History of the Great Northern Inn at Derby in the county of Derbyshire.


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Some history of the Great Northern Inn

Formerly known as the Jolly Soldier, the Great Northern Inn was located on the western side of Junction Street, opposite the Baptist Chapel and the Junction Tavern. I type in the past tense because the pub is no longer, though the building remains and has been converted to residential use. The Baptist Chapel has gone altogether and housing now stands on the site.

Serving the needs of the nearby Rowditch Barracks, the Jolly Soldier opened as a beer house in 1862. I learned this when reading the details of an application for a full licence by Henry Smith in 1876. At the brewster sessions held in August of that year his solicitor, Mr. Huxtall, read a memorial from local residents to the magistrates. He informed the Bench that the property had been used as a beer house since 1862, and had been conducted in a respectable and exemplary manner. The Chief Constable confirmed that the premises were adaptable for such a licence and, accordingly, the magistrates granted the full licence. Nottingham-born Henry Smith had been running the Jolly Soldier since June 1870 when the licence was transferred to him from Eleanor Sutcliffe. Oddly, despite gaining a full licence, he was listed in some trade directories as a beer retailer, suggesting that the publishers had not updated their records.

The application for a spirits licence was actively opposed by the Baptist Chapel. Moving from a cottage in Parcel Street, they had been worshipping in Junction Street since August 1860 when a small chapel with classrooms underneath was opened. At this time the congregation numbered 21 in total. The church flourished and, within a decade, 126 people had joined the congregation. Consequently, the original chapel was deemed too small so the trustees acquired an adjoining plot of land and, after pulling down the old chapel, laid the foundation stones of a new church in April 1871. With a service led by the Revd. H. Crasweller, the stones were laid by William Abell, of Elm Tree House, and Joseph Hadfield of the Great Eastern Railway.

The Derbyshire Rifle Volunteer Barracks, after which the Jolly Soldier was named, was designed by Edwin Thompson and built in 1859. The military role of the complex ended within two decades and the local authorities acquired the land for use as a recreation ground. Some of the barrack buildings survived into the 21st century and were bestowed with Grade-II listing, Historic England adding that they are "a very rare and well-preserved example of a local volunteer barracks."

Inevitably, the name of the public-house was updated. In the autumn of 1886 at the annual banquet of the Derby Licensed Victuallers' Association, held at the Drill Hall, George Foster, in addressing the Mayor and brewery representatives, discussed the matter of licensing reform. Referring to the number of public-houses that had been done away with by improvements in Derby and the licences allowed to lapse, he said: "the Great Northern Railway, on its advent into the town, plunged into the Fountain, consumed the Boar's Head, attacked and demolished the New Bull's Head, absorbed the Joiners' Arms, and New Windmill, out through the Cross Keys, knocked down the Lord Hill, upset the Old White Horse, appropriated the Golden Fleece, just left standing the Old House at Home, ran into the Fox and Hounds, turned the Jolly Soldier in the Great Northern." His speech, although bringing laughter and cheers to the proceedings, was aimed at the magistrates in order for them to "protect their legitimate interests" by issuing new licences for those lost.

Henry Smith had become publican by marrying Eleanor Sutcliffe. Her son Henry, although training as a marble mason, would later become a publican. In March 1887 the tavern was described as Brother Sutcliffe's Great Northern Inn at the opening of a new lodge in connection with the Loyal Caledonian Sick and Dividend Society. Henry Sutcliffe was a member of the Loyal Caledonian Corks. In the early 20th century he was the licensee of the Cavendish Hotel on the corner of Upper Dale Road and Walbrook Road. When his step-father Henry Smith died the licence of the Great Northern Inn was transferred to his mother in March 1883. She died later in the decade in June 1889.

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When the freehold of the Great Northern Inn was advertised in October 1897, the auction particulars provided a glimpse of what the old tavern was like. Already leased to Alton & Co. Ltd., the premises comprised "a bar, large tap-room, parlour, two kitchens, four bedrooms, club room, spirit room, two cellars, washhouse, two-stall stable with loft over, yard, garden with gateway entrance from Junction Street, and also a large yard at the rear." The notice stated that the Great Northern Inn was let on a lease expiring on 24th June 1903, to Alton & Co. Ltd., and the yard at the rear was in the occupation of a Mr. Garratt, the whole producing a gross annual rental of £59. Key selling points were that "the property is situate near to the Great Northern Railway Works and Messrs. T. D. Robinson's Works, West's Chemical Works, Wilkins and Ellis' Paper Manufactory, and Mr. Tomlinson's Brickyard.' These were highlighted as the employees of these works were potential patrons of the Great Northern Inn.

Derby : Sale of the Great Northern Inn [1905]

At the time of the auction Samuel Sims was the tenant running the Great Northern Inn. He took over the licence from Thomas Allen in December 1889. The Spondon-born publican kept the pub with his wife Mary who hailed from Devon. I would have thought that Alton & Co. Ltd. would have purchased the freehold in 1897, particularly as they were leasing the property. However, the above newspaper article, dated June 1905, shows that the house was sold again. The notice also states that Samuel Sims was a free tenant and that the pub was a home-brewing house. This was a most unusual arrangement as the brewery would have been keen to have their products being served at the counter. This would no doubt have ended when Samuel Sims retired, following which he and his wife moved to Alvaston.

Derby : The Great Northern on Junction Street [2008]

The licence of the Great Northern Inn was transferred from Thomas Ferdinand to Kate Hewitt in July 1910. Born in County Cork, the elderly widow was assisted by her Dublin-born son Arthur. The publican gave birth to a total of 14 children, though only ten were alive when she was at the Great Northern Inn. I suspect she married her husband, a Derby man, when he was stationed in Ireland as a soldier. On returning home he became a prison warden.

In July 1918 the Great Northern Inn survived a scary moment when it was one of four houses brought in front of the Derby Compensation Authority. The justices were told by Mr. Bendle T. Moore, representing Alton & Co. Ltd., and the tenant Albert Davis, that "the pub was the only fully-licensed house within a radius of 250 yards, whilst the premises were too large to be converted to any other use without incurring very great expense." After consideration, the Bench renewed the licence of the Great Northern Inn whilst refusing the licences of the Sir Richard Cobden on Abbey Street, the Stockbrook Tavern on Stockbrook Street, and the Stag and Thorn on Traffic Street.

Steve Bloomer : Derby County Legend

Sadly, the most notable event in the history of the Great Northern Inn is the fact that Steve Bloomer died on the premises in April 1938. Born in 1874 at Cradley in the Black Country, he became one of the footballing greats, scoring hundreds of goals for Derby County, Middlesbrough and England. The man dubbed the "Napoleon of Football" said that the 28 goals he scored in an England shirt were "for King and Country." He was in poor health when his wife died three years earlier so the Rams, with financial help from other league clubs, paid for a health trip to Australia and New Zealand. However, shortly after his return he became very ill. He lived at the Great Northern Inn with his daughter Doris who kept the pub with her husband Cyril, a cathedral chorister. The couple were married in Derby Cathedral in September 1928. They were the first couple to be married in the building following its restoration. Doris Bloomer wore a pretty gown of chenille georgette in delicate shades of blue and pink. Cyril Richards was a keen dog lover. He had a labrador called Lindy Loo that won the Whatstandwell Cup at the North Midlands Gun Dog Association Show at Derby Racecourse in 1950.

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Licensees of the this pub

1867 - James Flanders
1869 - Eleanor Sutcliffe
1870 - Henry Smith
1883 - Eleanor Smith
1889 - Thomas Allen
1890 - Samuel Sims
1910 - Thomas Ferdinand
1910 - Kate Hewitt
1918 - Albert Davis
1927 - Joseph Lloyd
1938 - Cyril Richards
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Alton's Famous Derby Ales

Genealogy Connections

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Derby : Advertisement for the Pub Tenancy of the Great Northern Inn [1987]

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Related Newspaper Articles

"John Allerton, aged 45, a stranger, was charged with indecently assaulting a child, aged five years, on Wednesday afternoon. The offence was committed in a house in course of erection, on Boundary Road, and the prisoner was apprehended directly afterwards at the Jolly Soldier public-house, and identified by two children. The prisoner was remanded until Friday."
"Indecent Assault"
Derby Mercury : May 16th 1866 Page 2.

"I checked up on this case and the poor girl in question was named Johnson who lived in Crosby Street, California. She was returning home from school when the offence was committed. John Allerton, who told the magistrates he knew nothing about it, was sentenced to three months' imprisonment.

"Cyril Wye, 6, Upper Boundary Road, was charged on remand with being drunk and disorderly on Upper Boundary Road on April 17th, secondly with assaulting P.C.'s Rhoades and Forman, and thirdly, with committing damage to plate glass windows to the amount of £l4. Mr. Bendle W. Moore appeared to prosecute and Mr. A. R. Flint to defend. Joseph Lloyd said he was licensee of the Great Northern Inn, Junction Street, and on the date in question defendant was in the house. He heard him having an altercation with another man. They left the house and shortly afterwards witness found three plate glass windows broken. Defendant was there, and a man who was with him said he ought to be ashamed himself, smashing a man's windows when he had done him no harm. Wye had since admitted breaking the windows with his fist. P.C. Ernest Rhoades said he went to the Great Northern Inn in consequence of a complaint. He saw three windows had been broken. Witness went to Wye's house and saw defendant. Both of his hands were covered with blood and when he saw witness he "made a lunge" at him, attempting to strike him in the face. Witness avoided the blow. Wye was drunk and witness took him into custody, when he struck him in the face and chest and kicked him on the legs. Witness closed with Wye and blew his whistle. P.C. Forman, who was off duty, went to witness's assistance, and Wye struck and kicked Forman. Wye was eventually handcuffed and taken to the lock-up in the police van. P.C. Forman corroborated as to the assault and said Wye was later taken to the Infirmary, where his thumb was dressed. Mr. Flint said the trouble arose through the licensee of the Great Northern Inn, who interfered in an argument and struck Wye in the face twice. Wye had had some drink and, when the licensee went into the inn out of his way, he was in a fighting frame of mind and broke the windows with his bare fist. The constable did a very unwise thing going after Wye before he had time to cool down. William Clark, of 10, Arnold Street, said he saw Mr. Lloyd, of the Great Northern Inn, strike Wye twice, knocking him to the ground. Thomas Ditheredge, 8, Junction Street, and Jane Wye, defendant's wife also gave evidence. The latter said the constable forced his way into the house and threw defendant up against the dresser, breaking several ornaments. Later she saw her husband on the road with the constable kneeling on him. After retiring, the Bench found the defendant guilty on all charges. The Chairman said that both police and publicans must be protected. "Whilst I am on the Bench I shall advise colleagues to send men to prison for assaulting the police, but don't want you to lose your job." Wye was fined 10s. for being drunk and disorderly, £5 for the assault. £2 for breaking the windows, and was ordered to pay £5 towards the damage - in all £l2 10s."
"Protecting Police and Publicans"
Derby Advertiser : April 29th 1927 Page 22.

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