A COUNTY pub will open its doors for the first time in 18 months – under new management but with a familiar face behind the bar.

The Bridgewater Arms at Winston, between Darlington and Barnard Castle, shut at the start of the coronavirus lockdown last March and has never traded since.

On Wednesday new landlord Tom Brown will welcome back customers after proudly putting his name above the door, following a long association with the pub.

The 38-year-old former Barnard Castle School pupil has worked at the venue on and off since 2004 and even lived in the flat upstairs for a while.

Mr Brown said: “I grew up five minutes away, between Winston and Eppleby, and now live five minutes in the opposite direction at Whorlton.

“This is the fifth time I’ve returned and I don’t intend going anywhere. I know the place and the people, I really care and I like to think I offer a level of service that doesn’t really exist anymore.”

Over the years Mr Brown has considered various careers, from acting to being a fraud detective, but the hospitality industry kept pulling him back.

A summer job washing glasses at the old Flares nightclub, in Darlington, saw him work his way up to assistant manager and he has worked at other venues including The Four Alls Inn at Ovington, Number Twenty2 in Darlington, The Crown at Manfield, Headlam Hall Hotel and The Raby Hunt Michelin-star restaurant at Summerhouse.

When the previous chef-patron left the Bridgewater Arms in January, the owner of the premises, a Grade II listed former Victorian schoolhouse, offered Mr Brown the pub-restaurant business.

Mr Brown said: “It was the best opportunity at the worst possible time.

“I was about to become a civil servant and the country and industry was dealing with coronavirus.

“But without all that the opportunity may not have come up. I’ve had fantastic support from my parents, wife and her mum and am ready to open up on Wednesday.”

Tom Brown will reopen The Bridgewater Arms at Winston on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 Picture: CHRISTINE MELDON

Tom Brown will reopen The Bridgewater Arms at Winston on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 Picture: CHRISTINE MELDON

However, the course to reopening did not run smoothly and Mr Brown’s plans for a June or July opening were stalled by two months after he broke his leg when he fell 4ft down an open man hole.

“I have said before I’ve given everything to the Bridgewater except a pound of flesh, well it’s had that now so it’s like it is saying ‘now, now you really are ready’,” he joked.

Under the previous management, the pub had a strong reputation for seafood and whilst fish and seafood still feature on the menu it is centred around seasonal, local produce including venison and game.

“We found a great chef, Matthew Waters, and we want to celebrate where we are from, there’ll be a country fare focus celebrating the seasons, there’ll be seafood and fish but land and garden, venison and game.”

Seared king scallops, crispy bacon and textures of cauliflower from The Bridgewater Arms new menu Picture: Christine Meldon

Seared king scallops, crispy bacon and textures of cauliflower from The Bridgewater Arm's new menu Picture: Christine Meldon

Mr Brown’s wife, Christine, said: “He was driving past it almost every day, he always wanted to own it but didn’t think he would get the chance.

“He’s wanted it so long it is a dream come true and I’m sure he’ll make the best of it and make the most of its potential. He’s nervous but so excited about welcoming back the locals and visitors.”

The Bridgewater Arms will open lunchtimes and evenings, Wednesday to Sunday, including for Sunday lunches, and bookings can be made on 01325-730302 or at thebridgewaterwinston.co.uk


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