Gateshead’s Central Bar - a survivor of 33 pubs said to have once lined the High Street

The Central Bar, Half Moon Lane, Gateshead, June 1978
-Credit: (Image: Trevor Ermel)

Defying the constant change of modern times, the Central Bar, in Gateshead, continues to be one of Tyneside’s most characterful old-style pubs.

Our main photograph of the distinctive wedge-shaped building, situated in Half Moon Lane, just south of the Gateshead ends of both the Tyne and High Level bridges, was captured by Trevor Ermel in June 1978. Born and bred in Gateshead, and now resident in Whitley Bay, Trevor’s stunning body of work has captured much of the changing urban landscape of Tyneside over the last six decades, and he has kindly shared many of his photographs with ChronicleLive.

Having somehow escaped many of the ravages of progress, having a pint in the Central Bar - especially in its horseshoe buffet bar section - is as close to stepping back in time and into a long-gone Tyneside watering hole as you can come.

Indeed, when rock superstar Sting wanted to treat some of his pals to a night out at a traditional Geordie boozer in April 2010, it was the Central Bar he chose to hire for a private evening of folk music and drinking. The Chronicle reported how the Wallsend-born musician, who owns luxury residences around the world, drank Guinness and sang a duet with local folk singer Kathryn Tickell.

The Victorian-era pub - one of 33 establishments said to have once lined Gateshead High Street - has also been used as a striking location scene in both cinema and television productions.

The Central Bar, Half Moon Lane, Gateshead, June 2024
The Central Bar, Half Moon Lane, Gateshead, June 2024 -Credit:NCJ Media

In 1969, it provided the backdrop for British stars Alan Bates, Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson in the film dramatisation of DH Lawrence’s gritty 1920 novel Women In Love. In the early 1990s, it appeared in an episode of Jimmy Nail’s hit detective series Spender. And last year, scenes were filmed inside and outside the pub for another popular North East crime drama, Vera.

Filming an episode of Vera at the Central Bar, Gateshead, in July 2023
Filming an episode of Vera at the Central Bar, Gateshead, in July 2023 -Credit:NCJ Media

Away from its brief flirtations with film and television fame, the Central Bar has been serving generations of thirsty Gateshead folk since 1890 when it began operating as a hotel. The four-storey, flat-iron building itself dates from 1856 when it was built as a business premises for wine merchant Alderman Potts to a design by local architect M Thompson.

It is sometimes referred to as the ‘coffin bar’ because of its shape, but apparently the pub which originally bore that nickname was the now-vanished Foresters Arms on Derwentwater Road in the Redheugh area of Gateshead.

The Central Bar sits in the shadow of railway arches just around the corner from Wellington Street, a one-time hive of activity as the former location of Gateshead East railway station (1850-1981) and the town's tram station (1880 -1951). It’s quieter now, but you can still get an atmospheric sense of ‘old Gateshead’ here. Incidentally, another old pub well worth a visit if you're partial to a real ale or two, and just a stone’s throw from the Central Bar, is Station East, formerly the Station Hotel, on Hill Street.

By the 2000s, the Central Bar was in need of major refurbishment. It was given a £1.4m refit by the Head of Steam group in 2010, returning it to its original Victorian glory, as well as seeing the opening of a roof-top bar and terrace. In 2020, the Grade II-listed bar was taken over by Ouseburn Leisure Group Limited, with the new owners "acutely aware of the history and importance of this pub and iconic building to Gateshead", and looking forward to involving the local community in building a sustainable business.

These days, as well as being a popular pub, the Central Bar is a venue for live music, comedy, theatre and private functions.