Nag’s Head

Nag’s Head

The Nag’s Head is a long-standing feature at the corner of Station Street and Lowmoor Road.

Nag’s Head in August 2023
The Nag’s Head in Kirkby circa 2015 © Dave Bevis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Photo of the Nag’s Head from early 2000s. This image is from the My Trail website and is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre
Photo of Nag’s Head in 1986 taken from an upper floor of the Regent. This image is from the My Trail website and is creidted to Kirkby Heritage Centre
Advert for the Nag’s Head from Kirkby Chamber of Trade Handel’s Messiah programme 1956. Note that, at this point, the licensee was W Penny
A photograph of the Nag’s Head dated to the 1950s which appears on the My Trail website and which is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre
This photo inside the Nag’s Head’s Public Bar is from the My Trail website and is credited to Kirkby Heritage Centre. It is dated there as from the 1950s. This photo also appears in the book “Kirkby and District: A Second Selection” (p37) by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee. The photo is dated there as 1954 and the licensee is identified as Mr Penney
Nag’s Head from a postcard of Four Lane Ends that was posted in 1925. In a comment on this photo on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, Jan E Thompson-Beresford asked “what is the tall pole with horizontal wire“. I believe these were telegraph poles

The Nag’s Head appears on Jacques’ List of Station Street retailers circa 1920-1940. In 1942, the landlord was Jacob Hibbert and, in 1928, the landlord had been Alfred Smith.

Entry in 1941 Kelly’s Directory
Entry in 1928 Kelly’s Directory

History of the Nag’s Head

Originally, the East Kirkby part of Kirkby was known as Kirkby Folly. The reason given for this was that someone started building an inn at what is now Four Lane Ends when there were few other buildings in the vicinity, see Chapter 73. Various names are given in connection to this person. The 1950 official guide refers to him as Simon. The Nottinghamshire History website names him as Brown and the date as 1803. While it might seem logical to conclude that he was Simon Brown, Bill Clay-Dove, in his book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: An Interesting Township” identifies him as John Tomlinson as does the My Trail website.

While it is possible that this inn is the current Nag’s Head, there are reports that that original inn was not finished, e.g. the Nottinghamshire History website. In some cases, this failure to finish the building is cited as part of the reason for the name Kirkby Folly, for example, Bill Clay-Dove, in his book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: An Interesting Township” (p41). However he also notes that the inn was later completed. Christine Evans confirms that the Nag’s Head is indeed the pub in question.

John Tomlinson was certainly listed as a publican at Kirkby Folly in both 1841 and 1851 census. In 1851, he was living in Folly Houses with his wife Mary, their son Thomas and his wife, also Mary. John was born around 1805 and may have died in 1882. According to the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 13 September 1860, John Tomlinson was one of several publicans granted an alehouse license on 5 September 1860. The name of his pub was the Nag’s Head. There are references to John Tomlinson and the Nag’s Head in the 1850s including in relation to inquests. In September 1859, John Tomlinson was charged with the house being illegally open but the case was dismissed.

Nag’s Head Landlords

Here is a list of some people who have been landlord at the Nag’s Head.

  • John Tomlinson – in the 1841 and 1851 census, he was listed as a publican in Kirkby Folly
  • Betsy Martin in 1901
  • Arthur and Hannah Stirland in 1920. These were Judith Cornfoot’s great grandparents. Her father, Alf Stirland, was born there in March 1920.
  • Alfred Smith in 1928
  • Jacob Hibbert in 1941
  • Sam Collidge in the 1940s
  • William “Bill” Penny in 1957 and the 1960s. There is a photo of him in the book “Kirkby and District: A Second Selection” (p37) by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee
  • Moore in the 1960s
  • Allan Edward and Muriel Edith Leeson – their son, Trevor noted that his parents were managers for the pub for the brewery who owned the pub at that time, which he thinks was Tennents. They ran the pub together until October 1964 when Allan died. Muriel continued as the landlady until 1966.
  • Doris Moore in the 1970s
  • Fred and Vi Walker in the 1970s and 80s. Ben Thompson recalled going to Sheffield with Fred on brewery business. Mark Staples recalled similar trips and noted that he knew all the other landlords. Laurine Stafford remembered, “when he took my mum to city hospital early one morning to start her chemotherapy and I went with her but wasn’t allowed to stay, so came back with Fred and he said he needed to pop in the station hotel in Hucknall to see the landlord, he was there ages, Vi was furious when he got back“.
  • Penny Reeves from about 1987 to 1992
  • David Oldfield in the 1990s 

Memories of the Nag’s Head

Edith Searson

Interestingly, Edith Searson, in her book(let) “I Also Remember” does not mention the Nag’s Head at all. At one level, this is odd as her walk takes her from Lowmoor Road into Station Street which involves going right past the Nag’s Head. However, at another level, it is perhaps not surprising as she was doing it from memory and, as a staunch Methodist, she would be unlikely to have memories of a pub. Also, I suspect she might have been somewhat disapproving of pubs, as my grandparents were. But, that did not stop my grandad from referring to the Nag’s Head as a well-known geographical landmark.

Mark Ashfield

Mark Ashfield, in his book “Christmas Pigs and a Summer Donkey“, starts his walk in the same place as Edith Searson. But, he refers to the Nag’s Head specifically. Not that he is interested in the pub itself. Rather, he recalls itinerant traders who operated from a pitch outside the Nag’s Head. He remembered one, in particular, who was selling a particular elixir with tales of the “direst peril” if you did not take it.

Christine Evans commented that people sometimes preached from soapboxes outside the Nag’s Head in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These included her great grandfather, Elijah Charles.

Grandad’s Diaries

Grandad noted that property auctions were held at the Nag’s Head in the 1940s. For example, when grandad’s brother-in-law, Ray Cirket, moved to Bedford in October 1945, his house was offered for sale by auction there. However, it was withdrawn with the bidding at £975. He sold it the next month for £1,000. Also, in September 1947, grandad bought three houses in Victoria Road for £630, through G Wyles at auction at the Nag’s Head.

Grandad’s diary entries concerning property auctions at the Nag’s Head.
Left – October 1945 – grandad’s brother-n-law, Ray Cirket, offered his house for sale by auction
Right – September 1947 – grandad bought three houses in Victoria Road at a Nag’s Head auction

In June 1955, grandad’s diary noted alterations being made to the Nag’s Head.

Grandad’s diary entries for 19 to 25 June 1955 which note that alterations were being carried out to the Nag’s Head that month

Other Memories

Various contributors shared their memories on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group and Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group. Where these included possible names of landlords, these are included in the list above.

Wedding Receptions

Some people recalled family members having wedding receptions there. Debbie Staples recalled that her parents had their wedding reception upstairs at the Nag’s Head in 1960. Lynne Severn noted that her sister had her wedding reception there in the 1970s.

Working at the Nag’s Head

Sue Phillips recalled that her mother worked there in the mid-1950s and that was where her parents met. She noted that, “it was the hub of Kirkby in that era“. Hayley Whetton-Coombe noted that her father had told her that his grandfather “used to play piano in the Nag (which I would assume would be 1930s approx) and people used to buy him drinks. He wasn’t a big drinker and so they would line up on the top of the piano. and he used to give them the folk who came in and couldn’t afford them (homeless or such like).” Joan Ware recalled that her mother used to clean at the Nag’s Head when it was run by the Pennys. She also noted that Mrs Penny ran a café in Station Street and her mum used to help her there on Saturdays “washing pots“.

School Friends

Derek Taylor recalled some memories of the Nag’s Head in the 1960s when Bill Penny ran the pub. Bill’s son Nick was a friend of Derek’s. He recalls, “we spent many hours playing in the backyard and one memory I have is of a pulley lift from the cellar up to the bar we loved messing around in that. Another memory that has just returned is of after Bill left the pub another landlord took charge and I think his name was Leeson. His son was in my class at school and the legendary Tom King was in charge one day I think his name was Geoff came in late, Tom said what a matter lad you look like someone has just died Geoff looked up and said my dad has just passed away ..

Music at the Nag’s Head

Dorothy Shirley recalled Reg Guest playing in the top bar in about 1963. The landlord was overcome by fumes in the cellar and had to leave.

David Meredith noted that it was “visited by my father many times in the fifties and by me in the sixties. In the sixties it was probably at its most popular (could be wrong) as around 1964/65 it had it’s very own discotheque as such, it was a jukebox but it had all the lighting, flashing lights, the lights when you went in made it look like you’d got dandruff whether you had or not. People used to come from all around as the pits were still open and all the communities used to talk.

The place used to get full every night, Friday Saturday and Sunday four deep at the bar. If I remember correctly I think it was called the Garden of Eden (again I could be wrong on that as it’s many years ago). It was the place to go as it was all set up for the young ones of the day to go too. Many changes over the year’s but it’s withstood them all, it’s as far as I know never been the quietest of pub’s but long may it carry on it is basically the pinnacle of Kirkby.

Alwyn Bowskill in a comment on this post noted, “I can remember a folk band that used to play the Nag In the 70s/80s. They were called Kelley’s Hero’s they were a multi-instrumental band and the line up varied from two to six people. They later played at Henry’s bar now the Regent under the name The Navigators. I have a cassette tape of them somewhere but can’t find it.

Food at the Nag’s Head

Some contributors commented on the 1956 advert saying that they could not recall the Nag’s Head selling food. Others noted that they had for a short while many years ago.

Memorable Characters

Karen Heath recalled that the Nag’s Head was “where you’d see my granddad sat with his dogs before he moved to coop many years ago“. She posted a picture of him. His name was Hyla Austin and he was very well-known locally. Anna Garbett noted often sitting with him at the Coop.

Hyla Austin at the Nag’s Head around 1990. This phot was kindly shared by his granddaughter Karen Heath and is used with permission

A separate post about him on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group in April 2013 generated 537 likes and 183 comments. He was described as a legend, a great man, a gentleman who was always polite and who loved his dogs. Trevor Bradford recalled specifically, “I was going in the Leg of Mutton one afternoon and he said ‘excuse me sir, would you bring me a pint out, I can’t go in with my dogs and I don’t want to leave them out here on their own.’ He had one pound in his outstretched hand. ‘Course I will’ I said. I came out, gave him his pint, he thanked me, wished me good health, I smiled wished him well and went back in, not telling him his beer was one pound ten….I didn’t mind one bit putting the 10p to his £1 for a gent.”

A Boxing Gym

Louise Truman recalled that her grandfather Frank Watson “used to use the room upstairs in the forties as a boxing gym, he was a Kirkby lad so I assumed he was on about the nags head in Kirkby not Sutton, I believe the licensee was called Colledge“.

Inquests at the Nag’s Head

Christine Evans and Deb Green noted that inquests were often conducted at the Nag’s Head. One example of an inquest was in October 1850. George “Slender” Burton had died in Kirkby Forest when a gun he was carrying in his pocket went off accidentally. “He was found shortly afterwards and conveyed to Mr Tomlinson’s, the Nag’s Head, Kirkby Folly, where an inquest was held on the 18th instant, and a verdict of ‘accidental death’ returned.”

Residents of the Nag’s Head

The Hibberts

In 1939, Jacob Hibbert lived there with his wife Minnie and their son Frank (b1916). Frank’s occupation was recorded as painter. Also living with them was Frederick Blackburn, a barman. Frank Hibbert was described as a painter. There is no-one recorded as a resident of the Nag’s Head or 53 Station Street in the 1911 or 1921 census.

The Martins

In 1901, widow, Betsy Martin was living at 53 Station Street with her five children, Harry C (b1884), Mary E (b1886), Sam (b1891), Lewis J (b1892) and George W (b1895). Betsy was described as a licensed victualler and there was also a barman. George Barrett, living with them. Harry was described as an apprentice to a joiner and Mary as an apprentice to a milliner.

3 responses to “Nag’s Head”


    Nags head at Kirkby in Ashfield is mentioned on this page!
    Dates new checking?
    Origin of folly is interesting!

  2. Re Music
    I can remember a folk band that used to play the Nag In the 70’s / 80’s they were called Kelley’s Hero’s they were a multi instrumental band and the line up varied from two to six people. They later played at Henry’s bar now the Regent under the name The Navigators. I have a cassette tape of them somewhere but can’t find it.

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