Heanor is a town and civil (administrative) parish of the town of Heanor and Loscoe in the Amber Valley district of Derbyshire. It is 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Derby. According to the census of 2011 the town's population was 22,620.
Heanor was mentioned in the Domesday Book with the following entry:
6M In CODNOR and Heanor and Langley [in Heanor] and 'Smithycote' [in Codnor Park] 8 thegns had 7 carucates of land to the geld [before 1066]. [There is] land for as many ploughs. There are now 3 ploughs in demesne; and 11 villans and 2 bordars and 3 sokemen [heads of household who were freemen] having 5 ½ ploughs. There is a church, and 1 mill [rendering]12d , and 35 acres (140,000 m2) of meadow, [and] woodland pasture 2 leagues long and 3 furlongs broad. TRE worth 4l ; now 41s 4d [2.2 pounds per year]. Warner holds it.
Coal mining and textiles used to be the major industries of the town, but both of these declined as a major force in the second half of the 20th century.
The Matthew Walker factory, famous for the production of Christmas puddings and situated on Heanor Gate Industrial Park, was sold in 1992 to become part of the Northern Foods Group. Other companies on the park include Advanced Composites Group, Cullum Detuners Ltd and Isolated Systems Ltd. In 2011 the 2 Sisters Food Group purchased Northern Foods. The Matthew Walker factory is now a part of the 2 Sisters Chilled Division.
Heanor merges into Langley Mill and is served by Langley Mill railway station.
The day of my excursion out was a nice one, with a slight breeze but bright spring sunshine with warm temperatures for the time of year. This certainly made the 2 bus journeys to get here much more bearable, as well as providing ideas for future locations to visit. With a distinct Bank Holiday feel in the air, I got off the bus in the main market place, which is elevated on a hill at the certain of the town with steep roads going downhill to 3 sides. It was towards one of these hills that I now had to walk in order to reach my first destination. Intrigued to see what was to come, I began my day at the local Wetherspoons, The Red Lion.
The Red Lion is a former Home Brewery pub, which had been closed for several years before it was reopened by Wetherspoons in 1998. The present building dates from the turn of the 20th Century. It replaced an earlier Red Lion on the same site, which gave its name to the now demolished Red Lion Square, in front of the building. Internally, the pub is quite small with a bar to the left side of the central room and a dining area down a couple of small steps which also lead to an external smoking area to one side. The back end of the room features original beams and a high ceiling, giving the appearance of a barn or hayloft. The atmosphere inside is jovial, filled with a few locals. The bar features 6 handpulls, 5 of which happen to be in use. Amongst the standard Spoons fare of Abbot Ale, Abbot Reserve and Ruddles, are 2 guest ales, in this case Milestone American Pale Ale and Lymstone Stonefish Mild. I opted for the American Pale Ale (4.8%), from Milestone which is based is Cromwell, near Newark. I took a seat in the dining area with my pint and perused my surroundings. Due to the listed nature of the building, not much refurbishment has been done, making this one of the least impressive Wetherspoons outlets that I've visited. Fair play to them for maintaining the traditional features though as lots of chains these days are far too keen to tear down and build from scratch. The beer is still good though. The APA certainly lives up to its name, being very dry and very hoppy with a big hit of good old American hops. It was certainly a refreshing way to start the day after my fairly long journey and it went down very well indeed.
Next up was a pub that sits opposite the central Market Place, which meant a brief back up the short hill I had traversed previously. My next destination was The King of Prussia.
This recently refurbished establishment was the principal pub in the town prior to the outbreak of the First World War. A few weeks following the beginning of the conflict, a meeting of the Heanor Tradesman's Association expressed concerns with the name given that Britain was now at war with Prussia/Germany. The name was hastily changed to the Market Tavern for 'patriotic reasons', a name that it held up until very recently when a change of ownership and the aforementioned refurb led to the reintroduction of its previous moniker. (NB: The above photo shows the pub as the Market Tavern. A more recent photo was not available). Inside, the pub is a hustle and bustle of activity. The bar is tucked into one corner with seating placed more or less around the edges of the room, giving an overall open-plan layout. There are a large number of TVs, on walls and in booths, as well as above the bar, at this time of day showing snooker and horse racing. The bar boasts 4 handpulls but just the one is in use during my visit and this is offering Thwaites' Wainwright which is in very good condition. Upon paying for my pint, I took a standing position near to the main door and browsed through the current issue of Derby Drinker. Lots of items of interest in there, which is always good to see. It was nice to see that the refurb of the pub has been sympathetic to the original features and exterior.
Moving from the King of Prussia, my next location sits further back down the hill up which the bus had travelled on my journey to the town, across a road junction and just down the road from the church. Perched on a tight corner is The Crown Inn.
This compact but cosy pub is dog friendly and has a curved bar directly opposite the entrance, with seating areas to either side. The pub is clearly proud of its real ale status and has the pump clips and advertising signs to prove it. On the bar, 1 of the six handpulls is having its line cleaned. The other 5 feature local ales, including 3 from Stapleford's Full Mash Brewery: Warlord, Wheat Ear and Man-hat-on Pale. Also available are Castle Rock Elsie Mo and Dancing Duck Gold. I decided on the Wheat Ear, 4.2%. This is an occasional brew and is a pale, wheat beer with strong flavours as you would expect. It is certainly very tasty and I was very impressed to find this gem of a pub in an area I had been unsure about. This theme of unexpected success would become a recurring for one for the rest of the day, as will soon become clear. After taking a leisurely time drinking my delicious beer, it was time to move on. The next half of the itinerary involved walking down nearby Ilkeston Road to the Marlpool area of the town, an approximate 7-8 minute stroll, if that. The next pub in mind is one that I had heard very good things about in the past but never had time to visit. I was not to be disappointed as I ventured to the Queen's Head.
This is a former Shipstone's pub which is now owned by the Pub People Co., who have steered the pub back into popularity and carried out a tasteful refurbishment. The pub is a beautiful 5-roomed building with the bar roughly central and a split level layout that has stayed true to the pubs original features, with lots of exposed beams and varnished woodwork, including the flooring. The pub hosted beer festival over the weekend prior to my visit and so had lots of guest beers available at reduced prices. All 6 of the available handpulls were occupied, featuring Shepherd Neame Spitfire, Blue Monkey Infinity, Barlow Betty's Blonde, Brampton Best, Brampton Jerusalem and Dancing Duck Nice Weather. I decided on a pint of Brampton Jerusalem (4.6%) and took a seat in one of the back rooms, near a fellow drinker with a Staffie that really wanted to say hello. The Queen's Head is a proper ale pub with a very nice atmosphere and I always love any pub that is dog friendly. The Jerusalem is delicious, its pale colour is defied by rich, roasted malt notes. The rich maltiness is a contrast to its traditional pale ale appearance. It's essentially a pale ale that tastes like a darker ale!
My next stop was just around the corner at Marlpool Ale House.
Previously a butcher's shop, this quaint little building on Breach Road is billed as Derbyshire's first micropub. Family run, it is the brewery tap for the Marlpool Brewing Co. but also features beers from lesser known and further afield breweries. The pub is another that is dog-friendly. The bar sits just inside the door next to a small corridor that leads to a seating area at the rear. The bar boasts 4 handpulls and beer is also able to be dispensed directly from casks in the cellar. The handpulls are predominantly and unsurprisingly Marlpool Brewing Co., with Scratty Ratty, Otter's Pocket and Blind Boris, alongside Wembley Way from Mouselow Farm. In the cellar on my visit were Stockport Heaton Rifles, Fell AAA and Rammy Craft Rammy Xtreme IPA. I thought it was only fair to sample the local offering so went for a pint of Scratty Ratty (4.4%). This is a clear golden coloured beer with a hoppy aroma. The flavours are floral and hoppy with a dry and slightly floral finish. This little place confirms once more my love for micropubs and the unique, welcoming atmosphere that they offer the drinker. The growth in number and popularity of pubs of this sort can only be a good thing and they will continue to be a big part of the real ale resurgence.
The last pub on the list for the day was something of a wildcard as I discovered it by accident whilst visiting the previous 2. It sits slightly further down, and over the road, from the micropub. Last stop, the White Lion.
This is very much a locals pub with a pool/darts area to one side, a central bar and a smaller, open lounge area, all in a single room. Despite not having received a refurb in the way that other local pubs have, the atmosphere is friendly enough at the time I'm there. There is also a large garden to the rear with a swing set, presumably reserved for younger visits. Only one of the 3 available handpulls are in use and this proffers good quality Bass. I took a seat by myself in a quiet corner and, as usual at this stage, reflected upon the day's events.
Heanor is certainly something special in terms of the real ale establishments on offer and this is something of a surprise. Many of the pubs here are not too well known outside of the local area, which if anything helps them to do such a good job. There is something for all visitors at the majority of the pubs here, from the standard offerings of the Red Lion to proper drinkers havens of Queen's Head and Marlpool Ale House. It may be exaggerating to state that Heanor's pubs are something of a hidden gem but the quality and range is truly something to behold. Well run pubs that cater for everyone, in a well known area that aren't suffering from their own self-importance and truly value their customers. What more could a real ale drinker want?