As with most public houses in the area it is difficult to pin down an exact date for the building of the Horse & Jockey Inn, Leabrooks Road, Somercotes.
The first documented evidence currently available is from the Derbyshire Advertiser & Journal published on 1 September 1865, which read: “SOMERCOTES – On Saturday the 26th inst. an inquest was held at the Horse and Jockey Inn, Somercotes before C. S. B. Busby, Esq [the Coroner], on the body of Geo. Kerry aged 49, coal miner, who died very suddenly the previous day…”. At the time most inquests were held locally to where a death occurred, and public houses were often considered the most suitable public places to hold them. Over the years, many inquests would be held at the Horse & Jockey.
Local newspapers also reported details of the “Alfreton Brewster Sessions”. These were held to establish whether or not licenses should be given or renewed to prospective landlords. The Derbyshire Courier dated 14 September 1867 reported on one such Brewster Session relating to the Horse & Jockey: “Henry Carlin, of the Horse and Jockey, Somercotes, applied for a license for his house. The constable having answered the usual questions, [the] applicant presented a memorial numerously signed. The house had been kept as a beerhouse for 26 years; the applicant and his wife were industrious people; the house was well located and the nearest licensed house was about 300 or 400 yards away. The Bench considered that there was no need for another licensed house and refused the application”. The application is interesting as it implies that the Horse & Jockey had existed as a beerhouse since 1841. Beerhouses and licensed inns were treated separately. A beerhouse could not sell wines and spirits and operated under different rules. It was much more advantageous to have a fully-licensed premises, and although the application was refused at the Brewster Sessions reported above, the license must at some point have been granted.
Although from the roadside the Horse & Jockey did not look like a particularly large property, it had stables and outhouses at the rear with a relatively large clubroom over. Many meetings and events were held there, including ones for the Somercotes Conservative Association, the Alfreton, Somercotes, Ripley and District Cab-drivers Association and the St. John Ambulance Brigade, to name just a few at random. The Ripley & Heanor News published on 3 February 1892 reported on one such event: “AMBULANCE DINNER – On Saturday night the annual dinner of the members of the St. John Ambulance Association was held at the Horse and Jockey…”.
In 1893, the inn was sold at auction. It was reported in the Ripley & Heanor News dated 3 March 1893. The article read: “SOMERCOTES – SALE OF AN INN – On Tuesday, Messrs W Watson and Son, auctioneers, offered for sale the Horse and Jockey Inn, which is a well-known hostelry in Somercotes. There was a good attendance, and the auctioneer had no difficulty in finding a purchaser for the property. The inn is situated on the main road leading to Leabrooks, and is in a thickly populated district. After some spirited bidding, Mr Pilgrim of Kimberley, bought the property for £2,500. Mr F S Rickards, of Alfreton, was the vendor’s solicitor”.
Some of the Horse & Jockey’s landlords are mentioned in various trade directories:
Horse and Jockey, Leabrooks Road, Somercotes c.1920s
Thomas Simms is probably the most infamous of all landlords in Somercotes and the surrounding district. In 1914 he murdered Melville Watson, a partner in the firm of Wm. Watson & Sons, Auctioneers, and then whilst still at the scene of the murder Simms committed suicide. This event was widely published in the newspapers. Following is a full transcript of the Coroner’s Inquest into the incident as published in the Derby Daily Telegraph on 18 June 1914: “THE ALFRETON TRAGEDY - DAY'S INQUEST - BROTHERS GRAPHIC STORY - WILFUL MURDER AND FELO DE SE [a term denoting an illegal act of suicide]. The Coroner for the district (Dr. A. Green, of Chesterfield) held his inquiry this (Thursday) afternoon into the circumstances attending the terrible tragedy which was enacted at Alfreton on Wednesday morning, and which caused such a sensation throughout the whole county. Both the victims were well known in the locality, Mr. Melville Watson a partner in a well-known business firm, and his murderer Thomas Simms, not only as landlord of the Horse and Jockey, Somercotes, but also as belonging to a family long connected with the farming industry in the same district. The proceedings took place in the billiard-room the George Hotel, Alfreton, and it was inconveniently crowded with jurors, the general public, and newspaper-men. The Coroner, at the outset, briefly outlined the story of the crime, and said they would no doubt like to express their sympathy with Mr. Watson's relatives in their terrible bereavement. Inasmuch as both men were dead, and no further proceedings could possibly be taken, it would not be necessary to go into all the facts, and it would be sufficient for the purposes of this inquiry to accept the general story. Arthur William Watson was the first witness. He said was managing clerk to the firm of William Watson and Sons, auctioneers and valuers, Alfreton, of which Mr. Melville Watson, his brother, was a partner. His brother was 45 years of age. Witness was in his own private office adjoining Mr. Melville Watson's room when the tragedy occurred. This was about 10 a.m. Witness did not know that Simms was there until he heard his voice.
The Coroner: Was he speaking in angry tones?— Witness: No, he seemed to be speaking in ordinary language. They were in the passage just outside witness's brother's office door. The telephone was there. Simms had visited the office before on business, but he was not a frequent visitor. Suddenly, witness heard three shots in quick succession, and jumping from his stool rushed into the passage. He saw Simms standing near the telephone, and catching hold of him swung him round to pull him out of the way while he looked round for his brother. While witness had hold of him, Simms put a revolver to his head and fired.
Did you leave hold of him?—l don't know what happened then. I left Simms to look after my brother, whom I found lying on his back in the passage, bleeding from the mouth. Witness added that until the doctor told him he did not know that Simms was dead. Witness thought Simms was going away when the tragedy occurred.
Do you know of any grievance which this man Simms had with your brother?—l think he had an imaginary grievance, but am not sufficiently acquainted with the circumstances to into it. It has been said that the trouble was about a valuation, but that was not true, as my brother never made any valuation for Simms at all.
The Coroner: All sorts of rumours get about at these times. Witness: I can tell you what I know of the matter between my brother and Simms. Simms took a farm under my brother and then gave it up.
Do you know anything of the character of the man Simms?—l have known him from a boy. Would you say he was a man with a hot temper?—He was the last man I should expect to commit an act of this kind - I have never seen him in a temper, and this thing seems to me to be foreign to his nature. If I was to express an opinion I should say he was mad with drink.
Was he a hard drinker?—l should not like say that. He was in very low circumstances and was no doubt troubled in his mind about his private concerns.
Did he borrow money from your brother ?—I do not think so. There are many stories about which are wrong. When my brother bought Carnfield Hall about three years ago he also bought some farm land adjoining. Simms was leaving his farm on the estate, and he applied to my brother for the tenancy of portion of the land which my brother had bought. He made an offer as to the rent, and my brother accepted it. There being no houses the land, my brother agreed to build one within a year. The tenancy agreement was signed, and a deposit £50 was paid by Simms. There was a clause in the agreement that if he did not carry out the contract this would be forfeited, which was the usual course in an agreement this kind. Simms came to the office some time afterwards, and voluntarily surrendered the tenancy. Simms saw me personally, and asked me about the £50 deposit. I told him must see my brother, and he said he supposed he would get something. I said that in all probability he would. I reported my conversation to my brother, who had since made Mr. Simms a substantial offer in settlement. Simms thought he should have had the whole of the £50 back. My brother offered him £30, and I knew that he had lost something through Simms breaking the contract. For instance, he had to let the same land to another tenant at 2s. 6d. per acre less than Simms had agreed to pay. This was the only business transaction with the man which my brother had at any time.
Mrs. Annie Mary Simms identified the body as that of Thomas, her husband, who was 33 years of age. He had been ill for some time past. He was all right as to his mind. He had not been drinking heavily of late, and when he left home at 10 minutes to nine on Thursday morning he was quite sober and of cheerful demeanour. Witness knew that he had some business to do with Mr. Melville Watson, but had never heard him say anything threatening about him. She was not aware that he had revolver in his possession, and could not say how he came to get it.
The Coroner at this point asked if there was any evidence to show how Simms became possessed of the revolver, and Supt. Fennell replied in the negative. Every inquiry had been made on the point, but without result.
Witness, continuing, said she did not think anything was wrong with her husband mentally, but, pressed by the Coroner, she added that one of his sisters had been in an asylum for two years.
Walter Percival Whittle, a clerk the employ of Messrs. Watson and Sons, said he was in the office when the tragedy occurred. He corroborated the details given by Mr. Arthur Watson in his evidence. When witness was attracted into the passage by the sound of the revolver shot he saw Mr. Arthur Watson swinging Simms round. Witness, proceeding, said he saw Simms put the revolver to his head and fire, and then witness went to the assistance Mr. Melville Watson, who was lying in the passage. When Simms came to the office he asked see Mr. Melville Watson, but did not state what his business was. He appeared to be sober, and there was certainly nothing his manner to excite suspicion. As far as witness could judge, the conversation between Simms and Mr. Melville Watson was conducted in an ordinary way, and there seemed no undue excitement.
Sidney Baker, collier, Lea Brook [sic], Somercotes, said he was a personal friend of Simms. On Wednesday morning witness met Simms, and on his invitation agreed to walk with him to Alfreton. He was then as usual, and although sometimes quick-tempered was no worse in this respect than most people. They called at a public-house and had half-a-pint of beer each, and Simms produced from his pocket a bottle containing whisky, out of which they both drank. Simms also showed witness a number of cartridges, but he did not show him a revolver. Witness did not recognise them as revolver cartridges, but thought they were for use in a rifle. On the way to Alfreton they talked about various subjects, chiefly horse racing, but there was no mention by Simms of Mr. Watson. Simms was certainly not the worse for drink. When they reached Alfreton witness waited outside Mr. Watson's office while Simms went inside. Five or ten minutes later witness heard the sound of shots, and saw people running to Mr. Watson's office door. Witness went into the office and saw Simms lying apparently dead. Witness then went to Somercotes and broke the news to Mrs. Simms.
Had Mr Simms been drinking lately? To tell you the truth he was always drinking, but on Wednesday morning he did not show any signs of it. He was jolly as usual, and seemed all right.
Dr. Sidney Bingham, of Alfreton, spoke to being called to Mr. Watson's office on Wednesday morning shortly after ten o'clock. He saw Simms lying on the floor of the outer office quite dead. In the passage witness saw Mr. Arthur Watson supporting the head of his brother. Witness afterwards traced the course of the bullets in the body of Mr. Watson. There were three wounds in the neck and chest, but any of the wounds might have proved fatal. Witness had heard all the evidence, and could find nothing in it to convince him that Simms was insane at the time of the tragedy. He had made superficial examination of the body of Simms, and had found a wound on the right temple which was quite enough to cause death.
Police constable Clarke of Alfreton, spoke to being called to Mr. Watson's office and having described the positions of the bodies, mentioned that he found the revolver, which he produced, close by the right hand of Simms, who was on the floor in the outer office. In the revolver he found one live cartridge, whilst beside him were four or five discharged cartridges. Police-constable Lowe spoke of having searched the clothing of the man Simms. He found no letters or documents upon him which threw any light upon the tragedy. He found a number of live cartridges in the man's pocket, which were similar to that found in the revolver. He had made enquiries in the neighbourhood, but was unable to ascertain where the cartridges were obtained from. From one document he found that Simms had at one time been in the Derbyshire Imperial Yeomanry. There was also a small bottle half-full of whisky in his possession. There was, as he had before mentioned, nothing else upon him to throw any light upon the tragedy.
Mrs. Simms. re-called, said her husband had been in the Yeomanry for about three years. The Coroner, addressing the jury, said it was quite clear from the evidence that Mr Melville Watson had been prepared to treat Mr. Simms fairly in the matter of his business. It was also clear that the mental condition of Simms was normal when he called, and that he was sober at the time. The only thing which could be urged in the favour of Simms was the utter absence of motive, for he could have had none unless he had some imaginary grievance against-Mr. Watson. But Simms had never told anybody of any grievance nor any cause for anger, not even to his wife. A verdict of "Wilful murder" against Simms was returned in the case of My. Watson, and in the case of Simms it was Felo de se [an illegal act of suicide]."
Further information on later landlords of the Horse & Jockey was found by Mr Kenneth Hallsworth in a document found in an outbuilding of the inn. The document was titled “An Account of Spirits Sent Out of Stock, Accompanied by Certificate”. The ledger dates from 31 January 1924 to 6 September 1957, and amongst other things, details the licensees between those dates.
The Horse & Jockey was taken over by the Home Brewery Co. of Daybrook, Nottingham on 10 September 1926.
From the “Spirit Ledger” the licensees can be listed as follows:
More recent landlords of the Horse & Jockey are:
The Horse & Jockey closed in July 2013.