I was extremely pleased to see news in the Citizen recently that The Vaults (previously the Northend Vaults) in Northgate Street is undergoing major restoration work with a view to re-opening by Easter.
Plans for the pub, owned by Enterprise Inns, sound extremely promising. Following an extensive restoration it sounds like it will re-open as a proper pub: Regional Manager Simon Wilson is quoted as saying “we didn’t want it to be a modern bar or a spirit swilling venue.” It also plans to sell gourmet pies, which is enough to peak my interest.
The only thing in the article that caused me some concern was the suggestion that they may look to change the name to something “that reflects the history of the building.”
I believe that names are an integral part of a pub’s history and it is always a shame when they are changed – once the original name is lost they then seem to change with alarming frequency, losing part of the pub’s identity along way.
The thought is that they may look to link a new name to the building’s history as an old merchant house in the 16-17th century. If there is something significant in that history to link it to this could work: The Robert Raikes’ House did this to good advantage, but there was no real history behind the pub’s previous incarnation as The Golden Cross.
The Vaults doesn’t have a great history with name changes. It was known as the Northend Wine Vaults by 1869, later expanding to the Northend Wine & Spirit Vaults. It was shortened to the Northend Vaults by 1939. So far so, good. Then in 1994 came a Whitbread refurbishment, necessitated by the eighteenth century façade coming away from the building.
It re-opened as a chain-themed Tut ‘n’ Shive, described by Whitbread as a ‘traditional ale house with various wacky themes and attractions’. A couple of years later it was refurbished again, presumably to get rid of all the ‘wacky’ tat, and became Ebenezer Riley’s Northend Vaults. Thankfully it wasn’t long before it returned to just the Northend Vaults once more.
Around 2009 the name was shortened to The Vaults. I can picture the marketing focus groups now, getting into a huddle and deciding that short, pithy names were more dynamic and exciting. It didn’t seem to do the pub any favours though: in its latter days the Vaults was distinctly unappealing and wasn’t much lamented when it closed a couple of years ago.
So, if Enterprise really want a name that reflects the history of the building, I suggest The Northend Vaults. Whatever they decide (within reason – no theme names please!) I look forward to popping in for a pie and a pint – maybe it will even be able to regain its place in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, where it last appeared in 1987.