Britain’s longest-serving landlady pulls final pint after 61 years

Britain’s longest serving landlady is calling last orders for the final time after a 61 years of pulling pints at the same Nottingham pub.

Margaret Dove, 79, started running the March Hare in Sneinton in 1958, when she was just 18, with her late husband George.  

Now she’s saying farewell to an industry that has changed dramatically since she first stood behind the bar, saying the ‘way of life’ is different now.

The landlady said: ‘There’s no trade now. No-one comes from the bottom of the hill and no-one from the top. 

Landlady Margaret Dove, 79, pictured behind the bar, is retiring after 61 years of pulling pints at the March Hare pub in Nottingham

‘When they built 150 new houses across the road, not one poked their nose in the door to see what the pub was like. It’s all money, money, money now. 

‘The no smoking ban didn’t help and everyone can get a couple of cans from Tesco to drink at home. They don’t go to the pub any more. It’s a way of life that’s gone, it’s so sad.

‘In pubs now, they can’t get you served fast enough and out of the way. I’m nosy, I’d ask people where they’re from and what they do for a living.

‘Mobile phones were the worse thing ever invented. They destroyed conversation. People just stand there staring at their phones.’

Over the years Margaret has gathered a great number of memories, including how on opening night police on horseback had to direct the traffic as punters arrived.

During the golden era of the 60s and 70s, the pub gained a reputation for live music from little known performers who later changed their names to Alvin Stardust and Engelbert Humperdinck.

The pub, pictured, still doesn’t have a digital till or WiFi and debit cards are not accepted

Margaret, pictured in the pub, said people ‘don’t go to the pub any more. It’s a way of life that’s gone, it’s so sad’ and slammed mobile phones for ruining the atmosphere

But there was one band George refused to cough up for. He famously became the man who said ‘no’ to The Beatles before they went on to make music history.

‘He said he could fill the pub for a fiver so why should he pay them £25,’ says Margaret who has run the pub with the help of her daughter Angie and son Andrew after George passed away in 2007.

While there’s no signed photos of the Fab Four on the walls, there are autographed pictures of other celebrity visitors such as David Jason, Birds of a Feather’s Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke, Robert Powell, Jasper Carrott and a very youthful Ant and Dec.

Margaret also recalled the time the Lord Mayor visited to present trophies, leaving his chauffeur and civic Rolls Royce out the front.

George once refused to pay the Beatles £25 to play in the March Hare as he thought it was too expensive and knew he could ‘fill the pub for a fiver.’ Pictured is a newspaper story of the tale

Margaret, pictured in an undated photograph with her husband, has run the pub with the help of her daughter Angie and son Andrew after George passed away in 2007

‘We were having a party and there was plenty of food so I told the driver to come in and the Lord Mayor said it was all right.

‘Someone stripped the car. They took the flags, the badge, everything. I think he lost his job,’ she says.

Then there was the time the pub used to have strippers. ‘A rugby team pulled up and they all stripped off and filled buckets with beer.’  

Margaret and George, pictured in 1988, ran the pub together. The venue had a reputation for live music from talented performers such as Alvin Stardust and Engelbert Humperdinck

Nottingham born and bred Margaret has always run a tight ship. The pub is scrupulously clean, there’s not a slashed seat in sight, and the bar top is polished until it gleams.

It’s like stepping back in time with the dated decor, an old-fashioned big backed TV and until recently a jukebox which played 45s.

There are no digital tills either. Margaret tots up the bar bill in her head before ringing it into the vintage cash register. Debit cards aren’t accepted and there’s no WiFi.   

Regulars are devastated about her departure and say it won’t be the same without her. As the big pub companies implant managers, who come and go, they fear the likes of long-serving licensees like Margaret are a dying breed.

Geoffrey Hoad says: ‘She’s the best landlady ever. It’s very sad. I have been coming in since I was a kid with my parents and I’ll be 67 this year. This has always been our local.

‘It’s friendly – they don’t make pubs like this any more. There’s lots around here that have been pulled down and turned into flats.’

He and his friend Valerie Allwood walk her two dogs Swiper and Coco, and when it gets to 2pm they go to the pub for an hour every day without fail.

Margaret counts up the bar bill in her head before ringing it into the vintage cash register, pictured, and card payments are not accepted by the landlady

Regulars said they’ll miss Margaret at the pub and said the March Hare, inside pictured, is very popular with tourists who see it as a proper ‘old-fashioned English pub’

Valerie says: ‘It’s the end of an era. Everyone has tried to get her to stay but she needs some time to herself.’

The worst that could happen, they say, is for owners Ei to come in and change their local into a soulless modern pub.

‘It needs to stay the same. We don’t want a new person coming in and changing this and that,’ says Val.

Retired BT engineer Mick Lee, who has been drinking there since the 1970s, adds: ‘There is character in these walls. Margaret has made it what it is.

‘Americans and tourists would love this because it’s an old-fashioned English pub.’

In 2016 the pub was given asset of community value status which protects it from demolition or change of use. 

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