by Joe Earp
St Nicholas Street in Nottingham was once called Jews Lane. There has been a building which stands at the corner of Hounds Gate and Jews Lane since at least 1415. It was in use as a pub by at least 1725. Today we fondly know the pub as The Salutation Inn. The dates for this was confirmed in 1998 when History Hunters, which was a spin off from the series Time Team, did a programme on Nottingham’s oldest public house. Their conclusions were that the Bell Inn was the oldest pub, the Salutation was the oldest building and the Trip to Jerusalem had the oldest caves. However despite the conclusions the debate still goes on.
The Salutation Inn is known to many a local as a comfortable quaint old style public house. The rear of the building, before the construction of Maid Marian Way, was actually the side. The entrance which faces on to Jews lane is the oldest still surviving after the row of buildings were cut in half by the Maid Marian Way.
Although this part of the building has seen some changes it still retains some of the character of bygone days, especially when there is a log fire in the grate. The smaller of the two downstairs rooms, that flank the entrance passageway, is said to have been used by Cromwell’s soldiers as a recruiting room in the 1640′s during the Civil War.
The traditional sign of this like-named hostelries (I.e. of the Archangel Gabriel ‘Saluting the Virgin Mary) aroused the religious scruples of the Puritans when they came to political power (1649-1659) and formed the so called Commonwealth Government. The innkeeper here was ordered by the new masters either to remove the offending sign or have it repainted and some approved sign substituted. Naturally, he wished neither to alter his sign out of all recognition nor to lose his licence, so he compromised- as did many of the royalists colleagues- by renaming his Inn the ‘Solider and Citizen’. Despite the name change, it is now known as the Salutation.
The best part of the “Sal”, as it’s known locally, is hidden; not deliberately but due to circumstances. I would be not surprised to learn that most of the people that class it as their local have never seen it’s cave complex. The caves under the pub are actually older than the 15th century building.
Below is an extract from “Realm of Darkness” (Paul Nix, 1996), which touches on part of the Salutation’s hidden past:
“Brewing: Malt produced in Nottingham’s cave’s was sold to local inns and taverns, most of which were brewed on the premises. Some were brewed in caves like the The Trip to Jerusalem, whilst others had brew houses above ground, but all would have maintained their cave-cellars to store the brewed ale. In 1697 during a visit to Nottingham, Miss Celia Fiennes did visit a cave to taste Nottingham’s famous ale. She said ‘‘Att ye Crown Inn is a cellar of 60 to 70 steps down, all in ye rock like arch worke over your head; I drank good ale.’’ Investigations made by the Nottingham Hidden History Team in the 1990s in the caves at the Salutation Inn showed that the pub brewed its own ale for many years.