It's hot. It's sunny. It's summer and the Peak District is full to overflowing. Time to head south and do some pedalling in the land of hedges. It's still pretty early as we pass the former Chesterfield Arms in Cubley heading for Blithfield Reservoir. Some of the lanes seemed familiar and so they should have done as I'd raced on them a few years ago, albeit travelling in the opposite direction, in a round of the National Circuit Series. Today's ride was to be somewhat more leisurely.
The pre-planned route would provide the opportunity to photograph two former pubs, the Horse & Jockey at Hadley End and the Wicket Inn at Lea Heath but before we got to either of those we'd arrived in Newborough with its listed All Saints' Church which, I've since discovered, was built on the site of a yet another bygone boozer – the former White Hart Inn – in 1901.
The village also provided the opportunity for a coffee at The Old Baker's Cottage with its velocipede plant pot holder that was devoid of plant pots.
The coffees weren't devoid of caffeine though and with levels topped-up after our Americano and Cappuccino we set off again. It was only then that I realised that the Horse & Jockey was several miles back in the direction from which we had come. Not to worry, it would still be there when we next pass. Plenty of posts feature just a single bygone boozer.
Onwards through Hoar Cross on quiet country lanes to the crossroads in Blithbury – and a surprise.
It suddenly looked like there'd be two bygone boozers in this post after all. The Bull in Spectacles was still operating last year and I was certainly surprised to find it in this state. Was it was being refurbished during lockdown? Seemingly not.
Part of this former coaching inn dates to the 17th century and was built on the site of the former Kilby Hall. Depending upon which source you want to believe it takes its name from a former landlord's favourite bull, from Anne Boleyn, from its use as a rural court (a magistrate being known as a Bull), from the time when a drunken customer put his glasses on a bull... Take your pick, but in the 1834 edition of White's Directory it's simply called the Bull's Head and is in the charge of John Haywood. The Bull seems to have acquired the need for ophthalmic assistance between the times of the 1891 census and the publication of Kelly's 1900 guide. As well a name-change taking place then there'd been a change of landlord too. Perhaps the two occurred at the same time. Anyway, whenever this happened the pub's now shut, closing its doors for the final time in the first week of September 2020.
Not wanting to wait to purchase a bridal gown it was on with the pedalling. Through Colton and on to the duck pond at Stockwell Heath where a happy half hour was spent having a bite to eat, fending off frenzied waterfowl and repairing the damage inflicted by a visitation from the P******* Fairy.
With belly and tyre once more both fully inflated it was off again to Lea Heath and the former Wicket Inn.
Whilst digging about on line for any relatively recent info about this bygone boozer I came across this post on the Stafford Forum. Having ploughed through directories, censuses and BMD records it all seems to pan out so I'll just dump the whole thing here, complete with its typos, for you to plough through for yourself.
"The earliest known reference to a public house at Lea is in the 1841 census when a William Limer is listed as the publican. It may have been a beer house prior to that after 1830. The earliest recorded name for a public house at Lea Heath is The Gate and may be a reference to a toll gate that is referred to in the papers of the Bagot family of Blithfield. By 1850 The Gate and shop was well established. In 1851 it was called the Newgate Inn. William Limer was the head of the household but had retired as a publican; Richard Dale was the Licensed Victualler. He had married William's daughter Hannah. William's youngest daughter Alice ary was married to William Ringham, innkeeper at Bagot Arms, Abbots Bromley. Richard Dale died in 1852 and William Limer in 1855. His daughters took over running of the pub. In 1861 it was The Gate with Thomas Collier who had married Hannah Dale. By 1870 Thomas Collier had died and Hannah Collier was the licensee of The Gate Inn. Hannah was sill licensee in 1876 but by 1881 her son George Dale was the licensee of the pub which was now The Hanging Wicket referring to a small gate within a larger one. George remained as the publican until he died in 1896. His wife Mary had died in 1884 but appears to have married another Mary since from 1896 until 1902 Mrs Mary dale was the licensee of The Hanging Wicket. In 1904 Charles Wilson was the licensee. By 1912 the Martin family were in charge, first John Martin and later Fred Martin until 1940. It continued to be known as The Hanging Wicket and was locally known as The Wicket until 1995 when it was renamed The Tolk. Mary and Glyn Evans took over the tenancy in 1999 who renamed it The Wicket soon after. A few years ago Mary moved from The Wicket to The Railway Inn at Norton Bridge."
After a natter with the current owner, who was doing a bit of DIY outside, we ploughed on too, but not before snapping this reference to the house's former life.
With the objectives of the ride met, well fifty per cent of them anyway, it was time to finish the ride and then finish a Magnum. After all, it was hot, sunny and summer. The Horse & Jockey, and possibly the White Hart Inn, can wait for another day.
Mat Fascione's image is copyright and is reproduced under this licence.
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