Pubs, Inns and Taverns
Derby has many interesting drinking establishments and I hope to capture some of their history, style and quirkiness on this page. The pubs are listed in no particular order but I think they are all worthy of a visit.
The Seven Stars
I had initially intended to write my own history of this fascinating pub but the board on the outside seemed to do such a good job that I thought I would use it instead
The Golden Eagle
Ye Olde Spa Inne
Revolucion de Cuba
This is one of the newest establishments in the city, opening in November 2012, and aiming for a stylish Cuban theme.
The Dolphin is reputed to be the oldest public house in Derby with a license being first recorded in 1530. Originally one of the towns coaching inns it would have been used as a stopping off point for the many coaches which ran between Manchester and London.
The building itself dates from the late 16th century although it has obviously been restored many times over the years. However in the upstairs restaurant visitors can still see the original 16th century beams. Interestingly the corridor that today forms the entrance to the pub was once a public thoroughfare.
The left hand side, fronting onto Full Street is a later addition of the 18th century and was originally the home of a doctor. In the 18th century doctors would sometimes have the bodies of executed felons delivered to their homes for dissection and it is thought that the cellar of this part of the building was used for just this purpose.
Its great antiquity means that the Dolphin has witnessed much fascinating history including the English civil war and the arrival of the troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie who most likely took refreshment here on their arrival in 1745 on their ill-fated invasion of England. It is also said to have been used by highwaymen including the notorious Dick Turpin who is reputed to have visited in 1738.
Needless to say a large number of ghosts are reported to have been seen in various parts of the building including a blue lady, who is said to walk through the walls. Also a poltergeist is thought to inhabit the cellar where the bodies were delivered in days gone by. Staff have reported the taps to the barrels being mysteriously turned off.
The Bell Hotel
The Old Bell Hotel, listed Grade II, is another of Derby's very old pubs, it being built in about 1680 century as a coaching inn by the Meynell family. It was later extended by landlord John Campion with the addition of a grand ballroom in 1776 and it also contains one of the finest 17th century staircases surviving in the city.
In the late 18th century it was claimed that the 'Derby Fly' coach could reach London in a single day departing at 7pm on a Sunday evening at a cost in 1761 of £1 8s and travelling via Alvaston and Shardlow.
The black and white façade, however, is actually a relatively modern contrivance. The building is actually of a traditional and historically important brick and timber construction, the black and white being added in 1929 because the owner didn't feel it looked old enough and was allegedly created from architectural salvage.
As with many of the old buildings in Derby the Bell is reputedly haunted by a number of ghosts including a Victorian lady in blue, an 18th century lady and a serving girl.
Below is a carved plaque in the entrance to the Bell
Following its closure a few years ago the near derelict pub was purchased and a massive and costly restoration was started. This has now been completed and it looks magnificent. The photos below show the newly restored frontage
The Wardwick Tavern
As with many of the business premises in this area of the city this particular building was originally built as a private residence, in this instance for a gentleman called Samuel Alsop.
The Brick & Tile
The Greyhound dates back to at least 1734 although the building itself may be substantially older and is one of the few pubs in the city that has succeeded in retaining its original name
Originally two separate cottages, it was the left hand side of the building that first became a pub, the other side joining it only many years later, in fact the front door can still be seen despite being boarded up. During the Second World War the pub only had two main rooms, the smoke room and the tap room and the owners would live at the back of the pub.
The location of the pub has placed it at the very heart of much of the town’s history. For many years the town cattle market was held on the street outside – this being the reason for the widening of Friargate at this point. It was also situated near to the Gaol and as such is thought to have been the place where criminals who had been condemned to death were taken for their final drink. In recent years it has formed a central point on the famous Derby Mile pub crawl.
In 2006, however, the pub, which had become tired and dated, closed due to lack of trade. It remained so until it was given a massive make over in 2010 by the Derby Brewing Company and is now thriving once again
The Silk Mill
Silk Mill Lane
The Brewery Tap
The Late Bar
This once popular pub has now been completely demolished
I have been unable to find out much about this building on Sitwell Street. However on a recent visit there I noticed a newspaper article by Alan Smith about it in a frame on the wall. I have reproduced that article below and hope that the pub and Mr Alan Smith don't mind. I am not sure of the date of the article as the pub has been open for many years
A transcript of the article ( the article was written a number of years ago, the pub is open for business)
Another Scene Change at City Pub
Things are happening behind closed doors at the Sitwell Tavern, just off the beaten track, yet still in the heart of Derby
The tiny licensed house in Sitwell Street can tell a few tales from the days when it was surrounded by terraced houses stretching from Babington Lane down to the Spot and beyond.
It’s next door neighbour was a dwelling house before it was incorporated into the licensed premises a few years ago
But before then, it was one terraced house wide with two small rooms – a bar and a snug.
And many actors and actresses from the nearby and now demolished Old Derby Playhouse in Sacheveral Street, used to pop in for a quickie after the performance, chatting with the regulars.
In earlier days, of course, the Sitwell held a similar appeal to artists appearing at the former Grand Theatre in Babington Lane.
And when that was converted into a dance hall, musicians in the resident bands at what became the Locarno and Tiffany’s used to make a beeline for the Sitwell to imbibe during their intervals
This was in the Sixties and Seventies when the likes of the highly popular Ray MacVay, Ted Poole, Derek Butterworh and Mike Miller, could almost call the Sitwell their second home.
The Sitwell still has a popular appeal and is once again changing scene.
But for the moment it is closed to allow the interior to be refurbished to enlarge its facilities for a strong collection of regulars – and many still live nearby, but now in the more modern up-to-date blocks of flats and maisonettes – and, yes, including entertainers and musicians