Buffalo Centre / Locations / News & Updates / United Kingdom

From Bull to Buffalo – Buffalo Centre

Featured cover image © Steve Ellwood


Buffalo Community Centre

Blyth, Northumberland, UK

May 2007


When we moved back to the United States some of our files got lost or misplaced, and this was one of the locations affected. We are still looking for all the photos and reports. Fortunately, we have been able to find some basic reports and research data, as well as some of the audio recordings. We were the first team to conduct a professional paranormal investigation of this location. Fellow investigator, and founder of another North East team, Darren Ritson, were the second team to do so.

The Buffalo Community Centre has a long history in the small Northumberland community of Blyth, with its original roots going back to the 17th century, when it was first a tavern called the Red Bull, located on Keelman’s Row, part of which is now Regent Street, the current building’s address.

Some history…

As stated above, the Buffalo Community Centre, or the location where it now stands to be more accurate, started out as a 17th century coaching inn, called the Red Bull. So far, documentary history of the earlier years of its existence eludes us. We do know that in 1827 it was run by Robert Simpson, according to the History, Directory & Gazetteer of Durham & Northumberland, 1827, and in 1828 it was still being run by Robert Simpson, according to Pigot & Co.’s National Commercial Directory for 1828-1829.

The History, Topography & Directory of Northumberland, 1855, tells us that Lionel Aynsley is the owner of the former Red Bull, now known as the Buffalo Inn. The 1851 census for Cowpen (Blyth) states that Lionel is an innkeeper, born 1807 in Horsley, Northumberland. Also listed in this census with him are wife Mary A., age 35, born in Horsley in 1816 and a servant named Sarah Douglass, age 17, born 1834 in Alnwock, Northumberland. The 1861 census lists Lionel (innkeeper), born 1807 in Northumberland, wife Mary A. and nephew William J. Bryden, age 11. Local newspaper, the Morpeth Herald, dated April 19th, 1862, tells us the sad news that on April 14th Mary Aynsley, wife of Lionel, died. It also tells us that on the following day, April 15th, Lionel also died. During this time typhus had broken out in Lancashire, so it is conceivable that this is what also caused the deaths of Lionel and Mary Aynsley.

It appears that a Thomas Rutherford was operating the Buffalo Inn shortly after Lionel and Mary Aynsley died, as he is listed as the innkeeper in newspaper accounts for May 1862. In November 1862 a notice appears in the Morpeth Herald“A QUOIT SWEEP – Will be played at the house of Mr. Rutherford, Buffalo Inn, Cowpen Quay, on Saturday, November 1st, 1862. Entry 1s. Quoits belonging to the house. 15s given by the Landlord. To meet at 11 o’clock to arrange preliminaries.”

From 1865 to at least 1871 John and Thomas Weatherby are mentioned in newspaper accounts as innkeepers/landlords at the Buffalo. On November 14th, 1867 Thomas Weatherby placed an advertisement in the Newcastle newspapers regarding his lost dog, a greyhound terrier mix named ‘Fly,‘ stating that a reward was being offered, but anyone caught with the dog without returning it would be prosecuted. In 1869 an altercation took place inside the Buffalo Inn, as reported in the Newcastle Daily Journal“John Allan, pitman of Cowpen Quay (pronounced Coo-pen Key, author’s note), wounded George Young with a knife at the Buffalo Inn.”

In 1874 the Buffalo Inn was put up for sale and was bought by a Mr. Tucker. The news report states… “SALE OF PUBLIC HOUSE PROPERTY AT BLYTH – On Friday, last week, the old established hostlery known as the Buffalo Inn, was put up for sale by auction at the Station Hotel, and after a keen competition was knocked down  at the large sum of £2,030, the purchaser being Mr. Tucker, brewer, Gateshead.”

By 1877 it was owned by Thomas Armstrong. On September 7th, 1878, the Morpeth Herald printed an artcile about a robbery that had taken place at The Buffalo Inn. Sometime between the hours of 7:30 pm and 10:00 pm a thief had entered the living quarters in the upper part of the house, where £95 of Mr. Armstrong’s personal money had been stolen from a drawer, as well as £103 taken from the Female Burial Society box. The robbery was discovred by Mrs. Armstrong.

In 1879 the Buffalo Inn was owned and operated by a Thomas Robinson.

By 1882 Hugh Reid owned the Buffalo Inn, and he retained it until 1885 or 1886. In October 1882 a vegetable show was held by Hugh Reid at the Buffalo Inn.

In 1886 John Riches is listed as the owner of the Buffalo. He later owned the Traveller’s Rest Hotel in Cowpen.

By 1891 John Crawford owned the Buffalo. He is pictured in the photo at the top of the page, in front of the Buffalo Inn. He owned it until about 1896. He allowed The Associated Shipwrights’ Society to meet on the premises every other Monday.

Around 1898 Thomas Gray purchased the property and he put in an application to replace the building with a grander structure, to be called the Buffalo Hotel.  In April 1899, the Morpeth Herald states…“THE BUFFALO INN TO BE PULLED DOWN – An application was granted for the sale of drinks in the stable premises whilst the Buffalo Inn, Cowpen Quay, is being rebuilt.” Those original stables still exist on the property. By the end of 1899 the new Buffalo Hotel was built, and is the structure that you see standing there today.

In 1905 a J. Purdy is the listed owner of the Buffalo Hotel/Inn.

In 1914 John Davidson is the listed owner.

Throughout the years, the Buffalo Inn was a preferred location for carrying out numerous inquests into the deaths of those who died or were killed locally. Oftentimes, the actual body was present at the inquest so that the jury and other participants could view it. Here are just a few examples:

May 19th, 1888 – On Monday afternoon, at the house of Mr. John Riches, Buffalo Inn, Cowpen Quay, an inquest was held by the Coroner, Mr. Lynn, touching the death of Captain Robert Taylor. Verdict was death by appoplexy.

February 2nd, 1895 – Coroner J.R.D. Lynn held an inquiry on Wednesday, at the Buffalo Inn, Cowpen Quay, relative to the death of a child named Sarah Jane Hall, the daughter of Wm. Hall, a coalminer – Wm. Hall, who resides at Grainger Street, Cowpen Quay, identified the body viewed as that of his daughter, aged 2 years and 10 months. The deceased child died at 6:30 that morning, in the presence of his wife and a woman named Rowley. “Died suddenly from convulsion” was the verdict returned. (In this case, it is obvious that the body of the child was brought to the Buffalo Inn).

December 7th, 1895 – On Monday morning an inquest, having reference to the sudden death of a Sheffield man named William Frederick Smith, was held in the Buffalo Inn, Cowpen Quay, Blyth, by Coroner J.R.D. Lynn. Death due to affection of the heart.

September 15th, 1900 – Mr. J.R.D. Lynn, coroner, held an inquest at the Buffalo Inn, Blyth, on Wednesday, on the body of a child aged 1 month, which was found dead on Tuesday morning. The jury’s verdict was that the child had died through having been accidently overlain (mother rolled on the baby during sleep, suffocating it).

With inquests of the VERY recently deceased being carried out inside the building, it is no wonder that the Buffalo Inn is haunted!

We encountered a lot of activity at this location, inside the building and in the old stables. The stables have an enclosed loft space, and during our vigils in this location all teams were treated to the sounds of heavy, booted footsteps stomping around above their heads. Upon opening the hatch and looking inside, the loft space was found to be devoid of anything living. The really interesting (and creepy) thing about the footsteps in the loft is that when a team member would walk across the floor the footsteps could be heard above FOLLOWING! Three members, Cindy, Jo and Ivan, were strongly pushed and also scratched by something or someone they could not see, which left visible red marks on all of them.

While standing on the lower landing near the fire door leading to the stableyard, Cindy and Kevin saw the shadowy figure of a man standing there watching them. They exited through the door to the small courtyard and when the door closed they could hear the sound of someone scratching it from the other side. Later research turned up information that in earlier eras it was common to scratch on a door instead of knocking. While visiting this location during the daytime a week later Cindy encountered this same figure. As she walked away to rejoin Colin she turned and noticed that it appeared to be following her at a slow and steady pace, and then suddenly vanished. She was shaken up from this encounter and refused to walk around alone afterwards.

Both floors inside the building were very active, with sounds of doors slamming, wastebaskets being moved, the thunping of walking feet, chairs being slid or dragged across the floors, etc… In one room it was found that the audio recorder had been turned off during the time it was locked off in the room. Upon playback footsteps could be heard walking across the floor, approaching the audio recorder, and then the *CLICK* of it being turned off. All team members had been accounted for during their vigils and none of them left their areas, and video footage showed that NOBODY had entered the locked off room.

At the top of the stairs almost all team members reported feeling ill and uncomfortable, and expressed an immediate desire to leave that area. Gemma, Jo and Chris all reported seeing the dark, shadowy figure of a woman here.

A few weeks later the team of Darren Ritson conducted an investigation, which was facilitated by Cindy, founder of API. Here are some brief notes of that investigation:

Reported by Glenn (team psychic):

  • In the Workshop – Man who is heavy set, has been heard either coughing or footsteps been heard.
  • Presence on the lower landing area near fire door to back yard. Aged between 65 – 70 and Tall. Has chronic breathing pain and has a link to the centre.
  • Top of stairs Glenn feels like the air is static as he walks in to the area.
  • Glenn says that the names Elizabeth, or Betty Willis are coming through to him.
  • Gets Flags, ribbons, party and the year 1977, Darren suggests the ‘Jubilee’ celebrations………Glenn concurs.
  • Male presence, in large meeting room…….5 ‘ 6 ” , Gray hair, skinny with pot belly and hooked nose……no names!
  • Royal connections? Mayoress? or a Lady connection. (lady as in ‘Lords and ladies’)
  • Polling station or giving blood on premises.
  • Sidney – Sid Banks?
  • Man aged 57, worked and died here. Name begins with ‘S’. Surname begins with ‘M’ ?

After this report was given to her Cindy conducted some research and found the following that tied in with Glenn’s picking up of the name Elizabeth or Betty Willis…

Casualty Details






United Kingdom




Merchant Navy

Unit Text:

S.S. British Viscount (London)



Date of Death:


Additional information:

Son of Michael and Elizabeth Willis, of Blyth, Northumberland. His brother Gordon perished with him.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

Panel 21.



Regarding the Jubilee celebration, Cindy was more inclined to think this could be in connection with the Jubilee of 1887 for Queen Victoria. The people were not overly happy about a Jubilee for the Queen and broadsides and songs were written to lambaste the Queen and make satire out of the Jubilee. i.e.

Awake the morn, the day rejoice,
Proclaim your hearts with loyal voice.
Let Blyth and Cowpen bend the knee,
And chant the Royal Jubilee.
Arise, arise, ye men of Blyth
Who twist your face to pay the tithe,
Come forth and join the jolly spree,
The Church and Monarch’s Jubilee.
Let Cowpen Quay and Waterloo
Both guzzle beer until they spue,
The Beaks exact no drunkard’s fee,
In honour of the Jubilee.
Let Tory Squire and spouting Rad,
Agree to join the loyal squad,
Let all combine their feelings free,
Today we’ll feast on Jubilee.

Below are some of the audio files from the API team investigation.

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