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  • Writer's pictureScott Read

Progress at the Expense of History.....

A cost too high?

I am lucky in a sense that my work takes me to such a wide variety of locations and buildings, being given the opportunity to play a very small part in documenting the social history that plays out around us everyday. Like everything, this documenting comes in all shapes & sizes, along with a varying significance in the grand scheme of things, sometimes you just get a gut feeling that something needs recording for future generations because in is on the cusp of changing irrevocably forever.....I had this feeling recently and just felt the need to jump into action.

Recently it came to my attention that a last stand was occurring on the shores of the River Tyne, a safe and friendly harbor in the form of the form of a public house by the name of the Rose & Crown at Holborn. Known affectionately as 'The Rosie' locally it is a building that is very much at risk.

Holborn, an area of South Shields, has is rich in a history that is intertwined within roots of the North East's coal mining heritage, along with the world renowned ship building on the Tyne that the river is famous for. Dating back to the 17th century, Holborn has fluctuated and developed like much of the region over the years, but always with a community spirit at its core, you only have to look over old photographs of the area to see how the town grew around the coal and later the ship building....there was a very real pride among the workers to produce the best ships, a band of brothers if you like that worked together, drank and socialized together, living close to one another in a community in every sense of the word.

I understand that progress happens, but to my mind it should happen in a way that preserves the history in some way, rather than the eradicate and rebuild approach....especially in area's that have such socially historical significance, The Rosie has found itself as the last bastion in a fast changing Tyne waterfront at Holborn, along with the other sections of this important industrial river that have been earmarked for 'Re-Development, standing solitary on a once bustling street it is one of the few remaining Victorian era buildings left along the shoreline here, stood proud like a beacon of hope that the council changes its tune, or at very least revises its plans to totally demolish the history to make way for a new waterfront business park!!

It was a matter of importance that I visited the pub after reading of it's situation, the local media reporting the impending closure and sale to the local council, a council who have already outlaid plans for 'Re-Purposing' on the immediately surrounding area's.

Upon arrival on a damp grey Sunday morning, I was greeted by the homely facade of a building that was very clearly from another era.....friendly, inviting, with a eye looking directly upon the Tyne. Sitting on what would now be considered a tired backstreet, this once buzzing metropolis that would have made up the heart of Holborn is now just a shell of it's industrial self, and this pub would have been the center of this bustling hotbed of industry.

The large windows with their half drape netting, vibrant almost crimson paintwork punctuated against the white brickwork almost calling you in for pint, inviting does not do this justice..

Clearly closed when I arrived, fearing that it had already been closed down I started to photograph the outside, to have a record going forward in this time of change for the area, The Rosie standing authoritatively as I snapped away. Close to finishing and a glint of nostalgia in my eye, the arrival of the landlady with an invite to shoot inside the empty pub did not require a second ask!! Walking through the door was like stepping back in time, imagining that not much had changed in years, social history adorning the walls in the form of plaques from the walls of ship building companies, just a different feel to the sterile pub chains that litter our towns. The sense of place in the community is further accentuated with a shelving unit filled with books and dvd's to borrow, a collage of different pictures and postcards showing how the regulars love this place, it is a second home to them just as it was over the long lifespan of this building.

Obviously as a still working pub for the time it has, so this is not a unique experience to me, as it's patrons will have the same homely experience.....but to be given the opportunity to be here before the punters have arrived gave me the freedom to really absorb the feeling of the place in a very personal way, to listen to the voices and stories that the walls tell, it is something that cannot be replaced.

The future is uncertain at this point for a very real slice of history, at the time of writing is was apparent that it may remain in situ for a year before being sold to the council, then who knows....all we can do is hope for the best.

I must send out a wholehearted thank you to the landlady (sorry did not get your name) for opening up for me and allowing me to photograph the empty pub, such kindness is becoming a rarity, but it was very much appreciated, I hope to return at some point to hopefully further record and preserve for future generations.

Sometimes it is difficult to capture the true essence of a place, but hope that I have managed to capture a small amount of it in my work, the images within this post are just a fraction of what I shot on the day, hope to share more at a later date.

Be safe out there.


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