by Frank E Earp
‘A Landlord’s Collection and a Baboon up a Drainpipe’
The Victoria Hotel was built between 1838/39, with the licence granted on the 13th September 1839 to Mr John Stothard. The Hotel was opened on the 12th March 1840.
The first railway station at Beeston, – which was little more than a cottage, – was built to service the Midland Counties Railway in 1839 (opened 4th June 1839). In 1844, this company merged with the Birmingham and Darby Junction Railway to form the Midland Railway. In 1847, a much larger station, – the current building, – replaced the old station to accommodate the ever increasing passenger numbers.
It is true to say that the expansion of the rail network in Queen Victorian’s reign, changed the face of the Country and produced the modern Britain we see today. Fast, reliable transport meant that goods and passengers were able to accomplish journeys that formally took days in a matter of hours. In fact, the railways brought about such a revolution that it was necessary to standardise time throughout the Country.
The Victorian zeal for railways and the necessary stations was matched only by the building of new Inns, Public Houses and Hotels to accommodate the new mobile population. Apart from the casual visitor, – those wishing to explore the new horizons brought by the railway, – these hostelries were primarily built for the use of the business classes like the commercial traveller. Just about every town or village with a station has within walking distance its own Railway Hotel or Commercial Inn. Beeston is no exception.
The Victoria Hotel was built between 1838/39 on land alongside the railway, just over 100 yds from the station. A licence was granted to Mr John Stothard on the 13th September 1839 and the Hotel was opened on the 12th March 1840. John Stothard remained the landlord for 20 years and established a business that is still around today. No longer a Hotel, The Victoria is now a successful ‘real ale pub’ and restaurant.
There the story might have ended, if it were not for the actions of an eccentric landlord in the early 1970’s. Free from the modern constrains of keeping exotic animals, he was able to establish a mini zoo in the extensive outbuildings to the rear of the property. Among the collection were three big cats, – a puma, a lion and a leopard, – there was also a bear and a baboon, as well as a python which was kept in the main house.
The good folk of Beeston were frequently treated to the sight of the bear being taken for a walk at the end of a rope. Two of the big cats caused their own problems. On one occasion the landlord caused some alarm when he was bitten by the leopard. Another time the puma bounded into the main bar area and terrified the regulars.
Imagine the horror of awaking one morning and to find a large baboon staring through your bedroom window. Such was the case for an elderly couple who were neighbours to the Victoria. The animal had escaped and had shinned up the drainpipe and was attempting to gain access through the window. The matter was reported to the police and at the orders of the authorities the zoo was closed.