History of the Aletaster Pub

Written by Bob Dixon of Low Fell, Gateshead 

It is not known when the first Inn was built on the corner of Chowdene Bank (Lamesley Lane) and Durham Road. Early Bell Plans show buildings on this site.
A diary started in 1809 by T. Bell, a surveyor, states there was only 4 Public Houses in Low Fell, The Buck (Beaconsfield), Cross Keys, Black Horse and the Duke of York. There was no mention of the George the IV.

In 1824 it was decided that a new road should be built, connecting Low Fell with Birtley (Durham Road) this saved travellers the long climb up Sheriff Hill & over Gateshead Fell. To celebrate the building of the new road local magistrates then granted licences for four new inns. Madeleine Hope Dodds in her ‘History of Low Fell’ refers to the “The Oiling of Dickies Wig” this was a stanza by one of Low Fells most famous sons, Thomas Wilson (1774-1858) celebrating the first Stage Coach to go along Durham Road on the 17th June 1826. Wilson describes how Dickie and his friends “The Squad of Queer Chaps” called at each of the new inns, The Ship, The Cannon, The Engine and the Sovereign (which Dodds takes to be the George the IV). The Dickie they referred to was Dickie Fenwick a mine owner of Sheriff Hill Hall and local wit.

The first recorded entry of the George IV found to date is in ‘Richardson’s Trade
Directory’ for 1837. The Innkeeper was Thomas Charlton a Victualler and Horse Dealer. An advertisement on the front page of The Gateshead Observer dated 5th April 1845 offers ‘to Farmer and Others’ pure Hen’s Nest potatoes at 5 shillings a load, apply George IV Inn. In 1885 plans drawn up by George W. Caris of Gateshead showed the original inn stood on the other side of the narrow lane north of the pub. Old stone work can be seen in the gable end of the house that stands there now. The plans also show an idea for the conversion of the old tavern into a house.
The building of the present inn began in 1885 on the instructions of Colonel Charles Reed. The Coach House was enlarged in 1898 and a cellar added in 1895 with the proviso that it could not be more than 8 foot deep. 1906 plans show the addition of the garden that you
can see today.
There were some landlords that held the licence for a considerable number of years. The first being thirty-four year old Henry Tully of Kibblesworth, with his wife Hannah and fifteen year old servant Elizabeth Harrison. This is shown in the 1841 census returns. By 1861 fifty-five year Henry was now married to twenty-five year old Elizabeth (we are not sure what happened to Hannah; perhaps we should dig up the Cellar). The Register of Alehouses in Gateshead show more owners and landlords. In 1879 the owner was E.J. Reid of Newbiggin House Northumberland and the landlady was Jane McKie who applied for a licence renewal in the September of 1879. J Barras & Co Ltd took over ownership in 1888. Newcastle Breweries Old Properties Ledger (1890 - 1960) shows the acquisition of the pub on the formation of the brewery in 1890. Jane Mckie renewed the licence in 1891.
Jane Mckie applied for planning permission for many of the houses in the surrounding area including parts of Hutton Tce, Worley Avenue as well as the shops and houses you see directly opposite the pub. It’s also possible that Lockerbie House and Dryffe House adjacent to the inn were built by her, as they were constructed in the same era and the town of Lockerbie, with the river Dryffe running through was her place of birth. The licence was later transferred to
Arthur Henry Barnes in October 1904, then John W Carr in 1931, Thomas Arthur Allan in 1941, Horatio John Rhodes in 1947. The register then ends in 1955.
Trade Directories for 1934 and 1938 show J N Frazer then subsequently Paul Pilkington at the George IV. It is not clear though as to whether they were managers or not.
A photograph from 1910 shows a large notice welcoming cyclists. In 1938 the freehold value of the inn was £38,000.
The pub was for many years a Fitzgerald managed house. In 1989 Scottish & Newcastle Breweries decided it needed a new image. It reopened on the 6th June 1989 as The Aletaster part of the T J Bernard group and became one of the areas top real ale bars. It passed into the hands of the Spirit Group then finally Enterprise Inns.
The Inn has evolved over the years from a rural tavern, coaching inn, local pub into the
eclectic mix of real ale and sports bar