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The Comedy of Errors

Street Tales: Ye Olde Salutation Inn

8 October 15 words: Joe Earp
We delve a little deeper into the history of our city's streets to give you the tales they'd never have taught you at school
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illustration: Mike Driver

The building has been sitting on the corner of Hounds Gate and St Nicholas Street – once known as Jews Lane – since at least 1415, with it functioning as a drinking hole existing from at least 1725. These dates were confirmed in 1998 when History Hunters – a Time Team spin-off – did a programme on Nottingham's oldest public house. Their conclusions were that The Bell Inn was the oldest pub, Ye Olde Salutation Inn was the oldest building, and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem had the oldest caves. However, despite their conclusions, the debate still rages on.

The Sal is known to many a local as a comfortable, quaint, old-style public house. The rear of the building, before the construction of Maid Marian Way in the sixties, was actually the side. The entrance facing onto St Nicholas Street is the oldest still surviving after the row of buildings were cut in half by the aforementioned arrival of Maid Marian Way.

Although this part of the building has seen some changes, it still retains some of the character of bygone days, especially when there’s a log fire in the grate. The smaller of the two downstairs rooms, the one that flanks the entrance passageway, is said to have been used by Cromwell’s soldiers as a recruiting room in the 1640s during the Civil War.

During this period the inn was named The Archangel Gabriel Saluting the Virgin Mary and, like other similar hostelries, its traditional sign depicted an image of the same. This aroused the religious scruples of the Puritans when they came to political power in the mid-seventeenth century and formed the Commonwealth Government.

The innkeeper was ordered to either remove the offending sign or have it repainted and some approved sign substituted. Naturally, he wished neither to alter his sign nor to lose his licence, so he compromised – as did many of the royalists’ colleagues – by renaming the inn The Soldier and Citizen. Only a mere eleven years later, when the monarchy was restored, the name reverted to The Salutation Inn.

The best part of The Sal is hidden, but not deliberately. The caves that sit beneath the pub are actually older than the fifteenth century building, more than likely dating back to the time when there was a tannery on site. One thing History Hunters confirmed was that the pub brewed its own ale for many years, which was also mentioned in Realm of Darkness (Paul Nix, 1996):

“Brewing: Malt produced in Nottingham’s caves was sold to local inns and taverns, most of which were brewed on the premises. Some were brewed in caves like the The Trip to Jerusalem, whilst others had brew houses above ground, but all would have maintained their cave-cellars to store the brewed ale. In 1697 during a visit to Nottingham, Miss Celia Fiennes did visit a cave to taste Nottingham's famous ale. She said ‘‘Att ye Crown Inn is a cellar of 60 to 70 steps down, all in ye rock like arch worke over your head; I drank good ale.’’

For more on Nottingham history, check out the Nottingham Hidden History website.

Nottingham Hidden History Team on Wordpress

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