Historically, the British pub has been rooted in working class communities, many of which have gradually diminished over the decades, whether in the town, the city or the countryside. It was once commonplace to see a pub on nearly every street corner in the days when ‘The Local’ was simply a place to relax or enjoy friendly banter, play a game of cards, dominoes or darts, or to simply chat with friends.
Often, the choice of beer in a pub was limited to mild or bitter and opening hours were ruthlessly observed. When the landlord called “Time gentlemen, please”, it meant exactly that, and stay-behinds or late bars were very much a rarity.
The ‘Turks Head’ is a fine 3 storey building which stands on the north side of Front Street, Tynemouth and an earlier inn of the same name had stood there since at least 1778. During the 1800s, records indicate that the ground floor bar ran almost the entire length of the building from front to back, with a bar, snug, smoke and billiard rooms on the first floor. The top floor contained a dining room.
Alterations carried out in 1905 saw the ground floor bar converted to include three sections, comprising a rear sitting room along with two ‘Bottle & Jugs’.
At one time, the first floor was adorned with an ironwork balcony, and the white glazed faience, covering all three floors of the building, was added during modernisation work carried out in the late 1930s. Since that time, the interior of the hotel has undergone many other changes, but the exterior has remained largely unaltered.
Although many inns called the ‘Turks Head’ are depicted with a sign showing the profile of a Saracen’s head, the name also refers to a type of knot, and this is shown in Tynemouth’s pub sign.
Locally, the pub is referred to as ‘The Stuffed Dog’, because of its connections with the well-known tale of the Collie dog ‘Wandering Willie’, who stands preserved in a glass case in the hallway of the pub.
The ‘Turks Head’ is also featured in my new book, ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns and Taverns (Part 2)’, which follows up the recently published Part 1, and is an illustrated Gazetteer and Directory providing a fascinating insight to all the licensed premises which existed over the past 200 years in the North Shields area, including Tynemouth, Cullercoats, Whitley Bay and surrounding district.
The book is to be launched at 2pm on Friday 18th October at The Grand Hotel, Tynemouth and will be available for sale afterwards. All are welcome.
by Charlie Steel © 2013
His published books include ‘Monkseaton Village’ Vols 1 & 2, and ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns Part 1’, all of which are available from most local booksellers.