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A Brace in Belper.

It's been a while.

It's been a while since I started producing this post for the reason which will be outlined later. Only outlined though, for you'd probably not want to have the full details.

It'd also been a while, not since last summer in fact, since I'd spent a few hours chewing the fat, and generally putting the world to rights, over an ale or two – and I'm being a little conservative here – with a former work colleague. The last time we met up we visited a few establishments in Matlock and the time before that we'd covered a few select places in Derby. This time we were to meet midway, in Belper. Its choice as a venue was helped by the fact that trains from the two aforementioned places pulled into Belper station within a quarter of an hour of each other.

Emerging from the passageway leading from the station we found ourselves on King Street, a few yards from the front door of The Railway Considering our means of transport to the town it seemed an appropriate place to start our session. An outlet for Lincoln Green Brewing Company it would've been possible to have out own private beer festival without leaving the place, but we limited ourselves to two before walking up the hill to the Nag's Head. Here we sampled a couple of offerings from the Marston's stable, before we headed back downhill, popping into The Green House.

This Great UK Pubs' establishment offered just a single cask brew, Exmoor Gold. It also offered food and more large TV screens than your average branch of Currys, each one showing the fascinatingly exciting WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play golf from Austin, Texas. It was so enthralling that I didn't spot anybody in the place displaying any degree of interest in it at all. One thing it didn't offer though, and this seems to be a growing trend in pubs these days, was a beermat. We managed to improvise.


Having quaffed our less than starbright beers we managed to drag ourselves away from the multiple images of the Texan sunshine and headed back to The Railway where we found beermats...

Beermats in the Railway.

...and, after another couple of golden ales, eventually finished our sojourn in Belper with this appropriately named brew...

Seemed appropriate for our final brew.

...before heading back to the station to catch our respective trains.

Eight different brews in our exploration of Belper and we didn't even visit any of the dispensaries on the A6/Bridge Street. No Rifleman's, no George, no Devonshire, no Castle, no Beehive. Whilst we can target the first three of these on a future visit we'll have to rule out the last two for they're no longer in existence, but they appear in this old photograph looking north along Bridge Street. And no, that's not my bike, for once again I've been kept out of the saddle. Details – but not too many – as intimated above, will follow later!

Castle Inn Beehive Inn Belper
The Castle Inn on the left with the Beehive Inn on the right. No! That's not my bike.

Other than the loss of the chimney, and the bikes, the view hasn't changed that much. Apart for the brace of missing boozers, that is.

Looking north along Bridge Street, Belper.

Taking them alphabetically, I'll begin with the Beehive. The earliest reference by name that I've managed to come across is in Harrod's 1870 directory...

Extract from Harrod's 1870 directory.

...although John White was keeping an unnamed beerhouse in the appropriate part of Bridge Street at the time of the 1861 census...

Extract from the 1861 census.

...and there are a number of unnamed beerhouses in earlier trade directories which, were I to be so inclined might, with sufficient diligence, throw up some earlier landlords. However, I'm currently not so inclined so I'll just stick with what I have found to date.

So, it was operating by at least 1870, but when did it close? Well, in 1901 it's being run by a young widow, Agnes Yeomans, who'd been at a pub in Wessington with her husband William five years earlier when son Robert was born...

...and there's no reference to it in the 1911 census, which does include, by name, the likes of the Lord Nelson, the Rifleman's, etc. so presumably it shut up shop sometime in the century's first decade. Refronted in the 1960s it's currently home to Talk Staff recruitment agents.

Beehive Inn Belper
The former Beehive Inn, refronted in the 1960s.

Now for the Castle. Just like the Beehive, the earliest that I've come across it mentioned by name is Harrod's 1870 directory which shows one Edward Gamble, who was also a brazier, being at the Castle Inn.

Extract from Harrod's 1870 directory.

Belper Historical Society claim that prior to being named the Castle it was called the Alma, after the Crimean War battle of 1854. The 1861 census shows a John Smith as a publican at an unnamed house in the correct part of Bridge Street and White's 1857 directory lists a Joseph Smith as beer retailer in the street. Father and then son at the Alma/Castle, maybe?

Whilst that may well be a bit of speculation there was a father and son team in the Castle a little later. By the time of the 1891 census one John Walker was in residence...

Extract from the 1891 census.

...and he was also there ten years later.

Extract from the 1901 census.

A decade further on still and John has retired, but continues to live in the Castle which is now being run by his son, George.

Extract from the 1911 census.

Quite when the Castle closed I'm not sure. George appears as a beer retailer on Bridge Street in Kelly's directory published the following year and from there the trail goes cold. I've found no specific mention of it by name in any later directories and it's quite possible that its licence was surrendered with compensation under the Licensing Acts of the first decade of the twentieth century. Whenever, and for whatever reason, it closed it's certainly gone and the building is now home to a hairdresser.

Castle Inn Belper
The former Castle Inn.

That's the brace of Belper's bygone boozers dealt with. I started off this post by remarking that that it's been a while. It's certainly been a while since I started composing it. As I type this paragraph I should've been returning from a practice race, but I didn't ride it. With my training being at the stage I'd expect at the end of December rather than at the end of April I've decided to knock this season on the head. Roll on 2024 . Why the lack of progress on the training front? Why the delay in producing posts?

Well, in the earlier post on the Talbot Inn in Edensor I outlined a little procedure I'd had that I won't be hurrying to repeat. Thirty-six hours later I found myself being whisked off to A&E in Chesterfield with suspected urosepsis. Long story short, after three separate week-long courses of different antibiotics to treat this hospital-acquired infection I'm now part way through my fourth course, and this one has another three weeks to go. If that wasn't bad enough, the second one produced this.

It would probably be a bit rash if I went for a ride.

Back, chest, arms, legs, neck, face... If you can name a part of the human anatomy it was affected. All rather itchy and unpleasant. So for the last month I haven't really felt like training, I haven't felt like producing posts, or doing much at all for that matter. I was even put off drinking beer for a night or so. Things seen to be improving, but then they were three times before. However, my fingers are crossed and you'd better brace yourself for a flurry of further posts which have been in various states of readiness for a while. There's time to make up, and with pubs closing at a rate of almost two a day in 2023 there's plenty of subject matter to choose from.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

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