Pub were Darkness were formed reopens

You could say it was a one way ticket to closure…and back. When the pub in which the Darkness got together shut its doors in September, locals feared it would be turned into housing. But yesterday the Swan in Gillingham, near Beccles, reopened. And back behind the bar was the woman who ran it for 15 years.

You could say it was a one way ticket to closure…and back.

When the pub in which the Darkness got together shut its doors in September, locals feared it would be turned into housing.

But yesterday the Swan in Gillingham, near Beccles, reopened. And back behind the bar was the woman who ran it for 15 years.

Christine Cobby sold the Swan and retired three years ago. But she could not bear to see it boarded up, and as soon as it closed she was determined to take it on again.

The grandmother of seven is also keeping a little piece of rock history alive. Ms Cobby is the aunt of Lowestoft rockers Justin and Dan Hawkins, who were lead singer and guitarist in the Darkness until Justin quit two months ago after checking into the Priory rehab clinic.

The Darkness formed in the Swan on December 31, 1999 before going on to release two albums called Permission to Land and One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back.

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They were described by rock bible Kerrang as “the greatest rock'n'roll band of the last 20 years”.

When Ms Cobby sold the pub in 2003, it was taken over by the Swallow Group, which also owns Swallow Hotels. The company went into liquidation in September and the Swan was one of four pubs and hotels in Norfolk to close. Most people in the village thought the site would become housing.

But Ms Cobby, who lives next door, was determined that would not be the case.

She said: “It broke my heart to see it boarded up. I hated it. I hadn't realised that I missed it but once I knew I was coming back I had a grin from here to here.”

The Hawkins brothers are also pleased the pub is open again. It was when Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody came on the pub jukebox on Millenium Eve that Justin started dancing and doing his trademark star jumps - and Dan realised his brother had star quality.

Justin, 31, said: “That is where Dan and I first decided to do the Darkness. It is a large part in our history, and the fact that it is our auntie as well helps. We wish her all the best and all the best to the people that drink in there.

“It is a very special place and it is disappointing that it was closed but it is great that it is up and running again. As far as I am concerned it is the Mecca of Gillingham.”

Ms Cobby said: “They were just messing around really. It wasn't a gig, they were just playing around, but that gave them the idea.”

She has refurbished the pub and has already had a lot of interest in the 14 motel rooms.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Four pubs and hotels closed in September as parent company Swallow Hotels went into liquidation.

They were the Swan, the Golden Lion Hotel on Hunstanton Green, which is still closed, the Horse and Groom at Rollesby, near Yarmouth, also still closed, and the Pontiac Roadhouse on the A47 at Tunstall, near Yarmouth, which closed for a fortnight but was reopened in October.

Other Swallow businesses were sold soon after the company went into administration and have stayed open under their new ownership.

They include the Scole Inn near Diss, Lodge Hotel, Hunstanton, the Old Brewery at Reepham, Cornwallis Country Hotel at Brome near Eye, the Riverside Hotel in Mildenhall and the Rutland Arms Hotel in Newmarket.