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Pub Visit - England

Abdication1Sunday 19th April 2015

Bob Thompson

The view from the windows of this micropub is completely consumed by the magnificent edifice of the former office building of Home Ales. This erstwhile brewery is linked to the Abdication pub in more ways than just being visible across the road. So I would like to present a history of it and its life and times.

It was founded in 1875 by John Robinson and the unusual name comes from the fact he lived at Bestwood Home Farm nearby. As a name it worked and the brewery soon became well known in their East Midlands heartland. Before I get to their iconic brewery building it is worth mentioning that this was a very progressive company when it came to opening new pubs. Outside of Nottingham city centre itself, nearly all of their pubs that I visited from the 1960s onwards were 20th century buildings, dating from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Abdication2The building across the road from the pub was finished and opened in 1936. It was by local architect T. Cecil Howitt, who designed many buildings in the area including the nearby Raleigh cycle factory. The structure is the brewery’s offices surmounted by a water tank in the central tower.

The brewery itself was located behind this building and today there is no trace of it as the land has been cleared and is mostly car parks.

As part of the redevelopment of this part of Mansfield Road, the company constructed a terrace of shops opposite in a similar style to the brewery.

Abdication3This was called Coronation Buildings in preparation for the coronation of King Edward VIII. However he abdicated on 20th January 1936. Nevertheless the terrace kept the same name. And that’s why the pub is named as it is.

I personally loved Home Ales and thought that their Bitter was one of the best to found anywhere. A genuine session beer that was truly easy drinking with a lovely bitter finish. When I heard that the brewery was likely to close myself and Linda made a pilgrimage to North Nottingham to photograph the brewery and sink a few pints, which we did in typical Home Ales houses, although I found the beer wasn’t as good as it was in earlier years.

The beginning of the end occurred in 1986 when the company was taken over by Scottish & Newcastle Ltd along with its 447 pubs. Thereafter it died of a thousand cuts as inferior S & N products appeared in their pubs, the production of Mild was transferred to the Mansfield Brewery (subsequently closed by Marston’s) and recipe for Bitter was tinkered with. The end came in 1996.

Abdication4The building is now Nottinghamshire County Council offices. The neon sign on the tower used to say HOME OF THE BEST ALES on three lines arranged vertically. The last line that read “ALES” has been replaced by the NCC logo.

It is understood that they are now trying to sell it as a result of Government financial cut-backs to Councils.

The good news is that Home Ales are back. Nick Whitehurst has purchased the title from Heineken, the S&N successors.

Abdication5Home Robin Hood Pale Ale (3.8%) is being brewed at Oldenshaw’s brewery in Grantham and is available in a number of pubs in and around Nottingham.

It is hoped that the brewing of this beer, and other former Home Ales brands, will return to the city. I can’t wait to try it.

Finally we cross the road to the Abdication and I apologise for that digression but I felt the story had to be told. This is a very likeable little pub and once Linda and I were through the door we noticed the small bar counter on the left of the room with four hand pumps.

Either side of the entrance there are small wooden tables with a small cushioned bench seats and also some loose chairs. There are bookshelves on either side. After the bar the room narrows towards the back of the pub.

On the wall is an old red racing cycle made by the Raleigh company whose factory is not far away.

Abdication6The room was being heated by a coal fire in a cast iron grate, I thought the fireplace was very interesting as it was in an art-deco style and looked as if it had been there since the former shop unit was built. Next to this there is a grandfather clock.

The pub is the inspiration of Matt Grace who is a former railwayman and was involved with track maintenance. The unit was obviously a retail shop but at one time was also a barbershop. It had lain empty for two years before Matt moved in and it is obvious that a lot of work has been put in to get it up to the standard we see today. The pub opened on Saturday 23rd August 2014, roughly eight months before our visit.

There was a choice of three beers when we visited: Magpie (Nottingham) Dark Secret (3.7%), a Mild; Scribbler’s Brewery (Nottingham) Rubecca (4.8%), a ruby ale and Black Iris (Nottingham) Snake Eyes (3.8%), a blond ale. Three ciders were offered: farmer Jim’s (Newton Abbot, Devon) Dry (5%) and Sweet (5.0%), also Blue Barrel (Nottingham) Cider (abv unknown).

Wine is also served and there is a range of soft drinks and juices along with tea and coffee. Food is limited to crusty cheese and onion cobs and the usual packaged snacks such as crisps, peanuts and scratchings.

This is a lovely little pub that easily justifies a journey out of the city centre.

Important Information:

The Abdication, 89 Mansfield Road, Daybrook, Nottingham NG5 6BH

Hours: Monday-Tuesday Closed; Wednesday-Saturday 16.00-21.30; Sunday 14.00-18.00

The easiest way to get to the pub is by bus. The routes are 56, 57, 58 and 59 from the city centre to Arnold and beyond. Like most Nottingham buses they leave from Parliament Street and are frequent. There is a route that stops outside the pub but I have not detailed it as it does not come from the city centre.

The buses mentioned above turn off Mansfield Road just before the pub and run along Nottingham Road. You need to alight at the Portland Road stop.

Walk along this road and when you get to Mansfield Road you will see the Abdication on the opposite side. It should take around five minutes to walk from the bus stop.