I visited the Wetherspoons pub drinkers are saying is the best looking in the country

The Wallaw pub in Blyth
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Visiting Blyth to appreciate the beauty of a Wetherspoons pub is not what I had envisioned to be part of my working week.

But after fans of the UK's most famous pub chain hailed The Wallaw in Blyth town centre as the best looking, I was asked to try it out - and it didn't disappoint. The pub, which opened in 2013, was praised by members of the Facebook group We Love Wetherspoons for its Art Deco fixtures and nods to The Wallaw cinema which once occupied the building.

And you didn't have to look far to see evidence of the history of the Grade II listed building which had stood empty for nine years before being refurbished by J D Wetherspoon. Stepping inside, customers are immediately greeted with a large projector and a small row of theatre-style seats. A notice on the wall nearby explains that the projector was found still bolted to the floor in the projector room when the site underwent renovation.

Perhaps one of the most striking features in the pub is the authentic old school cinema style backdrop behind the bar which is visible from almost every table in the largely open plan venue. A mirrored Art Deco fixture now provides a grand frame to the bar.

But stand with your back to the bar and customers can see a balcony with a full seating area which would have been packed with cinemagoers before The Wallaw cinema closed in 2004. The 1,441 seat cinema was built in 1937 and also acted as a theatre, with Ant and Dec being among those to perform at the venue. Literature in the pub states that the Geordie duo made their debut performance at the venue in the 1980s.

The site on which the building stands today was previously home to the Blyth Hippodrome, which was built by circus proprietor William Tudor.

I order a soft drink and take a seat in the corner of the pub. I'm surprised at how busy it is around 11.30am on a Thursday morning. Lads in shorts and T-shirts enjoying a drink outside in the long-overdue sunny weather, a group of women having a catch up over a cuppa, and a lone elderly man tucking into fish and chips are among the customers visiting the pub, each one of them likely to have different reasons on why they like the venue.

Wetherspoons in Blyth which used to be the Wallaw Cinema
Wetherspoons in Blyth which used to be the Wallaw Cinema -Credit:Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle

Another thing I notice as I sip my drink is the nod to members of the local community in the form of framed sketches on the wall behind me. The series of 12 artworks, named Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, feature the town's independent shopkeepers, such as Jim's Flooring, Frameworks, Pal Joey Fashion, and J. Herron & Son Jeweller.

The prints are part of a 2013 project by dot to dot active arts CIC to capture the lives of local retailers as they deal with the demands of a recession which made trading difficult.

From visiting the pub I find it somewhat comforting to know that the building is still providing a source of enjoyment for the community, especially after being closed for nine years. It's also great that the grand features are still on show, and appreciated today.