Marking 120 years of the Dean Tavern in Newtongrange

The year 1899 brought to an end a century of dramatic change, when the Industrial Revolution was changing the face of Britain and the train network enabled people to travel the length of the country in hours, not days.

Friday, 17th May 2019, 3:26 pm
The Dean Tavern, Newtongrange

The USA had been torn apart by civil war and Queen Victoria was in the 62nd year of her long reign. On the sporting front, Celtic won the Scottish cup by defeating Queens Park while in England, Sheffield United overcame Derby County to win the FA Cup.

Closer to home, The Lothian Coal Company was in its ninth year and The Lady Victoria Colliery was in its fourth year of production. The next batch of Colliery houses were being built at Monkswood (Newtongrange) to accommodate incoming miners and, although no one could have predicted it at the time, an organisation was established which would play an important role on the growth and development of the village of Newtongrange over the next 120 years!

The Dean Tavern Committee met for the first time in October 1899 and the new pub opened for business. The original Dean was a simple affair – the conversion of two colliery houses into one building in the Dean Park area. The Dean would be organised and managed by a committee adhering to the radical principles of the new Gothenburg System. The system proved to be successful and eventually news of these new radical methods reached Scotland.

Old pic. Dean Tavern - Newtongrange - Midlothian - Exterior

The Lothian Coal Company (LCC) decided it was the way ahead for Newtongrange and set the wheels in motion to establish a committee to run the new proposed public house. However, there was opposition to the proposals from local temperance groups. But despite legal wranglings and protests the Dean was eventually given the go-ahead and a committee was appointed. They were Mr Mungo McKay, Mr James Hood and Mr John Callender, all appointed by the LCC. Two others were appointed at a public meeting held in the village, Mr James Taylor and Mr William Pryde. James Gilmour was appointed clerk and treasurer to the committee and was awarded a salary of £12 a year. The first grants were made to the creation of a bowling green, park improvements, and it was also agreed to pay one third of the cost of new instruments for the Silver Band.

However, this was only the beginning, the once small village was growing fast. With the continuing development of the Lady Victoria the demand for labour grew. This led to a growing number of organisations in Newtongrange – Pipe and Silver Bands, the Star Junior football team, the Homing Bird Society, the Children’s Gala Day (1913) and many more which would benefit from The Dean. The Dean was also responsible for the erection of buildings which became popular places of recreation and greatly appreciated by local people. The institute, picture house, bowling green and pavilion and Newtongrange Public Park.

However, there was one enterprise in particular which guaranteed the future of the Dean. The old Dean had served its purpose but there was no room for expansion, so the wheels were set in motion for the building of the new Dean for £3081 in 1910. And it is that same magnificent building that has become the hub, the traditional gathering place for people of all age groups and backgrounds, from near and far every New Year’s Day.

The survival of the Dean Tavern is no mean achievement because, of all the Gothenburgs which existed, the Dean Tavern is the only survivor in Midlothian.

The Dean Tavern on the left-hand corner was setup by the directors of the LCC in the late 1890's as a Gothenburg experiment. Picture courtesy: Dalkeith History Society

The Dean Tavern and committee/trust (from 1971) have survived two World Wars, The Great Depression and General Strike and perhaps the biggest blow of all – the systematic destruction of the coal industry. The industry which, at its peak, employed thousands of men in and around the village. Many thought this was the death knell for the Dean Tavern – how wrong they were! The Dean is thriving and the current trust is looking forward with confidence.

The trust has spent a great deal of money on improving the Dean and the current chairman, Gary O’Connor, is proud of their achievements. He said: “Yes, we have made several improvements and we’re not finished yet but, most important of all, we will continue to support the people of Newtongrange and their organisations.”

All that remains to be said is Happy Birthday to the Dean, its staff, trustees and most importantly, the regulars who continue to enjoy a pleasant evening in a friendly, comfortable, environment. Cheers!

Unknown man in front of the original Dean Tavern, which was two of the Collier Houses turned into one , sometime between 1899 - 1909 .
The public park, Dean Tavern, Newtongrange
In 1952 a lot of trophies were won by Newtongrange indivisuals and organisations. They were assembled in the dean (along with some from previous years) for this picture, flanked by Tom Reid (left) and Andrew Aikman. Photo kindly supplied by the Dean Tavern Trust.
The Dean Tavern, Newtongrange. Photo kindly supplied by the Dean Tavern Trust.
The Dean Tavern, Newtongrange. Photo kindly supplied by the Dean Tavern Trust.
Customers at the jug bar, 1949. L to R: Jimmy Tosh, Willie Landels, Tootie Bain, Charlie Smith and Alex Pow. Photo kindly supplied by the Dean Tavern Trust.