The Spring Gardens, Preston
The Spring Gardens Inn is geographically just inside the Preston Township border and an inn has stood on the site for over 300 years. The original inn was known as the Flower Pot Inn and was leased, in 1822, to Joseph Grey who also ran the nearby market garden known as Spring Gardens. Being on the road between Newcastle and Tynemouth it was ideally placed to attract passing trade and, for many years it was used extensively as a coaching inn.
By 1858, the establishment had become known as the Spring Gardens Inn and the tenancy had passed to William Coxon. Sometime during his tenancy he lost his spirit license due to an unspecified infringement of the law. Coxon was succeeded in about 1865 by his son-in-law, Thomas Tynemouth, who held the tenancy for a relatively short time before William Thompson Snr. took over in 1871.
During Thompson's tenancy, the strip of grassed land to the west of the building was used on regular occasions by the Tynemouth Horticultural Society to hold shows. Indeed the first leek show in North Shields was held here in October 1887. A contemporary commentator noted that this piece of land was also used from time to time as a campsite by troupes of gypsies. It is not clear if they had permission.
When William Thompson Snr. died, aged 59, in November 1892, his widow Ann decided not to take over the tenancy but chose to allow her son, also William, to succeed his father. He ran the inn until Robert Henry Jackson took the tenancy sometime around 1909.
According to his grandson in an article in a local newspaper, Robert Henry Jackson was a larger than life character who weighed 23 stones despite only being 5'6" tall. Hardly surprisingly, he was affectionately known as "Fatty Jackson" and legend has it that he could pick up a man with each hand and "knock their squabbling heads together". One can only speculate as to whether the type of clientele using the inn needed to be dealt with in this way!
In about 1922 Robert Miller took over the license and, after he died in 1929, his widow carried on running the inn until it was rebuilt in 1933 and 1934. The building line of the new inn is parallel to Albion Road but is at right angles to that of the old one. A photograph exists showing both the old and the new buildings prior to the demolition of the original and this appears to indicate that some of the old is incorporated into the new.
An advertisement that appeared in the Shields Daily News in August 1937 says:
"Standing well back from the road on a commanding site the new Spring Gardens Inn serves a populous district of North Shields. In outside appearance and internal appointments it is a distant contrast to its modest predecessor."
In about 1973, the Building Manager of Newcastle Inns, who by then owned the inn, decided on a whim to have an imitation tree sculpted and placed in the corner of the lounge. It was designed to look as if it was growing through the ceiling. Unfortunately, it was so realistic that a later manager of the inn, Richard Ripken, would tell customers that it was a real tree that had been treated to prevent further growth. He, himself, believed the story to be true and, according to a 1983 newspaper article, he was shocked to learn otherwise.
In later years the Spring Gardens Inn became one of the James H. Porter chain of public houses.