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Pub Visit - England

Lord Hop 1Saturday 13th February 2016

Bob Thompson

At first sight the name of any pub may appear to be a bit strange and this one is no exception. We like a good tale and this does not disappoint. But firstly let me explain that the Lord Hop is micropub that was opened in Nuneaton on the 10th December 2015 by Gary and Barry Thomas who, despite their surnames, are not related.

The story of Lord Hop is inextricably linked to the town and starts around 1648 when the Stratford family, who were wealthy landowners, acquired the manor of Nuneaton. They purchased Horestone Grange, which was found to the east of the town.

Lord Hop 2The Grange was located on the later-built Nuneaton to Leicester railway line at a place later known as South Leicester Junction. This was where the Midland Railway built a line to go round the town and avoid the main station of the London & North Western Railway. The construction of these two railway lines almost totally obliterated any trace of the buildings and the present-day Horestone Grange Estate covered the rest.

The Grange burnt down in 1740 and it is said that Edward Stratford, whilst rushing to the scene from the Bull Inn (present-day George Eliot Hotel), fell from his horse and died of his injuries. However, it is the story of what is supposed to have happened after his death that provides the legend.

He had not endeared himself with the townsfolk as he had enclosed what was widely thought to be common land. He did provide a substitute piece of land but it was far too small for many of the animals to graze. This act caused great resentment.

Lord Hop 3He was known to drink in the town’s hostelries to some excess. Because of that the people of the town dubbed him “Lord Hop”.

There was a pub called the “Dun Cow” which stood more or less where the railway station is now. It is said that the ghost of Lord Hop frequented the pub, arriving and departing in a carriage hauled by four headless horses. These manifestations were said to have continued for a very long time. Over sixty years after his death a disbelieving customer offered to spend the night there. In the morning he was said to be “senseless”. He had a long illness after and would never reveal what he had seen that night.

Lord Hop 4Reports of the carriage continued well into the 1800s. This really scared the inhabitants and they asked the Vicar of Nuneaton to exorcise the spirit. This he done and apparently he managed to contain it in a bottle. Please remember this is not history, but a legend. The bottle was then flung into an abandoned and waterlogged clay pit in Regent Street. And that was that, or so was thought.

During a hot summer in the early part of the 19th century the pit almost dried out and a passer-by saw the bottle. Not being aware of the story he pulled the stopper. There was a whoosh sound and he saw the apparition of Lord Hop in front of him. The regulars of the Dun Cow were again troubled by the ghost for a second time. The pub was knocked down for the building of the railway which opened in 1840. There were no reports of the ghost after that but then who really knows?

His namesake pub is very comfortable and has already acquired a good atmosphere. It was a rainy early evening when myself, Linda, Carol and Steve entered the small crowded room.

Lord Hop 5There was a good crowd in the pub but we luckily got a table as a group was just leaving. The Bar was at the far end of the small room with hand pumps on it. Behind was a metal stillage holding the jacketed casks.

I remarked that it was very small and I was told that there was another room on the first floor. The bottom two photos show this area. I had a look and there was a lot more space with a sofa and a bookcase with reading matter. Gary and Barry have created a micropub that adheres to the basic principles. There’s no keg beers or music. However there is one concession to modernity in that they have Wi-Fi.

Lord Hop 6The beer selection, which is straight from the cask or through a hand pump was as follows: Titanic (Burslem, Staffordshire) Plum Porter (4.9%); Hunter’s (Newton Abbot) Bluebeard’s Revenge (5.1%) and First Chop Brewing Arm (Salford, Greater Manchester) POD Vanilla Stout (4.2%). There were also two ciders: Gwynt y ddraig (Pontypridd, Glamorgan, South Wales) Pyder (6.0%), cider / perry mix and Kentish Pip (Bekesbourne, Kent) Forager (4.0%), a cider flavoured with hedgerow berries.

This is a good new addition to the micropub scene and you should visit if you are in or around Nuneaton.

Important Information:

The pub is around a half mile from the railway and bus stations.
Exit the railway station and walk down the approach road passing the Crown on the right. Possibly you might make a visit to this pub later, it has a reasonable selection of cask beer. At the road junction just beyond the pub turn right and walk towards the roundabout. Here go left past the bus station.

You are in Harefield Road and it soon changes into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare. Keep walking until you reach the end. Turn right into Market Place, also pedestrian only. Continue along until Dugdale Street joins on the left. The pub is now opposite you.

Nuneaton station is served by various routes. London Midland run an hourly fast service to London Euston and northwards to Stafford and Crewe. There are occasional services to London provided by Virgin Trains. There is an hourly local service to Coventry and Leamington by London Midland.

Cross Country Trains run twice an hour to Birmingham New Street and at the same frequency to Leicester. Once an hour these trains continue to Stansted Airport via Peterborough and Cambridge.

All local buses run to and from the Bus Station.