Following countless licensed reopenings the White Lion finally closed its Huthwaite pub doors in 2006. But after years of speculation, it finally reopened 8th March 2013 as the new Brierley Forest Golf Club House.
Dating this property long proved difficult until recently acquiring White's 1885 gazetteer. That firstly offered addressing for victualler Edward Brammer, who can now be identified as the first listed beer retailer dating from Kelly's 1881 directory. The premises was mapped in 1884, and looks to be one of the few actually designed for the purpose of selling ale to nearby residents. Foreseeing Barker Street developments, its corner location began serving homes on far north or
Top End of Main Street, which is how the pub was always locally recognised below a so named Top End farm. It thus managed to finally serve 125 years.
Proposals to fit a new urinal were submitted in 1905. Alterations next proposed in 1912 for Messrs WH Hutchinson & Sons Ltd, is year The White Lion Inn appeared listed under a better recognised publican named James Hallam. A Mrs R M Forster recognised this photo to add memories from when her family first kept The White Lion Inn, explaining her bachelor uncle James Hallam claimed licensee for 18 years.
The occasion was one of the outings from the Inn by members of a club named the Judge and Jury and meetings were held every Tuesday. There was a huge gent named Frank Pickering with a black gown and wig (The Judge), who had been a Sgt. Major in the Boar War. He had a bristling mustache and steel spectacles and he would sit at the top table with his wooden mallet and hammer calling for order in a voice like thunder. He would order fines for any misdemeanour however trivial, even on a member swearing in his own back garden, if heard by another of the all male club.
Meetings were hilarious at times, then down would come the hammer and quiet would reign for a few minutes. The beer would be served through a small hatch at the back of the bar in large copper one gallon cans.
A bobby named Benny Adams, another burly bloke, complete with black coat with silver buttons and real policemans helmet was at the door. Woe betide anyone trying to get in other than members - and definitely no women. They tried but couldn't bridge that gap. Those women nicknamed them, "The Silly Billies Club". I being a child was allowed in to take "Wills Whiffs", Wills Wild Woodbines (packets of five) and matches, twist and tobacco. One sponsor of this lot was a gents outfitter and pawnbroker, a Mr John Green. He donated the hats always worn on their joyrides. One year it was straw boaters, another bowlers, another flat caps and definitely no-one could go if he would not wear one. On that year it was "billycock and trilby".
The 1918 Free Press recorded a few more local names when reporting this football match between a TOP END X1 v HUTHWAITE NIGHT SCHOOL.
The above fixture proved very interesting, seeing that Top End were chiefly middle aged men and the Night School team consisted of young, robust youths. It was contested on Good Friday morning, and to the call of Mr. J. R. Clarke the following teams lined up:-
TOP END = Goal, M. Allsop; backs, J. Walters and J Flowers; half-backs, L. Allsop, J. Strickland and T. Simmons; forwards, O. Allsop, M. Allsop, Hayes, O. Walters and R. Bonsor.
NIGHT SCHOOL - Goal, G. Stringfellow; backs, S. Herrod and F. Miller; half-backs, H. Wilmott, H. Walters and J. Hill; forwards, W. Simmons, J. Stopps, G. Harrison, J. Severns and J. Pickaver.
This leaflet reveals one of the more sobering uses for many a village pub. Discovered by Alan Chamberlain long after being discreetly placed and well preserved within the structure of his Staffordshire farmhouse. Inner pages expose rules and rates from when the White Lion Inn hosted a grandly titled Prince of Wales Sick and Dividing Society. These simple insurance schemes were run by most of the established Huthwaite pubs. Evidence they existed comes from titled representatives listed among mourners attending members burials. But this booklet details the fact they were more than life assurance schemes, if willing to pay sickness or injury benefit throughout years before any National Health Service on a doctors assessment. Workers placed great trust onto those collecting and investing their hard earned premiums, in this case two well reputed gentlemen are - Treasurer J G Wright and Secretary R Bostock.
The White Lion Inn is shown here complete with car park belonging to the Home Ales brewery, under which it remained little altered until the 1990's. Several landlords saw out a dwindling number of local regulars prior its makeover, and despite that success also then through final years. Two sparsely furnished tap rooms either side the frontal entrance had offered no cosy welcome for new custom without use an old heating pipe that ran beneath wall lined wooden bench seats. Some made efforts reopening the larger rear function room, although best side furnishings presented a time capsule dating back to more profitable years.
While social changes widely effected most pubs, plus the sale of our established local breweries, the "Top End" must therefore have been offered new ownership as a Free House. Its makeover did nevertheless, follow a general trend amongst breweries to present an open plan layout around its existing central bar. Fitted throughout with fabric seats and carpets, the combined bar rooms were further extended outward to entice more family dining fed from an installed kitchen. This carvery won wide repute among much similar styled local competition, right up until 2002 when profitably sold out at its peak.
Shamefully, the pubs own historic photo disappeared from its wall just before seeing first boarded closure in 2004. My camera only managed to poorly capture the framed image, giving a comparable view that year.
Although others continued to offer real cask ales alongside many attempts at serving good choice of menu, the same quantity of custom was never full enticed back on a daily basis. Theme party and bingo nights were some of the last tries to regain regular drinkers, before showing a typical nights custom in the final year of 2004. Even their loudly voiced boasts of wealth couldn't afford stopping yet another pub closure.
The vacated 'Top End' pub was finally boarded up in 2006. It was left decaying until purchased in 2009 as a new prospective business interest from Structural Fireproofing Systems Ltd. Mr. Jamie O'Hagan did inform intent that his Eckington based company sought conversion to provide new offices. Major renovation work outwardly progresses here through April 2010
This appeared to end all speculation and concerns regarding any sort of flat complex, house rebuilding, plus several proposals at turning the former licensed pub into a 19th hole for the adjacent Golf Club. But while the first floor is now occupied by offices, the latter finally accepted the ground floor takeover of the fully refurbished premises. Its doors reopened 8th March 2013, with licenced entrance to begin serving the Brierley Forest Golf Club.
Written 15 Dec 04 Revised 11 Aug 14 © by Gary Elliott