The White Lion finally called time after countless attempts at reopening, when last closing licensed Top End pub doors in 2006.
Layout of this Main Street premises is firstly mapped 1884, confirmed by 1900 plotting the named White Lion PH. Earlier historic recognition can be determined through dated gazetteer directories. White's 1885 listing best identified the White Lion victualler and helpfully confirmed name of an earlier introduced Edward Brammer as a simply listed 1881 Hucknall-under-Huthwaite beer retailer.
Most village pubs trace back from conversion of a former farmhouse or larger gentry dwelling. Dated emergence of the White Lion strongly suggests this was designed to serve licensed business as an alternatively recognised Hotel, after maybe foreseeing residential expansion. Barker Street soon formed after and was well housed before 1910, so pub doorway facing new bottom corner would soon be inviting those closest residents. Numbering claimed 160 Main Street addressing, although the titled White Lion Inn soon became more familiarly called the Top End. Positioning at top end of Main Street cannot be denied. However, reasoning for this local reference also naming Top Farm, will most probably reference an older natural feature from when the south easterly area below became well recognised as The Falls.
After submitting proposals to fit a new 1905 urinal, alterations next proposed in 1912 behalf Messrs WH Hutchinson & Sons Ltd, is year The White Lion Inn appeared listed under another recognised publican named James Hallam. A Mrs R M Forster recognised this very early photo, and was able to add memories from when her family began keeping The White Lion Inn, by further 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 moustache 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 policeman's 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 some local names by reporting this football match between a TOP END X1 v HUTHWAITE NIGHT SCHOOL. Stating 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, J. Pickaver.
This leaflet does reveal one of the more sobering uses for many a village pub. Remarkably discovered long after being discreetly placed and well preserved within the structure of the finders 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.
Reportage concerning 1934 death of Owen Hardy dates abrupt end of his four year term as licensee, furthermore recognising loss of a keen supporter of Huthwaite charities and sporting organisations. Under his keep, the White Lion had become the later headquarters for Huthwaite United Football Club, plus a much lesser known Huthwaite Physical Culture Club. Among a list of family and friends offering floral tributes, the names of Bertha and Harry identifies the Home Brewery Company directors.
Snapping their wall display just before its shameful loss, just manages to compare the familiar frontage spanning full era of brewery ownership. The Nottingham based Home Ales company would have opened up a car parking area, otherwise, big breweries had little need or incentive to afford updating their premises. Eventually however, frequent tenant changes could not alter fact the entire pub trade was starting to struggle into the 1980's. Two sparsely furnished tap rooms either side frontal entrance would hardly invite back regular custom, especially without reluctant use of an old heating pipe simply routed beneath wall lined wooden bench seats.
The family owned Daybrook Brewery sold out to a major Scottish & Newcastle company in 1986. A featured bar, comfier seats and fresh decor warmed by exposing reuse of an open fire could therefore be their attempt to save the Huthwaite White Lion Inn. This introduced more landlord changeovers serving better appreciated Theakstons beers. Some made greater efforts, but reopening the larger rear function room still presented a colder time capsule with well worn, outdated best side furnishings from profitable years.
Dates and names are not recalled, although 1990 suggests timely sale of the Top End public house to a business entrepreneur. Under a private owner, the White Lion Inn is impressively transformed by accommodating diners in a comfortably fitted rear room carvery fed from fully equipped kitchens.
A well priced menu serving good meals soon drew regular local custom. Restaurant tables took over front bar rooms as an excellent reputation quickly gained broadening interest way beyond Huthwaite. Finishing touches gradually added plush appeal, while a Free House bar enticed weekend drinkers back. Large frontal extension displaying flower baskets shows height of success, expanding busy need for tabled seating while still leading latest pub trend competitively serving food rather than ale.
Astute business sense was again noted through peaked notoriety, when a profitable 2002 sale is timely realised. New owners must have been sufficiently impressed by the overall deal. Regular patrons initially embraced a smooth takeover, until gradually realising their satisfaction was no longer a priority. April 2003 shows the premises advertised passing on a licensed business opportunity.
The White Lion regained some short term success adding a kitchen chef to waitress higher quality restaurant food. A fine choice of real cask ales further appealed to ever smaller numbers of discerning customers. Landlord changeovers went on introducing ideas to bolster trade, commonly mid week quiz or bingo nights between themed weekend parties. Typical March 2004 nights still heard some staunch custom ignorantly shouting boasts of wealth, whilst just witnessing good reason here foreseeing inevitable closure.
Unlike previous temporary closures, June 2004 sighted a totally vacated Top End premises fully boarded up. Securely protecting a relatively well furnished interior allowed a surprising reopening several months afterwards. Tenants again enthusiastically managed to keep up long repeated hopes of presenting a superior 19th hole befitting club entrance into an enlarged DavColm golf course.
Negotiations between Brierley Forest Golf Club ultimately failed to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion. Shuttering back up The White Lion premises soon after in 2006, signalled this pubs fate ending a desperate four year struggle. Left vacated and falling into a neglected state of decay raised local concerns amid wildly rumoured speculation regarding any future use - until 2009 purchase.
Mr Jamie O'Hagan then informed Huthwaite Online he intended relocating his Eckington based SFS company. Conversion into offices offered extra rooms for other businesses after major renovation work significantly progressed through April 2010.
Structural Fireproofing Systems Ltd established their Huthwaite addressed main offices claiming the entire first floor. Keeping the side board displaying The White Lion title offers homage to the original pub spanning a known 125 years licensed history. Larger ground floor could have invited more desirable office space, but eventually regained licensed use after opening its doors 8th March 2013 finally presenting a long awaited new club house for the Brierley Forest Golf Club.