IN our new monkey malarkey corner, we’ve told of the Bishop of Durham’s pet monkeys in Auckland Castle, the monkeys that were kept in an aviary in Darlington’s South Park until one of them choked to death on a cigarette tab, and of how Boyes in Scarborough had several monkeys in the pram department to keep the children entertained.

Plus, we’ve had monkeys kept as pets in the 1950s and 1960s in places like Wingate, Cockerton and Barton.


In fact, it now seems that 50 or so years ago, there were monkeys everywhere.

Anthony “Miff” Anderson, who grew up in Spennymoor, writes to say how in the early 1950s, Joe Spooner had a general dealer in South Street in which he kept a monkey on a lead.

“In my teens in the late 1950s,” says Anthony, “I joined Bishop Auckland Cycling Club, which on Sundays organised rides out to Leyburn, Middleton in Teesdale, Kirby in Cleveland and Coxwold, for the cyclists’ service.

“We stopped at a pub in Gainford a few times. I think is has now been changed into a house. It was on the corner opposite the fish shop, and in the pub’s back yard, there was a large cage which had a small monkey in it!”

The Northern Echo: A Google StreetView of Main Road, Gainford, with the fish shop on the right - Denise and Rachel's Plaice - and what was the Queen's Head on the other side of the road

A Google StreetView of Main Road, Gainford, with the fish shop on the right - Denise and Rachel's Plaice - and what was the Queen's Head on the other side of the road

He’s right! The pub was the Queen’s Head. When Mike Amos visited it in 2000 for an Eating Out review for this newspaper, he mentioned Pico, “the bad-tempered perisher”, who had once lived in a cage at the back. Pico had been owned by landlady Elsie Naismith, who had died in 1986, and he was remembered for stretching his arm out of his cage and trying to rip the buttons off the coats of passers-by.

Poor Pico!


Merle Batty at the Queen's Head in Gainford in 2000. Some years earlier, Pico lived in a cage out the back

Even Richmond had a monkey. “Many years ago, relations of ours ran the Holly Hill pub at the top of Sleegill,” says Joyce Rutter, “and I’m pretty sure there was a monkey in a cage in a garden up there.”

And then an anonymous reader asks if it is true that the New Monkey pub in Hunwick, near Bishop Auckland, gets its name because a landlord in the 1960s once kept a monkey as a pet.

The Northern Echo: New Monkey, Hunwick, in 1998

The New Monkey (above in 1998) was beside the Bishop to Durham railway and was originally built as the Station Hotel.

The Northern Echo: from the archive, hunwick and newfield, near Bishop Auckland

In the 1960s and 1970s, its landlord was a colourful character called Harry Callow (above), who had a dog called Norman, which regularly boarded the train and ended up in Newcastle, where it was so well known that station staff put it back on the next train to Hunwick. Harry could conceivably have had a monkey as a pet.

However, the pub was named the Monkey long before Mr Callow took over.

There is a school of thought that there was a difficult driftmine nearby that only a miner as agile as a monkey could scamper through, but Memories got to the bottom of the name a few years ago when Val Cram got in touch from York.

Her great-grandparents, James and Hannah Etherington, had run the Station and her mother, Mary, had been born there in 1905.

“Outside at the back was a crescent-shaped stairwell, about ten feet high,” said Val. “When my mother was two, and her mother was pregnant with her sister, she got out onto the stairwell. Her mother panicked, ran out to grab her but fell down the steps herself, and James told my mother she was ‘a little monkey’.”

James was so proud of his little monkey grand-daughter that he renamed his pub after her.