As one of Durham’s long-serving landladies calls time, she talks to Oliver Dixon about her memories behind the bar
A LONG-serving landlady is planning to move out of the pub she has called home since she was eight years old.
When Carol Brown first started working at The Colpitts, in Durham, the price of a pint of beer was just 13p.
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But while the prices may have changed, not much else has. There's no television, no jukebox and no wi-fi to get in the way of good old conversation.
“It is traditional, and why change it? Everybody knows everybody” said Mrs Brown. “It’s just friendly, and everybody enjoys it.”
The pub was bought by Mrs Brown’s aunt, Irene Spencer, in August 1955, and it has been a huge part of her life ever since.
She added: “I’ve been here 44 years working, but it’s been my home since I was eight. My auntie Irene had no children, so I used to come up here for the six weeks holidays, and when I left school I came to live with her. I liked it here.”
Her first shift working didn’t come until she was 24 however, when she offered to stand in for a barmaid who had failed to show up. But she soon joined the bar staff for good, and eventually took over as landlady when Mrs Spencer died in 1997.
“The biggest change I’ve noticed is that there are a lot more students” says Mrs Brown. “I worked with a boy called Brian Anderson and he was a student here. He was part of the team that won University Challenge (in 1978), and he was the only student that I knew, and it’s all students now.”
The old-style nature of the Colpitts Hotel Pub attracts all sorts of people from all walks of life.
“A lot of people would say that this is more than just a pub” said one customer, “It’s a very good mixing place.”
During her 44 years working there, Mrs Brown has seen some famous faces come through the doors, including English Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood, former World Snooker Champion Alex Higgins and Edward van Cutsem, a close friend of Prince William.
But it’s the little moments that she cherishes more than the celebrities who enter her pub. In her time at the Colpitts, she has had the chance to see those around her grow up.
“People who’ve lived here, moved away, got married and whatever, they always come back. It’s nice because they say ‘Carol, I used to live here, and I used to sit there with my friend, do you remember?’ Just little things like that, it’s always nice to see everybody.”
So after overtaking her late aunt Irene as the longest serving landlady of the pub of 42 years, Mrs Brown is retiring after years of consideration.
She explained how the decision was mainly down to living arrangements.
“When I was 65 I thought I’d have to retire, but we weren’t sure where we were going to live” she said. “You keep waiting, but one day you’ll have to retire.
“We’d been on the council list for two years, and as it happens the council rang up and said ‘we’ve got a brand new two-bedroom bungalow, do you want it?’ We went to see it at Esh Winning, and it was lovely.”
“I keep saying I want to be on a beach somewhere (after I retire). But I honestly don’t know, it’s all brand new to me,” she said.
“I’ve got my car, I’ve got my bike and I’ve got my bus pass, and there’s lots of nice walks as well along there in Esh Winning, so that will be nice.”
But after such a long time involved with the overseeing of proceedings, Mrs Brown is not prepared to take a back seat just yet. Having worked on 44 consecutive Durham Miners’ Galas at The Colpitts Hotel, she would like to ask the new owners if it would be okay to work the annual event set to be held on Saturday, July 8.
“Whoever comes in and takes over, I’m going to ask them if I can do the Miners’ Gala, because I don’t know anything else. So that’s my plan.”