and built Gibside’s Orangery.
After her husband John Lyon, 9th Earl of Srathmore died, she married Irish adventurer Andrew Robinson Stoney, thought to be the model for the roguish hero of William Thackeray’s novel Barry Lyndon, which was made into a film in 1975 by Stanley Kubrick.
When Mary tried to divorce him he snatched her from her carriage in London and after a 33-hour journey north demanded at pistol point that she drop the divorce suit.