TRCH The Merry Widow

Go on a Literature-Themed Pub Crawl in Notts

22 January 18 words: Shariff Ibrahim

From the workplace and playground of Sillitoe’s Arthur Seaton, to the backdrop for DH Lawrence characters’ racy goings-on, Nottinghamshire is rich with literary connections. It’s also pretty well renowned for its pubs...

So we wracked our brains for all the boozers, alehouses and watering holes we could think of that have a link back to books – be that a location in a novel, an author’s favourite haunt, or just somewhere dedicated to the written word – and collated them into a pub crawl. Now, there are some miles to cover, so you're going to have to get up pretty early, and designate a kindly driver, to check off every stop. Good luck...

Stop 1: Eastwood

We start our trip way out west in Eastwood, home to one of Notts’ most famous sons (and lovers). Old DH Lawrence spent his formative years round these parts, referring to it as “the country of my heart”, so naturally the town and three of its public houses have featured majorly in some of the author’s most famous work. To acknowledge the author, a blue line has been daubed on some of the pavements leading from Lawrence’s birthplace past the family’s three former houses in Eastwood.

The Ram Inn, which featured in Lawrence’s The White Peacock (also notable for a nod to the Victoria Hotel in Beeston), has been closed for some time, so no beer here, unfortunately. The same can be said for The Swan, which frequently appears throughout his work. Instead, start your trip at The Three Tuns (Three Tuns Road, Eastwood) where Lawrence’s father drank.

In Lawrence’s autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers, the pub appears as the Moon and Stars, where Walter, head of the Morel family, drinks, plays billiards and such, and it gets a mention in Lady Chatterley’s Lover too. “…The car slid on downhill, past the Miners Arms. It had already passed the Wellington, the Nelson, the Three Tuns and the Sun...” While supping your pint, admire the Lawrence-themed memorabilia, including framed books, photos and a plaque of his birthplace. Cheers.

Stop 2: Southwell

The next stop over in Southwell is a two-fer, having been referenced by both DH Lawrence and romantic giant, Lord Byron. The Saracen’s Head (Market Place, Southwell), is the setting for one of the most powerful scenes in Lawrence’s Women in Love, when in chapter 23 Rupert and Ursula drive to Southwell for tea. “They sat together in a little parlour by the fire… He stood on the hearth-rug looking at her, at her face that was upturned exactly like a flower....”

Famously, Lord Byron was a resident of Southwell, and was something of a regular at the Saracen’s Head; the pub honours the connection with its Lord Byron Restaurant. In 1807, Byron wrote an epitaph for the pub’s best customer, a carrier called John Adams; “For the liquor he drank, being too much for one, He could not carry off, so he’s now carri-on.”

Stop 3: City centre

Alan Sillitoe’s novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is the defining depiction of life in post-war industrial Nottingham. The line “All I’m out for is a good time – all the rest is propaganda” just as pertinent to today’s living-for-the-weekend crew as it was to Sillitoe’s protagonist, Arthur Seaton. So it is with the same abandon – and hopefully a little light lubrication by now – that it’s time to hit up taaahn; specifically, The White Horse (Ilkeston Road, Radford). It’s here in which Albert Finney’s Seaton in Karel Reisz’s film version of SNASM gets steaming after a hard week’s work at the Raleigh Bicycle Factory in Radford. It’s actually The White Horse Cafe now, so it’s a good chance to stop for some snap, but to keep up the boozing, head round the corner to Nottingham Brewery’s tap, the excellent Plough Inn in St Peter’s St, which was also famously chronicled by Sillitoe.

On your way into the city centre, it’s well worth stopping off at A Room with a Brew (Derby Road, Nottingham). The first pub venture from Stapleford’s Scribbler’s Ales is a Mecca for beer and book lovers, with punny brews like Beerfest at Tiffany’s, Masher in the Rye and One Brew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on tap, and a room festooned with stacks of books and posters of famous jackets. All very fitting for this literary slog.

Next, head through town to The Peacock (Mansfield Road, Nottingham). A large sign outside exclaims, “With a history of famous clientele it is reputed to have been a regular watering hole of D. H. Laurence (1885-1930)…” which, serious spelling clanger aside, would make it an ideal stop on our crawl. But in addition, “it is believed that fictional crime author John Harvey (born 1938) first penned his Charlie Resnick detective novels whilst a patron at the Peacock.” So raise a glass to our pal DH Lawrence and Harvey’s jazz-loving Polish investigator.

While The Pit & Pendulum (Victoria Street, Nottingham) can’t claim to have any famous authors as patrons, the name is of course borrowed from the similarly titled short story by Edgar Allen Poe. The gloomy gothic interior and candles perfectly capture the sinister trial and torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition suffered by the story’s narrator. That – and the infamous 7 Deadly Sins cocktail list – make it reason enough to stop off for a swift one, in our book.

Then it’s on to our last port of call on this beery crawl through the region’s most notable literary references, and it’s a corker of an establishment and book to end on. Yates’s (Long Row, Nottingham) actually has more of a connection with our cultural history than the WKD stains may suggest, for it gets an honourable mention in BS Johnson’s experimental novel The Unfortunates. “Yates’s is friendly, the first impression going in, the first time I have felt that kind of warmth since I came to this city this morning, an alien city, though I know it, really, I keep telling myself, friendly here, a relief, a great relief!”

And so it is with great relief that we wrap things up and head home via the chippy. Well done for keeping up, remember to drink plenty of water before bed.

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