After the questionable success of the first post in this series, our attention turns to England’s northernmost county, Northumberland. 64 miles of glorious coastline, 322,000 people and numerous castles, it has more than enough to detain us awhile.
251 pubs have appeared in the 48 published editions of the Good Beer Guide, two of which crept in illicitly. The White Swan in Dinnington (1998) was sent back red-faced to Tyne and Wear the following year while the Station in Gilsland (1980/81) suffered the same fate as the actual station, whilst remaining firmly in Cumbria. The picture below was taken on a rare wet day.
Berwick-upon-Tweed has the most entries (18) followed by Blyth (13), Alnwick (13) and Morpeth (10). The leader board is shared by the Star at Netherton and the Dipton Mill Inn, near Hexham with 40 appearances apiece.
The Dipton Mill Inn has been home to the Hexhamshire brewery since 1992 and is a dreamy looking stone country pub.
The Star is something different, a farmhouse-style classic that enjoyed a 40-year unbroken run in the Guide.
The Star is on CAMRA’s heritage list of historic pub interiors, which adds the following comments:
“Outside gents’ and ladies’ toilets across the car park – one must pick up the key (blue tag for the gents’!) from the counter to open and close them! Note if a round consists of two or more pints of beer you will get dimple glasses with different coloured small round stickers on them so that when you ask for a second pint you will guarantee to get the same glass back – no modern ideas such as ‘a fresh glass every time’ here! Please note the opening hours are very restricted”.
“Very restricted” is no exaggeration – it’s open five and a half hours a week.
The more urban parts of Northumberland have suffered the heaviest losses. 5 of the 13 pubs in Blyth have disappeared, a town on the coast but not favoured by tourists. Ashington, once in the north eastern coalfields, has lost 3 of its 6 entries, though the impressive Elephant survives. Built by Robert Deuchar of the Sandyford Brewery, Newcastle in 1900, it was originally the North Seaton Hotel but locally became known as the White Elephant.
Tweedmouth, across the river from Berwick has lost 4 from 7, including former stalwarts like the Harrow Inn. Berwick itself has lost 5 of which the Hen and Chickens, a grade 2 listed building, was the best known.
Overall 53 of the 251 are now permanently closed and 42 pubs have appeared just once.
My first post-lockdown pub this year was in Northumberland. The Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland, built in 1165, was once a guest house for visitors to Blanchland Abbey. Only the gatehouse of the abbey survives but the pub/hotel is fully intact. The bar is in a vault, part of an ancient network of rooms.
It’s a far cry from the Elephant but both are examples of Northumberland’s varied history and architecture. No other guide book would steer you to both Blanchland and Ashington but that’s the joy of the Good Beer Guide.