A COUNTY Durham pub is back in the hands of a family who devoted their lives to it for almost an entire century.

From acrobatic punters performing headstands in the bar; to “beer-free” Mondays and Tuesdays brought on by wartime rationing –the Golden Lion Inn in Sedgefield is full of memories for the Cooper family.

And, next week, after almost 20 years, the East End pub will return to the family, with experienced publican Margaret Cooper at the helm.

When she becomes landlady, Margaret, 53, will follow in the footsteps of her mother and father-in-law, Edith and Billy Cooper, who ran the pub for more than 40 years.

However, the connection does not stop there.

The Golden Lion has been in the family since 1901, when Billy’s grandmother, Mary Jane Dakers, and step grandfather, Robert Dakers, took over.

In 1931, the pub passed into the hands of their son John Robert Cooper and his wife Gertrude. They were followed by Billy and Edith, who took the reins in 1957.

The couple, who retired in 1993, were passionate about the Golden Lion and won many awards for their real ale and charity work.

They are thrilled the pub is back in the family.

“I was brought up there and was landlord for 40 years,” said Mr Cooper. “I have so many memories of the place.

“During the Second World War, we had beer-free Mondays and Tuesdays because of rationing.

"That was when women first started to come into the pub.

“Before that it was just men, although I remember about five or six women used to sit in the kitchen. On special occasions they drank port and lemon.”

One of Mr Cooper’s fondest memories is of an energetic pensioner called Joe.

Joe often performed headstands to entertain regulars in the 1970s but, on one occasion, his false teeth became loose just as he was about to perform the stunt.

Undeterred, he placed them in a nearby pint of Guinness, much to the surprise of his owner who was unaware and had continued to drink it.

The Golden Lion is now owned by Punch Taverns and, last month, it was temporarily shut down following complaints about after hours drinking, noise and violence.

This proved the perfect opportunity for Margaret, husband Stephen and daughter Michelle, to take on a business they have coveted for years.

“This is the first pub I worked at and it is where I met Stephen,” said Mrs Cooper, who previously worked at the Dun Cow in Sedgefield.

“We have been trying to get it for years so we are delighted.”

The Golden Lion will reopen on Tuesday, December 18, with a celebratory buffet and guest appearance by former Middlesbrough footballer and Bradford City centre back, Andrew Davies.

Food will be served at the pub from January 8.