What's Inn A Name? Find Out More About Some Of Nottingham's Most Iconic Pubs

Words: Sophie Gargett
Illustrations: Ciaran Burrows
Tuesday 29 August 2023
reading time: min, words

We all know the pub as a staple part of British culture, but they are less often thought of as excellent places to pick up a bit of historical trivia. Throughout Nottingham there are dozens of pubs commemorating people of the past who have led interesting lives. We thought we’d round up a few of our favourites so you can familiarise yourself with these local legends and famous faces.

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Lillie Langtry
Once called The Peach Tree, Nottingham’s Lillie Langtry’s has been a popular drinking hole on Sherwood Street since 1981, but what of the woman it was named after? Actress, socialite, horse racer, artist’s muse and mistress - Lillie had many strings to her bow. Born in Jersey in 1853, she was considered a great beauty of her day and was known for her affairs with noblemen and princes. Oscar Wilde encouraged her to pursue acting and she went on to have a successful theatrical career in the UK and the US, playing roles such as Cleopatra and Rosalind in As You Like It before starting her own theatre company.

King Billy
This favourite Sneinton haunt has been a family owned independent pub since 2007, however the building itself has been serving up drinks since it opened in 1832. The signage portrays a regal billy goat adorned with a crown, but the real King Billy was certainly no ass. For his coronation in 1830, he budgeted almost ninety percent less than the previous King and publicly reprimanded the traditionalist Tories who threatened to boycott the day in response. In his time, William IV oversaw the abolishment of slavery, pushed for restrictions on child labour, and (albeit somewhat reluctantly) allowed the Reform Act of 1832 which gave more rights to voters.

The Royal Children
Bearing possibly one of the most unnerving pictorial pub signs in Nottingham, The Royal Children in Castle Gate bears a questionable but curious backstory that works perfectly if you struggle with historical dates. Although the current building is just 90 years old, it has been recorded that an inn has stood in its place since 1799. Just over a century before, Princess Anne, the daughter of King James II, is said to have taken refuge in Nottingham during the collapse of her father’s reign, and it is said that the ‘Royal Children’ stayed at the inn. Neither the pub nor the kids however were yet recorded to be in existence, so make what you will of this dubious account.

Ned Ludd
One of Nottingham’s most intriguing characters - Ned Ludd was the leader of the Luddite movement, which began in the Lace Market in the early nineteenth century. Much like with the emergence of AI software today, the advent of lace-making machinery caused a threat to the livelihoods of many workers, streamlining the process and taking away the need for the intricate skill that craftspeople had developed. Groups of disgruntled lacemakers rallied around Ludd to smash up lace making frames in protest, leaving notes signed in his name at the factories. In an excellent plot twist, it turned out that Ned Ludd was entirely fictional, meaning the enigmatic leader could never be caught. Find the Ned Ludd pub on Friar Lane - just don’t smash anything up.

Joseph Else
As the man who built most of Nottingham’s Market Square, including those two iconic lions, Joseph Else was a proper local lad done good! In the early 1900s he studied at London School of Art and spent the best part of a decade commuting before the First World War scuppered that. When the decision came to build the grandest building in all of Nottingham in the late 1920s, he was put in charge of all carvings on the new design for Nottingham Council House, including the lions, the frieze on the arch of the building and 21 other figures all displaying arts and public services. The Joseph Else pub takes pride of place on South Parade in the Market Square.

Herbert Kilpin
A Nottingham legend, Herbert Kilpin (1870-1916) was the son of a butcher who was born on Mansfield Road and worked as a lace warehouse assistant in the Adams Building on Stoney Street. He then emigrated to Italy at the age of twenty and became a football pioneer in the early days of the Italian game. He went on to set up AC Milan FC and the club still uses the English version of the city name in his honour to this day. You can find the Herbert Kilpin pub tucked away down Bridlesmith Walk, or check out the plaque commemorating his birthplace on Mansfield Road!

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