The Rancliffe Arms is a Grade II listed building, formerly a coaching inn, and now a public house. The oldest section was built sometime in the early 17th Century, with later 17th and 18th Century additions. There has also been some 20th Century alterations.
The Rancliffe Arms viewed from Loughborough Road
It is generally thought to have been designed by and built for Sir Thomas Parkyns (1663-1741) of Bunny Hall, but B.L.Twelvetrees stated that it is "traditionally associated with Sir Thomas perhaps only because it stood next to a patch of ground whereon wrestling matches took place". Sir Thomas held the annual wrestling match, initially with himself as umpire, on Midsummer’s Day, on land enclosed by chains - where the pub car park is today. It was a strictly amateur competition, with a prize of a gold-laced hat, worth 22 shillings. The match was held for 99 years, from 1712-1811, when it was stopped because it was deemed to be attracting noisy and unruly crowds.
There is evidence that there was an inn or public house on the site before Sir Thomas’s time, and prior to the building of Bunny Hall. An entry by J.P.Smeeton in "Rambles around Nottingham" (1931) adds "The inn was a hostelry of some repute, and witnessed not only the march past of Henry VII’s forces on their way to the Battle of Stoke, but the passing of Cromwellian and Royalist soldiery in the stirring days of the Civil War". The Battle of Stoke was held to be the last act of the Wars of the Roses and was fought in fields near the Nottinghamshire villages of East Stoke and Elston on 15th June 1487. Henry VII’s army had bivouacked in a wood near the village of Bunny on the night of 12th June, before advancing to defeat the Yorkist troops led by the Earl of Lincoln, who was Richard III’s nephew.
The Nottinghamshire County Records of the 17th Century mention an Act for Keepers of Alehouse bound by Recognisances (licences). Justices of the Peace were to ensure that those allowed to "kepe any common Alehouse or Tipplingehouse against the usinge of unlawfull Games and also the usinge and maytenance of good ordre and rule to be uses with the same". The Sessions Roll for 1675 lists "3 persons licence in Bunny" and "1 person licence in Bradmore". As it was customary for individual householders to be licensed to brew and sell ale it is not certain if any of these licences referred to a public house.
In the early part of the 18th Century the state of the roads in and around Bunny was so bad that the inhabitants were fined. A few years later The Rancliffe Arms would have become an important coaching inn when a new road from Nottingham to Loughborough replaced the old route through Gotham. The Bunny Enclosure map of 1798 clearly shows The Rancliffe Arms buildings in their present location.
White’s Directory of 1832 lists Wm. Stephens as Victualler in Bunny, and mention is made of "commodious inn at Bunny, where the London coaches stop". The White’s Directory of 1844 lists William Walker as Victualler at The Rancliffe Arms. The 1851 Census reveals that William Walker (aged 54) from Surrey was the publican and Ann Walker his wife (aged 49) was the landlady. They had three unmarried daughters living with them – Susan, Julia and Rosetta. John Davis from Bradmore also lived at the pub, and was employed as an ostler. Aaron Foster was a house servant. The population of the village at that time was 336.
In 1844 The Rancliffe Arms was authorised to be the first official Receiving House, or Post Office, in Bunny, only four years after the first postage stamps were issued. William Walker was appointed Receiver on a salary of £4 per annum, and when he died in 1852, his widow Ann became Receiver until her appointment was cancelled just three days later! William Henson became the new Receiver on 13 October 1852 at a reduced salary of £3 per annum and served until March 1854 when he resigned. It then passed to William Hart until some time in 1855 when Ann Walker again took over. It is probable that she continued as Receiver until 1861 when the office at The Rancliffe Arms was closed.
Newspaper articles in the 1950s, when Arthur E. Marshall was the licensee, stated that The Rancliffe Arms was "reputed to be more than 500 years old" and claimed to be yet another of England’s pubs where Dick Turpin had stayed - "high in the roof at the back of the pub". There was a Turpin Room, converted from part of the old stable block. In December 1960 disastrous floods affected all the houses in Bunny and flooded the pub’s cellars. Another article told of local identity, Mr. Joe Hines, (possibly Hind) who had been born in the pub when his father was the landlord. As a youth he was given the task of operating the mangle situated in the back yard. This was no ordinary mangle, being at least 10 feet wide, and before 1900 had been the only one in Bunny. On Mondays housewives would bring their dripping wet washing for Joe to put through the mangle.
The Dovecote in the Rancliffe Arms Barns
In 1975 The Rancliffe Arms won the first Evening Post Pub of the Year Award. In 1979 a further entry in "Pubs of Notts." accorded The Rancliffe Arms four stars and described it as "bustling, with a high energy atmosphere and a rather trendy outlook!".
After a number of years as a managed house within the Home Ales chain, Mansfield Breweries took over The Rancliffe Arms in 1989 and the provision of bed and breakfast accommodation was added to the services provided. The present licensee, has added further bedrooms by making use of the space above the restaurant and the Saturday night "Singalong" with John at the piano continues a 35-year tradition.
Stories have been told of The Rancliffe Arms being haunted, and there are accounts of cold draughts in certain rooms, doors unexpectedly opening and closing, and mysterious noises heard late at night after the bars have closed. No one seems to know of the source of these hauntings, but because some incidents have been located in the Ladies’ Toilets, it is thought that the ghost is female. Or maybe it is Dick Turpin, returning from a midnight ride.
The main facade of the building has scarcely changed over the years, although it may have originally had a recessed front between the gabled wings facing the main road. Demolition and structural changes inside and at the rear have robbed it of some of its character. All the original walls are 1'4" thick and there are still some old ceiling beams to be seen. At some stage a sizeable building converted from a barn on the north side was added to enlarge the premises and now forms the main lounge and part of the restaurant. Carriage entrances at both the north and south ends of the building were later bricked in to provide further extensions but the open archways can still be seen in photographs taken as recently as 1952. There was originally a cluster of outhouses behind the main building, including a blacksmith’s forge, but it is not known when these were demolished.