Tailor’s Arms

The earliest records that we have found for the Tailors’ Arms date from 1855, although the spelling was Taylor’s Arms until the 1890’s. At the time this was one of a dozen inns on Clayport. It was an area of poor housing, that had figured in both Robert Rawlinson’s 1850 report on the Cholera outbreak, and Dr. George Seaton Buchanan’s 1898 report on the sanitary condition of Alnwick. Buchanan judged this to be some of the worst housing in the town, and it was subsequently chosen as the highest priority for slum clearance.

A large proportion of the dwellings of the town, principally those occupied by the poorer clases, are to be found huddled on small areas at the back of the main throughfares. This close aggregation of dwellings, which has long been a characteristic feature of Alnwick, must in part be attributed to the enclosure of the town in former centuries by walls; to a greater extent, however, it is the outcome of later conditions

The commonest example is where a property at first consisted of a single dwelling in a row abutting on the main street having at the back a long strip of garden or yard, the width of which is no greater than the breadth of the house to which it belongs. Buildings have subsequently been packed on this strip of back yard and access to the “court” so formed is had be a narrow “entry” driven through the ground floor of the house in the main street”.

Going through into a court of this kind one finds a passage some four or six feet wide, extending the length of the property, sometimes terminating blindly, sometimes leading by a second entry, at its far end, into a neighbouring street or court. Along one side of the passage is a high wall which forms the back of the structures in the adjoining property; along the other side is a row of buildings, most of them two story dwelling houses, others, stables, or cowshed.”

In 1908 the magistrate’s decided not to renew the licence. Here’s the report:

Supt. Bolton said that one could get into the back of this house without going through the passage way from the front of the house, and there was a lot of tenemented property at the back, occupied by poor tenants, who caused no end of trouble to the police. There was a very dark room in the rear of the house.

Clayport was the worst part of Alnwick, and had the most public-houses in proportion to the population. Out of 213 persons convicted for drunkenness in Alnwick, last year, 70 were from the Clayport district; the population was small, the proportion of drunkenness being far greater than any other part, in comparison.

The home was very much frequented by women living in yards adjoining, who could get into this house unperceived better than they could get into others. Witness gave figures to show the kind of drinking that was going on upon recent visits be had made to the house. In answer to Mr. Shortt, witness said he would not say the women he saw drinking ‘there were of a low class. He did not think, all the same, that such women would go to other houses in the middle of the day where there were not the same facilities to ” pop in” unobserved. He knew there were a number of miners working in the vicinity, but this was not the first house for refreshment going into Alnwick. He knew the Brewery Company had recently emptied all the tenement property in the yard, and he believed that it was not to be let again to tenants. The house was considerably altered in 1906, after he (witness) had complained of certain things. He admitted at the time that these alterations would be an improvement.

Major Boott. a Justice of the Peace for the County; sitting at Alnwick, who had visited the house, gave corroborative evidence as to the rear part of the premises; and Police Sergeant Crawford, stationed at Alnwick also gave evidence.

For the defence. Mr. Shortt called Frank Halt, secretary to the Company, now the licensee, who spoke to the tenants who had recently occupied the house, and said there was one conviction against it, two years ago. In 1903 the takings were £395, in 1904, £620, in 1906, £960, and in 1906, £970. In 1907 the takings fell to £730. The weekly takings from February 22 ran from £15 to £29. There had not been a complaint about the general conduct of the house, except what had been referred to. Mr. Shortt, referring to the alteration recently made to the premises, said he did not wish to put it forward as any hardship that they had had to make these alterations should the licence be taken away. All they wished to show was that the house was structurally fit now. Witness said he was authorised to give a pledge that the homes at the back would not be tenanted in the event of the licence being allowed.

In reply to Mr. Percy, witness denied that a great many women, to his knowledge, went down the backyard to drink in the house.

In answer to the Bench, witness could not say definitely the amount of compensation that might be asked for; but it would be something about £1600. Mr. Shortt submitted that the house, was one that ought to be renewed.

There had already been a considerable diminution in the number of the houses in the Clayport district. Three had gone that morning, and the nearest to this was some half-mile away, which could not said to supply the reasonable requirements of the district. He submitted that the house bore a good character. was capable of strict supervision, was structural fit, and the trade that was done showed a very large legitimate custom and was evidence that the house must be required. The Company considered the house a valuable one.

After some consideration in private the Bench said they had decided to refuse to renew this.