Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

Closer to home, the Central bar in Gateshead
07/05/2010, 17:51
Filed under: travel | Tags: ,

Dear me. I’ve been a little slack around these parts recently. Sorry about that. Lots to tell you about, and I’ll endeavour to do so in the coming days. I’ve loads to share about my trip to NYC in March, and news of perhaps the most daunting challenge of my life to date. More soon.

Meanwhile, the Twitchhiker book is into its third draft – currently there’s 25 per cent off if you order from Amazon; I’m not sure whether a book being reduced before it’s finished is good or bad news, but you could always buy it and judge for yourself. It won’t be 25 per cent worse for it, I’m certain of that.

Closer to home in Gateshead, and at something of a tangent to anything else mentioned so far, one of my favourite buildings is undergoing a facelift. The Central bar dates back to the mid 19th Century, and while it might be a hostelry I rarely frequented until recently (the ash-stained, toothless pensioners preferred their own company), it’s an adorable structure.

Designed in 1854 (the year of the Great Fire of Gateshead) and known locally as the Coffin, it occupies a wedge of land at the south west corner of the iconic Tyne Bridge. At the time it was built, the surrounding streets were the bustling thoroughfares of the town; Gateshead East railway station stood on the bridge immediately behind the Central.

In the decade since I moved to Gateshead, I’ve watched this corner of the world slowly regenerate from a slag-blackened heap of rubble and industry, and I’m delighted that somebody had the foresight to preserve one of the town’s most charismatic buildings. The Central was recently bought by a local bar chain who have spent tens of thousands of pounds restoring the brickwork, and after several months the covers and scaffolding have been removed:

Compare it to how the Central looked before the renovations began, in a photo by Paul White. Now the exterior is finished, work will start on the interior; the Central has a rather dubious past if you listen to the scuttlebutt, with hotel rooms on the first floor rented by the hour.

Soon it’ll be a live music venue with a rooftop bar, and will surely be one of the finest night-time venues in the region. If you’re passing through the north east of England in the coming months, make the effort to drop by; it’s a wonderful building in a neighbourhood that will blossom in the next couple of years, and I’ll probably be propping up the bar once or twice in there a week.


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