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Mystery of lost Green Man gallows sign finally solved

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 16, 2014

  • The Green Man & Black's Head Royal Hotel sign across St John's Street in Ashbourne

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THIS week we take a quick look at the history of one of the town's best-loved landmarks – the Green Man Gallows sign.

It's a structure which bears one of the longest pub names in Britain – The Green Man and Black's Head Royal Hotel – but it has had something of a checkered past and, at one point, we nearly lost it altogether.

The history of the sign, as with the pub itself, goes back many generations.

But in the early 1990s two Ashbourne men stepped in to ensure it was not lost forever when there was a threat of the entire framework being pulled down. With the help of the district council, brothers Ian and Brian Bates took on the task of acquiring, restoring and preserving the sign.

The hanging picture, which has since been removed, was completely renovated and the "black's head" on the top of the sign was also given a makeover.

In October 1993, the hanging sign, painted by local artist Stuart Avery, was unveiled. But it wasn't plain sailing for the welcome new addition.

On a few occasions, the sign was clipped by lorries, particularly following the raising of the bridge in Fenny Bentley, which prompted an influx of taller vehicles using the town as a new through-route. In 2006, however, the story took a dramatic turn and the sign vanished altogether. One night it was there, the next it wasn't.

It turns out the sign was hit by a passing lorry, as many had feared, and had been carried nearly 25 miles on the top of a trailer.

The sign was discovered at the end of its journey by the owner of TF Jackson Accommodation, in Harpur Hill, who noticed the sign on the top of a curtain-side trailer and pulled it down so he could store it away safely.

Tom Jackson had intended to contact the Green Man, but said it had slipped his mind.

It was eventually discovered by Ashbourne man Victor Brayne, whose firm Ashbourne Safety Training was at TF Jackson's depot when he noticed the sign in a warehouse.

He contacted town councillor Denise Brown, who had been trying to track down the sign since its mysterious disappearance.

A new sign has never been hung and it has since been replaced by two circular paintings in either corner.

It is currently in storage at the town hall and the hope is it will one day find a home somewhere in the Green Man, once its on-going renovation is complete.

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