Published on January 29th, 2014 | by Nottingham Drinker0
The New White Bull
Mark Shirley, cidermaker with a passion for traditional pubs and their games, popped into The New White Bull to write a blog post about the games there.
Anyone who holds the British pub as dear to their heart as I do will know that this unique and special institution, and the drinking culture which surrounds it, has seen a steep decline in recent years. The reasons for this are manifold, and some would say inevitable, even irreversible. Certainly social habits have changed, and often at the expense of pub going. There is now a much greater choice of recreation at home and elsewhere, even if the social aspect has often been relegated to an ‘online’ experience. The inexorable rise of supermarkets and their ability to undercut the on-trade with ease has also weakened the long standing link between drinking and the pub.
Add to this the chronic mis-management of our pub heritage by cash strapped pub operators, and the subsequent lack of investment in the pub sector, and for many the pub is simply not the attractive social venue it once was. It will be self evident to most regular pub goers that the trade is experiencing an unprecedented slump, and given the apparent lack of genuine interest in the trade by many of the larger pub companies, this situation seems unlikely to improve any time soon.
So given where the pub trade now finds itself, it’s perhaps unrealistic to expect every pub to survive and thrive, and if we’re honest there are a good few which have simply become isolated from their original trade, either geographically, economically, or socially. On the other hand there are many perfectly viable pubs which have undoubtedly suffered through neglect, but which are well placed to succeed in the right hands, and with a little long-overdue investment.
It’s often the case that a new, forward thinking management team can help revitalise a pub, and in so doing bring it back to its community as the true asset it once was. So it’s particularly galling when an interested party is keen to do just that with a much loved village local, but is thwarted in its goal by owners who seem more interested in demolishing the pub to make way for housing than respecting the wishes of licensees and locals willing to play their part in the pubs future success.
The New White Bull in Giltbrook, is a pub in peril, but one which could have a bright future if only it is given the chance. Currently under threat of closure, the owners Greene King seem hell-bent on a cash-grab of the land for development, this despite interest from the local Blue Monkey team who would love to run the pub as a ‘tap’ to the nearby brewery in Giltbrook. At the time of writing, their offer appears to be falling on deaf ears, but the fight for the survival of the pub goes on.
The survival of the New White Bull would of course be a wonderful thing for the locals, and no doubt a great addition to the local beer scene under the Blue Monkey banner. But it would also prevent the loss of so much local history and tradition. More so given that so much has been lost already at similarly threatened and closed pubs throughout the country. Multi-room pubs like the New White Bull are not nearly as common as they once were, and this traditional layout provides for all the local community, and helps support diverse usage including space for pub games such as Darts, Dominoes, and Pool. Traditional pub games are one of my own interests, so it’s particularly pleasing to see such a fine and well used skittle alley at the pub. The Skittle Alley is located in an old barn to the side of the pub, well used in the Ilkeston & District Long Alley League, but also available for social games. Outside the barn is an original outdoor Alley, though whether this still gets any use on summer evenings I’m not sure. A fine example of the enduring connection this pub has with the game can be seen hanging on the wall opposite the corridor end of the bar. Lovingly polished, if a little over-enthusiastically given the almost total absence of silver plate, is a plaque from local brewers Hardys & Hansons, commemorating three consecutive years of victory in the first division of the Kimberley Brewery Skittles League. Of course Hardys & Hansons are no more, the historic Kimberley Brewery long closed by Greene King of Bury St Edmunds, and the self-same brewery company which would now like to bring another piece of local heritage to an untimely end. The New White Bull is a fine village pub at the very heart of its community. Given the chance it could become a truly great pub for locals and visitors alike. Let’s hope Greene King see sense. We’ve lost enough of our precious pub heritage already. In the mean time, I urge you to visit this welcoming local, and support traditional pubs wherever they are whilst we still can.
See Mark’s blog: pub-games.blogspot.co.uk