A VACANT coaching inn at the heart of Morpeth is set to be given a new lease of life as a boutique hotel and quality cocktail bar.
The Queen’s Head, which dates back to 1656, has been boarded up for more than a year and concerns have been raised about the prospects of the prominent building.
But now owner the Ladhar Group has announced plans for a major investment in the property to bring it back into use.
Representative Sarah Smith, who is Head of Licensing at Sintons Solicitors, said: “Having purchased the Queen’s Head Hotel some years ago as part of a buyout of Wessex Taverns, the Ladhar Group is now in a position to turn its focus on Morpeth and is very excited about the prospect of trading in this vibrant market town.
“This project is a major investment for the company and will be completed in stages.”
The first phase of the development would be the introduction of the company’s successful Pleased To Meet You brand into the ground floor of the premises.
The concept was developed in Newcastle as a gin, draft and cocktail bar and earned the group’s designer Simon McIlwraith a Northern Designer of the Year award.
Later stages will see the building made into a boutique hotel and the creation of multi-purpose function facilities.
Ms Smith said: “We have already met with Morpeth Chamber of Trade representatives and local councillors and the response to the proposals was extremely positive.”
The Queen’s Head formerly served as a coaching inn and was the place where famous bride Bessie Surtees stayed after eloping from Newcastle with her lover John Scott, a coal merchant’s son who was later to become Lord Chancellor of England.
News of its planned re-development comes just weeks after the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade raised concerns that the Bridge Street premises had fallen into disuse at a time when the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan process had identified a need for a hotel in the town.
Chamber member Ken Stait is delighted with the developments.
“They are really looking to offer a wide range of different things to the town,” he said.
“Pleased To Meet You is a really high quality gin and craft beer bar. We have already got Barluga so this will start to create a bit of a critical mass of these type of bars that will appeal to families and couples. It is a nice addition to the town that previously has been lacking.
“The plans for a boutique hotel upstairs are just manna from heaven.
“We desperately need some tourist accommodation like this because we need to get more visitors into the town and staying in the town. Morpeth has just been rated one of the best places to live in Britain so it should be able to support a small hotel in the town centre.
“The plans to re-do the function room are great, especially for weddings at the Town Hall. That is really exciting. There are so many people in the town who have had parties at the Queen’s Head, I had both my 18th and 21st there. Getting that room back will be great.”
He added: “This is going to be bringing back into use a really prominent, old building that should be at the heart of the town centre. Everyone is really excited.”
Morpeth Town Council Planning and Transport Committee Chairman Ken Brown, who also chairs the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said people will be pleased to see the building brought back into use.
“I think the plans are possibly not something for everybody, but to bring a lovely, old building like the Queen’s Head back into use in the town centre is much needed,” he said.
“The building is very much an eyesore at the moment so I think people will be looking forward to seeing some kind of re-development in there.
“The future of the building has been raised by the Neighbourhood Plan groups because the facade itself is listed and the Adams fireplace is very much part of Morpeth’s heritage. I hope the refurbishment will be sympathetic to both of these.”
In addition to Pleased To Meet You, the Ladhar Group operates Lady Grey’s in Newcastle and is currently in the process of developing an innovative smoke house concept, Hop and Cleaver, at the former Offshore 44 site on the Quayside.