Gothenburgs: Mining and Imbibing in Newtongrange

Newtongrange, locally known as Nitten, is a former mining village in Midlothian. In 1895 the opening of the Lady Victoria Colliery represented a relative improvement in conditions and housing for miners.

Today the colliery is the home to the National Mining Museum Scotland. It may lack the sheer range of social and political history material of its English equivalent near Wakefield, but more than makes up for it by the opportunity to explore the impressively preserved pit infrastructure.

The colliery closed in 1981, when the remaining 570 miners became unemployed. The impact on a village with a population of 5,000, most dependent on mining, was devastating.

Today the streets that housed the miners and their families – First Street, Second Street and so on up to Tenth Street – still form tidy lines off Main Street.

http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/Indexes/Cunningham9.jpg

Having a visitor attraction, its proximity to Edinburgh and, more recently, the establishment of a station on the reopened Borders railway line, has helped Newtongrange recover better than many other mining communities.

The museum has a small section on Gothenburgs, a Swedish community model of pubs dating from 1855. They were once a feature of many mining towns, mainly in the East of Scotland.

Facilitated by the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893, the first was in Hill of Beath in Fife.  Unlike the state-run Swedish model (off-sales are still government run in Sweden though supermarkets can sell low gravity alcohol), coal companies often funded Goths as they saw an opportunity to control drinking and indeed promote temperance. They were also a means to recycle profits into community assets (some of which they may have otherwise had to provide at their own expense as they often owned entire communities). The Hill of Beath Tavern was owned by the Fife Coal Company and used profits to fund electric light in the village.  Fife had a great deal of coal trade with Sweden and had around twenty Goths at one time.

Goths were typically austere environments with gambling entertainment and credit prohibited. It was said even dominoes were banned. For a concept that promoted temperance the opening hours in Hill of Beath appear generous: 08.00 to 21.00, though this was an earlier closing time than pubs in neighbouring villages.  In evidence to a Royal Commission (1898) it was reported that the pub did not serve children under thirteen years old. The manager earned a fixed wage of £2 a week assisted by a “a lad and a woman paid by the Committee”, the woman not being permitted to work in the bar.

The Dean Tavern in Newtongrange is one of very few surviving Goths and perhaps the last to operate the principles in so much as it is owned by a Trust that distributes profits back into the community. And, great joy, it now appears for the first time in the Good Beer Guide.

Dating from 1898 but with some more recent additions, it must be the only pub in the Guide with a Temperance Lounge and reflects well the history of the village.  Pithead baths were only introduced at the Lady Victoria Colliery as late as 1954.

The local football team, Newtongrange Star, nowadays play in a small, modern stadium. But their former Victoria Park home was a magnificent, rusting hulk that remained in use until until 1994.  The wide perimeter track hosted speedway and stock car racing. Famous former international players include Alex Young, Bobby Johnstone and Dave Mackay.

VictoriaPark7

The Dean Tavern was designed to provide maximum light for those working underground. It has different spaces that are used by various groups. On a Friday lunchtime professional drinkers and dining couples, bonded over curling in the Winter Olympics.

There may be scratch card machines in plenty of pubs and I just haven’t noticed. Maximum gamble a pound.

A solitary hand pump on the bar dispensed Holy Cow (4.2%) from Born in the Borders brewery, a beer that was in good form and apparently sells well.  A visit here is highly recommended.

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that Joseph Chamberlain advocated the Gothenburg model to a Parliamentary Committee on Intemperance.  It was, though,  never adopted in England, the nearest equivalent being the Trust House movement. Those with a further interest can find much more about that in the excellent ’20th Century Pub’ by https://boakandbailey.com/

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7 thoughts on “Gothenburgs: Mining and Imbibing in Newtongrange

  1. Wonderful photos, Duncan, and interesting history. I really should have visited the Dean when I did all the pubs on the Borders line last May, but sadly Edinburgh CAMRA don’t publish a pre-emptive list for us tickers yet 😉

    I’ve never seen a scratch car machine like that before, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a great story – really enjoyed it.

    Great mining history photos..

    The pub is fantastic – what a superb historic building still operating to serve/support the community.

    Coffee and tea only in the Temperance Lounge?..

    Liked by 1 person

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