As part of our Remaking Beamish project, we are planning to build a recreation of a lost North East coaching inn, which people will not only be able to enjoy as part of their visit to Beamish, but also be able to stay in over night as guests. From the 17th century onwards, coaching inns were an important part of British (and indeed European) infrastructure; as they stabled fresh horses for the mail and stagecoaches that carried post and people across the country. These inns jostled for the business brought in by the coaches, and flourished by feeding and accommodating passengers. Individual travellers were also catered for, and those as far apart in time as Celia Fiennes, in the earlier 1700s, and Charles Harper at the turn of the last century, published popular accounts of their journeys. The coaches that ran between the various stages were scheduled, so that people could catch them like buses from the various inns that acted as stages or stops on the roads. Beamish has in its collection several directories that give the times and locations of the various coaches, including ones that dates from 1802 and 1810 respectively. We have been using these to help us locate former inns.
The specific story that Beamish is planning to tell is of the Great North Road, which ran from London to Edinburgh, as well as the other routes that ran across the region, going to industrial centres such as Carlisle and Hartlepool. To do this, Jim, John and Clara have been trawling through OS maps, directories, photographic archives and local records to identify a lost coaching inn that we can use as the basis for our recreation. So far our search has lead us to gleaning ideas from the still standing and rather grand Georgian buildings of the Ancient Unicorn in Bowes, County Durham. We’ve also investigated lost city centre inns, such as the Three Tuns in Darlington and the Black House in Newcastle. The challenge we face is to find an inn that has the right scale and feel for the rural setting of our 1820s area.
This Tuesday, John and Clara went to Hexham to seek out three former inns; the .White Horse, the White Hart and the Grey Bull. They discovered that all that remains of the White Horse, a lovely half timbered building located next to the Moot Hall and dating from the 1600s, are the remnants of its yard and a gate post that was could have been part of its 19th century rebuild. Equally, the late Georgian building of the White Hart has now been replaced by a department store. However, it’s rear arch into the stable yard appears to be still in place. Interestingly, the arch that was formerly at the front of the White Hart, seems, due to its width to have only been used for human access to the rear yard. The grandness of the arch, with its segmental pediment, meant that it was rescued when the rest of the building was demolished and moved to the grounds of Hexham Abbey to be used as a war memorial. Again all that appears to be left of the Grey Bull is the rough outline of its former rear yard, along with what could have possibly been a stable or outbuildings wall.
Our hunt for a lost inn continues, please let us know if you have any leads for us to chase up!