The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Churches as Pubs

I’m quite interested in the concept of using a former church from which to make a pub. I’ve written about this particular establishment before but I have the Piano and Pitcher in Nottingham’s Lace Market district very much in mind as I write. The pub was once a handsome house of God, the former, now deconsecrated Unitarian Church close to Weekday Cross in the oldest part of Nottingham, the original centre of the city. Some years ago it became a museum to commemorate Nottingham’s old lace industry before being converted into a pub.

Recently I was having a conversation with a woman at the bar in the Bell Inn in Market Square about the High Pavement pub and other city centre pubs in general. Obviously her tastes were fairly conservative ones, citing many city pubs as being ‘shops’ nowadays. I found her views on the Pitcher and Piano quite thought provoking though.

I’ve used the place a small handful of times. It’s certainly a curiosity if not necessarily unique though one has to say it’s a pretty inventive conversion that’s been carried out. I was in there last week and whilst it’s not really my thing I can appreciate what some others might see in it. The woman I was speaking to found the use of the church to be slightly sad if not offensive. She asserted a slight revulsion in particular to the fruit machines there and whilst obviously not being a religious zealot particularly, compared it to ‘gambling in the temple’ in the good book.

I wonder about the principle of making a pub from an old church. Is it sad, an indictment on society and us all, or rather a useful way of preserving and cherishing a historic building? Maybe all of these things?

We need to look no further than Nottingham’s Bell Inn perhaps to see religion’s connection with pubs. It’s apparently a former Carmelite monastery’s guest house according to the official website of the Inn.

I’m not overly sniffy about the church’s transformation into a pub. It’s preferable that the building is at least preserved in some useful way than the alternative of it being demolished or left neglected. It is a statement about modern society in some ways perhaps but if people will go to a pub but won’t visit a church then so be it. It is worth a deeper thought though I believe as to what that says about us all and the way we choose to live our lives in 2008.

I find the pub useful for taking family and friends to who are visiting Nottingham as tourists, they seem to like it. As regards queuing to get in there on a weekend evening to throw a heavy pose with the rest of the Lace Market, Ted Baker brigade I think I’ll pass. I much prefer the nearby Cock and Hoop and Keans Head if I’m up that way.

January 6, 2008 - Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hi,
    Me again, swapping from ‘Son of Miner’, to Old Pavior. Now, my memory gets progressively worse as I approach 60 with alarming rapidity,and the fact I haven’t lived in Nottm for 40 years doesn’t help, but,if I recall correctly, the Piano and Pitcher is the former High Pavement Chapel. I was fortunate to be a student at High Pavement from 1960-65. Every Christmas we had a carol service in the old chapel. From what I know, the school didn’t actually start in the chapel but in the house of the minister, close by. If you want more detail, let me know and I’ll dig it out. The carol service was always a very pleasant experience, featuring my former English teacher and famous Nottingham novelist Mr Stanley Middleton, on organ. I remember him once playing quietly away and then turning to face us boys whilst doing a very funny and convincing impression of wotsisname, in the original silent film of Phantom of the Opera. The carol service really set the tone for Christmas.

    So, about four years or so ago, I was wandering the Lace Market with my brother and we came across the place around lunch-time on a Sunday.

    I was served a half of bitter by an astonishingly beautiful young lady. A brief conversation showed that despite her being local, and a uni student, she had absolutely no knowledge of, or seemingly interest in, the history of the place. This is the sad thing. Unless directly associated with, or affected by a place, most of us don’t give a toss.
    There is history on every square inch of these islands. We can’t possibly all know, or care about it all. In a few years, the place where I stared wide-eyed at a huge Christmas Tree, absorbing the warm, glowy, pre-Christmas buzz of it all, could be a ‘Hologram Interactive Cafe’ or some such.
    Progress eh?

    Col B
    Billinge,
    Lancs.

    Comment by Colin Berresford | January 16, 2008

  2. I love the thought of Mr. Middleton doing his ‘phantom’ act during the service! Great memories!

    In my small experience, most of the barmaids in their are astonishingly beautiful.🙂

    More info:
    http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/articles/tts/tts1928/itinerary1928p11.htm

    Another couple of things I learned about the immediate area were of the large space between the remaining buildings opposite the old church. Apparently the work of the Luftwaffe and the area has never been rebuilt for whatever reason. It now remains as a car park for nearby businesses.

    Around the corner on St. Mary’s Gate is what remains of the original Theatre Royal – an old time music hall. All that is left is the remnants of the arched doorway. The old theatre had become a warehouse in it’s latter years before similarly becoming another victim of German bombers. There is only one picture existing of the old place (which I can’t seem to locate right now.)

    Comment by Stuart | January 16, 2008


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