In the mid 1990’s when I first discovered a taste for proper beer, it seemed as though Sunderland – with it’s brewery, brewlab and the uni running a brewing microbiology course- was a never ending whirlwind of new pubs and new beers.
The Pilgrim was one such new addition to a short strip of four bars up Fawcett Street, starting near the bridge we have The City Tavern, The Old Vestry, then The Pilgrim and finally Rosie Malones.
The Pilgrim was in the Anathema Building and the site had played host to a number of things over the years, upstairs there was a nightclub called Bourbon Street and underneath, where The Pilgrim would eventually be, was an indian restaurant.
When both these closed, it was rumoured that the people who owned the popular Rosie Malones were expanding into the former Indian restaurant. When ‘The Pilgrim’ signed appeared above the large window, I waited with bated breath.
One of my mates Mike- who was fresh from the Sinatras refurbishment was a notorious bullshitter and we took everything he said with a pinch of salt. He reported back and said it was a huge pub (it certainly didn’t look it), they had long tables with a medieval feast on it and Ross Kemp was there as guest of honour of the opening.
‘From a quiet afternoon drink to raucous nights out, The Pilgrim became a regular feature of my nights out. ‘
Not expecting anything like Mikes description, a few days later I popped down myself.
My surprise was two- fold, first-it was nice bar, secondly- Mike was telling the truth. Plush red carpet, dark wood throughout and long entrance way and bar area that ballooned towards the rear of the building with raised seating areas, pew like seats along the walls and long tables in the middle.
The large window at the front had comfy seating that was ideal for watching the world go by.
The rear wall had mock stained glass windows, with grand chandeliers hanging from vaulted ceilings, all bathed in subdued flickering candlelight.
To the rear there were stairs down to the small, very clean toilets and they sold Caulders so I was as happy as larry .
From a quiet afternoon drink to raucous nights out, The Pilgrim became a regular feature of my nights out. Often I would go there with the rest of the alternative community before heading to the Mayfair.
Then things started to slide, gradually at first and then the downward momentum could not be stopped.
‘The hand dryer was next- kicked clean off the wall. ‘
Like the decline and fall of many great things – it started with the toilets. The lights were first to go, smashed from the walls- their replacements encased in iron bars.
The hand dryer was next- kicked clean off the wall.
The ‘Piss’ de résistance of the decline culminated in the plumbing that sprays water into the urinals had been ripped out and pulled -plaster board and all- into the middle of the ceiling, so when they automatically flushed the water would pour onto the floor and you. Thankfully the lights had been kicked out again so the chance of electrocution was reduced, but it was dark, wet and it was like walking into Darth Vader’s cave on Dagobah.
The rot had started to set in.
News began to circulate that Rosie Malones was going to close. When it was announced, the staff and management didn’t care who- or why- they let people in.
‘I had never seen a man urinate on his own face before. ‘
Unfortunately this coincided with the diminishing number of pubs in the East end so all the problem drinkers would be in early doors. On one occasion I popped to the toilets, and while standing at the trough a bloke ‘worse for wear’ stumbled in, and when using the urinal fell over backwards and kept pissing… I had never seen a man urinate on his own face before.
When Rosie Malones was finally put out of its misery and turned into everyone elses misery as a Yates, the regulars of Rosie Malones, debunked en masse to its sister pub The Pilgrim. By this point the owners had well and truly given up. The last time anyone I knew popped in there, one of the old cider drinkers shat himself at the bar and just carried on drinking- the bar staff were non-plussed.
In the end it closed one evening and never reopened.
No Ross Kemp.
The Pilgrim just ceased trading.
New Lease of Life, Briefly.
The bar briefly had a new lease of life as a temporary art gallery, but the unit is once again empty and up for sale. The premises would still make a great pub, and the space at the rear is big enough for a microbrewery, but with the marked decline in Fawcett street, it might be a fool’s errand.
In the good old days it was a great boozer, but in the end not even I would have drank in it.
All my mates getting pushed over by a chav who was thrown out and was shouting hippy bastards at us as soon as we walked into the bar
One of the students in my hall said he had never had a hangover before, the night of his last exam we gave him so much to drink he thought I was his dad and had to be carried home – the following morning he had a hangover.
Getting really drunk, after drinking a pitcher of Coors and subtly scratching my initials into the table in 12 inch high letters and being chucked out/barred – sorry
Me and my mate Dave getting drunk in there after he broke his leg, a man drunk on crutches is a sight to behold.
– Nice plush and comfy pub in the heart of Sunderland.
– The toilets.
– Defecating locals.
– Some bellend scratching his name on the table.