The earliest trace we've found of what is
now The Birch Hall Inn is an un-named 'building' shown on our deeds dating
back to the 1600's. In 1995, in an old magazine, we came across a picture -
painted by W F Wells ( 1762 - 1836 ) - showing a thatched dwelling just by
the ford, before the bridge was built in 1873. Compare it to a similar view
now, unmistakably the same spot, though we don't do our washing in the beck
Lots of people are confused about the name of the pub. Those that can read
the sign outside that is!
It's the original enamel sign that was put up when the licensee was granted
and we've had all sorts of variations on the rather confusing Old English
script - from Brick Bat to Birch Hat.
The birch could be a simple reference to trees that were hereabouts when it
was built, or perhaps a more distant connection with the custom of hanging a
'birch besom' over the door to signify that it was an ale-house.
The 'hall' part is more difficult and puzzled me for ages after we moved in
until some years ago when browsing in a bookshop on holiday in Wooler,
Northumberland. I came across a book on local history that suggested that the
term 'hall' signified that a roughly built dwelling of timber and thatch had
been re-built in stone. A look at the OS map of the area shows lots of other
'halls' that are not what we would expect - i.e. large room or meeting place,
but houses and farms - so maybe this is an explanation.
In any case, it's fair to say the building has gone through several changes
before becoming the two cottages - the white part of the building - that
appear in our deeds around 1800 .
With the coming of the Mining Industry and the Whitby to Pickering
Railway in the early part of the 19th Century more alterations were afoot.
Ralph Dowson, the enterprising landlord of the time, raised the roof on the
cottages and added a three storey extension to cope with the influx of
labourers and their families. I imagine it must have been like building
Centre Point, and certainly must have had an impact on the view !
Mr. Dowson luckily also worked as a waggoner at Aislaby quarry, and it's said
he brought home a huge flagstone in his cart each day and used his heifers to
drag them into place onto oaken beams to become the floor in the shop and
bar. He made a good job, they're still there today!
Above the shop were two tenements, each with it's own cast iron cooking range
and coal-house. Over these were two rooms with access only by a wooden
walkway, for many years used as a cobbler's workshop. You can still see the
doors to these from the garden and the original wooden access, which is to be
seen in a lovely old photo we have in the bar, was recently restored, albeit
in somewhat more substantial timber.
In 1869 the license had been extended from to 7 days, but this
was still only for the sale of beer & cider. It was not until 1960 that a
full license to sell spirits was granted.
Landlords have been many. All as tenants until our predecessor Mrs. Schofield
bought the premises in the 60's. She came as a young bride of nineteenand stayed for 54 years until her
retirement in February 1981 when, after some severe vetting, she passed it on
to our care.
Those fifty odd years saw the coming of electricity in 1948, mains water in
1952 and of course the change from horse power to the motor car and the
growth of tourism. However, the people of Beck Hole were by no means unaware
of the importance of visitors to the local economy.
Many of the
cottages and farms have boosted their income by taking in guests and
holidaymakers since the railway came in 1836, just as they do today. In fact
visitors were so much a part of life that Victorian postcards show extensive
Tea Gardens in the grounds of Firs Farm and promote the walks and waterfalls
in the surrounding area.
If you'd like see our collection of old photographs of Beck Hole and the pubclick here