From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 38
February - March 1986
The Three Wheatsheaves
Our earliest photograph, probably taken around the turn of the century.
Photograph courtesy of Lenton Local History Society.
In Issue No.32 we published an article entitled A Pub Crawl through History. This provided a brief historical account of Lenton's public houses with the promise that in future editions we would turn the spotlight on specific hostelries. Six issues later we finally reach our first port of call, The Three Wheatsheaves on the Derby Road.
Those in the know are aware that The Three Wheatsheaves is an ancient establishment, some would say the oldest existing pub in Lenton. As such it ought to be rich in history, with plenty of material to draw on. You might think so, but it doesn't appear to be the case, which explains in part why it has taken us so long to prepare this article. The main rival in terms of antiquity, The White Hart or The Lenton Coffee House as it was originally known, has long attracted frequent comment by local writers. Admittedly, it must help if you can point to a debtor's court and prison attached to the pub or refer to its once extensive pleasure gardens, but even so the comparative absence of written material for The Three Wheatsheaves came as a surprise.
Both The Three Wheatsheaves and The White Hart were built originally as farmhouses. The White Hart is popularly believed to have been built after the Restoration sometime between 1660 and 1680, but no one really had a date to suggest for The Three Wheatsheaves. Several years ago the Lenton Local History Group enquired of Shipstones whether their deeds to the pub provided any clues as to the building's age. They replied that there were only a few documents contained with the title deeds and that these did not help very much. Shipstones found that the first specific mention to 'The Three Wheatsheaves' occurred in a document dated October 1911. The earliest date they could find in any of the documents was only June 1868. This was a reference to the will of John Sherwin Gregory which began with a general description of 'All the manors, freehold messuages, farms, lands, and other hereditaments in the Counties of Leicester and Nottingham and in the town of Nottingham '. So Shipstones weren't able to help very much.
The Plan of the Three Wheatsheaves
Ground Floor Plan
First Floor Plan
Second Floor Plan
Shipstones acquired the pub in August 1938 from Philip John Pearson-Gregory. Before this time The Three Wheatsheaves had always belonged to the Gregory family. The Gregorys had become lords of the manor in 1630 when William Gregory, gentleman, one of the aldermen of Nottingham, bought the manor of Lenton for the sum of £2,500. The manor, until shortly before William Gregory's purchase had been Crown property, following the dissolution of Lenton Priory.
Thereafter the Gregory family remained by far the largest landowners in Lenton until comparatively recently. There are wills, deeds, liveries, trusteeships etc. relating to the Gregory family deposited at the Lincolnshire Archive Office. We thought there might be some mention in them of the farm, the pub, or even some of the early landlords and so contacted the Archive Office. One of the archivists checked- through the list of contents for us but could find no obvious reference. So another possible avenue of information on The Three Wheatsheaves proved barren.
With no written sources of evidence on which to base an estimate of its age, we had only the building itself to go on. We were fortunately able to call on the expertise of Professor Maurice Barley, who among many other things is author of The English Farmhouse and Cottage published in 1961. He agreed to visit The Three Wheatsheaves and give us the benefit of his learned opinion. The outside of the building with its brickwork hidden beneath rendering provided few clues. Professor Barley did point out that it was wrong to suppose that the built up gable ends of the building indicated that the roof might once have been thatched. These were just architectural embellishments on roofs that were always tiled a style popular in the Nottinghamshire area during the seventeenth century. During the tenancy of the present landlords Mick and Linda Sisson, The Three Wheatsheaves has undergone extensive internal alteration. The public area of the pub has been extended, walls knocked down and the serving area greatly enlarged. All this gave Professor Barley problems when he came to try and determine what was the original plan of the building. The alterations did lead to the uncovering of the fireplace in the middle room, which Professor Barley considered to be of a style typical of the eighteenth century. The fireplace in the backroom he felt might be even earlier and had probably served as the kitchen range. However, it was when he stepped upstairs that Professor Barley was convinced that the building was older than it looked. He needed only to examine the staircase itself. We have reproduced Professor Barley's comments beneath the photograph of the staircase. The style and construction of the hand and stair rails led him to consider that the staircase must have been constructed in the latter part of the seventeenth century - perhaps as early as 1670 and certainly no later than 1700. Originally this staircase would have started in its 'dog-leg' fashion at the ground floor. The landlord at some unknown point in time had the lower flight of stairs repositioned and so was able to create part of the bar area the pub had before its more recent enlargements.
The staircase of The Three Wheatsheaves is a
hand-some construction, of what is called dog-leg
form that is the flight turns on itself half way up.
The turned balusters, of substantial but elegant
proportions, are held by a moulded handrail and
another moulded member at the bottom (called
the string). The distinctive feature is that the
strings for the lower and upper flights are halved
into each other. The newel posts are plain. The
staircase is the work of a very skilled carpenter. The
other distinctive feature is that the staircase goes
all the way up to the garrets (what we should call
attics) for by this time householders, whatever their
occupation, wanted to be able to use the roof
space. The staircase is thus not only attractive to
look at, it is the only feature in the building which
gives a clue to its date and it is quite typical of its
At the time of his visit Professor Barley was not able to give his opinion as to what he felt was the original layout of the building and what were later additions. He thought that if he were able to see the plans of the building, this might help him with his evaluations. Shipstones were able to provide ground floor plans which had been drawn up at the time of the construction of the indoor toilets. Unfortunately they had no plans of the upstairs area, as they had never had cause to carry out alterations up there. So with the agreement of Shipstones and Mick and Linda Sisson, we carried out our own survey. Once drawn up, the plans were shown to Professor Barley.
He explained that at the likely time of the building's construction, an 'L' or 'T' plan was a common form. For a farmhouse such as The Three Wheatsheaves originally had been, a good framed staircase was customarily incorporated in the design. Very often the staircase was made to project out to the rear, rather than take up space in the main body of the building. After looking at our plans, Professor Barley felt able to suggest that part of the stairwell was new, that there had been additions at the side and rear. After that matters got a little tricky. The ceiling height of the ground floor room to the right of the main entrance is about nine inches higher than the others, which means that you must step up to enter the room above. This might suggest that this side of the building was also a later addition, but Professor Barley wasn't so sure. He explained that such differences in ceiling heights had been found in other farmhouses where it was considered that the building had all been constructed at the same time. For one reason or another, the farmer preferred to have more headroom in that particular room. No significant differences could be detected among the four rooms which were situated on the second floor (in the roof space) and this led Professor Barley finally to favour the idea that the original plan of The Three Wheatsheaves' farm house had been four rooms on each floor in an L shaped arrangement.
The staircase of The Three Wheatsheaves enabled Professor Barley to suggest an approximate date for the building's construction, but we have no way of telling when its occupants first began the profitable side line of dispensing alcoholic refreshment to the general public. The earliest reference to the pub we could find staircase of The Three Wheatsheaves enabled Professor Barley to suggest an approximate date for the building's construction, but we have no way of telling when its occupants first began the profitable side line of dispensing alcoholic refreshment to the general public. The earliest reference to the pub we could find came in the following advert placed in the Nottingham Journal in 1810.
Mary Hopkins takes this opportunity of informing her friends and the public that she has fitted up the THE THREE WHEATSHEAVES INN in a genteel Style, hoping to merit their patronage, having laid in an assortment of Spiritouous Liquors and Wines of the very first Quality.
Our researches indicate that the pub undoubtedly dates back further than 1810, but quite how far is not clear. Whenever it started up, The Three Wheatsheaves was well positioned not only to serve the local community but also to pick up passing trade, situated as it was on the main road from Derby to Nottingham. As trade developed one can imagine more and more of the ground floor being given over to the hostelry. The public area also seems to have spread upstairs. Although now bricked up again, it is clear that the wall between the two upstairs rooms at the front of the building was once taken out to make one large room. This was probably used as a function room for parties or local meetings. The White Hart and The Struggler both offered a room for dancing, but The Three Wheatsheaves is unlikely to have followed suit. The difference in the floor levels' of the two halves of the room would have been a real stumbling block for anyone wanting to try out a few dance steps.
Behind The Bar
The years given for each landlord are the first and last inclusions found in the various local directories. From 1938 the pub belonged to Shipstones and the brewery kindly supplied us with the names and dates of their tenants up to the present day.
1812-1841 Humphrey Hopkins
Only 1842 Huntley Hopkins
Only 1844 William Pick
Only 1848 Alfred Newball
1854-1860 James Styring
1862-1868 Cyrus Boot
Only 1869 Mrs. Sarah Ann Boot
Only 1874 George Cheetham
1881-1883 Mrs. Anne Kirk
Only 1885 Samuel Kirk
1888-1897 John Brown
1898-1900 George Henry Burnham
1902-1906 Noel Griffith Wooley
1908-1911 George Burnham
1912-1947 Thomas Highfield
1947-1950 John William Marlow
1950-1976 Joseph Alfred George Skinner
1976- Charles Frederick Sisson
The railway line which runs nearby was opened in 1848 and this ought to have brought the landlord extra custom, for Lenton's branch, station was situated only yards away. Those with a ticklish dry throat on their way to and from the station may well have taken the opportunity to call in at The Three Wheatsheaves to remedy the situation. This excuse would have remained in use until 1911 when Lenton was the first of Nottingham's suburban railway stations to close down. The landlord of The Three Wheatsheaves may have welcomed the presence of the railway but if he still wore his farmer's hat he may not have been quite so enamoured with it. We don't know where the majority of the farm's lands lay, but some proportion would undoubtedly have been on the far side of the line and the presence of the railway must have made movement of farm equipment or livestock all the more difficult. For almost forty years the railway had to be negotiated by a level crossing and it was only in 1886 that the railway bridge was built and the Derby Road redirected away from the front of The Three Wheatsheaves and up over the bridge.
A farm nearby on Radford Marsh Road definitely survived into this century, but it is very doubtful that farming lasted that long at The Three Wheatsheaves. The directories refer to Humphrey Hopkins, landlord of the pub from 1812 to 1841 as both a farmer and an innkeeper, but thereafter his successors were only listed as publicans. Certainly we know that William Pick, landlord in 1846 was not a farmer as such prior to his arrival at the pub, for we have discovered that he was previously the landlord of The Black's Head in the Broad Marsh area of Nottingham. Quite possibly the farming side of the pub was being run down even in the 1840s.
We have assembled a list of all the known landlords or landladies of The Three Wheatsheaves, mostly from the pages of the local directories. The inclusion of a Huntley Hopkins in 1842 is, we believe, a mistake on the part of the directory's compilers. We can discover no one of that name in the Hopkins family and consider it more likely that it is either a 'posthumous' reference to Humphrey Hopkins or else his illegitimate son of the same name. This apart we trust the list has no other inaccuracies.
We leave the twentieth century to the reminiscences of Alma Beech and our piece on the present tenants, Mick and Linda Sisson, which appear elsewhere in this issue. There is little more we can relate about the pub in more recent times (*), for the simple reason that no-one has told us about them. We are, however, still open to 'offers' for inclusion in a future edition.
(*) One tail piece we couldn't leave out, however, was that Thomas Highfield, landlord from 1912 to 1947, once had his own 'Basil Brush', a tame fox which locals used to see being taken for walks on a lead. (Information supplied by Miss E.M. Palmer.)
Why The Three Wheatsheaves?
In the case of many pubs, it is often difficult to decide quite why it was so called, but the explanation for The Three Wheatsheaves seems quite unambiguous.
The pub was part of the Gregory family's estate and the Gregory arms, granted to them in 1662, incorporated three stooks of corn in its design.
Our illustration of the Gregory arms is taken from Godfrey's History of Lenton.
The Donkey Pub
Alma Beech now lives in Camberley, Surrey, but before her marriage she was Alma Cox and grew up on Ednaston Road in Dunkirk. She sent us some reminiscences of her childhood during the thirties and forties and from these we have taken the following piece on her memories of The Three Wheatsheaves.
The Three Wheatsheaves in about 1955.
Photograph courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library.
The Three Wheatsheaves always meant the 'donkey' pub to us, for it was a favourite place with the local children. Mum and dad would often take us with them for an evening stroll. The walk might take in Abbey Lane and Sandy Lane (now beneath Clifton Boulevard) up to Adam's Hill and then along the Derby Road to The Wheatsheaves. An alternative route would take us to the pub via Spring Close, past The Traveller's Rest pub and the wind operated water pump and alongside the canal to Derby Road.
How we loved the garden of The Wheatsheaves up those steps with its grass for children to play on and a sheltered spot for the adults to enjoy a quiet drink and a friendly chat - but best of all were the penny rides on the donkey kept there. Bicycles were also kept in the sheds at the lower level and these were an additional attraction - I wonder if they still have the old penny-farthing there? I also recall the joy one birthday Sunday when a sudden shower of rain resulted in my being allowed an extra tuppence to go off to The Wheatsheaves and buy a packet of crisps from the snug and so christen my new child's umbrella.
It was at The Wheatsheaves that I had the experience of getting locked in the outside toilet because of a rusty old bolt. After I had screamed the place down, my father and the landlord took it in turns to put their shoulders to the door until the lock gave way. That experience has left me with a phobia about locking myself in public toilets, which has lasted to this day.
Occasionally when my parents must have been feeling a bit flush we would do a 'pub crawl', having one drink each at The Traveller's Rest and The Rose and Crown, but always ending up at the donkey pub so that we children could have our customary ride.
Mick and Linda Sisson
Once upon a time, there was a little pub called The Full Moon situated in the sleepy hamlet of Morton, somewhere between Southwell and Newark. Its publicans, a certain Mick and Linda Sisson, began to get itchy feet and started to look around for another pub. Their eye was taken by The Three Wheatsheaves, where the landlord, Joseph Skinner, had announced his intention to leave. They applied to Shipstones and were eventually chosen to take over the tenancy. This was some ten years ago.
Behind the bar (from left to right) Angelita Sisson, Mick, Linda,
Liesel Sisson, Brian and Ruth.
The pub then had four separate rooms, several of which were rather cramped. Six people in them and it began to feel like a crowd. The serving area had a 'corridor' round it which enabled you to perambulate around while seeking a space in which to attract the bar staff's attention. With the co-operation of Shipstones, the first task the Sissons set themselves, once they had settled in, was to take down the partition wall in the middle room and open up the bar so that customers could be served there. As the partition wall was being taken out, Linda and Mick caught sight of the lovely York stone flags beneath the bitumastic flooring. They promptly uncovered the flags and, emboldened by this discovery, took out the 'modern' fireplace. Behind they found the pub's original fireplace. This they had sandblasted to remove the layers of grime and soot. In the lounge, the plaster was taken off the old ceiling beams to reveal the original wood. The fireplace there was opened up again and the wood burning Jotul installed in the inglenook. The front of the pub was the next to receive attention. Walls came down and the rooms opened up. The most recent changes took place just over a year ago, when the bar area was enlarged and a kitchen created in what had until then been the side entrance. At the same time the Sissons sacrificed their own living room so that it could be converted into a further lounge area at the rear of the pub. As they turned their attention to each room, it has been completely redecorated and refurnished.
From the time that the Sissons found the stone flags, they have tried to incorporate such features as would bring out the feel of the farmhouse. Most would surely consider that they have succeeded in this aim; certainly the patrons like it, for the pub is frequently packed out. During term time The Three Wheatsheaves becomes very popular with students, and the pub does a busy lunchtime trade throughout the year with its range of hot and cold meals. In the early part of the evening, when many other pubs are extremely quiet, Mick and Linda have attracted a lively bunch of regulars who make The Three Wheatsheaves their stopping off point before going on home from work. In the summer evenings, the pub's garden becomes a popular alternative to sitting indoors. The Three Wheatsheaves has long had its garden, but during the tenancy of the previous landlord, the garden was abandoned and used by Mr. Skinner's son as a storage area for building materials. The Sissons brought in a landscape gardener, several tons of topsoil and every tree and shrub which now grow there. The skittle alley outside may not be used quite so often as in former days, but parties are welcome to book it out, for which there is no charge. The skittle alley area also gets used throughout the summer when Linda and Mick put on their barbeque evenings.
The Three Wheatsheaves is Linda's second pub, but Mick can put together a more extensive list. He started off at The Kingsway on the Mackworth Estate in Derby and then became the first landlord of The Meadow Covert in Edwalton when it opened in the 1960s. A stint at The Navigation on Meadow Lane followed, before moving to The Full Moon in 1970. After 32 years in the business Mick is now a well-known and respected member of the pub trade, even if many might not immediately connect him with the name over the front door of the pub. This reads 'Charles Frederick Sisson'. During the War he served in the Navy as a Petty Officer Artificer. Working in the engine room as a mechanic, he was inevitably known as a 'Mick' and the name stuck to him and Charles Frederick thereafter forgotten.
Mick grew up in nearby Bulwell while Linda is in fact a Lenton girl. Until the age of eight she lived on Commercial Street, and then moved with her family to Mansfield. Her grandfather, Bernard Schooler, stayed on at Commercial Street and the family would regularly pop back to visit. So Linda kept up her association with Lenton. Grandfather was the local chimney sweep a job he carried out quite efficiently in spite of his wooden leg. He was a skilled darts player and used .to claim he only needed money for his first drink, the rest would come out of his winnings at the dartboard. While granddad and her parents were in the pub, usually The Traveller's Rest but sometimes The Three Wheatsheaves, Linda might be found with bag of crisps and bottle of pop playing outside. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine then that one day 'all this' would be hers, and Mick's and Shipstones'.