It is not known when the Black Horse Inn, Lower Somercotes was built. It was positioned close to the old Toll Gate on the Alfreton-Nottingham Turnpike and was ideally placed to take advantage of weary travellers who might stop at the toll gate on route.
The original building probably dated from around the late 18th to early 19th century. The first documented evidence currently available is for an auction held at the Inn and reported in the Derby Mercury newspaper published on 23 June 1830 which read: “TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION By Mr Hopkinson – At the house of Mr Creswell, the sign of the Black Horse, Somercoates [sic], near Alfreton in the County of Derby…”. The following year, 1831, there is also a reference in Pigot’s Trade Directory, when the landlord was listed as Samuel Thornhill.
The position of Inn, next to the turnpike and close to the ironworks and collieries would have made it a popular venue. Not only was it a substantial building, but the property also had a considerable amount of land attached. Reference to this and the advantage of the turnpike can be seen in a notice published in the Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties on 28 June 1844, relating to the sale of the premises: “VALUABLE PROPERT AT SOMERCOTES, NEAR ALFRETON - TO BE SOLD BY PRIVATE CONTRACT, either in one or two lots, as may be agreed upon, all that newly erected and commodious INN, known as the Black Horse, together with Seven COTTAGE HOUSES, and an extensive Yard, adjoining the said Inn, and Two Fields of LAND, called Woolley’s Orchard and the Allotment, containing together about three acres; also a good House and Grocers Shop, situate at Somercotes now in the occupation of (Mr.) Peat, together with the reversionary interest in a Small House near the said Grocers Shop, and Two Fields of Land, called the Flax Croft and Long Close Containing together about four and a half acres. The last named House and Land will be sold subject to the life interest of a Gentleman now upwards of 70 years of age. The Black Horse is well situated for doing an extensive business on the Nottingham and Alfreton Turnpike Road about two and a half miles from the latter place. The Land is of very excellent quality, and two of the Fields viz, the Flax Croft and the Allotment are well situated for building purposes, each having an extensive frontage to the Turnpike Road. To treat for the purchase of the Property, or for further information, apply Mr. George Staley, Butterley Ironworks”.
Although confirmation cannot be found, the auction notice implies that the Black Horse Inn and surrounding land and premises belonged at the time to the Butterley Company. The Flax Croft, mentioned in the auction notice, also has its own history, the name dating to around the time of King Henry VIII, when the cultivation of Flax in every parish was ordered by Parliament in 1533, as a way of providing work in cloth making for the poor.
PHOTO: The Black Horse Inn, 2012
The Black Horse was again sold in 1874, and the inn was described in much more detail in the auction lot, now minus the cottages and other items which were sold separately in the auction of 1844. The auction was advertised in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald on Wednesday, 24 December 1873 – “SOMERCOTES, NEAR ALFRETON, DERBYSHIRE – FREEHOLD PUBLIC-HOUSE – To be sold at auction by Messrs. James carter and Son, on the premises on Wednesday the 7th day of January 1874 at three o’clock in the afternoon for four precisely, subject to the conditions as then will be produced:- All that old established and well-accustomed PUBLIC HOUSE, known as the “Black Horse”, situate at Somercotes, Near Alfreton, in the County of Derby, now in the occupation of Mrs. Hardstaff, with the outbuildings and appurtenances thereto belonging. Also, all that croft or close of excellent grass land lying at the rear of the said house, and containing by measurement 1a. 3r. 22p. or thereabouts. The house contains a comfortable Bar, Parlour, Tap-room, Kitchen, and scullery, excellent Stone Cellarage, spacious Clubroom, four good bedrooms and large attic over. The outbuildings consist of Brew House, with self-supplying Copper, Stable, and Cow-house, with large Club-room over, Piggeries, Cart Shed, and Carriage House, and an excellent Baker’s Oven. There is also a large and productive garden. The property is well situated for doing a good trade, and being in the midst of a large mining district is sure to command an extensive business. Part of the purchase money can remain on Mortgage if required. For further particulars apply to the Auctioneers, Clumber Street or to Messrs, Clarke, Rothera & Carter, Solicitors, High Street Place, Nottingham”
The architecture of the Black Horse as seen in more modern photographs seems to be contemporary with the late Victorian era, implying that the original building may at some time have been rebuilt or substantially modified. This would not be unique, as the Rifle Volunteer, the Royal Tiger and the Angel Inn at Alfreton have all undergone substantial rebuilds in their history.
A photograph dating from around 1911 shows a group of people taken outside of the Black Horse Inn. The landlady at the time was Ann Chambers and she is listed in Kelly’s Trade Directory for 1912. Whilst the building looks very similar, with its bay windows being a feature, there has since been some obvious alterations. It is thought that the photograph may have been taken during celebrations for the Coronation of King George V, which occurred on 22 June 1911. Ann Chambers is almost certainly on this photograph, but we do not have any names. She is likely to be the woman standing third from left, without a coat and with two children, although we cannot be certain.
PHOTO: The Black Horse Inn when Ann Chambers was the proprietor, c.1912.
It was not uncommon for women to be granted licences for public houses in certain circumstances [for example widowhood]. Ann Chambers’ tenancy though was not without issues. Several times her name appears in local newspapers [along with other landlords] for appearing in Court, having allowed gaming to take place on the premises. On most occasions, the charges were withdrawn on payment of costs.
Some of the licensees recorded in Trade Directories or other documents are given below.
The Black Horse continued to trade throughout the 20th century, and became locally known for the many bands that appeared in the fairly large clubroom at the rear of the premises. They also held the Lower Somercotes Flower, Fruit and Vegetable show in the 1950’s, and like many public houses had a Darts and Dominoes Team that played in the Alfreton & District Darts League [Ripley & Heanor News, 20 January 1950]
However, in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s trade began to suffer. The Black Horse was finally closed during January 2015, and the site, including the adjoining fields, awaits redevelopment.