The Plough is our last remaining village pub and it stands on the edge of our ‘village green’ – the Hickling Canal Basin.
It isn’t clear when the Plough Inn was first built but it appears to pre-date the Grantham Canal and there are signs that it may be recorded on the 1776 Enclosure Map.
Many families in the village can place their special memories here; weddings, wakes, birthdays, New Year’s Eve parties, reunions, village meetings, charity events – we would love to add your photos and memories to this page, so please contact us using the link above.
(as a starter; ours is our first winter in Hickling with no heating, no electricity, being snowed in & wandering up to The Plough where we found blazing fires, a good drink, great food and such a warm welcome!)
Plough landlords and landladies:
1822 – George Hives – (referenced here in 1822, no precise detail)
1844 – Mrs Abigail Hives – (referenced here in August 1845, Dec 1846 and February 1863, no precise detail)
1864 – Mr Thomas Speed
1871 – John Speed – (referenced here in 1876 when the building was sold to Mr Price & referenced again in April 1878; no precise detail)
1877 – 1894 – Mr Arthur Price
1881 – Joseph Harris – (census)
1881 – July 1881: To Let vacant c. August; Large clubroom, bar-parlour, taproom, brewhouse, dairy, cellar, homestead, kitchen garden, good orchard, six stall stable, two loose boxes, piggery and other outbuildings.
1884 – Reference to a supper being held in the new room at The Plough
1893 – Arthur Price – Reference to death of Arthur Price (August 1893)
1895 – Mr Thomas & Mrs Elliott (referenced here in October 1895 & host and hostess Elliott’ in July 1896; no precise detail)
1897 – Mrs Richardson – licence transferred from Thomas Elliott to Sarah Ann Richardson (March 1897)
1898 – Mrs Sarah Pickering – licence transfer Sarah Ann Richardson to Sarah Pickering. Mrs Pickering married Harry/Henry Parnham in 1899 & then, according to Wadkin archive photographs, moved to live at the Navigation in 1903
1899 – Harry & Sarah Ann Parnham (previously Pickering) – referenced July 1899
1904 – Mrs Edgson – (referenced Host and Hostess Edgson, July 1904)
1905 – Elliott – Referenced Host and Hostess Elliott, July 1905
1905 – Sampson Cupit & Eliza Ashworth (Ashwell) – licence transfer (Oct 1905) Sampson Cupit to Eliza Ashworth. Ashworth also referenced July 1907, July 1908 (‘hostess Ashwell’ mis-spelling of Ashworth?). Ashwell also referenced in 1909.
1909 – Lewis Chambers – temporary licence transfer (October 1909) to Lewis Chambers. Still there for 1911 census.
1910 – Mr Chambers & Mr Joe Booth
1917 – 1923 – Mrs Elizabeth Ann Widdison – died November 1923
William Widdison – Head – Male – 1867 – 54 – Nottinghamshire – Publican – Own Account
Elizabeth Ann Widdison – Wife – Female – 1867 – 54 – Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland – House Duties
Edward Mee – Adopted son – Male – 1902 – 19 – Nottinghamshire – Assisting Father In General Work – employed by William Widdison Publican
Mary Alice Mitchell – Sister-in-law – Female – 1864 – 57 – Lancashire – None Valid
1924 – 1956 – Mrs Ethel M Armstrong – (Mr Armstrong died in 1925 and Ethel continued alone until 1956)
1956 – Mr Burton Timms
1959 – Mr Frank Hill
1978 – Mr R Burrows
1980 – Mr Taylor
? to 1997? – Mr Justin Collier – Sadly, Justin died very young whilst still landlord.
This newspaper clipping from July 1895 is typical of reports of village festivals at the time (this one is the annual Club Feast held each July): it includes both the The Plough Inn and The Wheel Inn and regularly featured The Foresters and the (bizarrely named) Amicable or Old Sick Club as well as parades and Church services.
The Amicable or Old Sick Club was a mutual society for the benefit of members if they were unable to work through sickness.
“The boys had some old pram wheels which they used to ride on from the top of the bridge steering into the pub entrance. Mrs Armstrong never minded this but would only have Hickling children never any from a neighbouring village.
“Mrs Armstrong continued as licensee until her death in 1956 aged 74 years.”
“Mr & Mrs Harry Armstrong came to The Plough in 1924. Unfortunately, in 1925, Mr Armstrong died at the age of 52 years.
“Mrs Armstrong was known far and wide and became a respected legend. Beer was fetched from the cellar, four or five pints in a jug at one time. When this was sold, more was fetched. Regulars could often be heard to say, ‘beer’s a bit flat, Missus’, ‘then fetch a pump and pump it up’ was the curt reply. One particular regular ordered his usual and when he received the pint, a mouse was in the glass. The regular complained. Mrs Armstrong took the pint, fished out the mouse and handed back the glass saying, ‘that’s the beer you have been drinking all night.’
“In the late1940s several school boys were playing cricket on the road outside The Plough when the ball accidentally broke a window. With legs shaking, the offender went to tell Mrs Armstrong of the accident. ‘I know you … well have,’ came a cross reply as the door was slammed. The following day, the boy went to pay for the damage but Mrs Armstrong wouldn’t dream of accepting any money. She was also very understanding, not telling the boy’s parents.
Change of ownership – from brewery to independent.
2009/2010 proved to be a turning point for the Plough. Bill Sweet (born and brought up in Hickling) & Penny Brown were the landlords at the time and they had worked incredibly hard to build up business and improve the area – this included improvements to the gardens, themed events (including a Hogmanay night & a home-made Pork Pie competition), a charity bungee jump, pop-up bars for village events and introducing a children’s play area and a pets area populated by rescue rabbits and guinea pigs.
This was a time when brewery owned pubs nationwide were in
genuine crisis; the breweries raised rents as a business became more successful
which meant that the profitability of any business progress was immediately
eaten up. They put minimal effort into maintenance and repairs and because the
Plough was in a ‘tied’ arrangement with the brewery, the landlords were paying considerably
more, per barrel, than independents and had to buy everything else from them,
too – also at inflated costs. On top of this, local council business rates were
a problem – as an overhead, they were almost equal to the rent.
It was a genuine ‘Catch 22’ situation [read more] – the breweries benefitted
from the success of the landlords (higher rents and high margins on
consumables) and were happy to see landlords come and go – also benefitting from
penalties when leases ended early & just starting again with new landlords …
And, if this business relay finally ended, they owned a valuable property which
could simply be sold for housing. A win-win situation for the big breweries and
a lose-lose situation for landlords and communities.
Home Ales, by this time, had become Scottish and Newcastle although ownership issues were further complicated by property rights held by British Waterways and the waterside location. The village had already become involved in late 2008 with active plans to support the last remaining village pub and hopes were high when Bill & Penny took over in October 2008. But, by the autumn of 2009, the pub was in real trouble – a succession of landlords had been forced to move on because they simply couldn’t make the finances work and Bill & Penny found themselves in the same place. Village pubs were closing all over the country and the village didn’t want The Plough to go the same way.
A combination of the Parish Council, members of the
community, a 600 signature petition and the intervention of MP, Kenneth Clarke
finally succeeded in persuading Scottish and Newcastle to sell The Plough.
There were all kinds of plans; community ownership, a community run village
shop, a micro-brewery on the land at the end of the car park, a seating area
alongside the canal but, in the end, it was sold to a private businessman (who
also owns other pubs) and since 2010 he has leased The Plough to successive
managers/landlords and funded an extension to the restaurant, kitchen upgrades
and the resurfacing of the car park.
Unfortunately, Bill and Penny couldn’t keep going and they
left at the time of the sale.
Running a village pub is still an incredibly difficult
business – the ten years since the brewery sale have been a real rollercoaster,
but with independence has come opportunities and, it is hoped, a future. [/read]
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