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Street Tales: Hyson Green's Old General at Christmas

20 December 16 words: Joe Earp

We've delve a little deeper into the history of our city's streets to give you the tales they never would have taught you at school...

Many residents and visitors to Hyson Green will fondly remember the Old General Public House that stood on the corner of Radford Road and Bobbers Mill Road. Its most prominent feature was the statue of The Old General himself, Benjamin Mayo, and readers may have fond memories of seeing him dressed in Santa Claus garb each Christmas.

Benjamin Mayo, or ‘Old General’ was one of Nottingham’s eccentric characters. Born sometime around 1779, his home was the poor house of St. Peter’s. Nowadays he’d be considered to have learning difficulties. We reckon he would still be a local legend.

The Old General statue was first dressed in his Christmas regalia in the early 1900s, meaning he’d donned the outfit over a hundred times by the time the pub closed its doors. Recently, there was a move to restore the custom of dressing the statue, but unfortunately this came to no fruition.

Some of Nottingham Hidden History Team's Facebook followers have shared their memories of Old Ben at Christmas. One saying, “I lived at Basford and remember seeing the statue each time we went. Hyson Green used to be a good place to shop in those days; Woolworths, Parr's the Butcher, and loads of pubs. The highlight at Christmas was having a drink in the Old General and seeing the statue in his Santa outfit. I am 77 now, so that was quite a few years ago.”

Another person commented, “You always knew it was nearly Christmas when you saw him dressed as Santa.”

Nottingham Post reported in 2014 that the long-standing statue’s prospects looked grim: “The future of a beloved 120-year-old pub landmark is hanging in the balance, according to campaigners. The statue of the Old General, a figure of local folklore, will be moved from its location in the window of the Old General, in Radford Road, as developers move in to transform the site. The development, which will turn the former pub into a mixture of shops and flats, will involve the repositioning of the statue from where it has stood overlooking the street for more than a century.”

We can happily report that earlier this year it was confirmed that, although the site of the old pub is being redeveloped, the statue will be kept in a prominent position on the new site. Hopefully, the custom of ‘dressing the Old General’ will continue for many more years to come.

Nottingham Hidden History website

illustration: Eva Brudenell

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