D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love continues the story of sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen who had
first appeared in The Rainbow (1915). Some saw the novel as filled with depravity and vice, but Lawrence (who appears as Rupert) maintained it
was his finest work.
One of the most powerful sequences is played out in chapter 23 when Rupert and Ursula drive to Southwell and take tea at the Saracen’s Head. "They sat together in a little parlour by the fire… He stood on the hearth-rug looking at her, at her face that was upturned exactly like a flower...." But, this being Lawrence, Ursula was soon: "…drawn to him strangely, as in a spell. Kneeling on the hearth-rug before him, she put her arms round his loins, and put her face against his thigh." Sensibly they waited to consummate their passion in the depths of Nottingham Forest - on a blanket on the ground. But not before they scoffed the meal that was provided which included: "…a venison pasty, of all things, a large broad-faced cut ham, eggs and cresses and red beet-root, and medlars and apple-tart, and tea…’What good things!’ she cried with pleasure. ‘…shall I pour out the tea?’".
Lord Byron, the greatest romantic poet of them all was a local resident and knew the Saracens Head well. In 1807 he wrote a jokey epitaph for John Adams a local carrier and the pub’s best customer:
John Adams lies here, of the parish of Southwell,
A carrier, who carried his can to his mouth well;
He carried so much, and carried so fast,
He could carry no more – so was carried at last;
For the liquor he drank, being too much for one,
He could not carry off, so he’s now carri-on.
In one of Byron’s Southwell letters, he says: "I have been transporting a servant who cheated me, performing in private theatricals, (possibly in the assembly room of the Saracens Head) publishing a volume of poems, making love, and taking physic." The pub keeps the connection alive with the traditional splendour of its ‘Lord Byron Restaurant’. Charles I spent his last night of freedom here on 5th May 1646. The next day, in the inn’s coffee-room, he surrendered to the Scots, who sold him to Cromwell for £400,000. The inn changed its name from the King's Head after his execution!