Blackie Boy pub to be restored and rebranded as part of NE1’s regeneration of Newcastle’s Bigg Market

NE1’s transformation of Newcastle’s historic Bigg Market will continue this summer with an eighth building set to be restored following the dramatic changes in the area brought about by the redevelopment of the public realm.

The team at NE1 is continuing its work with property owners to restore some of the many historic and listed properties in the area. The eighth building to receive grant funding will be the Blackie Boy pub, which is owned and operated by the Vaulkhard Group.

The pub is thought to be one of the oldest in Newcastle and has been at the heart of the Bigg Market for centuries. With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, administered by NE1 Ltd, the owners, the Vaulkhard Group are restoring the façade of the building to accentuate its art-deco features and renovating the interior to recreate a traditional Victoriana-style pub.

The external restoration work will commence at the end of May and is expected to last until late July.

The Blackie Boy has been in the Vaulkhard family for over 40 years. Purchased by Nigel Vaulkhard, late father of current owners, Ollie and Harry in 1981 and then taken over by Ollie in 2005. The pub’s history reflects the changing fortunes of the Bigg Market. In the 1980s when the Vaulkhards first bought the pub, it was thriving, frequented by journalists and workers from the neighbouring Newcastle Chronicle and Journal offices. In the 1990s and 2000s when the Bigg Market’s fortunes were in decline, the pub served as a back bar for the Perdu nightclub on Collingwood Street.

With the Bigg Market’s rejuvenation, the Vaulkhard Group is now excited to be bringing the Blackie Boy back to life.

As part of the refurbishment, the pub will undergo a rebranding and name change. The owners have delved into the history books and will be renaming the pub Swarley’s after Richard Swarley, one of the former proprietors who famously ran a Newcastle debating club on the premises in the 18th Century attended by another notable Newcastle dignitary, the engraver Thomas Bewick.

Ollie Vaulkhard said: “We are delighted to be investing in the building and bringing the pub back to life. My family have been custodians of the building for 40 years and its fortunes mirror those of the Bigg Market. With the rebranding and makeover, we want to stay true to the pub’s history.

“The Bigg Market is hardly recognisable today thanks to the amazing job NE1 has done transforming the public realm and creating the right backdrop for business investment. The time is now right to reopen the doors of the Blackie Boy in its new incarnation as Swarley’s. It is with a tinge of regret that we are changing the name, knowing that in the current climate, the name Blackie Boy, although linked to the blacksmiths that occupied the site historically, may be misconstrued and cause offence which we want to avoid.

“We are not deleting Blackie Boy from the history books and reference will be made to its history inside the venue and in its window displays. We want to create a beautiful, traditional pub in the heart of Newcastle, one steeped in history that will contribute to the continued success of the Bigg Market.”

Alex Slack, project manager for the Bigg Market at NE1 Ltd, said: “It is great news for the Bigg Market that the Vaulkhard Group is on board and investing in their property with the opening of Swarley’s.

“We are really seeing the fruits of our labour in the area. The outdoor terraced areas, created at the start of the project, have transformed the Bigg Market allowing hospitality venues to create pavement cafés and restaurants. A major objective of this project was to demonstrate that the area could be a daytime destination as well as a nighttime one, and the outdoor dining experience has reinforced that.”

“There is still work to be done and the NLHF Bigg Market project runs until the end of this year. We are extremely proud of what we’ve delivered to date and delighted that the success is evident for everyone to see.”

The 7 other buildings transformed as part of NE1’s National Lottery Heritage Funded regeneration of the Bigg Market are: Pumphreys; 41-43 Groat Market (occupied by Meat:Stack); the historic Victorian men’s toilet building (now WC Newcastle wine bar); 26 Cloth Market (home to Koh-I Noor); 27-31 Groat Market (CosyJoes); Kafeneon; and Balmbra’s.

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