The Cardinal’s Hat

by Steve Renshaw

A number of organisations, including CAMRA, regularly publish statistics on the number of pubs across the country that have closed. But there’s one organisation (or individual) that has gone even further.

The Lost Pubs Project catalogues pubs in England that have closed. The project’s website lists over 29,000 lost pubs. It gives brief details for the majority and includes over 15,000 photographs.

The list is grouped by county and then by town or village. The Lincoln section contains 180 entries. These include long-dead pubs such as the Angel Inn which was located on Bailgate between 1535 and 1860. There is also mention of the Great Tom Inn, which was situated within Exchequergate and closed in 1822. However, there are also recent closures such as the Lord Tennyson and the Bull and Chain.

I came across the website when researching the history of the Cardinal’s Hat. And I was delighted to be able to submit an update to the Lost Pubs Project confirming that the pub has re-opened.

The Grade II* listed building dates from the late 15th century. It was the town house of a family of wool merchants but, when they moved out, it was converted to an inn. The “List of Lincoln Inns”, which was compiled by C L Exley and is held in Lincoln Central Library, shows the landlords of the Cardinal’s Hat from 1521 to 1795. The inn’s name is thought to have been a reference to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was Bishop of Lincoln in 1514-15.

By 1801, the building had ceased to be an inn and was subsequently used as a shop by a variety of traders. By the 1940s, the building had been allowed to become derelict. In 1952, the Lincoln Corps of the St John Ambulance Brigade, which was in urgent need of a new headquarters, purchased the Cardinal’s Hat and set about a full restoration.

At some stage before 1970, the next-door shop was refurbished and incorporated into the Cardinal’s Hat. From 1975 to 1994, the front part of the building was used as a branch of the Halifax Building Society and then, from 1995 to 2000, the Bank of Scotland.

The project to convert the Cardinal’s Hat back to a pub was the brainchild of Louth businessman, Rupert Abbott. During the work, a number of historical features were uncovered. These include a panel of glazed white tiles at the end of the bar which may date from the 19th century.

The bar has eight handpumps, with three regular ales and five guests. One of the regulars, Cardinal’s Ale, is brewed for the pub by Lincolnshire’s Tom Wood’s Beer.

And what about the beer? Cardinal’s Ale (4.0% ABV) is a classic English bitter. It is burnt gold in colour and my pint had a creamy head that lasted all the way down the glass. The initial, fruity sweetness quickly merges with a long-lasting bitterness. A perfect accompaniment to the pub’s tasty nibbles.