Search for the Old Pubs of Stoke-on-Trent


Newcastle's tradition of pubs

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Historian Fred Hughes writes....   

What would it be like if Newcastle was North Staffordshire’s regional centre? According to Jim Worgan, chairman of Newcastle Civic Society, this is not far-fetched reasoning.

“There’s been much debate over the years about a North Staffordshire administration. But it was always presumed that Stoke-on-Trent would be the capital,” says Jim.

“And let’s face it Newcastle was an administrative borough long before the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent became a city. In fact the Potteries didn’t have its own MP until 1832 while Newcastle owned its royal charter since 1173 and became a free borough and a guild-merchant town in 1235. Newcastle, too, was always the principal communications centre with cross-country coaching routes. And even when the railway came, the main station serving the whole district was in Newcastle at Whitmore.

Undoubtedly Stoke-on-Trent’s importance is based upon its large population. But to be honest it only became the district’s major retail centre because of the opening of the M6 Motorway in 1968. If it hadn’t been for junction 15 and the A500 who’s to say what the physical and political status of North Staffordshire would have been now.”


Potteries historian, Steve Birks, cautiously agrees.

“In a way the Federation of 1910 was just step on the road to a regional North Staffordshire authority,” he says.

“A number of recommendations have been made before and since about bringing Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent and the Moorlands together to make a single unitary authority, but it never came off. Many such options have fallen and been discarded for a variety of reasons, although the question of a single regional authority is still delightfully provocative. But whether Newcastle could have been the administrative centre has now to remain theoretical.”

Look around Newcastle and you get the feeling of strong tradition particularly in the pubs that stand among ubiquitous Georgian architecture. But it is the closed pubs in other uses that show the true heritage of Newcastle. Take for instance the Golden Ball in Bridge Street.

 a view along part of the High Street / Bridge Street, Newcastle
a view along part of the High Street / Bridge Street, Newcastle
The former Golden Ball - the only building in the area to retain its original 17th century half-timbered frontage.

“This early pub lay in one of the oldest parts of town. And this end of Newcastle – north towards Liverpool Road – has retained an almost medieval charm,” says Steve. “In fact the former Golden Ball, which is now a butcher’s shop, is the only building in the area to retain its original 17th century half-timbered frontage.”

Wilton’s classic butchers, who have occupied the premises since the 1990’s, have been in business since 1868, renamed Plant and Wilton after Jeff Plant became a partner in 1996. According to a popular online urban dictionary the shop is famous for the ‘bacsauschebag’ – a baguette containing bacon, sausage and cheese.   

“The sandwich is very popular with our Newcastle customers and we sell a lot,” shop manager Amanda Washington tells me. “Even so, I’ve worked here for a long time but I’ve never heard it called that.”

“Neither have I,” adds owner Jeff, “How do you pronounce it – bac-sos-che-bag. Obviously someone must have liked it a lot to give it a name and put it online. Well I never!”

Formerly known as the Golden Bell at 7-9 Bridge Street, the style remains timber-framed though re-rendered over time with stucco-painted imitation timber and two prominent bays. In this corner of Newcastle you could easily imagine being in Tudor England.

'Old Houses in Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire.'  - 1840 by J. Buckler
Showing two half-timber houses with dormer gables, generally known as the Golden Ball public house. The building still stands on Bridge Street/High Street

© William Salt Library
Staffordshire Past Track


“This is the last of a row of houses dating back to 1600,” says Jim Worgan. “It was a public house from 1790 until it closed in 1936 which makes it one of the earliest pubs in the district. From 1936 it was known as the Pork Shop and Taylor’s Stores standing on the main road from London to Manchester and Liverpool, serving Stoke-on-Trent as a principal communications thoroughfare. In fact, as recently as the early Victorian period, the region’s principal professions, the grammar schools and administrative centres, were all based in Newcastle. Naturally the big pubs and hotels flourished here as well.”

Sunday Morning, The Castle Hotel, Newcastle

This view of The Castle Hotel that stood on the High Street in Newcastle-under-Lyme was painted, signed and dated by Reginald G. Haggar on 11th May 1969.
In front of the hotel to the left of the painting the Guildhall pillars can be seen. There are two 1960's style cars parked outside the Guildhall in the centre of the painting.

pictures: © Borough Museum and Art Gallery, Newcastle under Lyme
Staffordshire Past Track


Jim leads to me into High Street, to the heritage-protected frontage of the distinguished Castle Hotel, marked by a blue plaque above the entrance.

“The campaign to save the building’s splendid facade actually launched the Civic Society,” he continues. “The hotel had fallen into decline by 1968, earmarked for demolition. It was people-pressure that prevented the front edifice from being flattened.”

The Hotel was redeveloped and the massive construction behind gives a glimpse of its spacious dimensions.

“The Castle was the centre of Newcastle life. Built around 1800 as a coaching inn, it has hosted a hierarchy of famous guests and served as a public gathering and meeting place in modern times. It even had a noble uniformed concierge,” recalls Jim. “Mind you the drinks were expensive. People say that many well-healed gentlemen were often seen going in by the side-entrance in Scarlett Street, paying a cheaper bar price and carrying it into the posh bars. Of course decent gentlemen would never do that these days.”


Nevertheless you would naturally expect to find decent service, matchless pubs, unique shops, such as Plant and Wilton, and distinctive organization at the centre of a North Staffordshire regional administration – wouldn’t you?


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previous: Longton, the Potteries' Capital of Public Houses

4 May 2009