there's been a pleasing upsurge of interest and coverage of the subject of unspoilt pubs recently. Paul Bailey kicked it all off with a post making reference to his Kent pub guide and the subject was covered on this blog here. The linchpin of this developing interest was the list of Classic Basic Unspoilt Pubs of Great Britain.
Rodney Wolf Coe's list only ever featured pubs that sold real ale, and was compiled, it seemed, largely as the result of tips and recommendations from throughout the UK. It got me thinking about 2 notable farmhouse pubs in Derbyshire - The Queen Adelaide at Snelston Common* and the Lodge, near Stretton, which never featured on the list versions I've seen. The problem was, there seemed to be a dearth of info about The Lodge (this info itself came about as a discussion in 2010 between Wee Fatha and a couple of blokes in a pub in Ashover!) so I tried to conduct a bit of research.
As far as me and WF could ascertain, The Lodge was a farmhouse pub, located up a road that soon became a track, near Stretton in Derbyshire. I only ever went there once (assuming I ever did!?) and I'm not even certain when that was. My mind tells me it had a barn door reminiscent of a hatch, and some sort of signage, and beer kegs outside. And that's it.
Frustratingly my visit wasn't even as a drinker - it never opened during the day and we just happened to be passing and wanted to know if I could get a soft drink.
Further uncertainty surrounds the name. Colloquially it was referred to as Bill and Ben's, a haunt for local farmers who'd gather after the work was done late into the night drinking probably keg Mansfield. WF described it as a "Mansfield house" but I think given the location of the pub I'm not so sure. Convinced that it wasn't a proper tied establishment, we tried to work out the pub, such as it was, name, based on a map of the area. There is a Handley Lodge farm in about the right place, linked to a road by a track, and there is another farm further up called Stretton hall farm, WF claims the pub had hall in the name but I think a more likely pub name was the Handley Lodge, shortened simply to "The Lodge". But is any of this true?
I have now received an early copy of the Ramblers Association guide to the fledgling Chesterfied Round Walk. It uses 1980's Ordnance Survey map fragments to assist walkers in interpreting its directions. There is a pub marked off New Road (as WF insisted) but on the A61 side of the railway - where the walk doesn't go. So to locate the pub I need to head off that way and knock on a door or two! Here's what I found.....
Ashover New Road isn't a joy to walk along since large stretches have no pavement. I joined the guides directions at the point the walk joins the road and first started up a bridleway that headed for Handley Lane and Handley Lodge farm. My plan was to also see if there was or had been a pub the other side of the railway, where its marked. Luckily, I bumped into a local couple out walking their dog, and despite my rather fractured picture and poorly sourced info, they knew where Bill and Ben's was. It was 3 miles away. And there had been a pub on the other side of the railway. Cue a walking history lesson!
The couple told me that Bill and Ben's was a farmhouse pub. However, it was called The Press, and is in the Alton and Press area of Ashover, near to Old Tupton and Wingerworth. Bill and Ben it seems have long since passed away, but there was agreement that a new license application was considered or even lodged in the last 5 years or so, possibly by a Mr Bigley. It was also suggested that Bill and Ben were quite old when they were running the pub, and that when it got late they'd retire to bed and leave a tin for the customers to put the money for their beer in.
There are a few candidates in Press, looking at the map, most notably Northedge Hall Farm and the higher of two Press Farm's. This, however, is still based on my farm up a track idea - and now I'm not so sure about that even! I will do a bit more searching and may even twist Wee Fatha's arm to drive out to Press and Alton one day for a neb, but the chances of getting a pic, either now or from the past seems slim.
One final point is that the 1980's Ordnance Survey map which I assumed had placed the PH sign on the wrong side of the railway due to a lack of space, is in fact correct, in that there really was a pub on Highstairs Lane called the Hideaway - now a much extended private house, but having a possibly 17th core, the front of which was the pub.
So, although not scientific, I think I trust local knowledge better than my fragmented memories, so am happy to have some certainty about the location of Bill and Ben's but disappointed that I have still not seen the building. And, the 1980's map also shows a no longer trading pub near Poplar Farm on Holmgate Lane at Henmoor, which is only just off the Chesterfield Round Walk route. Which makes me wonder - have I simply attached the idea of the farmhouse pub I visited being Bill and Ben's, when in fact it was Poplar farm?
There in lies another expedition.....
N.B : Nearby was another unusual licensed building, this one surviving until very recently (and one which I managed to visit one summers evening in 2008) , that being the New Napoleon, overlooking Ogston Reservoir. This presumably wasn't always a pub, obvious not least by its unusual interior layout, but also because when Ogston Reservoir flooded the valley, it covered the Ashover Light Railway and a pub, The Napoleons Home. And carrying on through Ashover, on Slack Hill, A632, a farm on one of the two left hand turns (Slack Lane being one, as you head towards Matlock) also used to be a pub. If anyone has any info on any of these pubs I'd love to hear about them.
*Update : I have finally found a picture of the Queen Adelaide (I just discovered that in a Freudian slip I called it the Quiet Woman...) - here's a link on the excellent Lost Pubs Project website .