When I was an undergraduate at Hull University in the late 1960s, what passed for debauchery was a trip on the train to Nellie’s at Beverley.
Once I’d ascertained that Nellie’s was in fact a pub – I was mindful of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (1945), which tells of men who went to the Bear Flag Restaurant for a sandwich – it became, and remains, a favourite.
This famous and memorable hostelry has medieval timbering but has been radically altered in and since the eighteenth century. It belonged to St Mary’s Church (which stands at the opposite end of the street) probably from 1585, and had become an inn by 1666.
It seems to have changed little since the tenancy was taken on by a sadler, Francis Collinson, in 1887. Mr Collinson bought the inn in 1927, and after his death it was run by his son, William, and after his death by three of William’s sisters, Nellie (after whom it is now popularly known), Ada and Dorothy, who maintained the ancient tradition of opening their private kitchen to drinkers during the evening, serving from a table beside the hand pumps and washing up with hot water from the coal-fired range.
After the three sisters died in rapid succession during 1975-6 the White Horse was sold to Samuel Smiths of Tadcaster: under this new ownership the nineteenth-century fittings and gas lighting are lovingly preserved, but not the brick wall that served as the original gents’ lavatory.
There is a grandiose unofficial website at http://www.nellies.co.uk/abt.htm. It has a link to the masterly site of Beverley’s chimney-sweep, http://jethro.biz, which is classic example of internet style and enterprise. Take a look, even if you don’t have a chimney, aren’t getting married and don’t live in Beverley.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Fun Palaces: the history and architecture of the entertainment industry please click here.