The Worlds First Purpose Built Railway Pub ? Really ?
Well, yes !
According to the Friends of the Stocton & Darlington Railway.
In their newsletter, The Globe, of April 2017, they wrote...
A RECAP FOR NEW AND FORGETFUL OLD READERS: in the last Globe I showed why I think the Stockton & Darlington Railway was the home of the world's first railway pubs, outdoing the specious, Historic Englandbacked claims of a hostelry near Manchester which did not exist before 1828 and didn't actually have a railway until 1830.
Not only were three inns built to serve the pioneering S&D line - at Aycliffe Lane (now Heighington Station), Darlington and Stockton in 1826-27 - they were commissioned, owned and controlled by the Railway Company itself.
And the more I dig, the more pubs with S&D connections I find with claims greater than the Liverpool & Manchester line's at Patricroft...
The 1825 S&D line is always said to have run to Stockton from Witton Park, but that's not to be confused with the present-day Witton Park, which developed later, half-a-mile or so away, down the hill, around iron works. The original Witton Park was - who would guess? - the parkland of Witton Castle, to the west. Thanks to amazing land restoration work the area which was dominated by collieries in the early 19th century (and before) is once again pleasant, grazing countryside with impressive long views. You would be hard pushed to believe that today's attractive, stone-built, New Inn Farm was once on the doorstep of pits and shafts, with coal wagons rattling past its door.
But it was, and the New Inn was built - no doubt by the land- (and colliery-) owning William Chaytor of Witton Castle - to serve the burgeoning industry. Local baptismal records, which named parents' abode, show that it had certainly opened by May 1826, and may have done in 1825. As with almost all pubs at the time another occupation was essential for the licensee and he - George Kirkley was his name - worked as a blacksmith, presumably at a colliery; perhaps Mr Chaytor's.
So, was this a railway pub? It certainly had rails outside it, on which coal-filled wagons from Witton Park Colliery (and subsequently others nearby) were pulled by horses to the foot of the S&D's Etherley Incline, a quarter-mile south of the inn. However, the New Inn was unlike the four pubs mentioned above in not belonging to the Company, and - more crucially - not serving people drawn to the railway, as it was at neither a depot nor a terminus (it was near, but not at), and there would not even be many railway workers around. No, its main customers would have been the increasing population of pitmen, this being the closest inn to wet their dusty throats after a shift underground.
So 'no' to that New Inn - but 'yes', I say, to another New Inn, 20 miles south-east at Egglescliffe, at what the geographically-challenged S&DR called its Yarm depot. This was the terminus of the Company's Yarm branch, which left the mainline about where Allen's West station is today but didn't tackle the massive inconvenience of crossing the broad and deeply-cut River Tees to Yarm proper.
Like at Darlington, this branch was ready for use on the same day as the S&DR main line (Q: what day of the week was 27 September 1825? A. a Tuesday), but the depot opened to the public on 17 October. The Durham County Advertiser reported that: "In the evening about 60 respectable tradesmen met at the new inn at the end of the Yarm Branch of the Railway, to celebrate the event, as also that of opening the said inn, where an excellent supper was provided by the landlord, Mr Snowdon".
The new inn became the New Inn. But, unlike the three main line pubs that served coal depots (four including the leased Mariners' Tavern), the Railway Company did not own this one. It seems not to even have owned the adjacent depot, at least initially. A Company minute of 1 September 1826 said the 'Depots and way' here belonged to Thomas Meynell, and a Land Tax return for 1826 showed that John Snowdon occupied 'property of Thomas (Esq) Meennel'.
Mr Meynell was not only a prominent landowner of Yarm, and at one time its lord of the manor, but he was the first chairman of the S&DR. Given all this, and that a later tithe map showed land abutting the depot as in the ownership of Thomas Meynell, that Mr Meynell's Yarm Band played at the opening of the New Inn, and that the assembled respectable tradesmen "drank the health of the Chairman of the Railway Company", I feel pretty confident in concluding that the New Inn was built and owned by Mr Meynell.
The branch line and depot were abandoned in 1871, and Mr Snowdon was landlord for less than two years, but the pub has remained trading to this day, becoming the Railway Inn in the mid-1850s (and occasionally tweaked to the Railway Tavern, Railway Hotel and Railway Inn & Yarm Bungalow). In modern times it was renamed the non-new, non-railway Cleveland Bay. Perhaps an allusion (intended or not) to the horses that led the chaldron wagons to the depot along the equine-hauled branch line?
You may not think that today's pub (an excellent multi-roomed, traditional one, by the way) looks 191 years old, with its shutters and window boxes, but it is: take a close look at the c.1900 photos on display inside, at the pub's old maps, and at the fine original brickwork at the rear.
So, what conclusions on the world's oldest railway pub? As ever with railway history it depends on your definitions, but every one of those I've mentioned in these two articles on the S&DR beats the Patricroft Tavern's (now Queen's Head's) claim out of sight. But my Oscars would go as follows:
World's First Purpose-Built Railway Pub - the New Inn, Egglescliffe. Opened 17 Oct 1825 to serve the horse-drawn branch to the Yarm coal depot. Now called the Cleveland Bay, it has traded continuously in the same building. Not listed. World's First Purpose-Built Pub to Serve a Steam Railway - the Railway Tavern, Stockton. Licensed Sept 1826 to serve the Stockton coal depot. Closed as a pub c.1861 but the building remains. Listed but with no mention of its inn origins.
World's First Conversion to a Pub to Serve a Steam Railway - the Mariners' Tavern, Stockton. Licensed Sept 1826 to serve the Stockton coal staiths from former cottages. Closed c.1867 and demolished late-19th century.
World's First Pub Purpose-Built to Serve Railway Passengers - the King's Arms, Aycliffe Lane. Licensed Oct 1829 to serve passengers as well as users of the adjacent coal depot.