Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem

One of the most memorable scenes in ‘The Story of Robin Hood’, is the fantastic view from the battlements of Nottingham Castle, as Richard the Lionheart’s Crusading knights ride off into the beautiful sunset, singing a Gregorian chant.

Walt Disney and the scouting crew visited ‘Notting-ham’, as he called it, in 1952. They called in at ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which has long been associated with Crusaders and is said to be one of the oldest pubs in Great Britain. The date on the exterior seventeenth century walls 1189, is the date of Richard the Lionheart’s accession to the English throne, but the tavern’s history starts long before then.

An original brew house can be linked to the site from the time of William the Conqueror (1066-1087). His construction engineer, William Peverill was instructed to build a motte and bailey castle on huge rocky red sandstone overlooking Nottingham in 1068. In the process, Peverill diverted the course of the River Leen to the foot of what is now known as Castle Rock as a moated defence and also as a valuable water supply for the future fortress.

But the water supply, in early times was often contaminated. The brewing process sterilised the water, making the drinking of ale, for a medieval citizen, a far safer alternative and the caves below the castle were an ideal location for this brewing environment. Today, you can still see in the ‘Trip’ rooms and cellars cut deep back into the castle rock, ventilating shafts climbing through the rock, a speaking tube bored through it and a chimney climbing through the rock forty seven feet above the chamber, all evidence of its brewing past.

Although there is very little surviving historical records from the middle ages, there is evidence that suggests that the area, which became known as Brewhouse Yard, was owned by the Knight’s of St. John of Jerusalem, The Knight Templars and the Priory of Lenton.

The word ‘Trip’ in the tavern’s name does not refer to a journey, but comes from the original ‘old English’ meaning of the word, to stop, during a journey-hence a break in the journey to the Holy Land. In fact the pub’s former name was ‘The Pilgrim,’ which brings us back to the link with the legend of the Crusaders and King Richard.

So ale was certainly available on the site of Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, back when Richard and his Crusaders were leaving for the Holy Land in December 1189. Amidst the carved rooms and gnarled beams in that ancient tavern, it is hard not to imagine the knights supping a final ale before setting off for the other side of their known world.

In the 1980’s when I stayed in Nottingham and visited the many sights of the old city, I read a lovely story that is connected to Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem. It stated that the herb Borage because of its beautiful pure blue flower, was often chosen by Old Masters to paint the Madonna’s robe. For courage, the flowers were floated in the jugs of ale given to the Crusaders at their departure for the Holy Land.

© Clement of the Glen 2006-2007

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