THE Ketton Ox at in Yarm High Street – at No 100 – is one of the finest buildings in the town and probably the oldest pub.

It was named after the legendary and massive shorthorn bull that was bred at Ketton, to the north of Darlington, by Charles Colling in 1796. As Memories told last week, when it was first exhibited on Darlington market in 1799, Charles unimaginatively named it Ketton Ox, but when he sold it in 1801 and it started its career as travelling freakshow, it was renamed Durham Ox.

The Northern Echo:

The Durham Ox, aka the Ketton Ox, which toured the nation showing off its enormity


There are pubs named Durham Ox literally around the world – there’s even one in Western Australia – but Yarm seems to be unique in having a Ketton Ox.

The pub itself must have had a name before it became the Ketton Ox as it was built 100 years before the giant creature, which weighed 270 stone at its peak, was born.

The Northern Echo: The Ketton Ox in Yarm. Picture: Google StreetView

The Ketton Ox in Yarm. Picture: Google StreetView

It was a coaching inn, and the distinctive oval shapes at the top are said to be windows that were bricked up in 1835 when cock-fighting was made illegal. This enabled cock-fighting to carry on up there out of sight of the authorities’ prying eyes, although it is said that the landlord had a trapdoor in the floor of the cockfighting room so the punters could rapidly disperse should the constables come pounding up the stairs.

Naturally for a 400-year-old inn, it is said to be haunted, particularly because part of it was used as a mortuary for the victims of the river whose bodies had been fished out of the nearby Tees. Oh, and a baby is heard crying there…

The Northern Echo: EATING OUT: The Ketton Ox in Yarm Picture: DAVID WOOD.

In 2004, the inn’s owners wished to rename it simply the Ox, but a local outcry caused a rethink. However, today’s stylised sign doesn’t have the character of an old one that David Thompson spotted in Preston Park museum.

The Northern Echo: The Ketton Ox sign that now hangs in Preston Park Museum, photographed by David Thompson