The other Magna Carta

by Steve Renshaw

Given everything that’s been going on in the city this summer, I thought I’d better write about the Magna Carta. Of course, I mean the Marston’s pub on Exchequergate, not the historic document.

Over the centuries, the view of Lincoln Cathedral from Castle Square has been a favourite for artists and, more recently, photographers. As a result, it is possible to trace the evolution of the buildings of Exchequergate and the top of Steep Hill.

The present brick buildings occupied by the Magna Carta date from the 19th century, and replaced half-timbered buildings that can be seen on several drawings and paintings of the cathedral.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Number 1 Exchequergate was the Castle Café. The building remained a café through to the mid-1950s and the exterior changed very little. For the following ten or so years, the building was a private residence.

Trade directories held in Lincoln Central Library show that Number 1 Exchequergate housed the Cathedral Restaurant between 1965 and 1979. In 1980, the name was changed to Harvey’s Cathedral Restaurant.

The building was converted into a pub and the Magna Carta was opened in 1993 by Mansfield Brewery. In 1999, Mansfield Brewery was taken over by Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery, which became Marston’s in 2007. However, the Mansfield Brewery sign continued to hang outside the Magna Carta until last year’s £90,000 refurbishment.

The large, comfortable pub has been ideally positioned to take advantage of this year’s tourist boom. They serve good-value meals and families are welcome.

As you’d expect, there are real ales from breweries in the Marston’s stable. But, unusually, the Magna Carta now has regular guest ales from Pheasantry Brewery.

Pheasantry was set up in 2012 at High Becks Farm at East Markham. The brewery’s name is derived from the farm cottage which, according to original maps, was used for breeding and rearing game birds.

That area of Nottinghamshire was an important hop-growing region for around 150 years from the early 18th century. At that time, nearby Tuxford had its own Hop Fair, and hops grow wild in the hedges there today. Malting barley is grown on the farm, and new hops have been planted for demonstration purposes, so that visitors can see the brewing process from beginning to end, and taste the finished product.

Brewer Mark Easterbrook has worked in food manufacturing for 20 years, so understands the importance of quality and consistency, and this is why they have invested in some of the best equipment available in the microbrewing industry. And, it has paid off because his Best Bitter has won the gold medal in the Bitter category of CAMRA’s 2015 Champion Beer of Britain competition.

And what about the beer? Pheasantry Best Bitter (3.8% ABV) is copperin colour with a light, spicy aroma. It is smooth-tasting, with a good balance of malty sweetness and hop bitterness. A worthy champion!