Of all the sizeable towns and cities in the Midlands region, it's perhaps Nottingham which is regarded as the one with the most vibrant and diverse nightlife. The pubs and bars which support this thriving social scene are an excellent mix of old and new, where cool modern bars rub shoulders with the genuine heritage of old favourites such as the Bell Inn, Trip To Jerusalem, and the cosy Peacock on Mansfield Road.
Despite this undoubtedly healthy mix, and with a few notable exceptions, traditional pub games and the community locals where they are still played have largely been pushed out to the fringes of Nottingham in recent years. A handful of Castle Rock Brewery pubs are a notable exception, the Newshouse and Vat & Fiddle having already featured on this blog, but any kind of league play has all but disappeared in the centre of town.
If there's one game I thought I'd find more evidence of in Nottingham, it's the local Notts/Derby version of Long Alley Skittles, yet the only alley I'd managed to track down was the one in the garden of the excellent Plough Inn, a little way out of town at Old Radford. Thanks to an article in the December/January edition of Nottingham CAMRA's newsletter Nottingham Drinker, I've now had the opportunity to visit another surviving Long Alley at a former club on the edge of the town centre, perhaps a sign that there may be other surviving alleys waiting to be discovered in the town.
The Embankment was originally a shop and club premises for Boots The Chemist, but is now run by a charitable trust for the benefit of the local community. Describing itself as '...a unique venue for all occasions', with functions including weddings particularly well catered for, the bar and extensive facilities are open to all. The main gaming interest at the Embankment will feature in part two of this post, but here are a few images from the basement, including the excellent Long Alley.
In the basement of the Embankment can be found amongst other things, the smart purpose built Skittle Alley. I was told by the manager that it was still in need of a little TLC, but to be honest it's one of the better alleys I've seen and perfectly serviceable for play. The alley is a typical Notts/Derby area Long Alley, with cast iron plate for setting the pins, loose metal sheet to help indicate when a throw doesn't complete the minimum distance, and a very sturdy wooden shute for returning the balls. Also available for play in the basement is an old Jaques Devil Amongst The Tailors, Table Football, and Darts Board. The rubber mat for the Darts throw features the Home Ales bowman, which is interesting only in that the alley is very similar to the 'basement' alley at The Beacon pub in Loughborough. The Beacon was originally built by Home Brewery in the 60's, who apparently had a policy of including a skittle alley in all of their new builds. Though the building and club activities date from much earlier, the bar was only installed at the Embankment in the late 60's, perhaps as a Home Brewery account.