Sunday, 23 February 2014

New White Bull, Giltbrook, Nottinghamshire

The New White Bull in Giltbrook is the kind of community local that people like myself with a real passion for pubs tend to seek out and appreciate. All the more so as they are becoming rarer by the day! More than just another licensed retail outlet, the New White Bull is a genuine social hub which attracts a loyal local following. Largely 'wet-led', the pub is well-run and welcoming, and fulfils a much wider role in the community than the bland managed houses currently favoured by so many of the larger pub operators.

East Anglian brewing and property company Greene King own the New White Bull, and their commitment to the pub could perhaps best be described as questionable. This is a company which has grown in recent years to become a very large national pub and beer operator. Long gone are the days when Greene King were a highly regarded regional family company, committed to supplying a local estate with beers brewed to a local taste. In fact locally they've already shown with their closure of the nearby Kimberly Brewery that they care little for local distinctiveness, and even less for local feeling when it comes to the future of pubs like the New White Bull.

Several years of neglect under the current ownership has resulted in a pub which is long overdue some investment, but it seems that Greene King would much rather close an important community asset like the New White Bull than spend the money required to realise the pubs true potential. Currently on the market at a level which is widely believed to be 'priced to close', the current licensees Les and Carol would dearly love to continue running the pub on behalf of the community, but sadly Greene King seem to be unmoved by theirs, or indeed wider local feeling. As a result, the future of the New White Bull is far from certain.

The survival of the New White Bull would of course be a wonderful thing for the locals, but it would also prevent the loss of so much local history and tradition, even more so given that so much has been lost already at similar pubs throughout the country. Multi-room pubs like the New White Bull are not nearly as common as they once were, and this traditional layout helps support diverse usage, including traditional games such as Darts, Dominoes, and Pool. Best of all though is the substantial Skittle Alley located in an old barn to the side of the pub, well used in the Ilkeston & District Long Alley League, but also available for social games on request.

Outside the barn which houses the alley can be found the original outdoor skittles 'frame' (above), possibly still used in the finer Summer months. A small 'Skittles Bar' can be brought into play on the other side of the yard, making the beer run during a match that much easier.

The shield shown below hangs in the central corridor opposite the bar servery. Presented by Hardys & Hansons Brewery to commemorate three successive years of victory for the New White Bull team in the local Kimberley Brewery Skittles League. It's perhaps hard for us to appreciate just how important sponsorship and recognition of pub games leagues would have been to local and regional breweries at one time. With almost every pub fielding teams in numerous leagues throughout the trading area, and an awful lot of beer being consumed in the process, local breweries like Hardys & Hansons would have seen a clear benefit from encouraging as much play as possible in their pubs. This attractive memento has a small sticker on the rear advising that the metal plaque should only be dusted lightly lest the silver plate be worn down to the copper base!

A recent 'Fives' skittles match was held to show support for, and help raise awareness of the issues surrounding the pub. The New White Bull 'A' and 'B' teams (seen chalking and setting pins in the 'woodyard' below) somewhat predictably battled it out for the top spot, whilst a Nottingham CAMRA team managed to avoid the Wooden Spoon against the local Blue Monkey Brewery (right). More images from this most enjoyable evening can be seen here.

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