Published on December 6th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour


Real ale in Ryhope

Novelist Glenda Young’s books are set in the pubs of early 20th Century Wearside

Researching historical novels set around North East pubs is a tough job, but as the saying goes, someone’s got to do it. My novels are set at the end of WW1 in the ex-coalmining and farming village of Ryhope, south of Sunderland city centre. 

Ryhope is where I was born and bred and anyone who has ever visited will have noticed there are a lot of pubs. Well, coalmining and farming were very thirsty work. 

A long line of pubs runs from the top of the old colliery down the bank to the village and around the village green. My research shows that in 1919 there were at least 14 pubs in Ryhope and that’s not counting the social clubs. 

Inevitably, a handful of the pubs have shut down over the years. Others, such as The Wheatsheaf – which was next door to the Colliery Inn (now The Top House) and the village green’s Ship Inn and Salutation Inn, were demolished decades ago. But there are still plenty of pubs which thrive.

Researching for my next novel, The Paper Mill Girl, I visited The Guide Post Inn which has been included in The Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) Good Beer Guide 2020 as it now offers three handpumps. 

It’s fascinating researching Ryhope and its pubs for my books. After I’d given a talk at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens about my books, a lady from the audience told me that her family had run the pub in the 1940s and asked me if I knew about the stream running through the cellar. She told me her father used to cool the beer in the stream. Intrigued, I set off for a look and sure enough, there is water flowing through the cellar, although thankfully well-channelled these days. Next door to The Guide Post Inn is a former bootmakers workshop which pub landlord Keith Dewart told me he’s keen to turn into a microbrewery. 

Many more Ryhope pubs feature in my novels. In Belle of the Back Streets, a girl takes on a rag and bone round to prevent her family from being thrown on the streets. The action is centred around The Albion Inn on Ryhope village green.

The Colliery Inn features in Pearl of Pit Lane, the story of a girl who tries to leave a life of working the streets.  

In The Tuppenny Child, a girl escapes to Ryhope by train and works at both The Railway Inn and The Forester’s Arms. I found the original floor plans for The Railway Inn at Durham County Records Office when I was researching The Tuppenny Child. Like many pubs of the era, it had stables at the rear and included a Snug and a Select Room inside. The Select plays an important role in the novel; a place where secrets are revealed. 

There’s a smashing anecdote in Ron Lawson’s book, A Historic Look at the Pubs of Ryhope and Silksworth, about The Railway Inn. Back in 1874 a chap called Nathan Noble was fined 20 shillings plus cots for refusing to leave the pub. He denied being drunk and attempted to prove so by standing on his head on a table. He failed.


About the Author

Alastair Gilmour

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