The 21st Century Pub

The pub, with origins going back several hundred years, is under threat as never before. Several reasons have been identified, most notably the availability of cheap (but often inferior) booze in supermarkets, tenancy restrictions and high rents imposed on landlords by the pub owners, and the smoking ban. Sadly, until the government recognizes that these little buildings scattered throughout the country are not only an irreplaceable community focus but also a major tourist magnet, unique to the British Isles and Ireland and contributing significantly to our national wealth, we are in danger of losing them forever.

Can I Do Anything?

Yes, turn your computer off now and go straight to the pub.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Sunderland III

Sunderland was once known as ‘the largest ship-building town in the world’ although there is little evidence of that today. What has survived, however, are some excellent pubs and we visited a couple of these in July 2018 when an old school friend of mine, Pete Thom, returned briefly to his native North East from his Spanish exile for a few bevvies.

We were joined by Malcolm Wood, Tommy Lee, Terry Smith, Ian Elves and Tony Doyle, all former Peterlee Grammar Technical School alumni.

I’ve always wanted to use that word.

The Peacock

287 High Street West, Sunderland SR1 3ES

Some very relaxed young lads; from the left, Tony, Malcolm, Tom, Pete, Ian and Terry.

This pub is still known to most people in Sunderland as The Londonderry, but in 2017 it reverted to its original name of The Peacock. Between 1779 and 1834 there was an inn known as The Peacock on this site and this was eventually renamed The Londonderry before being demolished. The present building was opened in 1901 and was named after The Marquess of Londonderry, a local landowner and coalfield owner.

Malcolm and Pete in The Dun Cow

Garden Place, High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 3HA

This magnificent pub is only 2 minutes’ walk from The Peacock. Even less if you hurry.

The Dun Cow and Londonderry in 2012

The Dun Cow and The Peacock are located to the west of the city centre, an area of redevelopment. The old east end of the city and former heart of the old town are also showing signs of a revival

The River Wear with two sailing ships in 2018.

Ship building in the town can be traced back to 1346

The Boars Head

134 High Street East, Sunderland, SR1 2BL

The Boars Head was built in 1724, but when I took this photograph in 2012 it was closed and looked ripe for demolition. Fortunately, this fate was avoided, and the Boars Head is now open as a bistro, coffee shop and boutique hotel.

A revitalised Boars Head in 2018

Much of the old town disappeared over the years, but some buildings remain.

This blue plaque is on a side wall passageway next to The Clarendon. This friendly pub claims to be the oldest in Sunderland in continuous use since 1724. There is a tunnel in the cellar that used to lead down to the docks. 

The Clarendon
April 2012

143 High Street East, East End, Sunderland SR1 2BL

The Clarendon in 2018 with a sign showing the date the pub first opened

A small sailing ship entering Sunderland harbour during the Tall Ships event in 2018

The Latin motto on the Wear Bridge might have been written for Sunderland's football club

Friday, 17 April 2020


Late June 2018 and I found myself on a train heading for a cultural tour of Liverpool. I was joined at York by the irrepressible Barfly. He had prepared for our trip with a box full of ale and a sandwich. This was a good move as the last part of the journey from Manchester to Liverpool took much longer than expected.

Our first port of call in Liverpool was the North Western, a JD Weatherspoons pub at Lime Street Station. Large, even by Weatherspoon’s standards, this was originally built as a hotel in 1871 by the London and North Western Railway.

A grand assembly of the Young Lads’ Debating and Literary Society enjoy their first pints in the North Western

The next stop was Doctor Duncan’s, a Cains’ house with a huge range of guest beers. This pub is named after William Henry Duncan, Liverpool (and the UK’s) first medical officer of health.

The Hobbit and Jan Becall in Doctor Duncans

St Johns Lane, Liverpool L1 1HF

Bean and Degga outside The Ship and Mitre
133 Dale Street, Liverpool L2 2JH

This pub gets its name from a combination of two previous names, The Flagship and The Mitre. This pub is currently a CAMRA Pub of Excellence and boasts the largest selection of hand-pulled ales in Merseyside.

The Lion Tavern 
67 Moorfields, Liverpool, L2 2BP

Inside one of my all-time favourite pubs, The Lion Tavern with, from the left, Freebs, Little Tony, Neil, Kenny, Jones the Beer, Hobbit, myself, Bean, Yozza, Barfly and Degga

Lantern and skylight inside The Lion Tavern

Old school friends Jones the Beer, Freebs and Hobbit

Barfly and Inspector White of the Yard share the joys of a sunny Liverpool beer garden in the centre of the city

Ye Hole in Ye Wall
4 Hackins Hey, Liverpool L2 2AW

This atmospheric building claims to be Liverpool’s oldest pub, dating from 1726.

Bright young minds illuminating the darkness of Ye Hole in Ye Wall.

The Cornmarket Hotel 
Old Ropery, Liverpool L2 7NT

Things were getting a little unsteady when we left The Cornmarket.

This impressive pub is fitted with wood panelling from the Pacific Steam Company passenger ship the Reina Del Pacifico.

The Crown Hotel
43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ

If you have time to spare before your train leaves Lime Street station, I can recommend a swift half in The Crown Hotel. The wonderfully elaborate fittings include an unimaginably ornate ceiling, glass domed skylight and a fireplace made of blue glazed tiled and polished stone.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Faversham, Kent.

In June 2017 I was shown a remarkable old pub in Faversham by an old friend, Johnny Greene.

The Bear Inn, Market Place, Faversham ME13 7AG

There is something exquisit about enjoying the first pint of the day, and the following sequence of Bean in The Bear expresses it perfectly.

Johnny Greene - A picture of happiness

Unfortunately John's usually impeccable taste deserted him later in the day. And I don't just mean the shirt.

In July 2019 Pam and I found ourselves back in Faversham. Naturally the first pub we visited was The Bear.

We also popped into another historic pub,The Sun Inn, for a couple of halves.
The Sun Inn. 10 West Street, Faversham, ME13 7JE

Faverham was established as a settlement before the Roman conquest, and has, over the centuries, developed into a wonderfully historic market town. In fact it now hosts the oldest street market in Kent, dating back over 900 years. Faversham is also home to Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame.
Despite its many traditional pubs, Faversham also has some thriving new micropubs including Furlongs Ale House.

Furlongs Ale House,  6 Preston Street, Faversham, ME13 8NS

The Corner Tap is another micropub recommended by Bean.
The Corner Tap, 37 Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8PE

Our last pint of the night in Faversham was in The Railway Hotel. A real traditional pub.
The Railway Hotel, Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8PE

Inside the comfortable main bar of The Railway Hotel.


Monday, 19 August 2019


February 2018 and I thought a rail trip from Alnmouth to Harrogate for a few pints of beer would be straightforward. However, as this involved changing trains in York and meeting Barfly in the York Tap, an unscheduled delay was inevitable.

On arriving at Harrogate’s Victorian station, Barfly and I called at the Harrogate Tap (sister pub of the York Tap) for a swift pint of ale.
Barfly enjoying the wonderful surroundings of the Harrogate Tap

Position vacant in the Harrogate Tap.

The Little Ale House. 7 Cheltenham Crescent, Harrogate HG1 1DH

En route to meet Bean and Jones the Beer we thought we would pop into this micropub for a stiffener. It was closed when we arrived - as you can see from the disappointment on Barfly’s face.

The Royal Baths, Parliament Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2RR

Equilibrium was restored as we are about to enter Weatherspoon’s flagship pub, The Winter Gardens

Harrogate’s former Royal Baths included the Winter Gardens – built so that visitors could relax and stroll in any weather. Its name lives on in this Wetherspoon pub. During the 1920s, people could relax here, amid potted palms, listening to music from a grand piano.

Bean and Jones the Beer positioned adjacent to the bar in The Winter Gardens

No, it’s not a scene from a Busby Berkley film, but the Winter Gardens grand staircase. Not your everyday pub.

The Old Bell, 6 Royal Parade, Harrogate HG1 2SZ

We had now retired to The Old Bell for the final pint of the afternoon and it looks like the landlord of this grand little pub has just photobombed us. 

The Old Bell was first mentioned over 230 years ago in 1786, when the tenants of the original Bell said that they “provided a stock of the best wines and other liquors, and furnished the house in a manner of commodious for the reception of the genteleest families…”. Well we felt quite at home.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Newcastle II

I’m not sure why we decided to choose a wet and cold November day to meet in Newcastle,  but we did, and proved, once again, that it never rains in pubs!

38 Neville Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 5DF

Bean, Yozza, Jones the Beer and Barfly preparing to enter the Victoria Comet. This pub featured in an earlier post in 2013 when it was called O’Neill’s. It is now part of the Nicholson’s group of pubs and reverted to the name it had in 1970 when it featured in the film ‘Get Carter’. This building has been a pub since the 1800s – in fact, it once housed two pubs. The Victoria on the left and The Comet on the right eventually merged to become The Victoria and Comet Hotel. 
After a few jars we called in the Bridge Hotel, another Nicholson’s pub with wonderful views over the river Tyne. 
Nicholson’s own several pubs in the region and they are invariably well-run with excellent beer.

The Bridge Hotel. Castle Square Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1RQ

There is more than one pub in Newcastle called ‘The Bridge’. Another is situated on the Quayside and is actually built between the stanchions of an iconic North East landmark - The Tyne Bridge.
There has been an ale house on this site for nearly two centuries, but the original building was demolished in 1925 to make way for the bridge.

The Bridge Tavern 7 Akenside Hill , Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 3UF. 
This photograph was taken during January 2016. The pub was previously known as The Newcastle Arms and this name can still be seen in the stonework above the main windows.

I first visited this pub in January 2016 with Tony Doyle and Smudger Smith, seen here standing by the Bridge Tavern’s microbrewery. This pub has an association with Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery, one of the regions, if not the countries, leading craft brewers.

The Red House, 32 Sandhill, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 3JF
If you ever find yourselve on The Quayside then you might like to call into The Red House for a pie and a pint. When it comes to pies Johnny Greene knows his onions. He loves pies to such an extent that I have heard him say, on more than one occasion, that some pie crusts are so tasty he can enjoy a pie without any filling.

The Red House and the Jacobean Betty Surtees House with the High Level Bridge in the background.

The Red House is Tudor in origin although the front of the building was rebuilt in the early 18th century. Inside it is a warren of small rooms where you can make yourself comfortable and order a pie.

A view of the Tyne Bridge from the Red House

The Split Chimp, Arch 7, Westgate Road. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1SA
You can see the joy on these young lads’ faces as they are about to enjoy a pint in one of Newcastle’s newest pubs.  In 2017 The Split Chimp was voted by Times readers as one of the ten best micropubs in the country.