Pub landlady clocks up 50 years serving customers in Northumberland town

When Brenda Collins served up her first beer at her Berwick pub, Rod Stewart was number one in the charts with ‘Maggie May’, Princess Anne won BBC Sports Personality of the Year – and it cost just 10p a pint.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 12:00 pm
Brenda Collins behind the bar at The Free Trade Inn, Berwick.

That was 1971 and, 50 years on, Brenda is still landlady at The Free Trade Inn on Castlegate.

She and her late husband, Eddie, took on the Vaux-tied pub, on November 1, 1971 but it was never really a long-term plan.

“Eddie worked in Pringle’s (knitwear factory) and had been made redundant three times but always got a job back,” said Brenda.

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Brenda Collins has clocked up 50 years as landlady at The Free Trade Inn, Berwick.

“The landlord that came in here in February 1971, Charlie Burgon, had been promised The Royal Hotel so Eddie put his name down for it – as a stopgap more than anything – and they offered it to him.

"When we first came in it was £48 rent a year,” she revealed. “It was 10p a pint and 17p for a spirit.

“You had to order vodka. There were no off-licences so you had to order it through the brewery.

"The men would play darts for a beer and in the back room there’s a bell-ringer where drinks were a ha’penny dearer for table service.”

Now 80, Brenda will hand over the reins to her daughter and son-in-law, Tracey and David Gallon, some time next year.

"I’ll miss it but I’ll still be around to help out if I’m able,” she said. “I’m nearly all metal, I’ve had so many joints replaced. I’ve had two knees and a hip and I’m waiting on another hip and two shoulders!”

The Berwick pub scene has certainly changed a lot in Brenda’s time – there were 28 when she started.

The Free Trade, however, is like stepping back in time.

It dates back to 1767 and documents show the three-storey building was constructed for £60.

"It’s Grade II listed so there’s not a great deal you can do to it,” she said. “We’re refurbishing bits and pieces. We’ve had the back room done and the ladies toilets but there are quite a lot of restrictions. There’s a lot of history here.”

And Brenda will always be a big part of it.

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