A PACKET of photos in The Northern Echo's library spilled open this week to reveal images of three lost, but well known, pubs of Durham.

The first to fall out was the Three Tuns in New Elvet, parts of which date back to the 16th Century. In the Victorian era, this coaching inn was owned by the Brown family, and was a major landmark in the city. Indeed, there was a saying that Durham was famed for seven things: law, learning, wood, water, old maids, mustard and Mrs Brown's cherry brandy. Every guest to the hotel was treated to a free tot of the proprietor's homemade tipple.

Even into living memory, the hotel was known as Browns Three Tuns, although just a couple of years ago, it was converted into student accommodation.

Next out of the packet was the Cock o'the North, a 1930s landmark hotel on the A167, which was demolished 15 years ago and was replaced by housing. It was named after the most powerful steam engine built in the UK to work a passenger line – a LNER Class P2, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, to work the steep gradients and tight curves of the line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The Cock o'the North engine came into service in 1934, which must have been the time the hotel was nearing completion.

And then finally the packet revealed the Nevilles Cross Hotel, which in recent years has become a restaurant and a residential complex. It was a 17th Century coaching inn, about a mile north of the Cock o'the North.

The most extraordinary picture in the packet shows the fire at the Nevilles Cross. It was in the middle of the bar and had a shove ha'penny board on top of it, because the chimney apparently went down under the floorboards before using the fall of the land to vent into the outside world.

But it seems to have been that sort of curious place – apparently, in the early 1990s, it was the only pub in the area to have milk on draught so that it could be used as a mixer in whiskey.

In those days in Durham, shove ha'penny was surprisingly popular.

This game has its origins in the 15th Century when it was known as "shofte-groate", as it was a groat (a small coin worth four pennies) that got shoved – a halfpenny coin didn't start getting pushed around until the 1840s.

A shove ha'penny board featured a shiny, slippery wooden surface with horizontal lines across it. The coin was impelled by the heel of the hand and, hopefully, came to rest between two lines so that it could be awarded points. On very posh shove ha'penny boards, the lines were actually thin pieces of metal that could be lifted out to see if the coin really was fully in the segment – if it moved when the metal was removed, it did not qualify for points.

In the 1970s, there was a shove ha'penny league in and around Durham, and from 1981 to 1988 the World Shove Ha'penny Championships were held at The Three Tuns Hotel in the city. It seems that the coveted title never left the county before the craze for shoving pennies about died out.

BLOB If you can tell us anything about these pictures or pubs or shove ha'penny, please email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk