Inns and taverns have always been associated with market towns such as Alnwick, though nothing remains of the town’s earliest ones. It is said that 9-13 Fenkle Street was the site of an Elizabethan tavern, called the Griffin before it was rebuilt and renamed the Nag’s Head. The Olde Cross on Narrowgate and the Plough on Bondgate Without occupy buildings, or parts of buildings, with a history that pre-dates their more recent use as a pub. The pubs in Alnwick with the longest continuous history tend to date from the 18th century, when Alnwick had become an important stop on the Great North Road and other turnpikes. The White Swan and the Black Swan were the principal coaching inns serving the London-to-Edinburgh mail coaches, while the Queen’s Head has a fair claim to be the pub in Alnwick with the longest continuous history. Other old coaching inns, such as the Angel and the Star Hotel on Fenkle Street, served more local traffic, though neither of these has survived.
The number of establishments serving beer increased rapidly following the Beer Act of 1830 and reached a peak of around 60 by 1860. The George on Bondgate Within and the John Bull on Howick Street are two of the few surviving pubs from this heyday. As housing conditions improved, and alternative forms of leisure became available, schemes were introduced to reduce the number of pubs, and by 1918 the number had fallen to around twenty. Some of these lost pubs are, however, remembered in names on Alnwick lanes, such as the Pickwick in Roxburgh Place which closed around 1890, the Angel on Fenkle Street which was combined with the Robin Hood to become the Market Tavern around 1899, and the White Hart on Market Street which had been absorbed into the Queen’s Head by 1914.
After 1860 the population changed little in size, but housing conditions improved, and alternative forms of leisure were introduced. The 1904 Licensing Act allowed magistrates to refuse a licence and award compensation if they felt a pub was unnecessary. The number of pubs in Alnwick had already fallen by half, and it continued to decline until the end of the First World War. Many simply closed. Others were consolidated into larger establishments.
In the 21st century Alnwick has not seen the steady decline in the number of pubs that has been experienced elsewhere. There are early indications that some local establishments may now be finding ways to benefit from further changes in this market.
Also see Queen’s Hotel, Globe Inn, Odd Fellow’s Arms, Red Lion, Tailor’s Arms, Turk’s Head, Willow Tree Inn, Alnwick Castle Inn, Black Bull, Crown and Thistle, Dun Cow, Four Horse Shoes, Freeman’s Arms
List of Pubs; click here to see list.
List of beerhouses; click here to see list.