The Brewers Arms

A little while ago, when searching for old images of the Brown Bear on the excellent Facebook page, Forgotten Berwick, I came across this picture.

  • The interior of a pub, 1910s–1930s? Cracking image of a proud publican with his family and/or staff. But where?  Contributors to Forgotten Berwick were split. Some thought it was the Brown Bear; some thought it was the Brewers Arms.  Other suggestions were thrown into the ring.

The vital clue is the signs for Bernard Brewery, Edinburgh on the barrels behind the bar.  The only Bernards pub in Berwick was the Brewers Arms.  A lot of people knew that but thought the bar arrangement wrong.  I believe I now know the answer!

Yes, it is the Brewers Arms, but not the Brewers Arms we know!  I believe the gentleman in the centre is Matthew N Kyle.  While researching the Brown Bear I came across an advert in a tourism guide book for 1927.  It will probably not be possible for you to check, but I’ve had a really good look and I reckon the three men here are the same as in the interior photo.  The little girl is there too!

  • Advert in tourist guide to Berwick, 1926.

It’s a completely different building.  That isn’t a surprise as such; I knew that a William Crow had it in 1822.  The real surprise was the date.  I always thought that the front of the Brewers looked like it dated 1890–1910.  But this is 1927!  So what happened?

Kyle took over the pub in 1922 and seems to have prospered.  His adverts are often quite large which must mean he could afford it.

  • Advert for Christmas 1928.

In August 1927, the brewery requested planning permission from the Mayor and Town Council for permission to “…remove what might be termed an eye-sore and replace it with something in keeping with the dignity of the main street of the town.”  A new modernity was in the air following the First World War, and locally, the completion of the New Bridge.  Tenders from builders were requested from the architects Gray and Paterson of 2 Ivy Place (incidentally the same address that Robert Marshall gave on his plans of the Brown Bear).

Work must have taken place after Christmas, 1928 as there are no adverts until August 1929.

  • Advert in Berwickshire News and General Advertiser 27th August 1929
  • Advert in Berwickshire News and General Advertiser 17th December 1929. Possibly the first published picture of the new look Brewers Arms.

Matthew Kyle then disappears from the newspapers after 1931.  Why this would be so, we cannot say.  Perhaps he retired, but if so he did so aged 46, which is no age, unless he was in ill health, as he died in 1942.


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