House arrest is over. Survival has been possible by means of Mr. Tesco's mobile fleet and the odd pedal on the indoor trainer in the rear porch. Oh! And not forgetting Jenny's doorstep delivery of mixed cases of Aldwark brews. Fourteen days of quarantine endured and it seems as if summer is still here. Have to get out on the bike, but where to go?
Silver-topped citizens of a certain age, who would normally be sunning themselves in Sóller, Seville or Santorini, are now tottering around Tideswell, hobbling around Hartington and wobbling through Winster. To be fair, although yet to show any sign of grey but knowing that father and uncles all went that way, I should now be on the Iberian peninsula myself, cat-sitting for my sister-in-law. Seeing how the re-opened Bar Marilyn is doing will now have to wait until next year though. With the Peak District villages packed with the silver-haired staycationers the lanes in the land of hedges seem attractive, so south it's to be.
As I often do before setting out on a ride which takes me outside about a ten-mile radius of home I had a quick look at some old Ordnance Survey maps on-line and came across this one showing the Saracen's Head in Brailsford. Neither my memory nor a quick look at Google Maps threw up a pub at this point, so Brailsford will now feature in the ride.
Off we set and soon it begins to feel as if I've entered another life. A life I left almost fifteen years ago, for I'm on the route of my former daily commute. Sometimes undertaken by bike, but more often not, I hadn't ridden this way for quite a while. Long enough for Brailsford to have acquired a load more houses, along with a new primary school.
A quick zig onto the A52 followed by a zag off it and we were in Saracen's Head Yard and I was snapping the bygone boozer.
One of the businesses operating from Saracen's Head Yard is Buttermilk Coffee House - and it was open. We take a seat outside and twenty minutes, one track and trace form and two chamber pots of coffee - one cappuccino, one Americano - later it's mask on, enter, smear gel, wave card by terminal, leave, remove mask and get back on our way commenting that this is our first stop for a coffee since a visit to Cobbles in Longnor back in November last year. I just hope that we don't start showing symptoms and need a test in the next week as Twat Mancock has just said that there aren't any.
Caffeine levels restored we continued south between the hedges, through Trusley and then back up through Longford and past the old Green Dragon in Hollington to partake of lunch on the bench at the end of Back Lane. Refuelled, and with factor 30 reapplied, we headed home through Ednaston with its sad-looking Yew Tree, Bradley and around Carsington Water.
Various road works and accompanying closures meant we had to climb up through Brassington and then descend by Rainster Rocks before climbing once again to Longcliffe. Once upon a time it was possible to buy an ice-cold Coke or a Magnum from the back door of the former Jug & Glass, but sadly no longer. Could've done with something. It certainly still felt like summer.
Having returned home, consuming one of Jenny's products and starting to pen this post a doubt or two began to creep into my mind. Had I actually captured a shot of the former Saracen's Head? Whilst the OS map above labels it south of the main road, the OS 6 inch map produced around 1890 marks it as the building a few yards to the north on the other side of the road and Mrs. Bygone Boozer, a bit of a birder, suggested that if it were a bird she'd say that it just didn't have the right jizz. It just didn't look or feel like an old inn.
The old London to Manchester stagecoach route ran along the line of the A52 between Derby and Ashbourne, passing through Brailsford. There would've been a great deal of competition between inns along the route. They'd have been right on the roadside, presenting a wide, impressive frontage to passing traffic. The building I'd photographed just didn't fit this description but Mrs. BB's memory contained one which did. The one labelled on the opposite side of the road on the old 6 inch map and the one labelled as Saracen's Farm House on this 2007 map of Brailsford's Conservation Area. The one which no longer stands. I'm pretty convinced now that the former Saracen's Head has been demolished and that the building I photographed across the road from it in Saracen's Head Yard was its stabling and associated structures.
In August 2009 construction of houses was taking place on the site. Mr. Google caught it as he drove by. The two houses shown stand on the likely site of the old pub, with others being built in the field behind.
The completed development is at least keeping the name alive.
So that's the Saracen's Head today, but what of its past? According to Glover's 1829 directory John Dowdeswell was a farmer and victualler at the Saracen's Head in Brailsford. When he died in 1833 his widow Mary continued to run the pub and farm until she joined him in Brailsford churchyard in 1857 at the tender age of 93.
By the time the census of 1861 comes round a James Webster is farming and dispensing pints but he joins John and Mary in 1869 and the pub probably then passes into the hands of Israel Cockeram. He's certainly there with his wife Sarah according to thenext census a couple of years on. In fact Sarah continues to run it after Israel has departed this world until she gives it up sometime in the early part of the twentieth century. She's still there in 1901 but a decade later she's living with her daughter and son-in-law and the Saracen's Head's new occupant is only described as a farmer. I can find no reference to it as a pub after Sarah's apparent post-1901 retirement.
Whilst there still might be a tiny doubt in my mind as to the pub's exact location one thing is certain and that is that the Saracen's Head is a bygone boozer.
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