Monday, 26 May 2008

The Old Club, Rookhope (part three)

In previous articles, I have recounted how I came to buy The Old Club at Rookhope in Weardale, a former licensed premises still graced with a bar and many of the features of its former usage. The building seems to have dated back to the 18th century, although legal papers earlier than 1840 were missing. These referred to earlier documents now lost, however.

The walls were at least three feet thick and were of stone, infilled with rubble and the original building had been a "four-square" Dales house, two rooms upstairs and two down. During the Club days, however, the partition walls had been removed to make a large bar downstairs and a "lounge" upstairs.

The tremendous advantage of this modification was that there was a fireplace at either end of each of the rooms and the place could be made as warm as toast by lighting more than one of the fires! Elderly people like my parents and my wife's mother loved the comfortable nostalgia of sitting in front of a roaring fire, toasting-fork in hand.

I used to gather driftwood from our local beach (we live near the sea) and saw it up, so that we always arrived with the car boot full of logs for the fires. Sometimes I would invite large numbers of people to the house and a company would form around each fireplace, so that there was a choice of conversations. If you didn't fancy the craic at one fireplace, you could always move to another! Once or twice I managed to get locally famous folkies to come and rough it for the weekend and we would have a good old sing-round. In winter it was great to be warm and cosy in that old house while the snow lay thickly outside!

I spent many hours sanding down and varnishing the oak beams in the ceiling and holystoning the floorboards until they were as white and shining as a ship's deck. Womenfolk in high-heeled shoes were definitely not welcome.

The house was a marvellous base for walkers too, and there are many interesting industrial remains in the hills around the village. A branch of George Stevenson's pioneering Stockton & Darlington Railway terminated at an old engine house at the top of the fell behind our house and the ruins were still there for all to see. Mileposts inscribed "S&D" marked out the route, like lonely testaments, stark against the brooding sky.
Just to be there conjured up a myriad images of those bygone times.

Due to changes in the rating assessments (my bills quadrupled overnight!), the house finally became too expensive to run and I had to sell it. A guy from Luton bought it and, the last time I passed there, I saw that he had cast the bar and its fitments out onto the veranda and demolished the stable to make a hard standage for his car.

It broke my heart to see it and I never want to go there again


Boak said...

Is there a little Stonch in that photo?

papastonch said...

You got it, baby!
That's him sitting in front of the fire, but don't tell him I told you so!

G. Chapman said...

That's tragic. Very sorry to hear that.