Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Woodborough’s Pubs & Beerhouses

Ale houses, taverns, inns and public houses have been a feature of village life for centuries although early records are difficult to find. Acts of Parliament relating to selling ale can be found from 1494 but one primary source is in the files of local newspapers. Coroner’s inquests often used the local pub or alehouse as a suitable venue for public hearings and these would be reported as local news.

As Woodborough increased its population with the growth of framework knitting at least seven pubs and alehouses were catering for thirsty customers. However by 1926 with the closure of the New Inn on Shelt Hill only two remained – the Four Bells and Nag’s Head.

A very full account of the history of village public houses has been compiled by Bernard Heathcote, published in 2012 by Nottinghamshire County Council as ‘Time Gentlemen Please’. [ISBN 978 0 9027521 73 6 and priced at £7.50]  This comprehensive account of each of the ale houses and pubs in Woodborough (and ten other local villages) includes a comprehensive history of each establishment and also provides extracts from coroner’s inquest which offer a fascinating glimpse of local life.

The following entries come from our research and provide only a summary of information to completing the picture of Shops and Trades in Woodborough.


Bugle Horn: The Bugle Horn was established as a beer shop in 1853. Joseph Leafe was the licensee, succeeded by his son Joseph Richard in 1886. Joseph was the brother of William Leafe who kept the White Lion in Lambley; their parents were Thomas [a framework knitter in Woodborough] and his wife Frances. Joseph Leafe owned the property, but probably for financial reasons in 1878 Christopher Wyld of Woodborough had a part share which passed to his widow, Susan Wylde in 1892 who by 1896 became the sole owner. In 1921 the licensing authorities debated the renewal of the licence for the Bugle Horn. They refused renewal due to its dilapidated state! Only two licensees have been found in the records, Joseph Leafe between 1853 and 1896 and Joseph Richard Leafe between 1896 and 1922. Beer was brewed on the premises and about 70 gallons was sold per week. Following the closure of the Bugle Horn as a beer house in 1921 the front rooms were used as a barbers by Tony Cooper for a time (on Saturdays) to supplement his income as a miner.

Right: This photograph is believed to date c.1900, and features the Leafe family, who from right to left - Selina Leafe holding baby Joseph R., Joseph Richard Leafe in the doorway, George F aged about 7, and William E., aged about 5, the lady on the left is a servant.

The sign over the doorway reads:-






The building, formerly Bugle Horn, was demolished in 1965: a doorway key stone with the initials GAB and the date 1680 marked on it suggests that it was built in that year. This stone was rescued at the time of demolition and later added to the boundary wall for the new property (dwelling house) built in 1978.

The Cock & Falcon remained a one-family concern and the reason for its closure is not clear. It is of course feasible it was refused a new licence under the terms of the new Licensing Act of 1869. When it ceased to be a pub at some point after 1865, it became a farm house to a smallholding and in 1894 it was in the occupation of Mr J Hancock but owned by Mansfield Parkyns Esq,. Later, possibly upon that sale, it became Leafe’s Farm no doubt on account it was in the occupation of Mr Leafe until 1922 and it is described as such in the sale particulars. In 1922, at the time of the grand agricultural estate sale it belonged to the Charles Hose Hill, Esq., and owner of Woodborough Hall. Records show the licensees were William Hogg 1823-1845, Sarah Hogg 1845-1855 and Wm Hogg junior 1855-1865.

Left: Earliest known photograph taken in 1922 for the sale catalogue of the Woodborough Hall estate.

Lot 7 particulars were taken from the 1894 sale catalogue:

Note that the building in 1894 was described as fronting on to Town Street and in 1922 on to Village Street, these are one and the same but the road is now known as Main Street.


Four Bells Inn: Was known as Eight Bells until 1844. Of all the pubs in Woodborough, this one has undergone the greatest transformation in appearance and style. In 1926 the original building was demolished and a very imposing new building took its place. In 1928, at a time when bus services to and from Nottingham were just commencing, the new Four Bells opened, perhaps the hope was that customers would be drawn to the new pub and travel there by the new bus service.

The Woodborough Male Friendly Society held their meetings in a ‘club room’ at the old pub.

Above left: Notts Castle Bicycle Club outside the Four Bells Inn. The sign below the gabled window left reads:

‘A Family and Boarding Hotel -

Landlord John Griffiths’.

 Above right: A Main Street scene with the Four Bells, the Bugle Horn and the Punch bowl all visible,

Both the above photographs were taken on or about the early 1900's.

The first definitive record to this public house was in 1762, when an advertisement appeared in the Nottingham Weekly Courant advertising that a farm house was to be auctioned in The Bells, the house of Daniel Cliff. James Cliffe was listed as a victualler in the Quarter Sessions of 1660 and may have been the father of Daniel. Until 1844 the Inn was known as Eight Bells after that time it was changed to Four Bells. The sign “Four Bells” first featured in the 18th century, when it was recorded that a Friendly Society, met there in 1794, but for many years hence the other titles were sometimes used. The Four Bells was a reasonably substantial building, with stables to accommodate eight horses. For a number of years the Four Bells was owned by members of the church, they included Rev’d. Murray Wilkins of Southwell, Rev’d. Sherlock and Rev’d. Trebeck. By 1891 the Inn had passed into the ownership of the laity, and in this year it was sold. The new owner being Robert Halford, an estate agent in Nottingham. In 1898 the Home Brewery bought the Four Bells, the licensee from 1898 to 1908 was John Griffiths and from 1908 to 1912 Lydia Griffiths.

Above left: The Four Bells Inn photographed around 1928, note the Barton’s Bus on service from Nottingham.

Above right: Photographed also in 1928, shows also the Methodist Chapel to the right.

Traditionally the occupants of the Four Bells had been farmers, and after the death of both father-in-law William Reavill and her husband John, Emma Reavill acquired both the licence and the associated farm land. Shortly after the above sale Emma left the Four Bells.

At one time publicans often remained as licensees for many years in the same hostelry. Clarence Levers served for 21 years, at the Four Bells between 1950 and 1971. The accompanying photograph shows him receiving a token of appreciation at his retirement in 1971. He was succeeded by Andrew Round and his wife Doris who between them ran the Four Bells for 28 years between 1971 and 1999. Doris Round retired in 1999.

The Four Bells Inn is still one of only two active pubs left in the village; the current owner is Pub Enterprises of Edinburgh with landlords Craig & Gaynor Smith here since 2010.  

The Four Bells Sign: An account of the new Four Bells sign and observations on social behaviour was reprinted from a copy of the Woodborough Newsletter dated February 1952.

“Congratulations to Mr Levers (and Mr Bryan Parker who painted it) on the new Four Bells sign. It’s forty years; I’m told, since there was a proper board. Inns play an important part in village life, but too many inn-signs have been regimented by breweries. One would think that breweries would have enough taste to encourage first-class inn-signs which, with village greens and chestnut blossom in May, are integral parts of English village life”.

Above two views of Church View Cottages [previously known as Pinchpenny Row]

which are believed to date back to the early 1800’s.

Paul Richardson was a grocer in Woodborough at some point during the 1830’s he additionally began to serve his customers with beer on his premises which he styled the Half Moon. An advertisement in the Nottingham Review of 1839 shows that he was well-established, presumably as a publican in that year being supported by later entries in the Nottinghamshire Trade Directories. Although he continued to trade as a grocer he appears to have relinquished his victualling activities by the 1850’s.

Above left: Nag’s Head circa 1880, William Hogg was the licensee. Above right: Mr W Wright seated on a horse, this was taken by William Ridgard a notable local photographer who was killed in WWI.

Below left: Main Street scene in 1912 with the Nag’s Head on the left still with the lean-to attached, this lean-to was demolished around 1927 to make way for the widening of Main Street and for a pavement on both sides. Below right: Main Street in 1958 with the widened road.

manufacturer in Nottingham and later acquired by Home Brewery in 1898. At a Licensing Meeting in 1906 the renewal of the licence for the Punch Bowl was refused and it finally closed on 2nd March 1907. The Punch Bowl returned into private hands after its closure as a public house in 1907.


Royal Oak: John Toplis opened a beer-shop which he called the Royal Oak soon after the publication of the Beer Act of 1830. He ran it with his wife Sarah but in 1845 the premises were sold and it seems that at this point Toplis ceased trading.

It is not clear exactly where this beer shop was but the sale particulars refer to ‘A good substantially-built messuage situated in Woodborough aforesaid, with a garden, large yard, outbuildings and other conveniences which communicate with the public town-street; also a close of grass land adjoining, lately in the possession of Mrs Mary Hucknall but now untenanted.’


An unnamed Beer-Shop (Wood’s Yard, Main Street): Charles Wood was a butcher in Woodborough who opened his house during the 1860’s to sell beer under an excise licence. At the licensing sessions in September 1866 he applied to the magistrates to additionally sell spirits but was refused. He possibly continued to trade until the Beer Act was withdrawn in 1869. In the 1871 census return for Woodborough, Charles Wood was listed only as a butcher, and his premises described as a former beer house, next to Wood’s Yard on the Main Street. It has been identified as a cottage on the opposite side of Main Street to the Nags Head and has more recently been known as Thorpe’s Yard.  

‘Yards’ were the burgess plots along Main Street with dwellings built at right angles from the street. They were usually known by the name of the resident nearest to Main Street and thus renamed from time to time. Hence the precise location of this beer shop cannot yet be ascertained.



The tenure of the Inn then passed to his son, Thomas, who maintained the licence until about 1860 when William Ashmore became the new tenant. In the early 1870’s Ashmore took over the licence for the New Inn on Shelt Hill in Woodborough.

Pubs were often venues for inquests and one such Woodborough incident was reported in 1847, follow this link to view the report - [Link] Inquest:

On 24th March 1856 a Covenant was entered into between Joseph & Elizabeth Leaf and another by direction of Christopher Wyld, this document has been transcribed and can be inspected by using the following link -

[Link] Covenant:

In 1872 the Punch Bowl had eight rooms; four of them open to the public, the stables could accommodate three horses. Ownership remained in private hands for another ten years until it was purchased by Tom Gamble, a mineral water


Nag’s Head: This public house appears to have been established about 1870 it was owned by Noah Wood who farmed in Lambley and Woodborough. In 1872 it was described as having eight rooms, four of which were open to the public and had stabling to accommodate four horses. The Nag’s Head was initially a beer house, but in 1874 it was granted a full alehouse licence, enabling spirits to be sold. Noah Wood sold the premises in 1880 to Robey Liddington Thorpe, a solicitor in Nottingham, passing to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1909. In 1924 it was bought by the then tenant, Arthur Shaw, but by 1956, it had been acquired by Hardy & Hansons, Brewers of Kimberley. The brew-house was no longer functioning. The first licensee was Edward Robinson but in 1875 the new innkeeper was 23 year old William Hogg, who remained as tenant for over 20 years.

From inn-signs to inn-keepers; a good or a bad publican can help or hinder the peace of the place and the safety of the roads a good deal, (we’re lucky in Woodborough). It’s right that magistrates are at last putting in prison people who will insist on drinking more than they can hold and undermining their driving ability (and all drink over a pint or two does that slightly). The average amount spent by man and wife on drink and tobacco is 30/- a week. It’s a huge figure when as a nation we’re bankrupt and living on America’s generosity.

The menace of drink is surely a hospitable desire to go round giving people drinks before their glasses are empty, and that means you think you ought to stand one back, and then a third man comes along and it often goes onto several or many more drinks which are more than is good for one and takes a good deal of money. As ‘Britishers’ some of this money ought to go to pay our National way a bit more – we’re clearly in for a bad time. As churchmen the threshold of Lent is a good time to remind ourselves that some of this money ought to go to God’s work.

Right: The sign as displayed in 1952


The Half Moon: This was an alehouse situated in Pinchpenny Row, a row of cottages facing the east window of St Swithun’s Church, it is now officially know as Church View Cottages. The alehouse is a mid cottage the third cottage along from Main Street, as this was the only one in the row which had a cellar.  

In 1926 the police objected to the renewal of the licence of the New Inn stating that the building was a very old one and containing only three rooms which were available to the public. A portion of the passage was used as a serving bar only. There were 14½ acres of land to the house, a market garden and an orchard. Sales had been reduced to weekly amounts of only 18 gallons of beer, three bottles of spirits and half a gallon of port wine in winter, and in summer the weekly sales were three barrels of beer, three bottles of spirits and half to one gallon of port wine. In addition the sales of bottled beer amounted to about 72 bottles per week.

Left: New Inn on Shelt Hill in the 1960’s

George Henry Maltby, a licensee, agreed that the profits from the public house were hardly enough to pay the rates and taxes of the house and he had to work at the market garden to make a living.


The New Inn: The New Inn, situated on Shelt Hill, was recorded in the 1861 census return for Woodborough; the then licensee being William Harrison. Although it seems very likely that it was operative from about 1853, for Harrison’s name is associated with a beer house listed in a trade directory of 1853, he appears on the 1851 census returns for Woodborough as a cottager having 15 acres of land. In August 1861, the New Inn, with stables, cow hovels and other out-buildings together with seven acres and one rood of land was sold to a Richard Essam. However, it appears that sometime later it was purchased by the then tenant, William Harrison, and after his death in 1862, the ownership passed to his widow, Sarah Harrison and remained in her possession until 1877. In 1872 the New Inn had eight rooms, four of which were open to the public. In addition there was stabling to accommodation four horses.

At one time the Nag’s Head had a lean-to extension on the right-hand side of the building, but in order to widen the road, this was demolished about 1927. Initially beer was brewed in the Inn. This pub is the only one, along with the Four Bells still trading, with Ken & Michelle Kelly the current tenants as of 2014.

The Nag’s Head Sign: Details reprinted from the Woodborough Newsletter dated June 1952. “Now that the Nag’s Head is resplendent with its new sign there can be few towns or villages in the Midlands that can rival Woodborough with both its inns with proper signs. What a difference they make, and how much brighter the rest of the country would be if the pubs would only use a bit of taste and imagination in this respect.

Well done, Woodborough!“

Left: The Nags Head sign in 1952


The Punch Bowl: An 18th century public house from at least 1774, it appears that the Punch Bowl had been purchased at some stage by a member of the Wood family, possibly Noah, as early as 1796 when it appeared at auction in Nottingham under the tenure of Noah Wood. The family owned the Inn until 1883, their association of the Punch Bowl as tenants and/or owners ending after a period of nearly one hundred years. Noah Wood continued as the licensee of the Punch Bowl until his death in 1821, his son, Thomas, then succeeded to the Punch Bowl until he died in 1841.

Cock & Falcon: William Hogg, a farmer in Woodborough, obtained a victualler’s licence in 1823 to open an alehouse at his premises in the Main Street. “The Cock & Falcon Public House” was to be sold by Auction on 22nd August 1839, the fate of the sale is not known. Mr Hogg continued to run both farm and alehouse, styled the Cock & Falcon, until his death 1845. The Cock & Falcon and farm continued to be managed by his wife Sarah and his youngest son, William. Mother and son ran the Cock & Falcon until Mrs Hogg died in April 1855. It continued as a public house until sometime in the 1860’s. William Hogg junior was still living at this address at the time of census return of 1871 but it appears that by then he was no longer farming but listed as a collector of rents. Use this link to view the 1839 notice of sale - [LINK] Sale details:

Lot 11 description comes from the 1922 sale catalogue:

Above: Punch Bowl House in the 1930’s

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There were two other licensed premises close by, the Nag’s Head and the Four Bells, both of which were situated within the village and with more advantageous positions.

The New Inn closed its doors in 1927 soon after the refusal document was issued in April 1926. The building survives as a private house today [2015]. The state of all the buildings in 2014 was declining as there appears to be an absent owner and the buildings were falling into disrepair. In 2016 a local planning application was approved for the demolition of all the buildings on the site and this then took place shortly after the next sequence of photographs were taken in December 2016. In its place a white rendered ultra modern dwelling was constructed.

Top left: The former New Inn as seen from Shelt Hill. Right: East elevation of house and barn.

Bottom left: The dilapidated state of the barn. Right The barn and lean to from Shelt Hill.

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