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Signs of the Times.

Mid-November. Next season may be well be several months away yet, if it is to exist at all, but it's still appropriate to get some longer rides in every now and then. With a reasonably tired set of legs from the last few days of intensive indoor sessions, a ride along the relatively flat A6 seemed like a good idea.

With Christmas markets taking place in Bakewell, at Haddon Hall, as well as at Chatsworth House, the queue of cars heading north at the traffic lights by Matlock bridge stretched back for over half a mile. I continued through Matlock Bath and on to Cromford where there was a queue of similar proportions on the other side of those traffic lights too. I was pleased to be heading south.

I passed unhindered through Belper, often a bit of a bottleneck, and stopped briefly in Milford for some more musings. More musings? Perhaps you missed the post on the bygone Beehive. If so, you can find it by clicking here.

As I entered the village from the north I passed a terrace of buildings on my left. They all offer some points of interest, aside from them all being Grade II listed structures and most of them already having Christmas trees mounted ready for decoration.

The Grade II listed terrace.

I stopped outside the first one.

No. This wasn't a bygone boozer. Its name plate gives away its former role.

Whilst I pedal an old bike or two this wasn't an establishment where I could have increased the size of my stable of ageing steel steeds, for it didn't peddle old pedal bikes. OK, it may have done in the dim and distant past, but the bikes that used to be sold from here in more recent memory could put out quite a few more horsepower than the half of one that I can manage to sustain for less than a minute. This cottage, along with its neighbour, used to be part of the shop and workshop of twice motorcycling world champion, and twice Isle of Man TT winner, Bill Lomas. My legs certainly would never be a match for the Moto Guzzi V8 – yes, a V8 motorbike, The Otto – that he rode, and spectacularly fell off, in 1956.

Bill's bike business had a pub for a neighbour. Way back around 1990 I visited the King William IV with friends for an evening of quaffing. As the new millennium approached it spent a couple of years as the Milford Inn and Restaurant, but reverted to its royal moniker, albeit without the regnal number in 2001.

The King William in Milford.

The King William will still serve you with a pint of Bass or Timothy Taylor's Landlord so surely it can't be the subject of this post. No. That honour goes to its other neighbour, the building at the southern end of the terrace.

Durham Ox Milford Derbyshire
The former Durham Ox with its still operating neighbour

It doesn't look like you can get in, but there's a door to the side.

The Durham Ox was built in 1846 by the Brassington family and the 1851 census shows George Brassington operating a beerhouse next door to the William the Fourth.

Extract from the 1851 census.

Try as I might, I have been unable to find any reference to the place operating under the name of the Durham Ox. It's not named as such in any trade directories that I've access to, but Derbyshire County Council's Historic Environment Record has it as such here, so I'll take it to be true.

One reason for the lack of evidence for its name in my directories could well be its short-lived existence as a boozer. Just thirteen years after its construction, the building was sold in 1859 and converted into an Ebenezer Chapel as recorded over the door.

Nowadays it earns its living as a holiday let sleeping up to twenty-two. Fancy a family reunion in Milford?

With the legs feeling good, and a quick text having confirmed that coffee was available at the abode of some friends in Derby, I continued in a southerly direction. Just across the River Derwent the Strutt Arms has reopened after yet another major refurbishment, the second in three years. Now "the first attempt at a proper Indian gastro pub" according to the owners, it's been rechristened the Elephant and Peacock and has a sign depicting this pair of Indian creatures, although the accommodation side of the business is remaining as the Strutt Arms Hotel.

Not fancying a gourmet Gobi Aloo it was on to to my caffeine source via Duffield and Quarndon.

Half an hour later, feeling rejuvenated after the Arabica infusion and refuelled by the rather tasty ginger and dark chocolate biscuits I decided, rather than simply retrace my pedal strokes and possibly catch up with still-queueing traffic, that I'd take a lumpier way home and so set off along what, a century or three ago, used to be the coaching route between Derby and Manchester. Climbing up Bullhurst Lane from Weston Underwood I came to the relatively recently reopened Cock Inn, with its sign featuring...

...a horse.

When I first frequented this hostelry, around forty years ago, it had a bald-breasted parrot swinging in its cage inside and a cockerel painted on the swinging sign outside. When the place reopened a couple of years ago, after a prolonged closure, the cockerel had been replaced by a nag. Why? Seems a little odd, doesn't it?

Where a stagecoach would struggle to surmount a hill an additional horse, known as a cock horse, was attached to assist the normal team haul it and its contents up the incline. They were often to be found for hire at an inn at the bottom of the hill and were uncoupled at another at the top. In this case, possibly the bygone Scarsdale Inn in Weston Underwood (Watch this space!) provided the first service and the Cock the second.

Having taken the opportunity to munch a couple of fig rolls whilst capturing an image of the cocky horse, it was time for me to mount up again and press on homewards. However, passing through Hulland Ward I just had to stop once more at another equine-themed boozer.

A few years ago this pub had a double-sided sign. On one face was an image of a horse's head, not dissimilar in profile to that on the sign at Mugginton, but in colour. The other side bore the likeness of a woman, possibly with with her hair in curlers under a head scarf – despite passing the pub twice a day on my commute to work for over ten years I'm now a little vague on this point – brandishing a rolling pin. Perhaps it was the result of bowing to those who felt it was a little politically incorrect, or maybe it just needed replacing. Whatever the reason, it's gone now. And worryingly, has the pub gone as well?

The Nag's Head, Hulland Ward.

Hopefully Star Pubs can find a new tenant. If you've ten grand or so to spare, and fancy giving it ago, you can find the details by clicking here.

A couple more fig rolls and it was onwards once more. Around a very empty Carsington Reservoir, through Bradbourne, down and then up again to the former Jug and Glass at Longcliffe and home in time to shower, eat and catch the start of Scotland vs Argentina from Murrayfield. My first ride of over forty miles for quite a while and it didn't feel too bad. Perhaps there are signs that I'm getting fitter after all.

The image of The Otto is copyright and is reused under this licence.

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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