It's well over a decade since I had a regular commute and over a quarter of a century since I last embarked upon this one. A recent return to the vicinity of south Derbyshire where I used to live highlighted just how many pubs have closed in the area. This is the first in what sadly will be a long-running series of posts which catalogues the bygone boozers I used to pass on my regular morning commute.
The first of these was at the northern edge of the the village of Hartshorne and used to be a regular Monday evening haunt after an few hours of spanner wielding and hammer swinging. It also happened to be the venue of my stag night. No long weekend away in the likes of Prague, Amsterdam or Hamburg for me, just a few pints of Tiger with a few mates in the Dominoes Inn. We all even made it into work the next day. Just! And just how productive we were might be open to debate.
The Dominoes was constructed shortly after the end of World War 2, by Marston's, to serve the residents of the Goseley estate which was being built on the other side of Woodville Road. But this Dominoes wasn't the Dominoes that I knew. Just as in the case of the Shrublands estate that appeared in Gorleston, a temporary pub was the solution to the lack of imbibing amenities that would otherwise have existed. However, unlike the lost Lacon Arms which sprung up in the Norfolk seaside town in 1955, and continued serving until 2017 before being flattened the following year, the prefabricated Dominoes Inn only lasted around a decade, popping up in 1954, before being replaced by a new, state-of-the-art establishment at a cost of £30,000.
That £30,000 provided the new inn with a thermostatically controlled cellar, a specially designed darts area as well as a light and airy lounge – which was the room I became most familiar with – along with parking for a hundred vehicles. The brewery didn't hold back with the pub sign either, its name spelt out in large red letters and with half a dozen giant dominoes mounted on the gable it was hard to miss.
In addition to the aforementioned features the pub also often offered live music. I recall early on one warm, sunny, Friday evening entering with Mrs. Bygone Boozer to find ourselves alone in the lounge apart from a keyboard and a microphone stand. Unperturbed, we ordered our drinks and sat down to partake of them. When I'd got to the point where only around an inch of beer was left in my pint glass the landlady enters, settles herself down at the keyboard and proceeds to perform to us. Us and only us.
My wife's just left me,
The dog's just died,
And the baby's just burned down the barn...
You must recognise the sort of Country and Western I'm referring to. Whilst some C&W is OK it's not Guns N' Roses, Springsteen or Sabbath, is it? We decided that we couldn't walk out and leave her on her own but having only intended popping in for one I hadn't picked up my wallet and didn't have enough money to buy another round. Digging around in our pockets we managed to collect together enough coinage between us to buy me another half with a 2p piece to spare. Mrs. BB just had to sit and stare at her empty glass.
I slowly, very slowly, savoured my half whilst we continued to be given our own personal performance, full of lamentations of lost loves and failed crops. And then it happened. The door opened. We were no longer alone. WE WERE SAVED!
We gave the newly arrived couple ten minutes of our company before feeling that we'd stayed long enough for our departure not to be seen as rude. Politely nodding our farewell we left as the despair continued to rain down.
...the combine's gearbox has seized,
my horse has gone lame
and grandma's drunk all my moonshine...
Whilst originally built for Marston's it was serving Everard's brews when I used to frequent it so some deal must've happened at some point. It can't have been as a result of the 1989 beer orders for this was before they'd been enacted. Another change that occurred was a change of name. At some time after I'd moved away from the area the Dominoes became the Snooty Fox. Whether it was struggling to pay its way and a change of identity was deemed necessary I don't know. If that was the case it couldn't have been particularly successful or perhaps the number of houses that could be built on that hundred-space car park was just too tempting. By 2009 it was boarded up before being demolished.
The plot stood empty for years before it was totally cleared and building work started. When I passed a few months ago the site looked like this.
The eleven houses on the site are just part of a much larger development. Loads of houses housing loads of people with no pub to go to. I suppose they'll just have to stay in, open a few cans and have a pizza instead. Luckily there is a Domino's just down the road in Swadlincote.
The image of the pub's sign was taken in 1994 by Miles Arrindell and is to be found in the archives of the Inn Sign Society.
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