Updated: Jul 28, 2021
OK. It's that time of year so let's have a seasonal offering. Three kings from the east. Well, they're from the east provided you're reading this in Menai Bridge or somewhere even further west. Three kings, all bearing something different. The first a head, the second some arms and the third a fourth.
King number one. The King's Head in Melbourne. This bygone boozer stood on the corner of Potter Street and Derby Road in Melbourne, Derbyshire. Just up the road from the now-defunct Roebuck.
Being absent from the 1829 editions of both Glover and Pigot it first features in the directories in the 1831 version of the latter with Charles Best as mine host. Charles died in 1838 and in all probability the place was taken on by Alfred Bowman.
Alfred is listed as a publican in unnamed premises on Potter Street in the 1841 census and at the King's Head in the following year's edition of Pigot. A year later,1843, he joined Charles in Melbourne churchyard and another year on his widow Elizabeth has married a John Godwin. He dies in 1865 and Elizabeth marries again in 1866. She really must like publicans as her new husband this time is a running a boozer in Park Street, Derby. According to the censuses in 1871 and 1881 John and Elizabeth Earl are living in the Melbourne Arms with John's niece, Ann Taft as the innkeeper. Both the Park Street establishment and the Melbourne Arms are now bygone boozers. In fact, much of Park Street is bygone.
In the 1870s we find the place in the care of Edwin Toone and the King's Head continues to trade for another century. A friend who is well acquainted with the Melbourne hostelries has told me that the King's Head closed in the early 1970s, before I arrived in the area. It is now earning its living as the Bay Tree Restaurant.
Whilst I never had the opportunity to sup in king number one, I have consumed a pint or three in the second - the former King's Arms in Bangor.
A Grade II listed building, just along the High Street from the cathedral, it's thought to have been a pub from at least 1810. The earliest reference to it that I have found so far is in the 1829 North Wales edition of Pigot which gives the very un-Welsh-sounding John Mackintosh as the innkeeper. During my time in Bangor John Hemus was landlord and it regularly held folk sessions with both singers nights and more well-known names from the folk world. I recall the late Bristol shantyman Erik Ilott performing there.
The Welsh have a saying. A fo ysgafn galon ef a gân. Roughly translated as 'The light-hearted will sing'. I wonder if Amanda is still singing, or light-hearted. I've heard that she was sadly widowed in the early 1980s after just three years of marriage.
I remember it as always being rather steamy in that front room but despite that damp in the corner (Was it caused by John regularly steam-cleaning the room to remove all traces of patchouli?) conditions have to be better than in 1847 when a report says "...The King's Arms, a tavern in the main street, has no privvy at all. The soil is collected in a box and carried to the brook, just above where it enters the deanery gardens."
After a spell as O'Shea's Irish bar (picture here) it became the Bangor Blues sports bar (Bangor City play in a blue strip)...
...before it returned to being the King's Arms...
...and then closing about 2016.
Now, no longer boarded-up, it's reopened. The place now operates as Domu, a vegetarian/vegan café, run by Dale Hibbert, the original bass player with The Smiths, along with his wife.
The third king is the fourth. King William the Fourth. Now, I've downed a few pints in various King Billies in my time, especially the one on Quay Road in Gorleston, but this one died before I could make it.
Sitting on Lowes Hill in Ripley, Derbyshire, I pass its tree-shrouded location every time I speed along the A610 towards my meeting with meatballs and lingonberries at the Giltbrook branch of IKEA. It's marked on the 1881 Ordnance Survey map and both the Kelly's Directory and census of that year give a John Kinder there. The earliest mention of it by name that I can find is in the 1870 Harrod's Directory which shows David Whysall at the King William the Fourth. The 1851 and 1861 censuses both give David as a collier and beer retailer on Lowes Hill, so it was probably in existence for a couple of decades already by then.
Latterly a Home Brewery house, if it was in existence in the first part of the nineteenth century it looks as if the original building has been rebuilt or refronted at some time. Since its closure it now serves the community as the King William care home and looks to have had a considerable amount of additional building work added in matching architectural style.
When did it close? My best guess is in the mid-1970s. It's listed in the 1974 telephone directory - Ripley 2433 - but is absent from the 1976 and subsequent editions. The picture below, from Picture the Past, was taken in the late 1970s and shows no evidence of it still being a pub. No extension either.
Well, that's the festive threesome. It only remains for me to wish a good Midwinterfest to one and all.
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