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12 September 2011

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The Pubs of Boxted

It is sad to say but there are no pubs in Boxted now. Below is a history of pubs which have been in the village at one time or another.

 

The Cross Inn :

The Cross Inn 1922


The Cross was the first of Boxted’s public houses and the only Inn. It was first recorded in 1784 and formerly known as the Dog and Partridge.The house is thought to have been built towards the end of the 16 th century, and started trading as an alehouse in 1600. The property belonged to the Rivers Hall estate and was rented (copyhold) by a Thomas Boniface, Master of Ale and the official Ale Taster for the Parish Vestry. The building was situated at the main crossroads of the village, and was probably chosen as the first ‘pub’ because of its position. In the early days, perhaps because the ale was too strong, it was “much affected” with “excessive drunkenness” and a cage was built on the green outside to “restrain these minor offenders” hence giving the name to Cage Lane.

The Cross Inn ca 1920

Civil War – Royalist support:

At the time of the Civil War a John Fitzgibbon was the landlord. He was supposedly the illegitimate son of Lady Gibbon, lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I. He was reputed to have been involved in the escape of Lord Goring, commander of the Royalist force that occupied Colchester, via Boxted in 1648. According to legend Fitzgibbon was captured by the Roundheads when they attacked Hill Farm and the inn and “shot to death”. His ghost is supposed to walk the grounds of the Cross each July.

In about 1750 the property was freed from copyhold to Rivers Hall, together with 30 acres of land which forms part of the playing field and council estate today. At this time it acquired the name “Dog and Partridge”, and was listed as an inn.. An inn was required to give food and succour to the traveller, and stable his horse. It could also sell the new-fangled “beer” and spirits as well as ale.

In 1850 its name was changed to The Cross, after John Cross, one of its most popular landlords. Since the 18 th century to the middle of the 20 th, its various landlords farmed the 30 acres of land belonging to the property. Before the 1872 Licensing laws, all the ale and beer was brewed in an outhouse, the brewhouse, at the rear of the inn. The 1872 Act prohibited “brewing in sheds and backhouses” and the property was sold to Daniels’ and Sons brewery at West Bergholt. Towards the end of the 19 th century a butcher’s shop was opened in the thatched barn adjoining the inn, with a slaughterhouse next to the brewhouse.

The Cross Inn 1986

The property was sold, modernised and opened as a restaurant in 1983 but the venture did not succeed and it has since been converted into a private house.

I am indebted to Heather Johnson of Colchester, whose great uncle and great aunt, Henry and Beat Soar, ran the pub in the 1950s, for the following information -

The pub, which had sold beer for more than 500 years, had claimed to be the village's first and oldest public house. Part of the building is believed to date back to 1480. The pub had an adjoining 11 acre field on which they kept goats, cows and pigs. Livestock prices at the time meant they could buy a calf for £1 and sell it on for £5 in a very short space of time - which supplemented the innkeeper's income considerably. Today the same field is known as Crossfield.

In the post-war years the pub became a popular gathering place for the local hunt.

Ken Mason MFH
Sylvia Carter at The Cross
Henry Soar
Beat Soar
Beat Soar at the bar
Back of the Cross

 

 

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The Greyhound , Mill Road:

In 1762, Boxted acquired its second public house, a beerhouse named The Greyhound, halfway along Mill Road. The property was said to have been occupied by a Timothy White-ear, a carriage builder. As a result of his occupation the pub was sometimes referred to as "The Carpenter's Arms". Timothy White-ear started the business as the first landlord brewing his beer in the end section of his wheelwright's shop.

Beer differed from ale in that it was flavoured with hops while ale had a longer fermentation period producing a stronger brew.

Beer for the unemployed:

It is said that White-ear started the pub because of the large number of unemployed men - mostly weavers - who came to watch him at work building his carts and carriages, hoping he would employ them. Knowing that these ex-weavers had some money he thought he could open his beerhouse and make a profit from selling them beer. At least he would get them out of his workshop.

It is thought that The Greyhound closed in about 1848 when the then occupant bought a nearby smallholding and transferred the pub business there, further down Mill Road, calling it "Thatcher’s".

The Thatcher’s , Mill Road:

Thatcher’s Pub

The Thatcher’s was a much larger property, and as well as many outbuildings it had 25 acres of land. An outhouse was soon converted to brewing and the business became very prosperous. However, with the 1872 Act prohibiting brewing backhouses, the property was sold to Messrs. Daniels’ and Sons, Brewers of West Bergholt. The last landlord of the Thatcher’s was probably the best remembered. He was one of Boxted’s ‘characters’, the like of which will probably never be seen again. His name was William Page. A man of short stature he was soon referred to as “Little Billy”. The selling of beer was only part of Billy’s career. He was a general dealer who bought and sold anything he could lay his hands on. Billy’s pony never passed a pub but always got him home. On one occasion Billy left to sell day-old chicks at Sudbury market but he had sold all his birds at the local pubs before he got halfway to Sudbury. The Thatcher’s closed in 1911.

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The Fox Pub (Lilley’s) , Church Street:

The Fox Pub 1920

Teenage landlady:

In 1871 the head of the household at Lilley’s beerhouse in Church Street, later known as The Fox, was Salome Lilley aged 15. With her brothers, Abraham, aged eight, and Henry, aged two, they managed the pub until Abraham became landlord. Their father, Obadiah, had left home, and their mother had died of fever. While the property was owned by the Lilleys, the beer was supplied first by Josiah Cole of the Queen’s Head, and after the 1872 Act, by then Colchester Brewing Company. In 1905 Greene King of Bury St. Edmunds bought the property from Abraham Lilley. Salome Lilley married the gardener from Boxted Hall.

In 1880 Herbert Thompson gives an account of a visit to The Fox in his book, “Constable Country”. Arriving at The Fox in the early evening, he left almost immediately because of the fighting and bad language at the bar. He visited St. Peter’s church, then returned for supper and a bed for the night. He was so impressed by a verse that hung above the bar that he included it in his book. It was addressed to non-paying customers –

“Since man to man is so unjust
No man can tell who he can trust.
I have trusted many to my sorrow
So pay today and trust tomorrow.”

The Fox closed in 1926.

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The Wig & Fidgett , Straight Road:

The Wig and Fidgett

Smugglers:

It is thought that the present Wig and Fidgett was built about 1855. There are many stories concerning the origin of the name. One refers to a previous hostelry, a base for smugglers, which was destroyed by fire in a raid by Customs officials (Tales of Old Boxted). Another suggests that it was used ( deletion) by magistrates as a courthouse. The most plausible explanation is that it derives from the names of the men who built it, Obadiah Wigg and Nathaniel Fidgett.

Like the rest of the Boxted Pubs, the Wig and Fidgett had a parcel of land belonging to the property, so its landlord was both a publican and farmer. The early ownership of the pub is not known, but towards the end of the 19 th century, it was owned by Daniel’s and Sons of West Bergholt. During the economic depression that followed the First World War, one of the tenants, Bob Harris, owned a sawmill powered by a traction engine, which provided him with another source of income. Bob Harris’ successor, Harry King, farmed land in Queen’s Head Road. The best remembered tenant of these inter-war years was Bert Breed, an ex-Navy Chief Petty Officer. Following the Second World War, Daniel’s and Sons sold their brewery to Trumans of London who closed the West Bergholt brewery, using the premises as a store. However, they continued to supply the tied houses with beer from their London brewery in Brick Lane. As brewing became more competitive, Trumans sold the West Bergholt property and offered the tied houses for sale. The Wig and Fidgett was sold privately and was the last pub in Boxted to remain open before it too closed in 2005.

The Butcher's Arms , Workhouse Hill:

The Butcher’s Arms at the top of Workhouse Hill started trading in the late 1840’s as a beerhouse. Little is known of its early landlords, but it was sold after the 1872 Act, to Cuddens, brewers of Sudbury, and then, in 1905, to Greene King of Bury St. Edmunds. This public house also had some 10 acres of land, together with a good range of premises for livestock. For some years, until its closure in 1919, it was the home of the Munsons, the local carriers. The Munsons’ carrier cart went to Colchester three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. As well as personal transport and the collection and delivery of goods, they carried bundles of tailoring from women outworkers to clothing factories in Colchester and brought back new work. With the closing of The Butcher’s Arms Mr. Munson gave up his carrier business. The property is now a private house called Ramblers.

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The Queen's Head, Straight Road

 

The Queen’s Head

Mr. Cromer Cole built the property in 1851 as a farmhouse, which had quite a sizeable parcel of land adjoining, reclaimed from Boxted Heath. With the decline in farming fortunes he needed to find another source of income. His father, Josiah Cole, was an expert brewer, and so, in 1857, Cromer applied to the local magistrates for a licence to brew and retail beer. Part of the barn was turned into a brewhouse and the business became very prosperous with patrons coming from far and wide to sample Josiah’s special beers.

Josiah Cole’s recipe for strong beer:

Take 12 bushels of malt to the hogshead of water.

Pour the water hot but not boiling onto the malt.

Infuse fore three hours covered, mash in the first half hour and let it stand the remainder of the time.

Run it in the hops previously infused in water at the rate of ¾lb of hops to 1 bushel of malt.

Boil with wort for 2 hours from the start of the boil.

Cool a pailful to add 2 quarts of yeast which will prepare it for putting to the rest when ready the next day but, if possible, put together the same night.

Tun as usual. Cover the bung hole with paper when the beer has done working and when it has stopped have ready 1½lbs of hops dried before the fire, put in bung hole and fasten it up.

Let it stand 12 months in the cask before drinking.

Beer is best if brewed in March.

Although Cromer called his property The Queen’s Head, it was often called simply Cromer’s. At one time, beer brewed at the Queen’s Head was sold to both The Fox and Butcher’s Arms pubs.

Following Cromer Cole’s death, his son-in-law, Robert Leech, became landlord. When the licensing Act of 1872 became law, the beer was supplied first by the Colchester Brewing Company of East Hill, Colchester, then by Oliver’s of Sudbury and eventually by Greene King of Bury St. Edmunds. After the death of Robert Leech, his son-in-law, Henry Denny, became landlord for the next 26 years. His widow, Mary Ann Denny, held the licence for a time before it passed to her son-in-law, Harvey Carter. Harvey’s son, Douglas, is co-author of Boxted Book.

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The Fruitpickers Pub:

The outstanding period of prosperous trade for the Queen’s Head was in the 1920/30’s when fruitpickers from London came to work in the orchards of Mr. Dennis Carter at Hill Farm. The horse meadow alongside the pub was opened, and beer was served through the windows of the pub. Over two hundred Londoners crowded the approaches, and for the fruitpicking season, the Queen’s Head had a full lorry load of beer every week.

A second era of prosperity came during the American occupation of the local airfields during World War II. Although the supplies of beer were rationed, it was possible, with some local brewing knowledge, to supplement supplies. After the war the pub obtained a licence to serve wines and spirits and trade remained good until the coming of television. Customers came out later and later, and it was only at weekends that the pub was busy. The drink drive legislation restricted trade still further but it was the Public Health Acts of the 1960’s, which specified indoor toilets and washing facilities for all public houses that proved its end. The Queen’s Head only had cesspool drainage and the space needed to build indoor toilets would have reduced the size of the drinking area to uneconomic proportions. In 1970, it was decided to close and de-licence the property and sell it as a private house which later became a nursing home. The original house has since been demolished.