One of my two or three favourite pubs in the city, the others being The Trip To Jerusalem which I sadly rarely get to these days and The Lincolnshire Poacher, a perennial visit. The Bell Inn is another of Nottingham’s ancient public houses, indeed argued as the oldest by some depending on the definition of ‘inn’ or ‘public house’. It is thought that its origins were as the guest house of a Carmelite monastery situated nearby on Beast Market Hill. Timber in the building has been dated back to 1420AD whilst it is thought that the building first became a public house around the mid-1500s’.
‘The Bell’ was renowned as being under the ownership of a certain William Clarke. Clarke who married the owner of the Trent Bridge Inn, a small business then which crucially had a large meadow to the rear of the property. Clarke developed that same meadow into what is now known as Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, an international Test cricket arena of great history and repute. Unsurprisingly the Bell Inn is now classified as a building of special architectural and historic interest.
‘The Trip’ as it is known locally takes its name from the crusaders who were reputed to have stopped of at the hostelry back in the middle ages. Dating back to 1189 AD, it’s argued that it’s the oldest pub in England or even the world according to some. This is debated by a couple of other pubs in Nottingham though. The argument revolves around when The Trip actually became a pub rather than the age of the building, which is not in doubt.
What is very unusual about the place is that part of the pub is hewn out of caves set at the foot of the Nottingham Castle rock. From the medieval game set in the wall of the initial downstairs bar up to the most recent bar opened from a newly opened cave upstairs, the pub reeks of history and originality. A legend surrounds the model galleon ship that sits above the upper bar in a glass case. The ship used to hang in an aperture in the cave roof for many years, smothered in cobwebs, as it was reputed that anyone touching it would come to grief, (apparently several people died, became seriously ill or suffered other misfortune).
The fact that the pub is a well-visited tourist destination does not detract from its appeal. Although unique, it still retains the feel of a good local pub. If you should find yourself in Nottingham, try not to miss this place, as its situated only five minutes walk away from the city’s central Old Market Square.