Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Goodbye to The Alkali

The Alkali, the oldest pub in Jarrow, has finally called "last orders" and has been converted to offices.

The pub opened in 1857 to serve the nearby chemical works, where soda (alkali) was produced from a process involving the evaporation of seawater. The major problem associated with the job was that the process released hydrochloric acid which was very harmful to the workers' health, although some employers had the nerve to suggest that it was actually good for them! It cleared the lungs, they claimed.

No safety equipment being provided, workers who did not like having their lungs "cleared", were obliged to "muffle up" as a rudimentary protection.

Despite the hazards of the job (blokes like the pair shown in the photo rarely lived past 50), times were so desperate that there was no lack of takers for the jobs. Irishmen flocked to Jarrow and set up a bit of a colony around Church Square, near the ancient ruins of Bede's Monastery.

Working people will always make the best of things, however, and I have no doubt that many a raucous night occurred at The Alkali when the workers had a bob or two in their pockets.

But now their ghosts will be finally laid to rest.


Jeffrey said...

They look like Granpaw Broon to me.

papastonch said...

No, one is Hen and the other is Joe