The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 3 - November 1989

The Story of the Rose & Crown

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The Rose & Crown, Derby Road, Lenton.

Most readers will, we imagine, be slightly puzzled by what they see when first glancing at the photograph on the right. In the foreground a gentleman stands at the entrance to the Rose and Crown, while around the corner a cyclist chats to two children seated on some sort of wheeled conveyance. That this must be the forerunner of the present Rose and Crown public house is clearly evident after a brief comparison with the other photographs of the building we have included. But is that really the Derby Road? It looks so narrow and there's no hint of the buildings that now line the other side of the road. And what about all the traffic we are now accustomed to live with, day and night? Though you may initially doubt it, this is indeed a view of the Derby Road, taken round about the turn of the century. In the distance is the Three Wheatsheaves and a little to its right a plume of white smoke billows from a steam train as it enters Lenton Station.

The man standing beside the front door is John Mills, the landlord, who had been resident at the pub since August 1885. Before that Mr Mills had been employed as a carpenter on the Wollaton Estate. There was no real change of "employer' when he moved to the Rose and Crown as Lord Middleton also owned the public house. At one stage John Mills might have envisaged a somewhat different career opening up before him. As a young man he had shown great promise as a cricketer and in 1875, at the age of 20, made his County debut for Nottinghamshire against Gloucestershire. He scored six in his first innings for Notts being caught and bowled by a certain W.G. Grace. Unfortunately John Mills can't have made a very good impression, as he had to wait three more years for a second chance. In 1878 he played in eight County cricket matches but appears not to have done anything of note either with the bat or the ball. After that there was one County game in 1879 and a final one against Surrey in 1881. John Mills' eleven matches for Nottinghamshire didn't amount to much of a professional career but there was always the amateur game and he frequently turned out for Wollaton Cricket Club and Lenton United.

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First Annual Dinner - December 7th 1911

When not playing cricket there was plenty to do at the Rose and Crown. Like many publicans in those days Mr Mills brewed his own beer. This was carried out in a brew house at the rear of the premises, where there were also huge kitchen gardens, piggeries and stabling for eleven horses. Above the stables John Mills had a workshop where he could exercise his carpentry Skills. Within the main building of the Rose and Crown there were four public rooms downstairs - the parlour, taproom, vaults and smoke room; the last of which was men only. Beyond these were the kitchen and scullery, dairy, storeroom and below ground a sizeable cellar area. Upstairs were a large clubroom, three bedrooms and two further rooms built into the roof space. Although it doesn't appear so from the photographs, the old Rose and Crown must have been quite a large building. In 1909 John Mills decided to cut back on the vegetables and converted part of the kitchen garden into a bowling green. Soon afterwards a club was established to manage the green. Its committee evidently felt the need to stress the 'Middleton' connection and rather than simply call it the Rose and Crown Bowling Club chose instead the somewhat grander sounding 'Wollaton Lodge Bowling Club'. It's not clear whether initially anyone who patronised the Rose and Crown could play there but certainly in later years the greens were restricted to Club members, their guests and, of course, players from the various visiting teams.

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The Rose & Crown in the 1920s

Lord Middleton, in 1921, decided that the Rose and Crown was surplus to his requirements and the property was put up for sale. Walker, Walton & Hanson were chosen to act as auctioneers and in their sales prospectus for the pub emphasised a number of points. These included that the inn was the first 'house of call' on the main road from Beeston to Nottingham and from Bramcote to Nottingham; that motor omnibuses from outlying villages and towns passed the pub at frequent intervals; that the property was within two minutesí walk of the Derby Road tram terminus and furthermore in fine weather the road was a favourite walk of local inhabitants; and finally that from time to time agricultural shows were held in Wollaton Park and on these occasions a very large increase of income was obtainable as the Rose and Crown was the nearest licensed house to the Show ground and had every facility for catering for the large number of visitors who attended these shows.

Thomas Shipstone lived further along the Derby Road at Lenton Firs and passed the Rose and Crown each time he went to and from his brewery offices at Basford. He ought to have known the pub quite well and been well placed to judge how relevant the sales claims were. Evidently he did think it was a good investment because representatives from James Shipstone & Sons Ltd. attended the auction and in fact submitted the winning bid of £8,225; the sale being completed two months later on February 7th 1922. What this change of ownership meant for the Rose and Crown itself was that John Mills now had to pay his £47 a year rent to Basford rather than the Wollaton Estate office and the customers had the opportunity to drink Shipstones beers rather than home brew. Mr Mills chose to stay on as landlord for another year before deciding to retire and in February 1923 the tenancy was handed on to his son, Everard Mills. John Mills continued to live at the Rose and Crown and continued to enjoy his cricket, though only as a spectator now. It was while watching Nottinghamshire play Derbyshire at Ilkeston that he collapsed and died in June 1932 at the age of 77.

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This 1936 photograph shows work commencing on the new pub with
the old one in the background. Reproduced courtesy of Greenhalls
Midlands Ltd.

While the Rose and Crown may have been quite well placed to attract passing custom, once the vehicles travelling along the Derby Road began to increase, both in number and velocity, the location of the building was always going to prove something of a traffic hazard. The problem was that the road bent quite sharply as you passed by the public house and the building obscured your view of the road ahead. This meant anyone crossing at this point often couldn't see if the way was clear of traffic until they had stepped out into the road. No doubt there were quite a few near misses over the years. In November 1931 Cyril Pullen wasn't so lucky. He had been working as a part-time waiter at the Rose and Crown and on finishing for the night had left the premises with the intention of heading for home in Cloister Square off Abbey Street. Sadly he didn't make it across the Derby Road, being knocked down by a motorist on his way back to Ilkeston. The driver claimed that he had rounded the bend and been right on top of Pullen before he had even spotted his presence. He had applied the brakes, shut off the engine, and swerved. But it had all been too late. There was no suggestion that he had been travelling too fast but there was criticism expressed at the inquest that the driver should have had better lights on his vehicle.

Given the problem caused by the building's position, the city Engineer's Department must have been delighted to hear of Shipstones' decision, announced in September 1935, that the company intended to build a new Rose and Crown public house set further back from the road. Equally pleased were Everard Mills and his wife, Alice, for Shipstones had great plans for the new pub. The architects, Eberlin & Darbyshire, had prepared designs for a large two storey building with an imposing mock-Tudor exterior. Inside the whole of the ground floor was to be given over to the public, while upstairs there were the living quarters, and a huge clubroom. All the outbuildings, which had also included a covered bowling alley and what remained of the rear gardens, would have to go to make way for the new pub. But it would be possible to position the new building so as to keep the bowling green. In fact the bowlers were to gain the added facility of an open veranda built on to the new pub from which people could sit and watch the games.

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The ground floor as it was
when the new pub first opened.

Construction of the new building began in early 1936. The outbuildings were quickly demolished and excavation work began for the new cellars. The ground was found to be very wet, caused in part by its close proximity to the river Leen that runs along the northern edge of the property. The cellars had to be built within a cofferdam and extensive piling was required for the building's foundations. Water continually gathered in these excavations and the workmen were forever pumping it away. The river had a nasty habit, every so often, of flooding the surrounding land so it was thought advisable to set the ground floor of the new building two feet higher than that of the old pub. Exactly when the building work was completed is something we have failed to discover, but most likely the new Rose and Crown was ready for occupation in early 1937. In order to retain the license the old pub had to remain open until the new one was ready and then it was a matter of swiftly transferring operations from one building to the other. No doubt the move was a time of much celebration and recollection but for many these celebrations were tinged with sadness because Everard Mills' wife, Alice, had died while the new pub was under construction. Once the move had been completed the workmen returned, demolished the old Rose and Crown, and in its place laid out a car park for the new building.

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An aerial view of the Rose & Crown in 1937
(courtesy of Gerry Deegan).

In his younger days Everard Mills had been a keen sportsman. He had played football for Nottingham Forest's reserve team, been a well-known local swimmer, and had regularly turned out for Lenton United Cricket Club; in later years he became one of the Club's committeemen. Bowls, however, was to become his main preoccupation. He was evidently quite a good player and obtained his County badge, but it was as an administrator that he is chiefly remembered. He was treasurer of Wollaton Lodge Bowling Club for over fifty years; he became president of both the Notts (E.B.A.) Association and the Notts County Bowling Association; and he was chairman of the County Bowlers' Benevolent Fund. Everard Mills remained landlord of the Rose and Crown until his death in November 1962 at the age of 78. On Everard Mills, death, his daughter, Mary, and her husband, Sid Cumberland, stepped into the breach and kept the pub open. But the Mills' eighty seven-year connection with the Rose and Crown ended in January 1963 when Ernest and Margaret Elson arrived to take over the tenancy.

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'Gentlemen only' in the late 1950's. Everard Mills is on the far left.

One or two changes were put into effect once the Elson's had settled in. The most drastic involved the bowling green. It was announced that the green was to make way for a car park. Naturally the bowlers were distressed by the news but found Club's trophies and several can still be seen in the Proprietary Club's display cabinet. The veranda now had no bowlers to sit in it so the builders were called in and it was converted into an extension to the lounge. The oak panelled bar room, in Everard Mills' time, had been declared 'gentlemen only'. Should a lady inadvertently enter this male bastion, the men would fall silent and look reprovingly at her. All but the most brazen usually took the hint and left. The Elsons didn't strive too hard to keep this particular tradition alive and the gentlemen soon found themselves making room for the ladies. In the lounge, room had to be found for a grand piano and someone was employed to play there most evenings of the week. A younger, less male dominated clientele was being courted. Students even found themselves welcome. In Everard Mills' time they had generally been given a rather frosty reception. The Elsons began to provide bar meals at lunchtime. They even contemplated the conversion of the upstairs clubroom into bedrooms so that the pub could offer bed and breakfast, but nothing came of this plan. Ernest and Margaret Elson remained tenants at the Rose and Crown until their retirement in 1984 when they moved out to Normanton on the Wolds.

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The view of the Derby Road in the 1950s.

The Rose and Crown now ceased to be a tenanted pub and instead a manager was put in, namely Richard Jones and his wife Jenny. Shipstones had earmarked the pub for a major revamp and in April he far left. 1985 the builders moved in. Despite all the initial piling when the pub was re-built, the Rose and Crown suffered from subsidence and it was found necessary to underpin the foundations at the rear of the building. The wall between the 'veranda' extension and the lounge was largely removed and the whole room fitted out in Art Deco style. The snug/pool room at the back of the pub was commandeered and made into a kitchen. Prior to this, bar meals had all been prepared upstairs and then sent down to the ground floor by dumb waiter. The new kitchen made life so much easier and once the refit was completed lunchtime patrons could choose from a wide range of hot and cold meals. The refit also meant the departure of the grand piano; background music was henceforth produced by more conventional means.

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The Wollaton Suite laid out for a wedding. Photograph by Paul Bexon.

Richard and Jenny Jones' stay at the Rose and Crown was to be comparatively short. The present residents, Gerry and Anne Deegan took over in late 1987. The upstairs clubroom had never really been put to very much use until the Deegans arrived. They immediately saw it had great potential if only it could be made larger. Gerry and Anne therefore agreed to sacrifice part of their living quarters. By way of compensation the brewery had a new bedroom built above the lounge. From June 1988 the new function room with its own bar and catering facilities has been available for hire. It can accommodate 85 people at a seated wedding reception or up to 120 guests if a buffet meal is requested. Business conferences can also be mounted there and the room is equipped with TV video screens and projection equipment, which come free of charge. Local companies such as Hall & Tawse, Bell Fruit, Northern Dairies, Boots and Central Television have all taken advantage of these facilities. They evidently like what's on offer as repeat bookings are regularly being taken.

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A present day view of the lounge. Photograph by Paul Bexon.

In common with many other public houses the Rose and Crown has long since ceased to be a place where you came for a pint and expected to know almost everyone there. There are regulars, both in the lounge and public bar, plus a few trusty stalwarts from the days of Everard Mills who prefer the oak panelled barroom which they know as the 'red' room. But much of the pub's trade comes from occasional in common with many other public houses the Rose and Crown has long since ceased to be a place where you came for a pint and expected to know almost everyone there. There are regulars, both in the lounge and public bar, plus a few trusty stalwarts from the days of Everard Mills who prefer the oak panelled barroom which they know as the 'red' room. But much of the pub's trade comes from occasional patrons, usually couples out for the evening. Although it is close to the campus, students seem to prefer to drink elsewhere. The pub rates more highly with staff at the Queens Medical Centre and at lunch times it regularly attracts people from nearby business premises.

Those long-standing regulars of the red room have clearly witnessed a wide range of changes, especially over the last few years. No doubt changes will continue to occur as the management and the brewery strives to ensure plenty of patrons keep coming through the pub's doors. And it is just as likely that some of the patrons in years to come will be equally nostalgic about the present day Rose and Crown!

Not used in the original Lenton Times article. Photographs by Paul Bexon - September 1989

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