A Bigg Market pub – one of the oldest in Newcastle city center – should be renamed as part of the makeover plans.
The Blackie Boy has been a staple of many pub crawls for decades, welcoming regulars of all ages and proving popular with tourists looking to experience the city’s nightlife.
Now the owners of the Vaulkhard Group are poised to breathe new life into the place, as part of multi-million pound plans to rejuvenate the rest of the Bigg Market and Fabric Market to a destination location.
The project is being led by the team at Newcastle BID NE1 Ltd, who continue to work with landowners to restore some of the area’s many historic and listed properties.
Part of these plans will see The Blackie Boy’s name removed, to be replaced with a new name taken from the building’s past.
Owners Ollie and Harry Vaulkhard have dug through the history books and will rename the Swarley’s pub, after Richard Swarley, one of the former owners who ran a Newcastle debate club on the premises in the 18th century, assisted by another dignitary notable of Newcastle, the engraver Thomas Bewick.
Ollie Vaulkhard said: “We are delighted to invest in the building and bring the pub back to life. My family has been the caretaker of the building for 40 years and their fortunes are like that of Bigg Market. With the rebranding and makeover, we want to stay true to the story of the pub.
“The Bigg Marketplace is barely recognizable today thanks to the incredible work NE1 has done in transforming the public realm and creating the right backdrop for business investment. Now is the time to reopen the doors of the Blackie Boy in his new incarnation as the Swarley.
“It is with a touch of regret that we change our name, knowing that in the current climate, the name Blackie Boy, although linked to the blacksmiths who occupied the site historically, can be misinterpreted and offensive which we want to avoid.
“We are not removing Blackie Boy from the history books and reference will be made to his story within the venue and in its windows. We want to create a beautiful traditional pub in the heart of Newcastle, a pub steeped in history which will contribute to the continued success of the Bigg Market.
Bought by Nigel Vaulkhard, the late father of the current owners, Ollie and Harry, in 1981, the Blackie Boy was later taken over by Ollie in 2005.
The history of the pub reflects the evolution of Bigg’s market fortunes. In the 1980s, when the Vaulkhards first bought the pub, it was in full swing, frequented by journalists and employees from neighboring Newcastle Chronicle and Journal offices.
In the 1990s and 2000s, when the Bigg Market fortunes were in decline, the pub served as the back bar for the nightclub, Lost on Collingwood Street, which shared common ground.
The Vaulkhard Group will restore the facade of the building to accentuate its art-deco features and renovate the interior to recreate a traditional Victorian-style pub.
External restoration work will begin at the end of May and should last until the end of July.
The Blackie Boy is the eighth building to receive a grant under the Global Program, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), following restorations at Pumphreys, Meat: Stack; the Victorian-era men’s restroom building which is now WC Newcastle Wine Bar; Koh-I Noor; CosyJoes, Kafeneon and Balmbra’s.
Alex Slack, Project Manager for the Bigg Market at NE1 Ltd said: “It is great news for the Bigg Market that the Vaulkhard Group is on board and investing in their property with the opening of Swarley.
“We are really seeing the fruits of our labor in the region. The outdoor terraces, created at the start of the project, have transformed the Bigg market allowing reception venues to create terraced cafes and restaurants.
“One of the main goals of this project was to demonstrate that the region can be a day and night destination and the outdoor dining experience reinforced that.”
“There is still work to be done and the NLHF Bigg Market project continues until the end of this year. We are extremely proud of what we have delivered to date and delighted that the success is evident to everyone. “