Originally built in the early 18th Century, on the site of a former Blacksmiths where ale was sold from a make-shift ‘tap room’ in the back yard (hence the origin of the pubs name), this ancient watering hole is steeped in history…
Rebuilt in 1889 after part of the structure collapsed, Blackie Boy (or Black Boy Inn), Groat Market, is one of the oldest pubs in Newcastle and has quite a bit of an entertaining history attached to it.
The pub was a favourite haunt of the famous engraver Thomas Bewick, who belonged to a debating club, known as “Swarleys” named after the Inns proprietor, Richard Swarley, which met there during the late 18th century. Every member of this club had to behave as a true gentleman and if not was fined and dismissed from the club immediately.
Original water colour by Ronald Embleton depicting Thomas Bewick and some of his friends at the ‘Black Boy Inn’, Groat Market, Newcastle, where ‘Swarleys Club’ held regular meetings.
Women were most certainly not allowed to attend Swarleys Club. However, rough lower class women, along with other ruffians, tramps and low life of the town centre were allowed in one room only, known as Hells Kitchen, in the nearly establishment named The Flying Horse. Euphy Scott, Queen of the fishwives and Owld Judy, guardian of the town hutch, along with blind Willie Purvis also drank here. Landlord Ralf ruled his clients with an iron fist. Any arguments erupting meant doors would be locked until calm was restored. Serious breachers of Hells Kitchen etiquette were punished by a six months ban.
Blackie Boy, also known briefly as The Coffy Johney, is also home to a few ghostly customers, along with drinkers enjoying the lively night-time atmosphere. Many an eerie sound has been heard and presences felt at strange hours of the night. However, two of the most astonishing occurrences have happened in broad daylight. Once, a woman’s voice could be heard yelling out at a member of staff changing a light-bulb in an upstairs toilet, clearly coming from one of the cubicles, he cautiously turned towards the empty area only to hear the voice screaming “get out, get out, get out”. So startled at this he tripped down the flight of stairs when leaving. Another incident happened to a young artist a few years prior to this. Whilst the pub was being refurbished, and concentrating on her work painting artifacts for the bar, a presence was felt behind her, and she could feel cold breath on her neck. Unable to move, and for some strange reason, she knew this was a man.
Perhaps the spirits of Hells Kitchen regulars were disturbed when their old haunt was demolished. As hardened drinkers, there would be no attraction in spending eternity in a newspaper office, so perhaps they moved to the nearest surviving pub, The Blackie Boy.