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  • Nottingham Pubs by Dave Mooney

    The Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham advertises itself as the oldest public house in the country, although at least two other pubs in the city have convincing, rival claims. With this in mind, it is obvious that our drinking heritage goes back a long way. When I took up the mantle of writing a book on the subject, I don't think I quite realised how far.

    On reflection, I now feel that the origin of the Nottingham pub can be dated to the early Triassic Period – approximately two hundred and fifty million years ago.

    Bear with me!

    Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. (Nottingham Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    As any schoolboy knows, at that time, all of the land masses of the world were collected together into one giant super-continent: Pangaea. The area that now forms the United Kingdom was far to the south of its current position and the place that we now call Nottingham was underwater. Over time, sand was deposited – sand which would later form the red sandstone on which the city is built.

    Skip forward to the time of Snot – the hilariously named Saxon chieftain that gave his name to the city. The Saxons realised that the strong, yet soft, sandstone was perfect for hollowing out and making caves. They started digging holes to serve a multitude of purposes – homes, tanneries, and (most importantly from our point of view) maltings. Here, they could dry malt all year round, protected from the elements. According to the early Victorian antiquarian, James Orange; this gave the people of “Snottingham” a distinct, competitive advantage when it came to the beer trade.

    Would you dare to touch the cursed galleon? Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. (Nottingham Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    This was not the only impact that the sandstone had on the history of the city's pubs. It also affected the way that they are physically structured. The aforementioned Trip to Jerusalem, and the adjacent Brewhouse Yard – which used to brew ale for Nottingham Castle – are both cut into the majestic “Castle Rock” on which the ancient fortress is built.

    Elsewhere in the city, more recent pubs, such as The Hand in Heart, are built into man made tunnels. Even when pubs appear conventional on the surface, there is a good chance that there are caves underneath them – often several levels deep – which are used as beer cellars.

    Little wonder that Nottingham has long been referred to as the “city of caves”. The full extent of its subterranean excavations has yet to be mapped.

    With this natural competitive advantage, Nottingham inevitably became famed across the region, and beyond, for the quality of its ale. Look at this, the opening verse from a song found in the Seventeenth Century comedy play, A Jovial Crew:-

    In Nottinghamshire,

    Let 'em boast of their beer,

    With a Hay-down, down, and a down!

    I'll sing in the praise of good Sack:

    Old Sack, and old Sherry,

    Will make your Heart merry,

    Without e'er a Rag to our Back.

    The Hand in Heart - Not as old as it seems. (Nottingham Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    When singing in praise of his “good Sack” (fortified wine), it is Nottinghamshire beers that singer compares it to.

    This is not the only time that the qualities of Nottingham ale have been celebrated in song. A century later, a naval officer, by the name of Gunthorpe, composed a paean to the tipple, after receiving a barrel of it as a gift from his brother – the landlord of a pub called The Punch Bowl, in Peck Lane. Gunthorpe had obviously received a classical education and the verses are packed with delightful, tongue twisting allusions to Greek myth. The chorus, by contrast, is perfect for a roaring sing-along and has assured its place as a minor folk standard:-

    Nottingham Ale, me boys, Nottingham Ale,

    No liquor of earth's like Nottingham Ale!

    By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, three local brewing giants had emerged that were to dominate the Nottingham pub trade – Shipstone's, Home Ales, and Kimberley Ales. All three closed in the years surrounding the turn of the millennium, but they have left an indelible imprint on the culture of the city and the surrounding area. A local joke purports to be the shortest story in existence. At just four words long, it plays upon the enervating reputations of the local breweries: “Shipstones Mild; Home, Bitter!”

     A song emerged in the Nottingham folk clubs of the 1970s, which has gone on to live a life of its own in the repertoires of numerous singers across the East Midlands. From what I can make out, the words were originally composed by a local man named “Wokko”. Again the subject is Nottingham ale, and – as with the four word joke – it talks about the less than beneficial effects of the local brew. Set to a rousing medley of patriotic tunes, the lyrics detail the various gastric and cranial problems brought on by drinking Shipstone's Bitter. The chorus mentions Ivor Thirst – the brewery's mascot:-

    Rule Britannia and God bless Ivor Thirst,

    We'll keep drinking Shipstones 'til we burst!

    Following the collapse of the three local titans, a whole crop of new, smaller breweries have emerged – some of these, like Castle Rock, have gained national attention and are well on their way to becoming giants in their own right. With a long-term, nationwide downturn in the fortunes of the pub trade, Nottingham seems to be bucking the trend. Everywhere you look, a new micro-pub, bottle shop, gin bar or hipster, craft ale joint seems to be popping up. They tend to be very different in character to the traditional pubs that the city is famed for, but this is only the latest development in a local preoccupation with a very long history.

    Dave Mooney's new book Nottingham Pubs is available for purchase now.

  • Coventry Pubs by Fred Luckett

    The Woolpack in Spon Street is an early photo from the 1860's, the pub has since been demolished. (Author's collection)

    Drinking in an old English town

    The history of the alcohol trade in Coventry

    Whilst beer, along with agriculture, was being created in the Middle East around 12,000 years ago, Coventry remained a patch of virgin forest in the Arden County until well into the Cristian era. Mercia was settled by Anglo-Saxons from the sixth century onwards, but Coventry itself is thought to have originated with the founding of an abbey under Saint Osburgh in the tenth century. This was destroyed by Cnut's forces in 1016, to be followed by the first definite event in Coventry, the founding of the priory of St Mary by Leofric and Godiva in 1043.

    In Anglo-Saxon society men had the roles that required upper body strength, such as field work and animal husbandry, and women were the head of the domestic household. Brewing was a household pursuit so women were the brewers. These brewers were termed 'alewives' and would have been members of families wealthy enough to have a surplus of grain and hence be able to brew ale over and above that needed for domestic requirements. Such supplies of ale would have been intermittent and hence a temporary ale stake was used to indicate that ale was for sale, rather than a permanent sign.

    The role of the alewife was gradually challenged by the monastic brewery and Coventry always had a plentiful supply of monasteries, with large permanent populations of monks and lay brothers needing a regular and dependable supply of ale.

     

    The Old Windmill in Spon Street, reputedly Coventry's oldest pub. (Author's collection)

    The first permanent retail outlet we learn of in Coventry was the White Cellar, a tavern, in c.1230. A tavern was a premises that sold wine, which would have been a specialist, high-value trade at that time. These early premises were followed by inns and other taverns as travel increased throughout the area.

    Once monastic brewing ceased in Coventry with the Reformation, commercial brewing expanded to supply the market and we begin to see brewing dynasties in Coventry such as the King, Ash and Rawson families, whilst the role of the alewife disappeared, although women were never excluded from brewing. In the eighteenth century we have Mrs. Cave King in Coventry, whilst in the West Midlands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries we have Julia Hanson, Sarah Hughes, Doris Pardoe, and on to modern-day female brewers. Permanent public houses were created to sell to the urban population no longer able to enjoy monastic, guild or even private hospitality.

     

    Jack Tatlow is drawing beer at the Rainbow in Allesley the 1930's. (Author's collection)

    At this time the regulation of the alcohol trade was in the hands of the corporation. Later the role was given to the magistrates, until very recently when it was given back to the city council. Licensing records begin in 1745, although at this time it is the person who is licensed, there is no mention of the premises. So, when a licensee moved house, his sign was likely to move with him. For example, the Crown in Bayley Lane closed in 1788 when the licensee, Charles Hunt, moved to White Friars Lane. The Crown in White Friars Lane opened immediately. From the mid-eighteenth century to the Second World War the number of public houses wavered between 200 and 250, which means that, with a growing population the ratio of pubs to people has constantly declined.

    During the early nineteenth century the spread of the tied house system, and the growth of large brewers, particularly in the home counties, caused concern over the reduction in competition. The growth in spirit drinking likewise was a problem. So, in 1830 the Beerhouse Act was passed allowing anyone to sell beer on the payment of a 2 guinea fee to the excise. A huge number of beerhouses sprang up, leading to an inevitable reaction. This, allied to the influence of the temperance movement and declining demand, lead to a reduction in the numbers of public houses, taverns, and inns in the city centre. This trend was accelerated by the widespread destruction of the city centre during the blitz, with many licenses moved out to the new suburbs.

    In more recent years many suburban pubs have closed, leading to licences being concentrated around entertainment or local centres.

    Fred Luckett's new book Coventry Pubs is available for purchase now.

  • Bristol Pubs by James MacVeigh

    ‘There is nothing which has been contrived by Man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.’  Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    Bristol Pubs 1 Like King Street where it stands, the Llandoger Trow pub is distinctive and quirky, both architecturally and in the richness of its history. (Bristol Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    Why would anyone decide to write a book about pubs? Although they are so mundane and ordinary that often we don’t notice them, except perhaps to name them as landmarks when we are giving directions to a stranger, I personally agree with the opinion of the formidable intellect quoted above, compiler of the first English dictionary. Or to put it another way:A public house is more than a building with people inside it, that description could include a factory or office block, railway station, church or prison. When beer, cider and spirits are added to the mix, the public house takes on a human dynamic that is different from all of the above, and can turn into a place almost of magic.’ Okay, that is an unashamed quote from Bristol Pubs, and you may consider it over-the-top. Is it, though?  Human beings are continually redesigning the towns and cities in which they have chosen to dwell, nowadays with smaller buildings generally pulled down in favour of larger ones, in an ebb and flow of urban demolition and renewal that takes away everything in its path. Or rather, almost everything. Have you ever noticed which type of buildings that are generally left behind by this inexorable march of progress? Churches, certainly, for one, are often repositories of the past, and crammed with articles of historic interest, and, besides, they have a spiritual aspect to them that may say, Hands off! – Even in this materialistic age. What other buildings, though, are almost invariably left intact, as though they too are sacred places of worship? You already know the answer to that one. Pubs! True, a modern boozer may be flattened in the name of progress, but you will often see an ancient hostelry, dwarfed by sky scraping office blocks, yet still as busy and popular as it was in centuries past. Let the entrepreneurs, architects, and builders lay claim to anything with some antiquity to it, and it usually creates uproar in the local community. This is something we must be thankful for, otherwise we in Bristol would be without the rambling, higgledy-piggledy Llandoger Trow in King Street and its near neighbours, the Old Duke, the Famous Royal Navy Volunteer, and the King William Ale House.

    Bristol Pubs 2 What is unique about the Angel is that the cellar beneath it was used as a holding prison for offenders, a fact now commemorated by a brass plaque over the entrance from the courtyard. (Bristol Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    Sadly, there are always exceptions to rules, and acts of civic vandalism still take place in our city. The birthplace of the Bristol boy poet, Thomas Chatterton (1752-1780), on the other side of Redcliffe Way, has recently been renovated after decades of neglect, and is once again in use as a themed café, Chattertons.  All well and good; as the co-author of a musical about him I would be the last person to argue with such a laudable event. In recent publicity material the City Council described Chatterton’s house as ‘the only surviving mid-18th Century house in the area.’ Not so. The Bell Inn public house, tucked out of sight and out of mind behind the magnificent St. Mary Redcliffe church was built only one year after the poet’s birthplace, in 1750. Its bow windows are the earliest example of this feature in Bristol, and its bar still retains its original stone flags, yet the historic building has not only been allowed to fall into disrepair approaching dereliction, efforts have even been made to accelerate the process of destruction, by leaving the windows wide open so that the wind and rain can enter to finally finish it off. This cannot be mere neglect. As one who is more sceptical than most when it comes to accepting conspiracy theories, I am nevertheless convinced that the City Council has some fiendish plan, perhaps in partnership with private enterprise, in which this lovely old inn is finally demolished to make way for an architectural monstrosity.

    9781445661681

    James MacVeigh's new book Bristol Pubs is available for purchase now.

  • Newcastle-under-Lyme Pubs by Mervyn Edwards

    Newcastle-under-Lyme Pubs has recently hit the bookshelves. It is my eighteenth published book, my ninth title for Amberley.

    It occurs to me that the nature of a historian’s remit and his duty to view the past objectively and sometimes dispassionately may not always benefit either him or his readers.

    The thought struck me when I was writing the introduction to my book – and peppering what was intended as a brief historical overview with a few opinions and observations based on thirty-five years of socialising in Newcastle hostelries. Such an exercise probably did my mental health a power of good, whilst offering readers a few interesting perspectives to chew on.

    However, there was no real danger of my book lapsing into a nostalgia fest. With a production such as this, the reader will generate his or her own nostalgia in any case, cooing over the photographs and shedding a tear over long-lost, much-loved pubs.

    newcastle-under-lyme-pubs-1 The Rigger, 5 May 2016. (Newcastle-under-Lyme Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    For me, it was a matter of particular interest to show how history insists on repeating itself. How the pubs that have survived have gone through cycles of good trade and bad, often dictated by the competence of licensees. How reputations have waxed and waned and how the strategies and advertising blurb of marketing men have been exposed very quickly as gimcrack manoeuvres likely to bring only short-term gain.

    In such circumstances, the conscientious historian sometimes genuflects to the slightly piqued social commentator, lamenting ill-advised and sometimes fatuous changes to the pubs we have loved. The recorder of history stands aloof, viewing these changes in wider context. Other knowledgeable observers, free from such constraints, rage against the machine that brings these changes, destroying our heritage and spitting on our memories.

    newcastle-under-lyme-pubs-2 Old Bull's Head, 2 December 1999. (Newcastle-under-Lyme Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    The chapter in my book featuring the Rigger pub in Marsh Parade, Newcastle, is a great story seen in terms of why it was opened in 1963 – as the Bandstand – and how this totally landlocked pub adopted a nautical theme, complete with ropes, sails and other maritime bric-a-brac in 1970. The pub has long since found its feet as a music venue, and at this chronological distance, the attempt to give it a seafaring image seems risible. However, other pubs have known radical changes over the years, too, notably the Old Bull’s Head in Lad Lane, which embraced the fad for ersatz Irish pubs in the 1990s. Traditionalists battled vigorously against Allied Domecq’s plans – to no avail. All we had left was the sure-fire certainty that the vogue for Irish theme pubs would soon fade and that normal service would be resumed. It duly did, although the about-turn was sharp and jarring. The pub re-opened, bereft of fake shamrocks and harps but now sporting murals depicting old Newcastle: Queen’s Gardens, Holy Trinity Church and other landmarks.  If this was a sop intended to placate traditionalists still hurting over the mock-Irish dalliance, it didn’t work.  Perhaps it was seen by some as manipulative, even patronising. The pub’s present interior is as most people would remember it from years ago: plain, dimly-lit, cosy and genuinely characterful.

    Some of the more popular pubs in Newcastle have been nurtured over time and have grown slowly and organically. They may have their faults, but there’s integrity about them. Think of the Museum or the George and Dragon. However, it is interesting to consider how some pubs and bars that opened in the last twenty years or so didn’t stand the test of time. One venue in Hassell Street has been re-named several times since it re-opened under the name of the Farrow and Firkin in 1994. So why didn’t it last? Was it the silly name, or were the splintered wooden tables and rustic décor to blame? Who knows? What is for certain is that fashions go in and out like the tide, and the minimalist “alehouse” style interior is once again a la mode at the time of writing. Gatsby’s bar in Ironmarket was another that failed – despite its innovative interior design, complete with blood red upholstering and classy chrome fittings.

    Newcastle-under-Lyme Pubs charts many of these changes, sometimes with a degree of sadness, but always with a view to explaining why it was that history took certain turns. What were the reasons that led to the opening of the Borough Arms Hotel in the 1850s? How did the Museum get its name? Why on earth did the age-old Star in Ironmarket become known as the Superstar? All is revealed in the book.

    9781445658490

    Mervyn Edwards new book Newcastle-under-Lyme Pubs is available for purchase now.

  • 25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton

    Pint and A Walk...

    A long walk and the beacon of a pub goes hand in hand to many of us. Ideas are formed in Inns, conversations become firm plans and locals become friends. It’s also good to put something back into the communities we walk around.

    This book features pubs that cater specifically for walkers and have historical and cultural importance - with a detailed walk and suggested route to get those tastebuds going.

    Choosing twenty-five of what I considered to be the best was a hard job … well, someone had to do it. I met locals, landlords and real characters. I was told stories of ghosts, snow drifts, shootouts and quirks. To get on my list they had to be walker friendly; but that’s not a surprise in an area famed for its countryside. They also had to have character and, naturally, a damn good walk nearby. They also needed to be able to tolerate a very wet and muddy author following said rambles.

    I used many of the pubs from my own travels in the Dales over the last three decades. Several were very familiar. The Wheatsheaf in Ingleton has been the end point of many a walk and caving trip. The George & Dragon in Dent stems from my time as a child in the village hearing my dad sneak out of our friend’s cottage while I pretended to be asleep. Others came as recommendations such as the Fountaine in Linton and The Farmers Arms in Muker, and several were just the result of when preparation meets opportunity – serendipity.

     

    Five of the Best

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 5 No smoking, unless it’s from this.

    1) The New Inn, Clapham

    This grade II pub was traditionally a place for cavers to meet and share stories. It is next door to the Cave Rescue Organisation in the Dales village of Clapham. It has been revamped to attract people who aren't just cavers – a dwindling number these days!

    Originally, this pub was a farmhouse in the early 1700s but was covered into a coaching inn around 1745. In 1807, an extra floor was added to make it four storeys. The new decor aims to bring this out, being fresh inside and bright without removing some of the original features such as large tables where people would gather to swap those caving stories.

    The proof is in the eating… or drinking and suffice to say the menu is top class as is the beer.

    The suggested walk takes you past Ingleborough Cave, Gaping Gill and on to Ingleborough.

     

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 1 Lots of walking to be had from Muker – Kisdon is a superb choice.

    2) The Farmers Arms, Muker

    “Remember when pubs used to be real pubs? Places where people would go to unwind and socialise with friends, drink good beer and eat hearty wholesome food … ”

    The marketing from The Farmers Arms in Muker couldn’t ring more true. This is a gem of pub in a beautiful Dales village. Darren and Emily Abbey took over the establishment in 2010 and have made it into a real destination for Dales walkers, whilst maintaining its history and atmosphere. They incorporated the walk from Keld, over Kisdon Hill, to the pub on their wedding day in 2008, well before they had the opportunity to take ownership.

    Muker in Old Norse means ‘the narrow newly cultivated field’ and it will be clear if you follow the suggested walk – to Kisdon Falls – why that is apt. The Norse settled here as it is near the River Swale - a perfect spot to establish crop growing. Originally, it had a chapel of ease in 1580 (restored in 1891) which was rebuilt and a graveyard consecrated. The tower, nave and chancel all date from this period. The village shop was built in 1680 and used to be the vicarage.

    The suggested walk takes you to Kisdon Falls.

     

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 2 The George & Dragon is effectively the marker point for two roads out of the village.

    3) The George And Dragon, Dent

    Walk through Dent and you’re transported back to the Dales and country life how it used to be.

    The small village with its cobbled narrow streets and the smell of coal and wood fires, give a reflection on what remote Yorkshire Dales life would have been like many years ago. It’s this charm that makes it a very popular destination for visitors and walkers.

    More importantly, it has a great pub in the George and Dragon. Much of my ‘Dalean’ life has focused around this pub, situated between two roads in the middle of the village. As a child I would visit Dent with my father whose friend owned Ivy Cottage at the back of the Dragon. As I went to bed in an evening, tired from walking up Flintergill – a gorge nearby – or walking the River Dee, he would sneak out the front door with his mate John and have a few beers in the pub. I would wake the next morning none the wiser, only realising in my later years what had caused my dad’s thick head; the local brew in the George.

    Local ale is still the key and the main reason the pub is an important stop on an walker’s trip. The grade II listed George is the tap house for the Dent Brewery and source of many a hangover over the last few years! It is brewed just up the road in Cowgill and is internationally recognised. Originally, the idea was for the staple Dent beer to be sold at the Sun Inn in Dent, but as word spread so did demand and the brewery was at capacity. Now, it makes around six real ales - including my favourite, the blonde Golden Fleece. Ramsbottom is good too as is Kamikaze. The latter is exactly how it sounds. Say goodbye to any feeling in your body if you drink more than four!

    Originally, the pub stands on the site of Dent’s marketplace where a market cross and stocks would have been housed. It has a distinctive V shape because it is at a intersection with two roads coming narrowly to one point. It began life as a mill building, some two storeys high, but a third tier was added in the early 1800s. The beer was brewed in a local shop opposite wth the water taken from a fountain which was the village’s only source at one time. Now that fountain is a memorial to Adam Sedgwick (22 March 1785) one of the founders of modern geology.

    The suggested walk takes you up flintergill.

     

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 3 The original Woolpack from Emmerdale.

    4) The Falcon Inn, Arncliffe

    Quirks abound in this fantastic pub based in the tranquil and sheltered Arncliffe - but this isn’t a gimmicky venue to be shunned - it is a pilgrimage all walkers should make!

    The Falcon was the original Woolpack in long running soap Emmerdale until filming relocated to Esholt in 1976. The ITV programme shot their outside scenes around the village - no doubt because it reflected Yorkshire life perfectly. The pub for instance is ivy clad with mullioned bay windows poking out where they can to enhance its look. The village follows a similar theme in effect making it an ideal film set.

    But it’s the way it serves its beer is the real treat here and well worth the journey. Whilst other beers are available, the ale of choice, Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, is served in the time honoured traditional way … from a jug. It is decanted from the cask in the back room and then poured from that jug, when ordered, into your glass. It gives the ale a chance to breathe and certainly brings out its flavour at room temperature.

    The suggested walk takes you to Malham... and more pubs!

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 4 The upside-down protest.

    5) The Black Bull, Reeth

    Classed as the unofficial capital of Swaledale, Reeth is a charming village in the north east.

    The Black Bull dates from 1680 and is the village’s oldest pub. You’ll notice it because the sign above the front entrance is upside down in an apparent two-fingered salute to National Park officials. Previous landlord Bob Sykes attempted to tidy up the exterior of the pub by removing its render to expose the original 250-year-old walls and to comply with English Tourist Board accommodation grading requirements. He was also worried about it being a danger to the public because the the existing facia was crumbling so much.

    The Park felt differently though and threatened legal action if it wasn’t replaced. They said it would have had some kind of render years ago and wanted it to be keeping with the original format. Upset at this, someone local turned the sign upside down in protest at the attitude of park officials - and although it has moved from its original spot, it is still that way round.

    The Black Bull won’t be to everyone’s tastes but is a true local pub!

    The suggested walks takes you along the river!

    9781445653297

    Mike Appleton's new book 25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales is available for purchase now.

  • Chaucer's Malyn Ancestors and the 'Towne of Tavernes' by Susan Gardiner

    Anyone wishing to write a screenplay for a film or TV drama to rival Game of Thrones might do well to look towards the lovely Suffolk county town of Ipswich. Suffolk has a reputation for the tranquil beauty of its rural landscape and unspoilt coastline, and of course, for the most famous end-product of its agriculture: beer. If you live in Suffolk, it's difficult not to be aware of the significance that beer and brewing has had in the county's history and culture. Its most famous breweries also have well-known literary connections, from the many writers in the Cobbold family, of the Tolly Cobbold brewery, such as the poet Elizabeth Cobbold (1765-1824) and her son, Richard (1797-1877), the author of The History of Margaret Catchpole, to the descendant of the Greene King brewing dynasty, the novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991). It was not until I started the research for my last book, Secret Ipswich (Amberley, 2015), however, that I realised how closely another great English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400), was associated with the town, and what a fascinating story it is. The further research that I had to do for my latest book, Ipswich Pubs, made me realise the significance that Chaucer's family had in the life of late-medieval Ipswich. It is a story of violence, theft, and even murder, involving, among many complicated plots and sub-plots, the kidnapping of the poet's father.

    3 Great White Horse The Great White Horse Hotel

    Chaucer's grandfather was Robert Malin le Chaucer, and it's thought the name might have been derived from the occupation of shoemaker, or chausseur. He was also known as Robert the Saddler, so it's possible that he was some kind of maker or seller of leather goods. Some scholars believe that hosiery, cloth and leather goods were often sold in taverns, and the term 'chaucer' referred to those vintners and taverners who did so. Chaucer's family was certainly in the tavern trade for many generations. His grandfather was known as Robert le Taverner and he was, as his name suggests, the owner of several taverns in Ipswich. This was not merely any old town, however, or indeed, any old tavern. Ipswich, we discover, was known as the 'Towne of Tavernes,' a deserved sobriquet, probably resulting from the great demand for accommodation from the thousands of travellers who flocked to its shrine, Our Lady of Grace, which was only third in significance in England (after Canterbury and Walsingham) until its destruction during the Reformation. Ipswich was packed with taverns, inns and beerhouses for centuries and the Malyn family owned several inns and wine shops, mostly around what was known as the 'street of taverns,' which is still called Tavern Street today, although there is not a single pub left now. One of the Malyns' hostelries was simply called The Tavern. It probably stood on the site of the huge building that became the Great White Horse Hotel, later of Pickwick Papers fame.

    2 Site of Malyn tavern The corner of Tavern Street and Dial Lane where the Holly Tavern may have stood

    In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Malyns had significant business interests in the town. Those who decry the state of the twenty-first-century Ipswich town centre might do well to remember that, in the Middle Ages, Tavern Street was at the conjunction of the Flesh Market, the Henne Market or Poultry (Tower Street), close to the Cheese and Fish Markets, and Cook's Row (now Dial Lane) was where all the bakers and cookshops were. Given that animals were butchered on the spot, the smell of the place must have been ripe, to put it mildly. It was a rough, violent time and we know a great deal about this family because, as property-owners, the Malyns were often recorded in the town's taxation records, and as a family that was constantly involved with criminal activity, they appeared in the court records just as frequently.

    In 1338, following a property dispute, a notorious fellow - who appears twice in Ipswich Pubs, committing acts of violence - Roger Bande, walked into the Holly Tavern and, with his sword, almost severed the hand of the owner, Albreda Malyn. She died from the wound he inflicted, but he went unpunished. Bande would get away with worse including murder. The Malyns - whose name may even be a version of the word 'malign' although I think it's more likely to be derived from Magdalen in some form - were little better. In 1344, Albreda's son, William was pardoned by the King "by fine of 300 marks, for all manner of oppressions, conspiracies, maintaining of quarrels, champerties, detaining of the King's wool and money, and taking of wool to foreign parts uncocketed and uncustomed, and of victuals and merchandise to Scotland contrary to the King's command."

    MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA A plaque to Chaucer’s ancestors on the site of one of their wine shops

    The most interesting story of all, however, involved Geoffrey Chaucer's father, John. In 1324 he was abducted at swordpoint by his aunt, Agnes Westhall and the man who was to be her second husband, Geoffrey Stace. The poet was later named after Stace, so there was clearly no long-term resentment, but the court case resulted in a large fine of £250 being imposed on Agnes and she was sent to the Marshalsea prison in London. The motive behind this strange turn of events was, as usual, connected with a property dispute. Agnes wanted to force her nephew into a marriage with her daughter, Joan, to ensure that through John she would get her hands on some of his substantial inheritance, as his father had died. A court case had found in favour of the child and his guardians in the disputed ownership of the Ipswich Vintry Tavern and several other nearby properties. The boy was rescued by his stepfather and stepbrother, and would be brought up in London, where he followed the family trade and became a vintner of some standing in the City of London. The forced marriage to Joan, who may have been twenty years older than John, did not take place, and everything appeared to end amicably.

    It's not known whether Geoffrey Chaucer ever visited his Suffolk relatives, but in The Canterbury Tales, in the prelude to ‘The Merchant's Tale’, he painted a portrait of a merchant, who might easily have been one of his Malyn ancestors, the river Orwell being the site of the port of Ipswich:

     

    A Marchant was ther with a forked berd,

    In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;

    Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat,

    His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.

    His resons he spak ful solempnely,

    Sownynge alwey th'encrees of his wynnyng.

    He wolde the see were kept for any thyng

    Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.

     

    The early history of the Towne of Tavernes was one of violence, criminality and intrigue. Having written a brief history of many of Ipswich's pubs, inns and taverns, it doesn't appear that things were very different over the centuries that followed. Behind the picturesque - and Ipswich has more than its fair share of wonderful fifteenth and sixteenth century buildings, most of which were inns at some time - lies a picaresque and fascinating story. How sad then that so few of these great inns still exist and that one of the most famous Malyn-owned hostelries, The Tavern, which became the Great White Horse Hotel, has become just another Starbucks' coffee shop.

    9781445644998

    Ipswich Pubs by Susan Gardiner is available for purchase now.

  • Oxford Pubs by Dave Richardson

    I have written books before but unlike some of the authors in Amberley’s Pubs series, I’m not a local historian. But it really was a no-brainer when Amberley approached me to write the volume about Oxford, as I knew most of the pubs already and the history of some is well documented.

    Oxford Pubs - Microsoft Word - Document4 Angel & Greyhound Pub

    I decided from the outset that I wanted to give a flavour of what these pubs are like today, to act as a guide book as well as a historical record. So I have included only a few which are no longer with us – the Golden Cross, now Pizza Express; the Roebuck, now Wagamama; and the Swindlestock Tavern, which closed over three centuries ago. I also tell the stories of the Angel and the Greyhound coaching inns, both on High Street, whose names live on at the Angel and Greyhound pub in St Clement’s.

    Oxford Pubs - Microsoft Word - Document4 The Mad Hatter Cocktail Bar

    Research was long and arduous, but someone had to do it.

    I ventured into pubs I had never been in before despite living in Oxford for 35 years, including the Mad Hatter cocktail bar which is a bizarre place where, in true Alice in Wonderland style, you have to answer a question before they let you in. Beware the tea served from ornate teapots, though -- it tasted like a boozy cocktail to me!

    I took most of the external photographs myself, while a professional photographer friend, Phil Gammon, took most of the internal shots. The pubs chosen for their interesting interiors include the Bear, Chequers, King’s Arms, Turf Tavern, White Horse, Old Bookbinders, Rose & Crown, Victoria, and Angel and Greyhound. For archive photographs I went to the Oxford Mail/Oxford Times archives where the librarian, Chris McDowell, was particularly helpful, providing many photographs from the 1950s onwards.

    I’m pleased with the many stories I unearthed about Oxford’s pubs, so I hope you enjoy reading the book. For example, where’s the Oxford pub with a witch’s broomstick plastered up behind a wall? Where did Shakespeare used to stay, possibly fathering an illegitimate child with the landlady? Which pub has a ceiling painted to resemble the Sistine Chapel in Rome? And which pub was a sixteenth century brothel? You’ll have to read the book to find out…..

    Oxford Pubs - 9781445647289

    Dave Richardson's Oxford Pubs is available for purchase now.

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