Although the building has been altered over the years, what you see now is largely unchanged for 150 years, and contains what Pevsner described as “a remarkable array of 19th century public house fixtures and fittings.” Sadly, Nelly herself is no longer one of them. In the 1960s when she and her sisters ruled the roost, the beer came out of barrels sat on tables in the bar, not from today’s homogenised taps. There was no disorder then, because Nelly wasn’t averse to heaving anyone who got a bit gobby out onto Hengate and pointing them home.
Francis Collinson bought the pub from St Mary’s Church in 1928, and Nelly was his daughter. She ran the pub until her death in 1976, when it was bought by Sam Smith’s brewery, who continue to run it. In 1989 there were fears that its unique character would be lost, but as the Hull Daily Mail reported, “Police concerned with the level of safety at Nellie’s called off an inspection following all clear from the council inspector.” You wouldn’t find such tolerance these days.
There have been reports of difficulties over the last few years, with numerous changes of management and a marked shift in visitors. With several small rooms to service, it does need more staff than modern open plan pubs, but Sam Smith’s appear to staff to a formula and so Nellie’s suffers. Many regulars have left to the Corner House over the road; leaving Nellie’s a shadow of its former self.
Although the scullery range has been blocked off, Nellie’s keeps the home fires burning, at least in winter time, and it’s long standing Tuesday night entertainment of a candle lit quiz should be under starter’s orders at 9.00pm. Good luck Matt!