Monday, 19 March 2018

Last Call at the Milbank Arms

Sex on the Beach and Bang Kok Gang Bangs? All in sleepy Barningham, just off the A66? Then you must have been in the Milbank Arms, which sadly shut its doors on Sunday night after being run by the Turner family since 1939.

This unique and well loved pub almost exclusively served cocktails from a menu of 85, all prepared in a little cubby hole by the stairs to the cellar: there was no bar, and landlord Neil Turner would scurry back and forth between the cubby hole and the front room with arrays of colourful drinks on a Charles and Diana commemorative tray. Loyal locals came in frequently, while the pub’s reputation as a curiosity meant that it attracted lots of inquisitive visitors, as well as regular visits from fans further afield.

Long term local customers Lindsay and Robin Russell had been coming in to enjoy the drinks and Neil’s company for over ten years, and in 2014 took him on a trip to WW1 battlefields in France, to see where his father Samuel was injured and lost a leg, and his two brothers, Harry and William, were killed.

After coming back from the war, Samuel Turner was offered a job by Frederick Milbank as chauffeur to the Milbank family, who own the pub and the Barningham estate. Samuel and his wife Hannah moved to the village. Neil and his sister Brenda were born, and the family took over the running of the pub, with Neil taking it over in 1987 when his mother died.

Now at 83 years old Neil is probably due for retirement, but it is clear to see that he will dearly miss his idiosyncratic pub, and getting to spend his evenings chatting with his customers. The lease was not renewed by current estate owner, Edward Milbank, who has submitted planning permission to turn the pub into a pub-restaurant with eight en-suite bedrooms, with a view to catering to weddings. In order to make room for this new commercial venture, Neil is moving out and moving into a cottage a few doors down. No doubt many of his customers will still hope to call in and see him, cocktails or not.