Old Court House pub and escape rooms owners Helen and David Parkinson with manager Gary

Old Court House pub and escape rooms owners Helen and David Parkinson with manager Gary (centre)

A North East business plans to challenge visitors and celebrate Consett’s history and heritage with the opening of brand-new escape rooms in the town.

The owners of Consett’s Old Court House are expanding their business to provide exciting and fun nights out for all the family by creating innovative escape rooms above their existing pub and restaurant.

Helen Parkinson and her husband David took over the pub in 2018. They aim to attract families and groups looking for adventure and fun, followed by great food and drinks.

The pair of escape rooms, one distinctly themed to celebrate the town’s rich steel industrial heritage, and the other a 'Witches Room' as a nod towards the nearby village of Muggleswick, will attract game-loving visitors who would previously have had to visit Durham or Newcastle for such an experience.

Helen, an ex-army chef with a passion for fitness and great, healthy food, dreamed up the idea of the escape rooms after thinking of uses for the two derelict rooms above their pub.

“In the hospitality industry, it pays to be open to change and to adapt to the needs of the community in which you work,” Helen explained. “Escape rooms are becoming a really popular attraction for families and groups who want a fun and challenging day out.”

Visitors are placed into the escape rooms with no way of getting out without solving problems and figuring out puzzles and clues. Each group is timed, and the challenge is to beat the clock and escape in the quickest time possible.

“We’re bringing something new to Consett and want the Old Court House to be a family destination for the escape room, followed by a nice meal afterwards,” Helen continued.

The first of the two escape rooms designed by escape room creators The Escapologist, is based on the rich heritage of the County Durham town. The closing of the steelworks around 40 years ago caused devastation in Consett, but the connection to steel has never been forgotten. The room will feature props and memorabilia from the steelworks and will be based on the myths of Consett’s three giants (Con, Ben and Cor) who roamed the local area and fought one another.

“Contestants in this room will have to forge a hammer out of iron using formulae and their problem-solving skills,” said Helen. “The rooms are a mixture of fun, education and fantasy, featuring high-tech games which can be scaled up or down, depending on the group’s mixture of age and ability.”

The second room has a witches theme and a games master will keep watch over both rooms and provide clues if necessary.

Helen concluded: “The escape rooms will tie in beautifully with the new heritage centre which is opening next door to the Old Court House.

"Since opening the pub a year ago, we’ve taken on 15 new staff and our recent investment has enabled us to roll out an even bigger food offering including a new 'healthy nourished' menu along with wholesome Sunday lunches.”

The investment in the restaurant and escape rooms has also provided job opportunities as the couple are now recruiting for a sous chef, a bar and restaurant supervisor and a games master for the escape rooms.

David added: “This year will actually mark the 40-year anniversary of the closure of the steelworks. So with the escape rooms opening we want to help celebrate this anniversary in a positive manner.

“The town has a story to tell and we’re passionate about its heritage and we’re looking forward to sharing our passion with our customers old and new. We’re proud to be a part of Consett’s history and we are looking forward to bringing it back to life in a unique, interactive way."

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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