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Our History

Our historic hotel was once called The Rose and Thistle. The Rose and Thistle was a pub on the corner of Walkergate and Chapel Street. In the 1970s it was run by Eckie (Alexander) and Alice Robertson. The last publican was Peter McAskill in 1982. It was then sold by the brewery and became the Café Select and then in 1985 the Cobbled Yard Restaurant and B&B run, until their retirement last year, by Fred and Lynda Miller.  Now the hotel is run by Bruce and Paul.

The Rose and Thistle has long been a emblem of unity between England and Scotland since the Union of the Crowns in 1603: one of James VI/I heraldic badges combined the two. Each symbol has older roots. The thistle first appeared in Scottish iconography on the coins of King James III (1460–1488). The red and white Tudor rose of England was itself a union of the red and white roses of Lancaster and York adopted as a dynastic symbol by Henry VII after he seized the English throne in 1485. Yet the combination of the cross-border flare had been a metaphor of unity as early as 1503, when William Dunbar the Scottish court poet, composed The “Thrissil and the Rois” to mark the wedding, in August 1503, of King James IV of Scotland to Margaret Tudor eldest daughter of Henry VII of England, as agreed in the optimistically entitled Treaty of Perpetual Peace of 1502.

Yet, despite the history, in the context of public houses, the Rose and Thistle is not confined to the north: there are many “Rose and Thistles” as far south as Berkshire and Surrey.

The Rose and Thistle probably became a pub in the 1860s. The 1852 OS map does not mark the property as being a pub. The first landlord I can trace is from 1870 when the lease on the pub was being advertised as “…doing a good steady business, as at present occupied by Mr A Lunn.” This suggests it had been trading for a few years. Andrew Lunn had been in the pub trade in this area for some time. On the other side of Walkergate were two pubs—the White Horse and the Crown and Thistle. In 1866, Lunn was landlord of the Crown and Thistle. The lease was taken by George Haig and Lunn moved to the White Horse.

Detail from 1852 OS map showing the locations of some of the pubs.
Detail from 1852 OS map showing the locations of some of the pubs.

Haig did not last long and was replaced in 1871 by John Anderson. He stayed somewhat longer, being succeeded by John Rhodes in 1880. He also had a short tenancy and in turn was replaced later that year by James Forbes Hay until, in 1886, we find John Renwick the incumbent.

In 1927 Bridget Stangroom (neé Boham) died aged 78. She had come from Ireland with her father and siblings and in 1871 working as a dressmaker living in Narrow Lane off Chapel Street and by 1881, in Wallace Green. In 1883, she married a retired bandmaster with the Northumberland Fusiliers, Sergeant Robert Stangroom, who had been based at the barracks. He took over the licence of the Rose and Thistle in 1887 but died later that year. His wife continued the business for 41 years. One of her daughters, Millie, also died that year. She had married Mr Clement Pattison in 1905 and had been a teacher at St Cuthbert’s School.

The door from Walkergate opened into the bar, and through this a small well-furnished parlour was reached. The counter ran right across the bar, and no one could pass it without permission. The cellar ran straight down from the bar, and was a good big cellar, opening on to the stable yard, which in turn had a gate opening on Walkergate. The stable was sub-let, and the distance of the gate from the front door was 18 yards. At the back of the bar was a passage with a small room on the right of it used for domestic as well as drinking purposes. This passage led into another at right angles which, to the left, led into the yard, with a w.c. and urinal. To the right, this passage led into Chapel Street by a back door. The door was no less than 17 yards away from the front door and was 35 yards away from the other door in Walkergate. He considered that this Chapel Street door ought to be closed, as no police supervision could be exercised over a house so constructed.

The Head Constable in 1904

The police were complaining because of their suspicion of out of hours illegal drinking; not that the Rose and Thistle was unique in this respect by any means. The Head Constable went on to point out that in his annual report he alluded to the fact that a girl of 14 had been allowed to serve in the bar. It was not right to have a girl of that age left in charge of a bar in such a neighbourhood. The girl in question would likely have been Maria Stangroom, actually aged 16 or 17 at the time. Mrs Stangroom once appeared at the Berwick Quarter Sessions in 1903 charged with receiving stolen goods—a gold ring, gold brooch and other valuables—stolen by one Charles Smith of Kelso from Elizabeth Simpson, the landlady of the Lamb Inn in Tweedmouth. The jury found her not guilty due to insufficient evidence.

“The Clerk announced the Magistrates design as follows:—The Chapel Street door to be allowed to continue, to be lighted, and widened. Kitchen not to be used for domestic purposes, the cellar door in the yard to be locked, and plans to be approved. The Magistrates accept the undertaking that the girl would not serve.”

Chapel Street looking south in the early 20th century.
Chapel Street looking south in the early 20th century.

Whether or not these alterations occurred is uncertain. In 1911 the architects Grey and Boyd of 2 Ivy Place, Berwick where commissioned by the brewery to undertake an extensive internal refit of the pub but this never took place.

Probably because, in the early 20th century, the Council had come to terms with the fact much of the housing in this area was inadequate and a slum clearance was planned. Part of this would entail the widening of Chapel Street. As a first stage of this project, in 1912, the Council resolved to buy the Rose and Thistle. Grey and Boyd were once more engaged by the brewery Johnson and Darling Ltd for the job. This in itself says something about the worth of the pub. Following the new licensing acts of 1902, the magistrates had embarked upon a programme of pub closures. The project also involved a new house, 42 Walkergate, but this appears not to have been built and the space is now used by the site as a private car park.

This programme of widening Chapel Street was interrupted by WWI. The property next door was also owned by the brewery and had been demolished by 1922 as they were offering it up to the people of Church Street as a children’s playground. In 1933, the small terrace Picardy Place was built. WWII prevented further widening on this side of the street and the properties 40–44 Church Street remain as testament to the old alignment. 40 Church Street had been the Tweed Inn (1847), later the Harp Inn (1887–1902 at least).

After Bridget Stangroom died, The licence was taken on by George McKay and then by John Nesbit Brown in 1930 until 1946.

All information on this page was written by Jim Herbet.  Jim discovers and shares the rich history of Berwick-upon-Tweed and area.
Go to www.berwicktimelines.com to find out more about tours and other services he provides.