The Historic Old Well Inn in Barnard Castle

Possibly one of the most historic pubs in the North East!

The Old Well Inn – not just a pub but a milestone in history.

The Old Well Inn in Barnard Castle is steeped in history, dating as far back as the 12th Century  and is possibly one of the most historic pubs in the North East!

A few yards from THE OLD WELL INN stands the Buttermarket . The Market Cross – an octagonal shaped 2 storey building, now used as a roundabout for traffic.

This was built by Thomas Breaks in 1747 and has been used in its time as a Court, Jail, Town Hall, Fire station and a Buttermarket. There is a weathervane on the top of the building with two bullet holes through it. These were caused in 1804 after a Soldier called Taylor and a Gamekeeper called Cruddas who worked for the Earl of Strathmore at Streatlam Castle Estate decided that they would have a competition to see who was the best shot.

The OLD WELL INN was previously known as The Railway Hotel but even before this it was a hostelry. Beer was brewed on the premises probably aided by the fact that the building had its own water supply in the form of  a well. The hostelry is centuries gone but probably did not cover the amount of space that it does presently – other families and businesses would have occupied part of the premises – the present OLD WELL INN takes up the space of 5 dwellings.

At one time, many families would have been crammed into one house, including the basements – living conditions were not always good.

Barnard Castle was struck with an outbreak of Cholera in 1849. There were nearly 230 cases reported – 37 of them in The Bank.

Due to the overcrowding, the poor sanitation and drainage and the close proximity of animals living with humans (many families kept pigsties in their yards) – the disease spread rapidly. There were contemporary reports of houses being split into tenements and huge families all living in the same room with poor ventilation and little or nothing in the way of sanitary facilities. There were yards running off The Bank and many families lived behind The Bank, clustered around these yards, where sewerage and household refuse were thrown and left to fester and rot (not nice!) It is believed that matters were made even worse because the effluence often drained into the existing wells in the area.

Used as billet by the War Department.

21 The Bank was formerly known as Railway Inn and was managed by James Simpson in 1914.

It was used as billet during World War I by the War Department.

“TWENTY soldiers who arrived in Barnard Castle were no doubt delighted to hear they would be put up in a hotel for a fortnight. They seemed the lucky ones among the Durham Fusilier Militia troops that day in July 1877 as many others were directed to overcrowded family homes.
They were in town for their annual training, which many looked on as a holiday. But the 20 were less than happy when they saw their quarters. The conditions were so bad that they protested loudly, and their anger led to two charges being brought under the Mutiny Act.

John Myers, landlord of the Railway Hotel, on The Bank, had agreed to take in the men at the usual rate of fourpence per head per night – a total of just over £4 for the fortnight. That was for just a bed apiece, as they were given all meals at their camp site.
But his beds made sleep impossible.
They were made of uneven boards, and the filthy mattresses were only partly filled with chaff. The men’s complaints resulted in an officer making an inspection, and he decided the billet was the worst he had seen in 16 years.

Dr Munro, the militia surgeon, ordered the landlord to repair the beds, fill the mattresses with more chaff and give each man a blanket. But Myers made no changes, so he was charged under the Mutiny Act with refusing to provide adequate accommodation for troops and failing to supply them with proper beds.
When he appeared in court he claimed the bedding was in good order until the troops moved in. But the magistrates went to the hotel, declared it totally unfit, and said pauper vagrants were given better quarters in the workhouse.
They fined Myers £5 and ordered him to put things right within two days. He did nothing so was called before the court again. This time his wife turned up in his place and claimed the soldiers had been drunk and caused damage.
But another £5 fine was imposed.

A man from the brewery that owned the hotel also appeared in court and was told the place must be put in good shape “before this day’s sun has gone down”.
He hurried off to get workmen to do speedy repairs, and when the troops turned up from training that night they had comfortable beds in which to get a good night’s sleep. For a long time after that, anyone who had an uncomfortable night in any dale hostelry was apt to ask: “Where did you get that bed – from the Railway Hotel?”
Despite the low fees paid, a lot of hard-up folk were pleased to take in a militiaman for the two weeks. Children were moved out of their beds and had to sleep on the floor so a soldier could move in.

A family’s reward for the fortnight would be four shillings and eightpence, equivalent to about 28p in today’s coinage.” Reference: The Northern Echo

The Railway Hotel is now called the Old Well, offering high quality bed & breakfast accommodation and food – with no risk of a mutiny.

Possibly one of the most historic pubs in the North East !
Step inside THE OLD WELL INN and experience

  • Award winning pub with real ales
  • Meals from 12 noon to 8.30 pm ( Mon- Sat)
  • Sunday Roast 12 noon to 4 pm
  • Beer Garden
  • Beautiful refurbished conservatory looking onto the beer garden
  • 10 En-suite rooms with 32″ Smart TV’s and Wi Fi in the rooms – Book your Bed & Breakfast HERE
  • Live web-cam link to the cellar
  • A journey through history
  • Live music and Open Mic nights every Thursday – See Our Latest Events
  • Traditional pub quiz with cash prizes on a Tuesday night