The Royal Tea Rooms – Hidden Treasures 5

The Royal Tea Rooms in Stanhope in the Durham Dales is getting a bit of a reputation. Ardent royalist Anita Atkins set up the Royal themed tea rooms in the spring to celebrate the Jubilee and planned to close them at the end of August. After the attention Anita has been getting lately, they might be staying open a bit longer than that. The Royal tea rooms are stuffed to the rafters with royal memorabilia and indeed Mrs Atkinson held the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of royal memorabilia until December 2010, when a woman in Australia took her crown. Typical.

Her majesty visits the Royal Tea Rooms

The Royal Tea Rooms sells such delicacies as Balmoral bites and the Sandringham sandwich selection. It also plays the national anthem everyday at 3pm and expects its customers to stand out of respect, but also as a bit of fun. When Anita had a run in with three customers last month who refused to stand for the queen, she asked them to leave. There followed a right royal kerfuffle and Anita’s eccentric tea room experience hit the press and promptly went national, and then global. The American company who make the helium balloons which play God Save the Queen when you hit them, contacted Anita and sent her a huge box of union jack related items for her tea rooms and since then she has welcomed visitors from all over England, Australia, Germany and Spain. As we entered the tea rooms I said to Anita “We’ve come to see your famous tea rooms!” “My infamous tea rooms more like!” was the bright reply. When I was there as my birthday treat, I met Doreen 74, a war time evacuee who was reveling in the nostalgia of it all, reminiscing about the time she’d been put on a train from London during the war out to a village in the Midlands and told ‘next five get off here!”  She was having a right royal time at the tea rooms while visiting a local friend. Next we all stood for the national anthem (which was played a bit early in honour of my birthday)and then we were treated to Edward VIII’s abdication speech on the record player as another helping of history, from the BBC’s 50 year’s of Royal Broadcasts LP.

Musical nostalgia adds atmosphere


The Throne Room

Even the ‘Throne Room’ is themed and Anita will wish you a ‘Royal Flush’ as you visit it. It’s a lot of fun and the customers we met were absolutely loving it.

Enjoying my birthday tea

The Durham Dales are a beautiful, unspoilt and often unsung part of our north east countryside. The village of Stanhope is also home to the Weardale railway. The line was originally built by the Stockton & Darlington company in 1847 and was part of the world’s first steam locomotive passenger railway. later, it was mainly used for freight and over time, fell into disuse. It is it now up and running again as a community heritage project. Cakebook Britain


The place to eat
Where is everyone?
The petrified tree
It doesn’t petrify me…

Another interesting feature of Stanhope is a large fossilised prehistoric tree trunk which rests in the local graveyard  of St Thomas’s Church. Millions of years ago, the North Pennines was apparently part of a vast tropical swamp, way before the dinsosaurs were around, and giant ferns and horsetails grew tens of metres high. They were the ancestors of today’s modern conifers. The Stanhope tree is an extraordinary relic of one of those ancient trees. The tree died and got buried in sand and eventually hardened into sandstone which now forms the cast you can still see today. The fossil was first unearthed by a Quarryman in 1915 and is a rare and fine example of petrified forest. It’s a long time since I last visited these wild and beautiful Dales. I’ll make sure it’s not so long until my next trip…

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