From 1870 to Today


The 1871 census shows that the Cumberland began as a dwelling, simply no. 30 Byker Buildings.* It was occupied by John Lightfoot*, a mill furnace-man, his wife and child. Soon after, he became an innkeeper by virtue of the Beer House Act 1830 permitting any rate-payer to sell beer to encourage people off strong spirits. He was selling wine by 1889 and was granted a music and singing licence two years later. And so, our great tradition of music and culture began!


Incorporating no 28, it was sold in 1897 as ‘The Cumberland Arms,’ boasting a bar, tap room, bagatelle room, cellar and four living rooms. During alterations to the cellar by the new owner, Mr Thompson of Whickham, the building collapsed, sadly killing a labourer Mr Matthew Fitzgerald,* but, ironically, an event which later saved the Cumberland.


Jocker Wood* acquired the Cumberland in 1908, establishing in the area his famous quoits Handicap Tournament. In 1932, the City Council compulsorily purchased Byker Buildings, a famous son of which was the Chartist, William Parker, and demolished it. But as the Cumberland had been rebuilt after its collapse, it survived, bringing its detached status into existence.


The ’60’s and ’70’s saw Rock and Punk arrive at the pub. In the 1990’s the Crack reported on one of the Cumberland’s then outside Fundraising Music Festivals, featuring 11 local bands. Now, in an average year, we support over 900 artists, host 90+ community events, 180 performances and 150 dance rehearsals in addition to over 350 back-room sessions. In 2021 we received a substantial Cultural Recovery Grant from the Arts Council, England recognising the cultural significance of the Cumberland Arms. 2022 sees our birthday celebrations over a fortnight from 2nd August and we plan to have held some 60 outside events over the year.