Wednesday 4th December 2013
It was just getting dark as I walked up from Worksop town centre on an eagerly awaited visit to this pub. The reason I was so late was because on weekdays it doesn't open till 15.00. It was just after that time I approached and was gratified to see that the lights of the pub were glowing as it was very cold outside. Entering I registered that there was a small room (area) to my right and most of the drinking space was down the left side of the pub with a small pool room at the end of this.
What is immediately obvious is that this is a beer drinker's pub. The many hand pumps are graced with the addition of a label stating exactly the provenance of the beer with tasting notes. One or two large companies have adopted this approach yet this is the first time I've come across it in an independent pub. It is very welcome indeed.
The pub was built in 1865 by the Garside & Alderton Brewery to particularly serve the workers of the maltings, of which there were many in the town, specifically those close to the railway, where I was.
The brewery merged with the Prior Well brewery in 1877 and from 1881 was known as Worksop & Retford Breweries. New offices were built in Victoria Square and opened in 1882.
Thereafter the company prospered as the North Nottinghamshire coalfield expanded dramatically with a number of large and very productive mines opened during the 1920 in the Dukeries south of the town. These were some of the last deep pits opened in Britain and they closed in more recent years.
As an aside, some mines could still be productive, were it not for the Conservative government's rush to waste the country's very valuable limited gas resources unnecessarily for the production of electricity. Done in haste to replace domestically mined coal, those reservoirs of gas under the sea are now almost exhausted, yet they would have prvided Britain with much security for home consumption had they not been squandered over the last thirty years. We all pay for this now in lost resources and hugely increased prices, well above inflation.
Back to the origins of the pub; it led a relatively uneventful life during the twentieth century through to 1958 when Worksop & Retford Breweries were taken over by Tennants of Sheffield who acquired its 192 pubs.
I don't know when their Worksop brewery closed but I guess it wouldn't have lasted too long, as in 1961 Tennants were absorbed in to the expanding Whitbread empire.
This part of the company become Whitbread (Yorkshire) Ltd in 1970, then they became Whitbread East Pennines Ltd sometime after that, not that it matters much, as it was all a process of deconstruction. The Exchange Brewery in Sheffield closed in 1993. This was the former Tennants brewery; in its later days it brewed cask beers under the Stones name.
The beer range on the occasion of my visit was as follows:
Grafton Brewing (Worksop, Notts) Winter's Dream (4.5%) and Snowman's Folly (3.9%). Naylor's (Cross Mills, West Yorks) Yellow Snow (4.3%); Loch Lomond (Alexandria, Strathclyde, Scotland) The Highland Way (3.7%); Milestone (Cromwell, Notts) Loxley Ale (4.2%); Off Beat (Crewe, Cheshire) Crazy Christmas (4.2%); Prospect (Standish, Greater Manchester) Clementine (5.0%) and Wincle Beer Co (Wincle, Cheshire) Wassale (4.8%). As well there was Snail's Bank (Bishop's Frome, Herefordshire) Tumbledown Mulled Cider (4.0%).
As can be seen, an eclectic range. It is the official tap in Worksop of the Grafton Brewery that, despite its name is not based at the pub but in an industrial unit just outside, off Blyth Road.
It started life in 2007 as a five barrel plant located at the rear of the Packet Inn at Retford. It moved to the present site in 2010 and has doubled capacity since then. The brewery's proprietors also own the two pubs.
I tried the two beers from Grafton and thought they were both very good. Whilst we don't normally mention prices in BeerVisits as they can be out of date very quickly; I feel I have to pass on the information that these were £1.80 a pint! On top of that I was asked if I was a CAMRA member without prompting. When I affirmed this a further 10p was knocked off!
So should you be in Worksop you shouldn't miss this place, it is a truly excellent little boozer. Another plus point is that it has a number of letting rooms, so it is possible to stay the night here.
The Grafton Hotel, 157-161 Gateford Road, Worksop S80 1UJ. Tel: 01909 768089
Open: Monday-Friday 15.00-23.30; Saturday-Sunday 12.00-23.30
The Grafton is around five minutes walk from Worksop railway station. From the main entrance, cross the station approach and descend a flight of steps in to Clarence Road. Turn right and walk to the end. You will now be in Gateford Road and the pub is visible about 100 metres to the right on the opposite side. Note that this Worksop station has its own bar so leave enough time to visit it. Please see article on The Mallard.
Worksop is the terminus of the Robin Hood Line from Nottingham via Mansfield. Trains run hourly Monday to Saturday. It is also on the cross country line from Sheffield to Lincoln via Retford. Trains also run hourly on this line from Monday to Saturday.
Sundays are quite problematical as there is no service on the Robin Hood line and the frequency is only every two hours on the Lincoln to Sheffield line with no trains at all before 14.00.
Worksop is well connected to surrounding towns by bus but there is a much reduced service on Sundays.