THE MANVERS ARMS

There is no record of when this public house was actually built but we do know it was formerly known as ‘The White Hart’ in the late 18th century when a Mr Andrews was the licensee.  Its frontage faced east i.e. up towards the village centre.

Mr Andrews died in 1811 and he was followed by John Randall until 1814.  John Vickerstaff then took over and during his time the Inn was rebuilt by the Manvers Estate to a design by William Wilkins, and the name changed accordingly.  This style of architecture can be found in Budby, Perlethorpe, Cotgrave and Holme Pierrepont. 

John Vickerstaff is recorded as landlord up to 1823  and then George Bell took over in 1824.  George was born at Budby so his family were probably already employed on the Manvers Estate. 

According to White’s Directory of 1832 coaches to Newark and Nottingham went from the Manvers Arms making it the most important Inn in the village.

By 1841 George and his wife Elizabeth (née Vickerstaff), who had married in the village on 8 February 1820, had produced nine children.  It is quite possible that Elizabeth was the daughter of John Vickerstaff, the previous landlord.  George also held ten acres of land.  In 1851 he is recorded as head of household, a builder employing four men.  George died in 1851 and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard on 7 December 1851. 

His son Samuel took over the pub together with his wife Catherine (née Parr), sister of the famous Nottinghamshire and All England cricketer, George Parr. The Parr’s lived next door at The Manor House. Sam and Catherine married on 28 December 1854.  Seven children followed and the household was swelled in the 1860s and 1870s by Sam’s mother and a few residents.  Sam not only ran the pub, and like his father before him, also a building company and he then proceeded to undertake a farm.  By the 1861 census he was renting 15 acres of meadow and pasture land and by 1881 this had increased to 168 acres. He employed four men in 1861 and by 1891 he was employing four boys and six men.  His farm was The Manor farm on Shelford Road.  Sam died on 18 December 1883 leaving a personal estate of £5397.8s.9d (equivalent to £360,000 today).  His widow Catherine continued to run the pub until she died aged 66 on 22 December 1896. 

One of their sons, George Alfred, born in 1859 was the next landlord.  He is recorded as an innkeeper in 1901 but also like his father and grandfather before him he had a number of occupations i.e. a bricklayer, florist, cucumber grower, farmer and innkeeper. He was a very fine singer. He also took on the rental of Manor Farm. However a notice in the local newspaper dated 5 March 1898 announced that George Alfred was giving up farming and selling all his valuable live and dead livestock and in 1902 he was selling his valuable herd of dairy cattle. He  married Amy Ethel Daft in 1908.  She was the daughter of another famous local cricketer, Richard Daft.  She was 33 and he was 49. They had one daughter Catherine Mary born 26 December 1911. After the pub was sold in 1920 George and Amy retired to Ashbracken (now Dulwich House) on Manvers Grove.

George Bell, with Mary Bell and Fred Cutler at Dulwich House, 3 Manvers Grove

The village celebrated Queen Victoria and Prince Albert passing through on their way to Belvoir Castle in December 1843 and a party was held at the pub with ‘buns and tea’ for 200 people.

In the Manvers Estate survey of 1861, The Manvers Arms was brick and slate, stuccoed, having five rooms on the ground floor and six chambers above. Outside a lean-to dairy with one chamber over and attic, stables with clubroom over a cow hovel and a brewhouse.  For all this the Bells paid the estate £28 per year.

A number of court cases relating to the pub can be found in the local newspapers:

Nottingham Journal 23 January 1869

5 men all navvies were charged with being drunk and riotous at Radcliffe on the 7th inst.  P C Stevenson stated that he was sent for to the Manvers Arms by the landlord to quell a row and found between 30 and 40 men there drinking. He turned them out and when they got into the street the melee took place which the officer said was of a serious nature and that he had to use his staff to defend himself.  The men appeared at court in Bingham and were fined.

In 1878 the authorities decided that there would have to be a clamp down on drinking in Radcliffe and they began with a campaign against the landlords who allowed Sunday drinking outside licensing hours under cover of the law relating to ‘bona-fide’ travellers*.

*Under the Licensing Act 1872-  a bona fide traveller was basically a person coming from outside of the restricted locality on the way to somewhere also outside the restricted locality, but who needed to wet his whistle along the way. You had to be at least three statute miles from the place where you slept the previous night, and this was important. Under the Act some drinkers became infamous “bona fide travellers”, who could be served outside of normal trading hours. Travelling in good faith meant that you should not be “travelling for the purpose of taking refreshment”, but you could be “one who goes into an inn for refreshment in the course of a journey, whether of business or pleasure”.

Nottingham Guardian 7 June 1878

On May 19th a Detective Pilgrim called at the Manvers at 5.30p.m. And found several men in the tap room the worse for drink.  He drew Samuel Bell’s attention to them who said that the men had arrived in a trap.  The policeman went outside to inspect the trap and on his return found that a quart measure had been filled up again.  On enquiry they admitted they had come from Nottingham after shutting up time.  There was some dispute as to how much beer had been consumed and the degree of drunkenness.  The landlord’s defence was that the men had travelled outside the 3 mile limit prescribed by law and so were entitled to refreshment. Case was dismissed. In 1879 Samuel Bell was again charged with permitting drunkenness and disorderly conduct.  The local policeman, Sgt Allwood had overheard swearing and found 8 or 10 men in the inn, 3 of whom were drunk.  The men admitted their behaviour was boisterous and their language not as gentle as would be heard in a ‘drawing room’  but they denied being drunk. However this did not convince the bench and the men were fined 2 shillings each and the landlord 42 shillings. In August 1879 Sam’s licence was suspended for a few weeks.

The Manvers Arms was used by a number of organisations not only relating to the village but outside bodies as well.  The Vestry meetings (forerunner of the Parish Council) were held here at a cost of £1 per annum from 1869. 

An annual treat for the poor of the village was also held and in January 1871 it was reported that a good dinner of roast beef and plum pudding and plenty of beer was served to 34 men and women of the village, given by Mr William Sanday.  Miss Burnside from Lamcote House also provided an annual dinner for the elderly poor. 

Two Lodges of the Oddfellows Society, Kingston Lodge and the Prince of Wales Lodge met regularly.

Nottingham Guardian 15 May 1851

‘The Association of the Earl Manvers and his tenants for the prosecution of Felons’* would hold their annual meeting at the house of George Bell, Manvers Arms Inn at noon on Thursday 29th May instant.  Dinner on the table at 2 o’clock.

*’The Association of Earl Manvers and his tenants for the prosecution of felons’ was, before the establishment of the police, a vigorous body of mainly landowners and farmers, consisting of more than 100 subscribers, residing in 23 parishes, of which Radcliffe was one.

George Parr, cricketer, who had lived next door at The Manor until 1857, was given a complimentary dinner at the pub in October 1863 prior to George sailing to Australia with the All England team (photograph above).  It was presided over by Butler Parr and attended by Richard Daft, a promising young cricketer who had lodged with the Parr family in 1861. After cricket matches held in the village the teams would retire to the Manvers for lunch and in May 1863 it was noted that ‘Mr Bell had provided a most satisfactory luncheon for 30 gentlemen.  They expressed themselves highly delighted with the bill of fare and the manner in which it was served up’.

In October 1870 the second annual dinner of the Pioneers of the Robin Hood Rifles took place at the Earl Manvers Arms, Radcliffe on Trent.  The gathering of these stalwart men again in the village caused quite a sensation.  After spending a couple of hours in the locality, the men repaired to the above hostelry and there sat down to partake of a sumptuous dinner of roast beef of England and nut brown ale, given through the kindness of the officers of the regiment.

Inquests and property/land auctions were regularly held and advertised in the local newspapers.  Bodies of drowned persons would be brought to the pub and held awaiting identification and a visit by the coroner. Here are a couple of examples of inquests from the newspapers-

Nottingham Evening Post 21 April 1892:

The inquest on the body of William Herbert Griffin, aged 26 was opened at the Manvers Arms Inn at Radcliffe on Trent.  He was employed as a clerk at The Nottingham District Bank in Nottingham.  His father identified the body.  He had last seen his son alive in February.  He had been in Nottingham since October, previously living in Louth, Lincolnshire. Deceased was passionately fond of boating but could not swim well,  He had complained of feeling unwell and had not turned up for work on the Tuesday, although the bank had no reason to complain of his habits.

Mr Griffin had hired a dinghy from the boat house of Mr A J Wittey, near Trent Bridge early on Easter Tuesday.  He took on board 2 youths who were on the Trent-side at Radcliffe about 2 o’clock with the intention of rowing them across to the other side.  They all left the boat at the ferry and went for a drink at the public houses in the village.  According to these two witnesses the deceased had drunk about 4 pints of beer.  They all returned to the boat and the deceased proceeded to row up stream in order to return to Nottingham, however after 200 -300 yards, the boat started to take on water.  The witnesses informed the deceased of this fact but according to them he pulled into mid-stream and that is when the boat capsized.  They were rescued by the ferryman, Harry Upton, but Mr Griffin was never observed again and was drowned.  The river was dragged and about one o’clock on Wednesday afternoon and the body was found not far from the spot where the accident occurred.  A verdict of ‘accidental death’ was recorded by the jury.

Nottingham Evening Post  14 February 1936:

A body of a Radcliffe on Trent man who had been missing from his home for a week was recovered from the River Trent at Holme Pierrepont.  The deceased was Joseph Walter Johnson, aged 62, a corn merchant of Cropwell Road.  The body was recovered from the river about 4.30 p.m yesterday afternoon and was removed to the Manvers Arms Hotel.

Reported on 23 October 1903 at the end of yet another inquest at The Manvers Arms.

The Coroner urged the desirability of a mortuary for Radcliffe, and said he hoped the Parish Council would adopt his suggestion in view of the frequency of such cases in that neighbourhood.  Bodies ought not to be brought into a place where there were children and servants, and he should recommend the police in future to remove bodies to the house of the overseer or some other such person.  One of the jurors, who stated he was a member of the Parish Council, said that the authority had the matter in hand.
The Coronor replied – I am very glad.

Was it ever discussed by the Parish Council?

In the 1920 Manvers Estate Sale the Manvers Arms was described thus:

Shipstones Brewery bought it for £5,500.

Even under the new ownership the pub continued to became the focus of village events. 

In June 1945 eight local prisoners of war were entertained here by the committee of the Radcliffe on Trent branch of the British Legion.  Colonel Norman Lloyd Dexter, president of the local branch welcomed the soldiers who had been taken prisoner in Norway, Dunkirk, Crete and Tobruk.

Farm workers, mainly from Lamcote farm used it as their local and it became a major meeting for the branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers (formed in 1942/3).

However the landlords continued to experience trouble with intoxicated customers as seen in the following newspaper report-

Nottingham Evening Post 28 September 1939

A disturbance at a Radcliffe on Trent licensed house one Sunday night in August had a sequel at Bingham today when Patrick Noone, an Irish labourer of Shelford Lodge Farm, was fined 10 shillings for failing to quit licensed premises and £1.10s.0d costs for assaulting Herbert Henry Beech, licensee of the Manvers Arms, Radcliffe on Trent.

Mr R A Young, who prosecuted on the assault charge said that on August 20th defendant went into the Manvers Arms,  After the landlord called time he heard a disturbance in the bar and saw the defendant trying to put his arm round his daughter’s shoulder.  The young lady resented this action, and the landlord requested defendant to leave.

He said “I am going when I am ready”

The landlord repeated his request several times and as defendant refused to go he ejected him.  Once outside the back door defendant said “Now you are outside I am going to fight you” and struck him a violent blow in the mouth and scratched his face.  When the landlord put out his hand to defend himself defendant bit him.

When seen by the police, defendant said he was sorry but he had too much to drink.

Mr Young said defendant was not drunk and knew what was happening.  H H Beech of the Manvers Arms gave evidence.  Defendant said when he was put out, there were people all round him and he “loosened up” to defend himself.

The Manvers Arms has had numerous landlords over the years.  Since the 1920 sale I have found at least seventeen different names in the records.  Many stayed a few years but others, amongst them Herbert H Beech who was the landlord from approximately 1935 until 1947 certainly made their mark. 

Herbert and Ada Beech

Photograph by kind permission of the Smith family

Horace and Lois Priestley followed, taking over in November 1947 and finally leaving in 1967.  It was during their tenure that the personnel from the Royal Canadian Air Force, stationed at Langar but living in Radcliffe, became regulars at the Manvers, taking over what was known as ‘The Long Room’ and decorating the walls with maple leaves.  Next to follow were Alva and Peggy Bates, staying there during the 1970s until around 1985. It was during their stay that an extension was built at the back creating a kitchen and inside toilets etc.  They also introduced food that was cooked on the premises.  Steven and Jan Clark 1994 until 1997.  Later in 2001 keeping up the tradition of family members being landlords, Anthony Smith, great grandson of Herbert Beech stayed until 2007.  2010 was when Graham Shaw came along.  To see it to its closure was Matthew Farnham-Burrows who had arrived in 2015 but had left by 2019.

Unfortunately since 2019 the pub has been empty and has become an eyesore, not something we wish to see on entering the village centre.  The windows are boarded up and a large fence prevents anyone gaining entry to the car park or premises.  A number of people have complained about the site and with the help of a parish councillor our local MP contacted Star Brewery, the owners. They replied stating-

‘With regard to The Manvers Arms, we have plans to invest £235,000 in the pub to transform it into a much-loved community pub with something for everyone.  The investment will redecorate inside and outside of the pub and create a fantastic covered alfresco eating and drinking space along with some children’s play equipment in the large garden.  We have been actively recruiting the right operator for this pub to ensure the pub has a long and successful future. Whilst we do this, we sympathise that the pub is looking tired and the boundaries are overgrown, however, we are not in a position to carry out any works until the new operator is in place. We are hopeful that we will be in a position to announce that a new operator is taking on The Manvers Arms and finalise the table of works in the new year “.

The Manvers Arms was listed as Grade 11 by English Heritage on 13 November 1986.

Finally over the years there have been rumours about the existence of a tunnel leading from the pub to the church, plus that the building is actually haunted.  This of course is subject to conjecture as no documentary evidence exists.  Also there is no historical reason for such a tunnel to exist nor a practical reason, however it is possible that the bricked up area (as seen by people over the years) could have housed a room used to store the bodies brought to the public house awaiting the coroner’s visit; this would have been relatively cold ensuring that decomposition would not take place.  As to the haunting theory, again no evidence.  These rumours I believe will continue for many more years, unless you know differently and can confirm these suppositions.

Marion Caunt

Photographs of the interior from the 1970s

by kind permission of David Buxton