Why has Shields Road got so many public houses and Chillingham Road so few? Is it merely because of the limitations and restrictions stemming from the nature of land ownership, most notably that of Lord Armstrong, which then became part of property deeds and covenants? Or is the truth much less certain but more interesting in that it encompasses wider themes and controversies of late nineteenth century Heaton, Newcastle and beyond?
This article will concentrate on the granting of licensed status to the East End Hotel (the earlier name of the Chillingham Hotel) in 1892 which became the first public house in Heaton proper but the story will also involve the burgeoning temperance movement, religious passions and educational ambitions within the general context of rapid urbanisation. This became known in the local press as The Heaton Question.
Chillingham Hotel in 1966
From 1552 local Justices of the Peace had been given the power to decide who should be given a licence to run a ‘common alehouse’. Partly in order to tackle the increasing popularity of wine and spirits, especially gin, and what was considered to be their more pernicious effects on family life and employment, the government of the Duke of Wellington decided to encourage the drinking of beer. The 1830 Beerhouse Act meant that any ratepayer could brew and sell beer on their premises without the need for a magistrate’s permission as long as they purchased a licence costing two guineas. Unsurprisingly this era of ‘free licensing’ led to a steep and rapid rise in the number of ‘beerhouses’ but would have been restricted in those areas where landowners prohibited this via the property deeds. The low population together with the existence of alehouses nearby may be enough to explain the lack of facilities in Heaton itself before the 1880s, rather than the importance of any land ownership covenants.
Heaton’s expansion in the 1890s started from the south and west (OS Second Edition, 1894)
The popularity of ‘beershops’ attracted some criticisms from magistrates and religious groups especially those with links to the growing temperance movement.
The 1869 Wine and Beerhouse Act reimposed the necessity for the possession of a magistrate’s licence for any type of property selling alcoholic drinks either ‘on’ or ‘off’ the premises. Thus, by 1870, the justices had the power to refuse to grant or renew licences for all types of retail outlet. The magistrates’ decision making was arrived at via the public occasions known as Brewster Sessions which were also opportunities for interested parties to make their voice heard.
The growth of housing centred upon Chillingham Road was of course neither even nor instantaneous. Initially the area bordering Byker was seen as being part of that district rather than belonging to Heaton which stretched further away north and west. As Alan Morgan points out in ‘Heaton from Farms to Foundries’ the rise in population and associated need for housing only began in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. There were 257 people living in Heaton in 1871 but by 1901 the number had soared to 22,913. Previously urbanisation and industrialisation had been features of areas closer to the Tyne than in Heaton itself. The opening of the North Shields railway in 1839 with a passenger station near Heaton Road and the concomitant marshalling yard at Heaton Junction created employment and demand for housing. The area along Heaton Road had of course already been the scene of some house building though this was for a more up market clientele with views across the parks and easy access to the local churches that had also sprang up. In 1878 Byker Road Bridge saw a massive increase in traffic in comparison to the earlier toll footpath along the railway viaduct. It is interesting to note that the impact of the railways on the movement from farming to residential use also became a significant factor in the opposition to, and the need for, licensed premises within the district.
It is worth noting that before William Turnbull began the quest to gain a licence for a new institution to be called the East End Hotel he had already embarked upon a range of initiatives and entrepreneurial activities. Although born into a farming family in Northumberland, by 1871 he was living in All Saints parish and was described in the census as being a wine and spirit merchant. Ten years later he is the licensee of the Trafalgar Inn, 84 New Bridge Street. By the late 1880’s he was the occupant of Meadowfield House (now social club) which is immediately behind what is now the Chillingham Hotel.
There had been some attempts to gain permission for licensed properties in Heaton prior to the involvement of William Turnbull but these had been sporadic and relatively small scale. The Brewster Sessions of 1 September 1886 were attended by deputations from the United Temperance Societies as well as Byker and Heaton Ratepayers. A provisional (i.e., subject to later confirmation) beer and wine licence was asked for a house which was about to be constructed at 5 North View (the property of John Wilson). The application was refused and it is worth noting that one aspect of more successful bids in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was that the premises would be hotels rather than mere ‘beershops’ or off licences. Part of the more specific opposition to this application was the existence of a School of Science and Art nearby on Heaton Road which had been established as part of Dr Rutherford’s educational expansion from his College on Bath Lane.
The strength of feeling within the city but with a particular emphasis on Byker and Heaton is demonstrated by the meeting of temperance inclined ratepayers on 8 September 1886 which took place in the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Heaton Road. Councillor James Birkett occupied the chair.
He began by congratulating the recent Brewster Sessions in their decision to refuse any new appeals for licences in Heaton. It was reported in the Daily Chronicle that Councillor Birkett ‘condemned the idea of granting a licence to a public-house on the main road to a Board School, and on a road which the majority of their workmen traversed to and from their work’. He noted that any drinking establishments would be close to ‘one of the most beautiful parks in the kingdom’ the approaches to which needed to be protected ‘as a duty to our fellow citizens’. The plea to assess the strength of local feeling amongst ratepayers and other inhabitants was also strongly expressed and, as we will see, did soon play a part in further appeals. Whilst the general aspects of concern and opposition can be well understood today what makes these protestors more particular is their adherence to the notion of ‘temperance’ itself. Birkett did look forward to a time when the ‘legislature passed a bill abolishing public houses altogether’. Other contributors to the meeting included Rev May and Rev Dr Rutherford who observed that ‘Newcastle was still a city largely given up to intemperance. They were worse than Liverpool.’ (sic)
Did Newcastle have a particular problem with alcohol abuse? Brian Bennison in his 1994 article ‘Drunkenness in turn of the century Newcastle’ noted the number of criminal proceedings for drunkenness in the period 1896 – 1900 with England recording 62 convictions per 10,000 inhabitants and Newcastle upon Tyne standing at 207. A report from Rowntree and Shadwell in 1899 found that Newcastle had one public house for every 43 dwelling houses or 307 persons.
The growth in the number of ‘beershops’ had however helped to occasion a rise in the opposition to licensed premises more generally. In 1858 the North of England Temperance League was founded under the slogan ‘Total Abstinence for the Individual and Prohibition for the Nation’. The local strength of feeling against the growth of licensed premises is exemplified by the origin and popularity of the North of England Temperance festival which began on the Town Moor in 1882, the first year that saw Newcastle Races decamp to Gosforth. The estimated attendance over the three days was at 150,000 much more than other similar events in England. It is interesting though unsurprising that some of those who became involved in The Heaton Question were also participants in what became an annual celebration and promotion of temperance.
The Brewster Sessions of 4 September 1888 saw a licence application from James Mackey for a house to be constructed and called Station Hotel at the corner of Heaton Grove and Heaton Hall Road as well as from William Turnbull for a new house at the south end of Chillingham Road. It is interesting to note that the seeking of licences was often for premises which had not yet been built.
The Temperance party objected to both East End applications with Mr Edward Elliott, a handrail manufacturer of 20 Stratford Grove, presenting a petition which was 23 feet in length and contained 700 names. There was also a record of the formal objection of Hawthorn, Leslie and Co, engineering works. The opposition of local employers as well as religious groups is a feature of these occasions. After 15 minutes the magistrates returned and refused both Heaton applications. No explanation or justifications needed to be given.
On 7 August 1891 Temperance Federation meetings were held at Jesmond, Elswick, Shieldfield, and Heaton. Arthur’s Hill, Heaton and Jesmond were remarked upon as being ‘free or nearly free from licensed premises’ till now. Reference was made to Sharp versus Wakefield in the House of Lords as being evidence of the legal possibility of reducing the number of licences by their withdrawal over time.
In 1891 Joseph Bell, a key figure in the foundation of Newcastle United and later the club’s chairman, made an application for a ‘beer shop’ off licence for 41 Rothbury Terrace and this led to some interesting debate regarding the nature of the covenant within the property deeds. It was observed that Lord Armstrong had given his approval for this application though without the presentation of any evidence. A Mr Robinson, in his opposition to the plea, inferred that the covenant would be broken on payment of some pecuniary reward to Lord Armstrong. This brought a rebuke from the Chair of the Bench who said that the transgression of the covenant may bring some financial cost but that Lord Armstrong was not the beneficiary of this. After a short discussion the application was granted. At this point Margaret Bagnall from 6 Rothbury Terrace withdrew her application.
Early September 1891 also saw an application by Turnbull for an ‘alehouse’ at 7 and 9 Chillingham Road. This was granted by Sir Benjamin Browne, the Chair of the Bench, despite the opposition of Thomas Barker, a temperance missionary. Discussion had been relatively brief with an observation that otherwise the nearest licensed premises was 600 yards away. This decision was however reversed on the 9 September 1891. Speaking for the application were J K Joel, barrister, and Mr E Clark on behalf of householders in the vicinity. Opposing the confirmation of the provisional licence was F J Greywell, barrister, acting for Mr Thomas Barker, a temperance missionary.
Mr Joel noted that on the previous occasion there was little determined opposition and that if, as Sir Benjamin Browne stated, each case should be judged on its merits (outside of the temperance question more generally) then the licence should be confirmed due to population pressures and the suitability of the premises which Mr Turnbull believed would be used for ‘concerts and entertainments’. Mr Clark spoke in favour of the application stating that on the Meadowfield estate and several streets adjoining it there were 280 houses with 270 occupied. A petition signed by 206 occupants was presented again to the Bench with the remark that some of those who signed signifying their support for the licence were teetotallers themselves. There was then some seemingly good-natured laughter in court when Mr Clark somewhat ironically observed that Mr Barker was a ‘very worthy man who wore his badge of office quite visibly’ but as an advocate of local opinion would do well to accept the popularity of this licence being granted.
Mr Greenwell acting on behalf of Mr Barker declared that a counter petition had been assembled and that he would like to present this to the court. This petition contained 613 names, 310 of whom were householders. Mr Clark made the accusation that Mr Barker had sought the names of servants and children to add to his list with the Chair adding, to some laughter in court, that he could discern some names on both petitions. After retiring for a time, the Bench returned to declare that the provisional licence was not being confirmed.
31 August 1892 saw an application from John Harper Graham (at the time the licensee of a public house at 4 Burden Terrace, Jesmond) regarding a proposed hotel at the corner of Heaton Road and North View. Graham’s proposal was criticised in terms of reducing property prices as well as it being a ‘source of annoyance and temptation’ to attendees at Sunday School and associated meetings of young men at the nearby Primitive Methodist Chapel. The application was refused.
It was announced that Mr Turnbull had delivered an application for a licence for 5, 7 and 9 Chillingham Road. It was pointed out that Mr Turnbull owned the land where the Board School was to be built and although his original plan was to build houses there, he would give the plot for nothing if his application was accepted. Turnbull’s Assembly Rooms already existed on the site and had eighty members who paid an annual subscription. The application was opposed by Newcastle School Board, Bath Lane Science and Arts schools, and Councillor Flowers on behalf of young people more generally. Mr Dunnell of the North Eastern Railway Company as a local employer added to the voices against by remarking that the nearby sidings were to be extended and 400 men employed (with the signal cabin being right opposite the proposed venture).
The licence was granted as long as the large hall was separated from the licensed premises. As Brian Bennison says in Heavy Nights ‘The opening of the East End Hotel was an exceptional occurrence’ .
East End Hotel shown on Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and Environs OS Town Plan 1:500, 1896
William Turnbull became ill after inspecting some building works and died in 1897. His son, Adam, a builder had died in 1894 with his other son, Robert, only outliving William by a few months.
Turnbull family grave, All Saints Cemetery
The Heaton Question resolved?
Apart from a veiled threat to refuse the building of a Board School on his land there are other aspects to Mr. Turnbull’s eventual success. East End FC, who played on land owned by William Turnbull, had held a public event at his Assembly Rooms in 1892 as well as taking part in the Temperance Festival in June 1883 where the junior team won a trophy. This continued after the establishment of the East End Hotel with a Rural Fete to support the move of St Gabriel’s ‘Iron Mission Chapel’ from Chillingham Road to Heaton Road as well as hosting the Byker and Heaton Conservative Club Ball.
Beyond the 19th Century?
In 1897 the Heaton Anti Licencing Council declared that any new public house would ‘destroy the character Heaton had had in the past for moral perfection and purity’. It is worth noting that similar debates and disagreements were features of twentieth century applications for licensed premises though that may be a tale for another day.
*The title of this article was inspired by the Tom Waits song ‘Town with No Cheer’ which is ostensibly about Serviceton, a town in the Australian outback that lost its railway station and, as a result, its only bar.
Can you help?
If you know any more about anyone mentioned in this article or the history of the Chillingham Hotel or other public houses in Heaton, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Researched and written by Karl Cain, Heaton History Group
British Newspaper Archive
Drunkenness in turn of the century Newcastle / B Bennison; Local Population Studies (52), 1994
From Byker to Heaton – the origins and history of Heaton Methodist Church / N F Moore and W K Robinson; 2000
Heaton from farms to foundries / A Morgan, Newcastle City Libraries, 2012
Heavy Nights A history of Newcastle’s Public Houses Vol 2 The North and East / B Bennison; Newcastle City Libraries, 1997
Methodism in Newcastle upon Tyne 1742 – 2010 / G Fisher and Rev T Hurst; North East Methodist History Society, 2010
‘The Town Moor Hoppings’ Newcastle’s Temperance Festival 1882 – 1982 / F Baron; Lovell Baines, 1984
The Hoppings Newcastle’s Town Moor Fair / P Lanagan; Books of the North, 2010