The traditional pub has become a part of the British fabric of life in the same way as fish and chips and football has.
Just about every night on TV we see people in the Rovers Returns on Coronations Street and the Queen Vic on EastEnders.
Great places to meet and socialise, pubs have existed, in one form or another, for donkeys years as today’s list of old South Shields watering holes testifies.
Taken from approximately 1897, the list, supplied by reader Jeff Appleyard, names 174 pubs and the place names where they traded.
“I got this list from my brother-in-law, Ken Bell, a few years ago,” reveals Jeff.
“I find it fascinating, reading the names and addresses of the pubs in days gone by.”
Jeff’s comments got me reaching for one of my predecessor’s wonderful nostalgia books Aall Tgithor Like The Folk O’Shields.
Written by Janice Blower, the book, one of a series published by North East Press, included a chapter called Refill which tells of some very interesting old Shields pubs.
“South Shields has a number of public houses which have been around, in some cases, for more than 150 years,” wrote Janice back in 1999.
“They include the Beehive and the Lambton Arms, to name but a few, but thanks to a Victorian passion for rebuilding old inns towards the end of the 19th century, few of the original buildings have survived intact; sometime the ‘modern’ successor is even located in a different street.
“There was the Beehive in Wellington Street in the 19th century, for instance. It actually had a beehive as its sign and the motto: ‘In this Beehive we’re all alive, good liquor makes us funny; if you are dry, come in and try the flavour of our honey’.
“One pub which has retained a good measure of its original is the Alum House, although it was never a public house originally, but part of the 18th century chemical works of Isaac Cookson. It was the Alum House Ham that the alum liquor was brought in, having been extracted as shale from the cliffs north of Whitby, to be turned into commercial alum crystals.
“Eventually the premises were taken over by Wood’s Brewery and by early Victorian times the Alum House had become a pub, continuing as such until well into this century and having only reverted to licensed premises after more than half a century as offices for Tyne Dock Engineering at the Market Dock.
“By contrast, an example of a pub which has undergone a radical transformation over the years would be the Adam and Eve at Laygate.
“The original was a very old house which had belonged to the Lay Farm, in whose garden the grace of the owner, Ralph Milbourne, was found in the 1800s. He had been buried there in 1668.”
Pubs have had a hard time of it of late, and though many have changed in character over the years (remember the trend for wine bars in the 1980s and the craze for Irish-themed pubs a few years ago), they remain a very British institution.