Brewing in the Borough

Article by Nick Molyneux of Nottingham CAMRA

By the start of the 19th century, the area which is now the borough of Gedling had alehouses and coaching inns serving the needs of both locals and travellers. However, the largely rural nature of the area at the time meant that these establishments were comparatively few and far between.

Between 1552 and 1828, anyone wishing to operate an inn, or an alehouse had to become a licensed victualler in a system administered by the local magistrates. As a guarantee of good behaviour, the licensed victualler paid a financial bond known as an Alehouse Recognizance to ensure compliance with the conditions of the licence. Two local citizens also had to vouch for the victualler, by making similar commitments. Any breach of the licensing conditions could lead to the forfeiture of both the money and the licence. In the area that now forms the borough, surviving records show that there were twenty-eight licensed victuallers in 1823 and these are listed in the following table.

Many of the borough’s publicans in the early 19th century would have brewed their own beer and ale. At that time, ale was a hop-free malt liquor quite distinct from hopped beer. The ingredients for brewing were often locally sourced. There was, for example, a large hop garden where Waverley Avenue now is in Gedling village.  Similarly, local farmers and specialist merchants provided the malted barley which was the key ingredient for both ale and beer.

The trade of maltster often seems to have prospered regardless of the area’s economic ups-and-downs. One such trader was William Robinson of Home Farm, on Oxclose Lane in Bestwood. Like many businessmen at the time, he had a number of sources of income from different occupations, his including farmer, wool merchant, maltster and brickmaker. When commercial opportunities arose, maltsters were well placed to benefit from the acquisition of breweries and public houses.

Robinson’s son, John Daniel Robinson (1839-1929), was an entrepreneur with several successful businesses to his name. The urban growth of the mid-nineteenth century created a growing market for low-cost beers of consistent quality delivered direct to local public houses and off-licences. In 1875, Robinson founded the Daybrook Brewery, which was developed into an industrial operation by the construction of a state-of-the-art brewery complex, designed by local architect and engineer Herbert Walker in 1881. Water was extracted from a deep well under the site. In 1890, Robinson sold the business to the Home Brewery Company Limited, a financial vehicle established for the purchase and whose name retained the original connection to Home Farm. Robinson went on to establish the Daybook Laundry and was also involved in the tobacco trade and in cement production.

The Art Deco office building on Mansfield Road in Daybrook, designed by local architect T. C. Howitt and completed in 1936, has a Grade II listing. The Home Brewery Company was sold to Scottish & Newcastle in 1986, along with nearly 450 pubs and the unique identity of Home Ales was gradually phased-out. Brewing ceased on the site in 1996 and the administration building was subsequently adapted by Nottinghamshire County Council for use as office space. Howitt also designed the Vale Hotel at Daybrook for the brewery. The pub, also an Art Deco design, opened in 1937 and has survived the closure and sale of the brewery. It is also a listed building.

John Robinson became a Justice of the Peace and was also High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1901, receiving a knighthood in 1905. A keen country sportsman, in 1890 Robinson purchased the stud farm at Worksop Manor, where he bred race horses. His horses would go on to win the Derby, the 2000 Guineas, the Ascot Gold Cup and the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, a horse racing accident led to the death of Sir John’s son, John Sandford Robinson, in 1898. The John Robinson Alms-houses on Mansfield Road in Daybrook were built in his memory.

A less well-known part of the Borough’s brewing history sits at the junction of Marhill Road and Primrose Street in Carlton. Built as the Carlton Brewery in 1899, the building is unmistakable as a design by noted local architect Watson Fothergill. Operated by the Vickers family who ran the Black’s Head in Carlton Square, the brewery was short-lived and was sold in 1909. Now a listed building, it became a laundry, dye factory and printworks and has since been converted to residential accommodation.

Of the twenty-eight public houses recorded in the borough in 1823, seventeen are still trading on the same site, or as re-builds very close by. A significant number of these survivors still bear the same name as they did then (see the following table). Several have recently closed. The fact that more than half of the pubs noted in 1823 still exist almost two hundred years later is a remarkable example of continuity in the heritage of the borough.


Licensed Victuallers in the Borough of Gedling in 1823

Source: Alehouse Recognizances 1823; Nottinghamshire County Archives C/QD/LV/4

No. Alehouse 1823 Licensed Victualler Settlement Pub Still Trades 2018 Notes
1 Black Swan John Cockayne Arnold    
2 Cross Keys William Dickenson Arnold  
3 Horse & Jockey John Rhodes Arnold Now named Eagles Corner
4 Joiners Arms Thomas Rhodes Arnold    
5 Old Spot Peter Bramley Arnold Now named Coopers Brook
6 Ram Robert Atkins Arnold  
7 Robin Hood & Little John Elizabeth Rimmer Arnold  
8 Seven Stars John Robinson Arnold   Closed and demolished in 1969
9 Three Crowns Peter Bramley Arnold    
10 White Hart Sarah Hickling Arnold   Replaced in 1964, the new pub also now demolished.
11 Horse & Groom Elizabeth Merrill Linby  
12 The Hut Martha Mealey / William Palin Newstead Now named The Hutt
13 Griffin’s Head William Bell Papplewick Grade II Listed Building
14 Swan & Salmon John Blatherwick Burton Joyce    
15 Wheat Sheaf Samuel Taylor Burton Joyce 1930’s replacement close by an earlier pub building
16 Rodney Christopher Beckett Calverton Now named Admiral Rodney
17 White Lion Joseph Brunt Calverton Now named Oscars
18 Blacks Head George Savidge Carlton  
19 Royal Oak Thomas Cave Carlton Rebuilt in the 1930s, now named Inn for a Penny
20 Volunteer George Savidge Carlton Now named Old Volunteer
21 Windsor Castle Elizabeth Rowe Carlton    
22 Chesterfield Arms Thomas Brierley Gedling Now named Gedling Inn
23 Chequers Samuel Kirk Lambley    
24 Free Masons Arms Mordecai Brownley Lambley    
25 Boat Elizabeth Bosworth / William Cupit Stoke Bardolph Now named Ferry Boat Inn
26 Cock & Falcon Thomas Wood Woodborough    
27 Four Bells John Gadsby Woodborough 1920’s replacement of earlier pub building
28 Punch Bowl William Hogg Woodborough    

Images: Old Brewery