The White Hart Inn, Lenton
IN the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries, coffee-houses were extremely popular, and the custom grew up of establishing these delightful rendezvous at some little distance from centres of industry and surrounding them with gardens, bowling greens, and other means of diversion in order to attract the young folk of the neighbouring towns to visit them for recreation and refreshment.
The White Hart at Lenton began as one of these coffee-houses, and was known to bygone generations as the Lenton Coffee-house. The excursion to its charming bowling green across Nottingham Park, beside the then limpid waters of the River Leen, must have been exceedingly pleasant.
Probably the mounting-blocks before the front door of the inn have something to do with this period of its history. At any rate, they are noteworthy examples of a type of relics of the past which are rapidly vanishing from our midst.
When the coffee-house changed its name to the White Hart I cannot say, nor can I explain why the White Hart, which was the badge of King Richard II., was chosen as a sign for the inn.
It was to this house, according to an extraordinary and improbable story, that the "executioners" of Thomas Paine, together with their friends, retired after hanging that unfortunate man on the arm of a tree in the village on 12 February, 1793.
Paine, by his republican views and by his book, "The Rights of Man," had made himself very unpopular at that critical period when the energies of the whole of the more thoughtful portion of the population were devoted to the prevention of a repetition of the scenes of the French Revolution in England.
It is recorded in Godfrey’s "History of Lenton" that Paine was captured by an exasperated mob at Lenton and, after a mockery of a trial in the prison behind this inn, was condemned and executed. As Paine was at that time in France, however, and died many years later in America, the trial and execution recorded doubtless had an effigy as the victim.