Sunday, 21 September 2014

Spotlight on Ancient Loughborough, part 1 The Windmill Inn

The Windmill Inn
The Windmill Inn, Sparrow Hill, Loughborough

Last week, having showed you some of Canterbury’s impressive old buildings, and mentioned the cruck-frame building in Loughborough on Church Gate where Irish is now, I promised you I’d investigate some of Loughborough’s oldest timer-framed buildings. So, here goes!

The Baker's

Down on Sparrow Hill, next to the right of the Parish Church, and to the left of what used to be Merrin’s the bakers, you’ll see a pub claiming to be “The oldest pub in Loughborough”.
The back of The Three Nuns
I think there’s a battle going on between The Windmill Inn and The Three Nuns, on Church Gate, to lay claim to the title, but I’m really not sure who wins! According to that expert, and dear friend, Bill, the Windmill was opened pre-1600, and the Three Nuns pre-1666, so whatever, it’s a pretty close call!

The front of The Three Nuns

Another friend of mine has been upstairs in The Windmill Inn and has dated the timber used in the cruck-frame to the 15th century, and on these timbers you can still see the carpenter’s marks. The Leicestershire traveller, John Throsby, included in the record of his travels, an engraving of a romanticised view of the Parish Church, viewed from the meadow [presumably the Big or Nether Meadow, now one of the Coronation Meadows], with a windmill [his engraving showed a Midlands Post-mill] in the foreground. This engraving appeared around 1789, although I’m convinced I’ve seen it in one of my books with an earlier date, but, of course, I can’t find it now!
The Windmill from the side

No matter, I think it’s pretty obvious from the date of the timbers, and the view from the side and the back that this building is as old as we think it is. We are pretty sure that there was a farm in this area, many, many years ago, so I shouldn’t be surprised if this pub were not one of the farm buildings themselves, probably not the farmhouse, but possibly one of the outbuildings.

The Windmill from the back
The pub has a wonderful history, and has been a meeting place for a variety of interesting clubs, including the United Order of Druids in 1837 (perhaps the Druid’s Arms down on Pinfold Gate was shut that particular evening!), the Buttonhole Club (who also used the Blackamoor’s Head in Market Place as a meeting place for a while) and the Royal Antediluvian Order ofBuffaloes. It may also he haunted by a lady in grey.

I can tell you who a few of the owners and landlords have been over the years, but not all, and certainly not since 1989:

Pre-1830 – Charles Limb

c. 1830 –  c.1859 John Cleever/Cleaver (may have been the owner of the property rather than the landlord of the pub itself)

c. 1849 – Christopher Cleever

c. 1861 – Matthew Stafford

c. 1866 – Robert Speed

c. 1872 – owned by Mr North

c. 1883 - 1895 Benjamin Sharp & Mrs E. Sharp

c. 1895 – Alfred H. Ellis

c. 1899 – Luke Birkin

c. 1904 – Mr Dowding

Pre-1928- c. 1960 – Everard Hickinbottom, and Mrs M. A. Hickinbottom

1960 -1975 Peter and Doreen Heath

1975 – 1989 Doreen Heath

My own connection with the pub goes back to the late ‘70s, early ‘80s when we used to go down every Wednesday lunchtime for a cheese cob and a game of darts. The landlady at the time was Doreen Heath, and, coincidentally, her barmaid was also called Doreen. And one of those spooky coincidences is that while I was starting to write this article, a picture of Doreen popped up onto my facebook page, as someone was posting pictures of pub landlords/ladies! The local paper, The Loughborough Echo, referred to Doreen as one of Loughborough’s most colourful and respected characters.

I admit, I haven’t been in for many, many years, but the memories remain, and an affection for the place has been re-ignited by researching into its history.
Yours truly outside The Windmill Inn


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