The Old General: A Christmas Tradition

by Joe Earp

Many residents and visitors to Hyson Green will fondly remember the Old General Public House. The pub unfortunately closed a few years ago. The pub building still survives standing on the corner of Radford Road and Bobbers Mill Road. The most prominent feature of the pub was the statue of The Old General. Many readers will have fond memories of seeing the Old General each Christmas in his Santa Claus regalia.

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The Old General Public House, c 1912- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

The statue which was above the entrance to the pub what that of Benjamin Mayo. Benjamin Mayo or ‘Old General’ was an eccentric character of Nottingham. The poor house of St. Peter’s was the home of Benjamin Mayo better known as the ‘Old General.’ He was born sometime about 1779 and he died in 1843. Ben would today be classed as someone who has learning difficulties. Moreover if he had lived today, he would still be a Nottingham ‘Local Legend’.

For more on Ben Mayo, click on the link below:

https://nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-old-general-benjamin-mayo-of-nottingham/

It was reported last year by the Nottingham Post that the future of the statue looked grim. The paper reported “ The future of a beloved 120-year-old pub landmark is hanging in the balance, according to campaigners. The statue of the Old General, a figure of local folklore, will be moved from its location in the window of the Old General, in Radford Road, as developers move in to transform the site. The development, which will turn the former pub into a mixture of shops and flats, will involve the repositioning of the statue from where it has stood overlooking the street for more than a century”.

Many of our followers on our Facebook page have many fond memories of seeing Ben at Christmas. One person commented “I lived at Basford and remember seeing the statue each time we went. Hyson Green use to be a good place to shop in those days. You had Woolworths, Parrs the butcher, and loads of pubs. We must have gone in all of them at one time or another. The highlight at Christmas was having a drink in the Old General and seeing the statue in his Santa outfit. I am 77 now, so that was quite a few years ago”. Another person commented, “You always knew it was nearly Christmas when you saw him dressed as Santa”.

Although there was a lot of concern from the local community and from Nottingham CAMRA, the local Council has shown little interest in saving the statue and keeping it in it’s original spot. A report from the council stated “Although the statue of the Old General is of local value, there is no statutory control to protect it and the statue could have been removed or lost at any time. The figure is in a very poor and dangerous condition. It is not considered practical to retain the statue in its first-floor position”.

The Old General was first dressed in his Christmas regalia in the early 1900s. He had just gone over 100 dresses when the pub closed. Recently there was a move to restore the custom of dressing the statue, but unfortunately this came to no fruition. Hopefully if the statue is restored at the original site or even moved to a prominent area, the custom of ‘dressing the Old General’ will continue for many more years to come.

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The Old General in his ‘traditional’ Christmas Regalia- Photo Credit: Ed Dexter.

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About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
This entry was posted in Hyson Green, Nottinghamshire Suburbs, Nottinghamshire Traditional Customs and Ceremonies. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Old General: A Christmas Tradition

  1. K Norman. says:

    I’ve heard that the statue has been broken up by the developers. I don’t think there has ever been an intent to restore it. It’s been boarded up so long that they obviously think everyone will forget about it.

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