The Nag’s Head – Nuneaton

As some of you may have read in my entry to the September photo competition, I originally intended to enter with a ‘then and now’ of the Nag’s Head Pub. I have many fond memories of this particular pub and was quite disappointed when I arrived at the scene last week, during a home visit to see my parents, only to find that it had recently been demolished.

Some people advise never to go back. It is generally good advice as I often feel quite depressed as I see more and more of my old memories destroyed. However not going back is not an option for me as I have my parents, many aunts and uncles (all 90 years old plus or minus a few years), one of my two children and five grandchildren all living there, not to mention the 30 or so cousins and their children and grandchildren. Anyway, this is about the Nag’s, not me.

This is believed to be the Nag’s Head around 1890.

Nags 1890

It is not the immediate predecessor of the one demolished but the one before that! The late local historian Fred Phillips made this picture available with indication that it was the Nags Head of old. A close examination of the lettering on the pub sign over the door reveals the name James ? who is evidently the landlord but the rest is too blurred to read. A quick look in a 1901 street directory revealed the landlord to be James Dewis. Could that be him standing in the doorway replete with bowler hat?    Despite the fact that we can’t be certain whether this was called the Nag’s Head, this is a lovely image of a very old fashioned drinking establishment. One of the many in or close to the Market Place.

The Nags Head was an important place in its day because a horse and cart set out from here for Coventry every week carrying silk ribbons when our ancestors relied on the ribbon trade as the staple form of income. Their week’s work was in that cart, and the money they earned no doubt disappeared into the various landlord’s money bar takings as many an old weaver was very improvident when it came to spending his or her hard earned wages on ale. Very often to the detriment of their families.

This Nags Head was in Coventry Street and would have stood in the middle of what is now the road opposite Barclays Bank and the row of shops alongside.  Coventry Street is much altered from those days. The road was very narrow then before it was opened out to get vehicles through. We forget that before the ring road was built traffic through the town had to come down Coventry Street and through the Market Place. But the old Nags Head seen here was pulled down earlier than that, as the first steps were taken to get a little room for horse and cart traffic which was just as much a problem as the later internal combustion engined vehicles were to become. The site was given free of charge to the town by Salt & Co. for road widening.  It is estimated demolition took place about 1895 and a new pub, also called the Nags Head was erected in its place. This was built on a very confined site, and by 1927 the brewery who owned it, Salt & Co of Burton on Trent, were looking for another location so they could expand. At that time some thought went into potential places around the town, which would benefit from a pub as it had a catchment area of streets insufficiently served by hostelries. A location about half way along Queens Road was chosen.

In 1929 our recently demolished Nags Head was completed and its immediate predecessor taken down. On the 8th March of that year the new Nags Head pub opened in Queens Road, the previous one in Coventry Street had also been an Elizabethan style building built by Geo. Hodges, Builders of Burton on Trent.

WG298-46    WED     19-7-06THE NAGS HEAD

The pub was Nuneatons premier live spot for gigs and was owned by an ex-Showaddywaddy bass guitarist who was an avid fan of live music, although he only seemed to have tribute bands play there. When he died in 2005, his wife tried to carry it on, but it soon went downhill and live acts started playing at the nearby Crew, who got some great acts to play there, not just tribute bands. She quit in 2008, and it was boarded up overnight. The end of an era. Developers brought the derelict Kwik-Save and its car park which was next door to The Nags Head, and demolished them. They then bought the empty Nags Head for that extra land, for development.


I had been aware that the pub was boarded up and had intended to make this photograph, but instead found only a car park on the site. I took the final photograph as seen below 😦



As I was looking for the exact site I chatted with a couple of passers by, who were looking at me a bit strangely taking pictures of ….well…nothing interesting. When I explained that I had been intending to write a piece about the Nag’s Head, they were very open and explained a few facts. The proprietor of the shop directly opposite and gave me the address of the last Landlord of the pub. Apart from the fact that a favourite pub had been demolished the whole journalistic experience was quite enjoyable and novel.


I hope that it is of interest to some of the Chariot’s members.

Maybe for my next blog I will use the subject Boadicea, as I am sure you know she has some important connections to Nuneaton.



Author: gazoopi

After finally leaving the world of the black suit and tie, briefcase and laptop, hotel rooms and airports, and donning sandals, jeans and a flat cap, I have entered a new world of creative writing. If, through my written work, I can create a smile, cause a tear to fall or stimulate an LOL from my readers, I will be a winner!

8 thoughts on “The Nag’s Head – Nuneaton”

  1. Brilliant, first class investigation of the subject. Thank you.

    I have to admit I am of the no going back persuasion. I make a point of never revisiting old, old haunts etc.

  2. I’ve just checked the census returns for 1901. The pub is not named, but the entry after 3 Coventry Street records one James Dewis licensed victualler, aged 34, his wife Ellen, four children and a general servant. James died in 1903, aged just 38.

  3. Fascinating, Gazoopi. They say that when somebody dies it is like a library burns down – all those personal memories, knowledge and experiences lost and it only takes one or two generations at most.

    I was required to return to my home city of Liverpool this year and it was an unsettling experience. Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool One, as the ‘new’ city centre is officially known, is a fantastically vibrant place full of young people, museums and attractions, visitors, history and commerce. Down near the Pier Head, cheek by jowl now with futuristic office blocks is the old White Star Line building from the balcony of which the passenger list of the Titanic was read to the assembled throng with a polar bear at the back shouting (in a Scouse accent), ‘Any news of the iceberg, son?’

    I was determined to hate it all, but I couldn’t and am now vicariously yet enormously proud of my new City. It’s just that I have ‘saudades’ for the old signposts and landmarks of my youth that I have lost. I stood on the site of of the old Radio /Merseyside building remembering the infamous Battle of Paradise Street without having any orientation as to where it was. It’s all gone!!



  4. Hi OZ, thanks for the comments. You are right of course. Generally Nuneaton is also much cleaner and more well kept than in those days. It is a better place, but , as you say, memories are destroyed.

    I also felt incredibly slim while I was there, a feeling that I don’t have in France. 🙂

  5. Very interesting project, Gaz.

    I must admit, the few times I have returned to old haunts I have regretted it, so I’m not too keen on the idea any more. The changes are rarely improvements, in my opinion.

  6. Bearsy, too cryptic for me…I doubt Boadicea was as obese as the Nuneatoners. Do you think that could have something to do with why she lost the battle in Manduessedum?

    Ara, thanks for reading. It was quite fun. I think that I will do some more of these little projects, maybe other pubs of Nuneaton. Sadly, as so many relatives are around 90 years old I fear that I will be making regular trips over the next few years.

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