Post number sixty. SIXTY! I really must get a life. Anyway, just like the Live and Let Live and the Belisha Beacon here's another of those bygone boozers with which I have no connection at all. Well, I did have a golden theme for the fiftieth and thought that a diamond one for the sixtieth would be good. Finding one wasn't easy. The other option was the King of Diamonds at Langwith Junction. I've never been there either, but it is nearer home. Maybe later.
'Diamonds are forever', or so Dame Shirley belted out in 1971 to mark the final appearance of Sir Sean as 007. I'm sorry Shirley, but it's just not true.
A former Vaux house, the Black Diamond used to serve its customers on Phoenix Street in Newsham, near Blyth, in Northumberland but does so no more. Customers still enter and leave, still hand over their money, but not for pints of Double Maxim. It has become a convenience store with flats above.
The earliest possible reference to it that I have found is in the 1871 census when William Potts is given as an innkeeper in a list of habitations referred to simply as 'New Buildings'. There seems to have been little in the way of housing in the area before Newsham Colliery was established in 1860 so perhaps the pub was newly built between then and the 1871 census. Whether or not William was actually at the Black Diamond in 1871 his widow Margaret is there in 1879 according to Kelly's Directory and was still in residence at the time of the census two years later.
A decade on we find that Margaret has moved out and the place has a new landlord. The 1891 census has a William Lacey as an innkeeper, but was it at the Black Diamond? The boozers haven't been named and he was a beerhouse keeper ten years earlier when the Diamond was still under the control of the Potts. However, he's certainly there in 1894 if that year's edition of Kelly is to be believed.
How did a pub near Blyth, fifteen miles north of the Tyne, become one of Sunderland's Vaux Brewery's houses? Later editions of Kelly's Directory give A. H. Higginbottom at the Black Diamond – and at a lot of other pubs in the north east. Albert Higginbottom was originally a brewery representative for Ind Coope & Co. and moved to the north east from Derbyshire in 1876. He soon set up on his own as a wine and spirit merchant and branched out into pub ownership at some point. When, in 1969, the pubs of A.H. Higginbottom & Co. were sold to Edinburgh's Dryborough's Brewery, the Black Diamond was one.
Billy Embleton has a sharper image from c1915 on his Flickr site.
Dryborough's were owned by Watney Mann at the time and they eventually sold the company and 187 tied houses in January 1987. Some of those were picked up by Vaux, which is probably how the Black Diamond became a Vaux house. Vaux stopped brewing in 1999 and were acquired by Whitbread the following year. Two years later Whitbread offloaded all of their pubs to Enterprise Inns and presumably one of these was the Black Diamond. I'm sure that some amongst you won't be too surprised that a pubco-owned pub has closed and been sold-off. After a period of being boarded-up the Black Diamond reopened as a Londis store in 2014
So, rather than Dame Shirley's words it seems that the Sheffield band Bring Me The Horizon were more accurate with their track Diamonds Aren't Forever. Not heard of them or it? It's from their 2008 album Suicide Season.
Although gone, the Black Diamond's name lives on as the bus stop that stood outside. (Now there's an idea for another post or two. Watch this space!) Higginbottom has also gone but his name too survives. As well as acquiring a collection of hotels and pubs through his lifetime he also acquired a collection of Japanese art and in 1919 the Higginbottom Collection was given to Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery.
That's the flying visit to Northumberland over. Next time it'll be a return to more familiar territory.
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