A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II86 Hallgarth Street
Tel: (0191) 386 5269
Real Ale: Yes
Nearby Station: Durham
Station Distance: 1000m
Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Durham) and Bus Stop
View on: Whatpub
The best historic multi-room pub interior in the North East (also great for real ale and atmosphere). The pub was built in 1898-9 to the designs of successful Newcastle architects, Joseph Oswald & Son. Perhaps its most interesting feature is the Family Department. This tiny space is accessed from the side entrance and has cut-glass panels and a small hatch to the servery. Perched on top now are five old ceramic casks for sherry, Stingo (a dark, strong, rich beer), Irish and Scotch whisky. The public bar has a wooden floor, fixed seating, cast-iron fireplace (but recent tiled surround and heat deflector) and part of the original bar back. The latter was much renewed and the counter re-fronted in the late 1950s or 1960s. Access to the snug is either from the side passage to the rear or the right-hand entrance. It also has original bench seating with baffles, bell-pushes, a cast-iron and marble fireplace and a sliding hatch for service. The sitting room has a bare wooden floor, small counter and trcaes of bell-pushes. Most windows have etched glass and removable screens. The licensee, Michael Webster, who took over in 1974, saved it from desecration by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries by purchasing it in 1995. Food consists of toasties.
Built 1899 by famous North East architect Joseph Oswald for local innkeepers J. A. Lumsden & Co. It is built of red brick with a carved stone cartouche of the head of a youthful Queen Victoria and the building date of '1899' above the right hand door. There are mosaic tiling floors in both the entrances - the left main pub one and right hand one used by people stopping the night in the three en-suite rooms. Possibly the most intact/ preserved pub in the whole of North East England, which is due to the actions of owner Michael Webster, who has been here since 1974. In the early 1990's Scottish & Newcastle Breweries wanted to alter the pub, but he refused to allow this and instead asked the brewery to sell it to him, which they did in 1995!
The people who regret the passing of those bygone days will be relieved to find that the Victoria Hotel concentrates on those essentials of a good pub - good conversation and good beer (all cask ales are from local micro breweries) - and has ignored the march of so-called progress - there is no Juke Box, pool table, fruit machine, no children, the only food is toasties.
The pub retains its three small rooms and the outstanding feature is a rare completely screened 'Family Department', a term for an off-sales only seen in the North East of England and also in Scotland situated at the rear of the public bar. The name comes from the fact that women and children would often fetch the families supplies of ale and they had to do this without being seen by or seeing the men in the public bar - note the disused door down the left side of the pub that was the access to the tiny room.
It retains it door with 'Family Department' etched and polished glass panel and consists of a curved wooden screen with decorative brilliant cut glass panels, one also curved with small hatch to the bar. The wall has old dado panelling and just enough space for standing room and also to hold a telephone and cigarette machine (removed in recent years due to the proliferation of mobile phones and the smoking ban respectively). Perched on top of the curved screen are a row of ceramic spirit barrels including ones with "sherry', 'Stingo' and 'I Whisky (the ‘I’ being from the days before the fad of inserting an ‘e’ to distinguish the Irish from the Scottish variety), as well as an old Bakelite wireless (radio).
The Public Bar has a bare wooden floor, original fine tiered bar-back with wide segmental arches at the top and in the upper part, an unusual partially enclosed shelf with a miniature balustrade and containing a collection of figurines, Toby jugs, 40 malt scotches and 40 different Irish whiskeys. The bar counter is of mahogany, there is an ornate black painted Victorian tiled fireplace with wood surround including a small circular bevelled mirror and coal fire. The fixed bench seating with a baffle at the rear is original, the seating at the front looks to date from the 1960s.
Note the set of brilliant cut glass window screens - on the Hallgarth Street side is a 'Victoria Hotel' one in the centre, a decorative deep etched one on the left (but the right hand side one has a frosted glass replacement); and on the left hand side a 'Bass' Ales' one and two decorative deep etched ones. There is an etched and polished glass 'Bar' panel in both the front inner door and the rear door. Note the bell box high up near the fireplace from the days of table service. It has 'Club Rm', Sitting Rm 1' and 'Sitting Rm 2" windows and is still in working order - press a bell in the rear Sitting Room and watch the small disc in the Sitting Rm 2 window move from side to side to indicate where the service was required. The bell push in the front sitting room also works but the disc does not move any more. The Club Room was upstairs and is now bedrooms.
Access to the Snug or rear sitting room is from the passage at the rear with a door having a 'Sitting Room' brilliant cut glass window or the right hand entrance passage with a modern door replacing the original which had a 'Sitting Room' glazed panel. This small room has its original fixed bench seating with baffles at each end, half-height old panelled walls, bell pushes, original cast-iron and marble fireplace with a coal fire and service is through a sliding hatch to the back of the bar.
The front right small room has 'Sitting Room' etched and polished glass panels in both doors and a figure '2' on the back of a door to the public bar. It has a bare wooden floor, a small original panelled bar counter with no dispensers and original bell pushes in the half-height old panelled walls. There is another ornate black painted Victorian tiled fireplace with blue decorative tiles and a small circular bevelled mirror in the ornate mantelpiece. Three window screens here but only one retains its original decorative etched panel, the other two having replacement frosted glass. In the corner on a shelf are more ceramic spirit barrels 'Gin', 'Rum', 'Brandy'. There is a passage between the two sitting rooms there is an old 'Worthington's Burton Ales' mirror.