A model in St Mary’s Inn: Northumberland-style community management

A model in St Mary’s Inn: Northumberland-style community management


A new country pub in Northumberland is an unusual place to find community management best practice. Community is a much abused and over used word on the internet.

Organisations have recognised the opportunity to replicate physical communities online through their own media, and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

But very few organisations do a good job of managing communities.

Communities need a clear purpose that is rooted in a human need or emotion, and not a product or service.

Management should be light touch. An organisation can provide a platform and facilitate conversations but should otherwise stay out of the way.

Physical and virtual worlds should co-exist as an open and transparent mirror of each other.

St Mary’s Inn, Stannington

Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle stands out as an example of best practice. In the last 12 months it has opened a country pub off the A1 near Stannington, Morpeth in Northumberland.

St Mary’s Inn was once the administration block of the hospital that formerly occupied the site. The site was bought by homebuilder Bellway who started building a community of houses in 2008.

The Jesmond Dene House team added St Mary’s Inn in 2015. It’s a local country pub physically rooted in the developing community.

It’s also a gateway destination for visitors wanting to explore mid and north Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle and Gardens; Cragside and the Coquet Valley; Craster and Warkworth castles; and Lindisfarne; are all accessible within an hour.

It’s a model country pub with 11 bedrooms: attentive service; excellent food; and child and dog friendly.

Food wise, the chowder, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, are all recommended. The home-made scotch egg and dessert tasting plate are worth a trip in their own right.

It’s no surprise. Chefs frequently move back and forth between Jesmond Dene Hotel, itself a known foodie destination, and St Mary’s Inn.

Art as a conversation with the community, and a destination

But I had another reason for visiting St Mary’s Inn. I wanted to check out an example of how the pub engages with the local community and visitors.

Displaying art in public spaces isn't a new idea but using a pub as the backdrop for an exhibition is original.

St Mary’s Inn exhibits art from local artists throughout the building. The latest exhibition is by Berwick-based Brita Granstrom.

There’s also work by Norman Cornish, Paul Gallagher, David Haldane, Gary Tiplady and Harriet Sophie Wright.

Pony Putter, Norman Cornish


Cartoon, David Haldane


Stag Rocks, Bamburgh, Paul Gallagher


Fabricate by Harriet, Sophie Wright


Butch n Bone, Gary Tiplady


On Top of the World, Brita Granstrom


Near Bamburgh, Brita Granstrom


Cartoon, David Haldane


Beddie the Bedlington Terrier, Gary Tiplady


It’s an excellent example of community engagement. If you live in the north east or are thinking of making a trip to Northumberland, I’d recommend a visit.

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