Good Beer Guide Histories No 2: Northumberland

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.

Station Hotel, Gilsland. Geograph

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.

Retired Martin

The Star is something different, a farmhouse-style classic that enjoyed a 40-year unbroken run in the Guide.

Wiki
Whatpub

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.

Nearer.com

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.

Historic England

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.

14 thoughts on “Good Beer Guide Histories No 2: Northumberland

  1. Great stuff. 5.5 hours a week ? That would be generous for a micro etc etc.

    Amazed by 18 entries in Berwick, only done half a dozen since the late ’90s (Pilot, Barrels, Curfew, Foxton in GBG). Oddly the Leaping Salmon (Spoons) and Free Trade (basic) I added weren’t in the Guide then, so must have been loads of Vaux (?) pubs back in the early days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 5 of the Berwick ones are closed. Quite a few sold Lorimer’s which I recall as an undistinguished subsidiary of Vaux. Think there are 2 still trading (Kings Arms and Kings Head) that haven’t been listed since 1978 and 1983 respectively.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Love these and love Berwick. Alnwick always surprises me. I was underwhelmed by the pubs there, but it sure seems to rate well in the good book.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “64 miles of glorious coastline, 322,000 people and numerous castles, it has more than enough to detain us awhile.”

    If any of the castles have their own version of Urquhart and Nessie, then most certainly!

    “251 pubs have appeared in the 48 published editions of the Good Beer Guide, two of which crept in illicitly. ”

    Illicitly? Good heavens!

    “The White Swan in Dinnington (1998) was sent back red-faced to Tyne and Wear the following year”

    Ah. That explains it. Although, according to Wiki, Gilsland straddles the border between Cumbria and Northumberland.
    (so… the Station was on the wrong side) 😉

    “The picture below was taken on a rare wet day.”

    Even I know enough to say (slow golf clap) to that!

    “The leader board is shared by the Star at Netherton and the Dipton Mill Inn, near Hexham with 40 appearances apiece.”

    40 out of 48? Well done them!

    “The Dipton Mill Inn has been home to the Hexhamshire brewery since 1992 and is a dreamy looking stone country pub.”

    Almost iconic.

    “The Star is something different, a farmhouse-style classic that enjoyed a 40-year unbroken run in the Guide.”

    Blimey! Although, I wonder what changed.

    ““Very restricted” is no exaggeration – it’s open five and a half hours a week.”

    Holy moly. I can see why it got dropped. It’s reverted back to ‘the private living room of a big house’.

    ” 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.”

    Heh. Ironic in a way as it’s still useful. 😉

    “Overall 53 of the 251 are now permanently closed and 42 pubs have appeared just once.”

    Ouch.

    “The bar is in a vault, part of an ancient network of rooms.”

    Sigh. Places like these emphasise how little history we have over on this side of the pond.

    “No other guide book would steer you to both Blanchland and Ashington but that’s the joy of the Good Beer Guide.”

    Well said!

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Russ. I didn’t conclusively check whether the Station Hotel in Gilsland is across the border. Gilsland has featured in Cumbrian local
      beer guides so I made that assumption.

      Like

      1. I tired looking on WhatPub but the Station isn’t listed. Was that photo recent? I’m guessing not.

        If Cumbria mentioned it then that’s where it was I’d say. 🙂

        Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “It’s long closed, like the station itself.”

        Ok, here we go:

        Wiki gives the coordinates here:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilsland_railway_station

        (look at the top right)

        This is a geographical coverage map (for the UK):

        https://www.geograph.org.uk/mapper/combined.php#17/54.99110/-2.57048

        Here’s Bing:

        https://tinyurl.com/w9mdhwk3

        Comparing both Bing and the Geograph thingy, I’d say the Station was in Northumberland. 😉

        Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

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