Madame Parboiled’s Historical Pub Tour

madame parboiled nottingham

Nottingham is a city steeped in history and its pubs are a living proof of that, they’re a tangible representation of England’s past, and celebration of life before us. To learn how to grow our appreciation for Nottingham’s historic pubs we ventured into a world of Madame Parboiled – the executioner’s wife who knows Nottingham and its pubs like a back of her hand.  Read on to find out what we thought about our experience at Madame’s Parboiled’s Historical Pub Tour.


The idea of spending the evening with a medieval executioner’s wife may seem a little daunting to begin with, but Madame Parboiled certainly isn’t as dark as some of the stories she tells. Visiting four time-honoured drinking establishments throughout the evening, with an incredible combined age of over 2000 years, the stories flowed as well as the drinks. From tales of unfortunate but jaunty Victorian locals to tormented ghosts setting up home in darkened caves, we got a true sense of everyday life in Nottingham (particularly for the hoi polloi like ourselves).

A solid background of the city’s history was dotted with trivia, humour and informal chatter, making the experience more like being told stories by a wise and warm grandmother than a theatrical guide. Indeed, Madame P.’s jovial persona really makes you trust you’d be a little safer in the dark ages if she was your guide back in those grim days.

Whether you are visiting from afar or you are a home grown local, this is an evening which will make you see Nottingham in a new light whilst drinking into life the stories of souls which trod our streets before us.



For hundreds of years, pubs have been ideal places to meet, drink and share stories. Nottingham’s pubs are particularly historic – no less than three claim to be the country’s oldest – making them ideal places to learn more about the city’s fascinating past.

Madame Parboiled – the executioner’s wife – certainly has some stories to share, and we followed her from pub to pub on a Sunday evening recently, rounding off a weekend with her Historic Pubs Tour.

The engaging tour took us deep into the hearty of historic Nottingham, right down into some of the incredible caves below the city centre, as well as to the legendary Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which is hewn into the rock below Nottingham Castle.

With dirt smeared across her face and dressed in a hooded robe, Madame P led us on a journey through time, enrapturing us with some masterful storytelling and dramatic tales.

With the drinks flowing throughout – I worked my way through some of Castle Rock’s and Blue Monkey’s finest offerings – it’s fair to say that the line between reality and fiction had started to blur by the end of the night, and the many stories of hauntings and misfortunes were even more effective while slightly tipsy in these eerie surroundings.

While Madame Parboiled was understandably the star of the show, the pubs themselves are an amazing part of this tour, and you can only imagine how many tall tales have been told in these atmospheric establishments over a pint or two down through the years.

Make sure you add a tour to you todo list when you’re visiting Nottinghamshire.


Sundays in Nottingham’s city centre are usually quieter compared to the lively Saturdays when most of us go out. The calm atmosphere makes it perfect for an evening of storytelling in good company, and with a glass of a divine drink in your hand.

We were very pleased to be invited to take part in Madame Parboiled’s Historical Pub Tour on a warm and perfect for walks May evening. We met with Madame P. at The Pit & Pendulum and made our way from there to The Bell Inn – one of 120 friaries set up by monks in the area, and one of only 40 which still stand today. In fact the original beams in the Elizabethan bar called the ‘Lizzie’s Bar’ date back over 500 years to 1420. We sat down in a dimmed bar which was reserved just for our group, and we let ourselves be transported back to the time when Goose Fair was taking place at the Old Market Square. With time Nottingham’s famous fair was moved to the Forest Recreation Ground because it outgrew Old Market Square’s capacity. The Bell Inn went through a lot, including surviving almost unscaved the riots on the Goose Fair night in 1831 – unlike the Nottingham Castle. The Bell in is a must stop for all you real ale lovers.

From The Bell Inn we headed to The Salutation Inn where we went underground and heard the tales of the resident ghosts still very much alive in this historical pub. All we can tell you is do not move chairs around the fireplace as they may be moved back to their original position by an invisible hand.


Last but not least we stopped by the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – which is said to be England’s Oldest pub – and were invited into a private room which is famous for being haunted as well (ye olde Nottingham is a truly haunted location, I’m telling ya), with a ghost of one of the landladies visiting the Trip’s premises and getting into all sorts of mischievous activities. We also were told the story of Queen Isabella of France – the wife of King Edward II – and their turbulent love-hate relationship. We learned about Isabella’s love affair with Sir Roger Mortimer – a nobleman and powerful Marcher lord – which had an unfortunate ending. Roger Mortimer and Isabella killed Edward II and then took the power for themselves but their actions lead to a bitter end.

Madame Parboiled’s knowledge and stories truly impressive. We spent nearly four hours in a company of a fabulous group people, having drinks and listening to fascinating tales of ye olde Nottingham.

This evening is perfect for all real ale lovers, historical pubs enthusiasts, or as a good night out with friends, and you’ll learn a great deal about our fantastic city. It’s also a great way for visitors and residents alike to explore Nottingham’s history and be entertained. The tour not only covers some of the local stories but some of the stories behind the names of Nottingham pubs.

Madame Parboiled’s Historical Pub Tour is just £5 per person! You will also receive a discount voucher for your drinks in the pubs you visit along the way.

If you’re in Nottingham for a longer stay, make sure to join one of the Nottingham Castle’s cave tours too, where you’ll be invited to see the famous ‘Mortimer’s Hole’. It is said that Sir Roger Mortimer was kept there by Isabella’s son King Edward III, who imprisoned him there to get revenge for his father’s death. Sir Mortimer was then transported to London and executed.



Posted on 20 June 2017
Featured author: Sophie

Writer and amateur local historian with an affection for English eccentrics. Returned to Nottingham in 2013, only to fall in love with the creative and cultural goings of the city.

Comments (0)

Post a comment

Our monthly pick

Nottingham We Dig The Castle

We Dig The Castle: Unearthing Nottingham’s Archaeological Secrets Part Two

This blog is the second instalment of a two part blog. To read part one click here. Back in July I visited Nottingham Castle to find out more about the annual archaeological excavation ‘We Dig The Castle’. A partnership project between Trent & Peak Archaeology, Nottingham City Council and Historic England, this excellent scheme invites volunteers…

Your favourite places

Featured authors

  • Sarah Louise

    A very lucky marketeer in her dream job. Passionate about all things Nottinghamshire and firmly believes if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen!

  • Kinga

    Addicted to music and learning languages. Loves reading, gardening, travelling and everything new media related.

  • Alistair

    Originally from Preston – but now calling Nottingham home – Alistair’s a St Helens rugby league fan who loves travel and music.

  • Natalie

    Proud to represent the county I grew up in. Travel loving devoted mum of two who carries a torch for the city’s unsung hero, Captain Albert Ball VC.

  • Sophie

    Writer and amateur local historian with an affection for English eccentrics. Returned to Nottingham in 2013, only to fall in love with the creative and cultural goings of the city.

Have a go...

unesco city of literature nottingham

Speak In Nottingham To Me – A Beginner’s Guide To Nottingham’s Dialect

Language is certainly one of our best creations. Without it, it would be difficult for us to coexist, establish communities and share feelings. Language makes it all easier and helps us work together and understand one another. Throughout history people always felt the need to find one universal language for all. Several attempts were made to popularise different languages…