Premises open for the sale of alcohol and other beverages, along with lodging and stabling have long been a part of most towns and villages throughout the centuries, but more often than not have gone unrecorded. The Elizabethan Calendar of State Papers Domestic for the year 1577 includes a list of the “Alehouses, Innes and Tavernes in Derbyshire”. It was transcribed by W. H. Hart FSA and published in the Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1879. Sadly, only the names of the innkeepers are given, with no mention of the exact location or the name of the premises:
Listed are one inn and ten alehouses. It is likely that one of the premises is the Peacock Inn at Oakerthorpe, which dates back to the 11th century and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Ufton Barns (part of the ancient Ufton Manor). It was rebuilt in 1613, some 36 years after the 1577 survey.
The selling of alcohol for consumption on premises owned or rented by a landlord was not only permitted and licensed for Inns and Taverns but also to those who opened their houses and other establishments. These were, in effect, public houses.
Many of the Beer House Keepers and Landlords were recorded in trade directories and census returns, and Somercotes was noted for the large numbers involved in this trade, especially during the latter half of the 19th century. There is, in the records, some overlap between the beer house keepers and those landlords who operated from a specific inn or tavern. For example, Samuel Lycitt is listed as a beer house keeper in a trade directory, but it is known that he was the landlord of the Old English Gentleman on Somercotes Hill at the time.
The trade of Beer House Keeper continued into the 20th century, although it was beginning to diminish in favour of the Inn or Public House. On the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Defence of the Realm Act was passed by Parliament. One section of the Act concerned the opening hours for Public Houses and Clubs during which alcohol could be sold. It restricted the opening hours from 12:00 to 14.00 and again from 18:30 to 21.30. These opening hours remained in force for many years. Although the Beer House Keeper died out, the landlord and retailer continue to this day.
Many of the landlords listed would not have been licenced to sell wines and spirits. Such licences were tightly controlled and usually only granted to coaching inns or similar premises. Inns such as the Rose & Crown, the Black Horse and the Dog & Doublet would no doubt have been granted licences, but it was not a foregone conclusion and many establishments would lose their licence (often due to illegal gambling on the premises) and have to reapply. Other public houses would only sell beer, which was often brewed on the premises.
During the First World War many young men from the local villages would either volunteer or, after January 1916, be conscripted to serve with the colours. There are no records to establish what effect this had on businesses that relied on the sale of beer, wines and spirits, but it would appear that many, if not all, of the local hostelries remained open, even though the licencing hours were then restricted by law, as can be seen in Kelly’s Trade Directory for the year 1916.
The number of public houses listed sometimes changed with each directory. This is because the directories are not social but business catalogues and should be seen in that context.
Since the trade directory published in 1941 the licencing laws have undergone major changes. The availability of beers, wines and spirits has increased and the licencing hours relaxed. Despite the efforts of many people up and down the country public houses have closed at an ever growing rate. Locally, the Rose & Crown Inn at Lower Somercotes was perhaps the first to close, but in the last thirty years or so the Sun Inn, the New Inn, the Rifle Volunteer, the Horse & Jockey Inn, the Royal Tiger Inn and the Black Horse Inn have all closed their doors. In some cases the buildings have been re-purposed, but many have been demolished and the site redeveloped.
AUCTION OF INNS AND BEER HOUSES BY CHARLES ROWLAND PALMER-MOREWOOD, 1896
The Palmer-Morewood family of Alfreton Hall owned a number of inns and beerhouses in the area, and in 1896 Charles Rowland Palmer-Morewood (1843-1910) took the decision to sell these properties at auction. The auction was scheduled to take place at the Royal Hotel, Derby on 17th December 1896. Pre-auction notices were printed in many newspapers, and breweries, in particular, became the frontrunners once the auction had commenced.
A small notice was printed in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald on 31st October 1896: “PUBLIC-HOUSE PROPERTY AT ALFRETON - Considerable interest has been aroused by the announcement that Mr. C. R. Palmer-Morewood J.P., of Alfreton Park, has decided shortly to dispose of by auction all the public-houses owned him in the neighbourhood. Altogether eight houses are to be brought under the hammer, and all of them form part of the Alfreton Park estate. The following are the public-houses to sold: The George Hotel; The Waggon and Horses lnn; The Four Horse Shoes; the Nags Head; the Railway Inn; the Cross Keys, Swanwick; the Laburnum Inn, Sleetmoor and the Red Lion Inn, Greenhill Lane. This will be the largest sale of public-houses which has taken place for a long time.”
This was followed by a more extensive notice published in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald on 28th November: “BY MESSRS J. J. ORGILL, MARKS AND ORGILL - IMPORTANT SALE OF FREEHOLD LICENSED PROPERTIES TO BREWERS, HOTEL-KEEPERS, AND LICENSED VICTUALLERS - Messrs. J. J. ORGILL, MARKS, and ORGILL beg to announce that, pursuant to instructions they will submit to PUBLIC AUCTION, at the Royal Hotel, Derby, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17th, at 3 p.m., in Eight Lots, the following well placed FREEHOLD LICENSED PROPERTIES with Possession, viz.:
all in the County of Derbyshire, and Let to Yearly Tenants (some of a great many years' standing) at exceedingly moderate rents. Such an important Sale of Licensed Property very seldom occurs; the special attention of Brewers, Hotelkeepers, and others is directed thereto. The Premises may be viewed by permission of the Tenants; by cards from the Auctioneers; and printed particulars and Conditions of Sale obtained of the Solicitors. Messrs Peake, Bird, Collins, and Peake, 6 Bedford Row, London, W.C.; at the place of Sale; of J. W. Eardley and Mr Pogmore; at the Swanwick Collieries and at the Auctioneers' Offices, 21 Hart Street, Bloomsbury, London.”
As the pre-auction notices suggested significant interest was taken in the auction. Of the eight lots seven were purchased by breweries, some for considerable sums, but the bidding for the George Hotel fell short of its reserve price and was not sold. Most newspapers at the time did not publish auction realisations or the successful bidders, but such was the interest in this particular sale that the results were published in the Derby Daily Telegraph on the same day that the auction took place, 17th December 1896: “IMPORTANT SALE OF DERBYSHIRE LICENSED PROPERTY - Messrs. J. J. Orgill, Marks, and Orgill, auctioneers, of London, offered for sale by public auction at the Royal Hotel, Derby, this (Thursday) afternoon eight licensed houses, situate in and about the town of Alfreton, Derbyshire. The vendor was Mr. C. R. Palmer-Morewood, J.P., Lord of the Manor at Alfreton, and the proprietor of several collieries. There was a large and influential attendance, many well-known breweries being represented, and the bidding for the most part was very spirited, some high prices being realised.
Lot 1 was the Red Lion, a full-licenced house in Green Hill-lane, near Alfreton, producing a rental of £60 per annum. Bidding commenced at £1,000, which soon increased by leaps and bounds until the sum of £5,700, which was offered by Messrs. Thomas Hardy, brewers, of Kimberley, was finally accepted. Lot 2 consisted of the Laburnum Beerhouse, Sleet Moor, Alfreton. The first bid was £800, and last, which was made by John Smith's Tadcaster Brewery Co., was £1,550. The next lot was the Cross Keys, a full-licensed house, Derby-road, Swanwick, near Alfreton, rented at £26 a year. The first bid was £1,000, and this was increased by bids of £100 chiefly, until £3,100 was reached, at which figure it was knocked down to Offiler's Brewery Company, Derby. Messrs. Offller also purchased Lot 4, the Railway Inn, King-street, Alfreton, rented at £19 15s. per annum, the price paid being £2,775, the bidding in respect to which opened at only £500. Lot 5 was the Nag's Head beerhouse, King street, Alfreton, rented at £18 a year, and the first bid for this property was also £500. After four figures had been reached the price rose somewhat slowly, the purchasers being Messrs. W. H. Hutchinson, Prince of Wales Brewery, Basford, Nottingham. Lot 6 comprised the Four Horse Shoes, King-street, Alfreton, a fully-licensed house, producing an annual rental of £32. Bidding opened at £2,500, and was continued with much spirit up to £4.000, when by smaller bids it rose to £4,100, at which figure it was knocked down to John Smith's Tadcaster Brewery Company. Lot 7 was the Wagon and Horses, King-street, Alfreton, rented at £60 year. The first bid was £1,000, and the second £3,000, and the final one £4,000, which latter sum was paid for the property by Messrs. Thomas Hardy and Sons, brewers, of Kimberley. The last lot was the George Hotel. Alfreton, but this lot was withdrawn at £6,900. —Mr. T. L. Riley, of Derby, was the bidder for Offiler's, and Mr. James Wright, of Derby, for Hardy's.”
In the report, the final price of the Nag’s Head Beerhouse on King Street was omitted. This eventually realised £1,600.
The history of the public houses and inns of Somercotes, Pye Bridge and Leabrooks are not very well recorded. Old photographs are also surprisingly rare.