The Peninsula’s Lost Pubs

In this blog, we keep talking about ‘The Peninsula’. To locals, it is an accepted term to indicate the area that they live in. To those who have not lived here it is, perhaps, an ‘unknown’.

So for those non-locals; The Peninsula is an area that bounded by the River Deben to the west and the River Ore to the east, but not the Alde because that is too far North. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and can often be a very lonely place. It has some lovely villages, but it is on the whole very quiet. It has more pubs than shops and very few businesses. It has a lot of farms, a lot of walks and, without a doubt, one of the most important archaeological finds in this country; Sutton Hoo.

One of the things I always try to do whenever I go through a new town or village is to spot the buildings that were once pubs. Often this is quite easy because many have the old pub sign supports attached to the building. In one Buckinghamshire town, the High Street is littered with what were coaching inns. The buildings have kept the openings within the frontages that once allowed the horse-drawn coaches to pass through to the stables at the back. Most of these are now private houses or shops. So we have seen many old pubs close and most fairly recently. Not just the coaching inns, but the everyday pubs that would have seen the working man enjoying a pint after his working day.

Is it an indictment of the state of our drinking habits that many of our villages have lost some or all of their pubs? In one Suffolk village, close to this area, it used to have at least 5 pubs with the last burning down fairly recently. In a community which has 2000 inhabitants, it is ridiculous that there is no pub. The local community have bought the burnt-out building and are trying to get it back up and running as a pub. Unfortunately renovating the shell of a listed building is beyond the finances of the community. Good luck people.

The loss of pubs, I believe, is down to a change in drinking habits in modern Britain. The days, when the ‘man’ came home, had his dinner and then went down the pub is no longer vogue. It is also no longer necessary to go to the pub to get some beer. When I was young they only place you could buy drink was in a pub or an off-licence, either as part of the pub ‘off-sales’ or later in separate shops which sold drink cigarettes and sweets. A bit like Australia where the supermarkets just do not sell booze. You have to go to a bottle shop.

Now, in our supermarkets, you can get a massive variety of drink, at any time of the day and a lot cheaper than you can buy in a pub. The first licence to sell alcohol in a supermarket was granted in 1962 and certainly, by 1972 most of the supermarkets were selling drink, initially in a separate counters and eventually just on shelves.

In the Peninsula, it was not just a change in drinking habits but also a contraction in the population. Being a very rural area the reduction in population was caused by the mechanisation of farming and less need for manual farm labour. In our own village, Shottisham, there were 372 people in 1851 and by 1960 it has shrunk to about 160. Recently the population stood at 179 although the number of electors is less than 150. If you consider a similar reduction in the other villages then there is no longer a call for the number of pubs that existed in 1900.

The Crown In Alderton now a Private Residence

The first pub which I can recognise as ‘past’ is in Alderton. The Crown Inn was immediately opposite the Swan, now the Alderton Swan. It was one of three pubs in the village at that time. It was licenced to Abraham Myers who was married with a child and was living at the Inn in 1891. I believe The Crown may have originally been a ‘Beerhouse’. This is indicated in Kelly’s directory of 1855 which shows three licenced premises; two beer houses and one Public House, The Swan. So my assumption is that The Swan held a full licence whilst The Crown and the other beerhouse, The Victoria, were licenced under the 1830 Beerhouse Act by the local excise officer with payment of 2 guineas. The control and licencing of these beerhouses were brought back within the remit of the local justices in 1869, under a new act, the Wine and Beer House Act.

The Victoria closed in about 1870 like many beer houses did following the 1869 Act. Abraham was born in Creeting St Peter which is just up the A14 from Ipswich.

The old Victoria in Alderton

Abraham Myers pops up again, this time in Bawdsey as the Landlord of the Star Inn which is shown in the 1912 Kelly’s Directory. The Star Inn closed in the 1970s and I can find no old photos of the Inn just a reference to where it existed in relation to another property. The building photographed does have a plaque on a flank wall announcing it as the old Star Inn. In 1850 the landlord of the Inn was Edward Ransby who continued as licensee until it was taken over by his wife Ellen Ransby. Well, there are a number of Ransbys in Bawdsey at the time so this is not totally clear without delving deeper.

The Star Inn Bawdsey now a Residence

The name Ransby comes up again in my surface surfing in the account of the tragic death of a Rose Anne Sare. She was picking up coprolites in 1846, with two other girls, below the cliff on the Beach at Bawdsey. Coprolites are fossilised remains used for manure. The three girls, Sare, Emma Ransby and Maria Wilson were being paid a shilling a bushel (about 36 litres) for the coprolites. Unfortunately, the cliff above where Rose was working, gave way covering and suffocating the girl. The inquest was held at the Star Inn, then owned by Francis Robinson. It heard that her father was working in the fields for Edward Cavell at the time of the cliff fall. Edward Cavell was the great uncle of Edith Cavell who was shot by the Germans in 1915. Edith was a Norfolk lass who was born 6 miles south of Norwich in Swardeston.

Included in Kellys’ directory for Bawdsey is the Life Boat Public House which once was located in Shingle Street. I am not sure why Shingle Street is included in Kellys under Bawdsey because it is currently in the Parish of Hollesley. I assume a redrawing of the Parish Boundaries moved Shingle Street from Bawdsey Parish.

The Life Boat inn was some where here in Shingle Street. Shown are the coast guards cottages with the Martello Tower in the background.

Like Ramsholt, Shingle Street is a very small community. It is just a few houses, but at one time it was ‘thriving’ community with fishermen, coast guards and their families. In the last century, the easiest way to get to Shingle Street was by boat The hamlet was at the entrance (mouth) of the river Ore. A storm redrew the river mouth so that it moved further north leaving a couple of shingle banks to show the original line. The community of Shingle Street started late with a small pilot’s hut being built about 1800. This must have been followed by the Martello towers and other buildings. The Martello towers were built about 1820. The first drinking place was the ‘Old Beach House’ replaced by the Life Boat Inn. The Life Boat Inn was built in sections in Ipswich by Cobbold, the local brewery company, and then taken by barge to Shingle Street where it was erected about 1810. By 1900 it was run by Samuel Langmaid.

In the second world war, a lot of the coast was turned over to the military and Shingle Street was evacuated with just a days notice. The whole of the beach was mined and the hamlet fenced off with barbed wire. Barnes Wallace, of Dambusters fame, decided to test one of his experimental bombs aimed at the Pub and some cottages. It was obviously very effective because when the inhabitants were allowed back to Shingle Street the pub was gone. I am not able to get a picture of the Life Boat Inn but the photograph shows where it could have been. Now there are just a few cottages on the landward side of the shingle bank.

As the crow flies Shingle Street would be a shortish walk from Hollesley. Before the road was built the only way to get to the place was either across the marshes or up the beach from Bawdsey. Now there is a road that crosses the creek which flows from the river Ore in the north of the hamlet to the Martello tower in the south. If it joined up with the sea then Shingle Street would be an Island.

Hollesley is the biggest village on the Peninsula and one of only two villages with a shop. At one time it had two pubs. The Shepherd and Dog and the Fox. The Fox closed in 1996 leaving just the Shepherd to the quench the thirsty walkers who pass through the village. The pub is a bit of a music pub and has a good menu. It is our favourite destination if we walk east out of Shottisham. It used to have ‘happy hour’ from 1 pm on a Saturday with a double for the same price as a single. After a couple of double gins at lunchtime, it was an easier walk back, if a little slower.

The Old Fox Inn in Hollesley. It appears to have cellar doors next to the door shown for the beer barrels.

The Shepherd and Dog was first granted its licence in 1843; I believe as a beerhouse. In 1900 Kelly’s directory shows it as run by Mary Ann Middleditch part of the Middleditch family who also had a shop and a carrier business. She was shown as a beer retailer so it was still a beerhouse in the early part of this century.

In 1900 the Fox Inn was run by George R Balls, shown as a licence victuller so he had a full licence. The first licencing record shows the licence being granted in 1853 although it was probably a pub before then. The road in which it is on is known as Fox Hill and is part of the road into the village from Alderton. It is a bit on the edge of the modern village and is a listed building.

A little way up from Hollesley is Boyton. Boyton is a small community with 147 souls at the last census, a church and not much else. Like Hollesley it is close to the coast which is across the River Ore and the seaward bank that creates the river at this point. The village did have a pub which closed in the 1990s and I am not able to get a picture although this URL shows you what it looked like at some point in the past.

Although the community is small it had a hundred more people in 1844 with a brick works. Clay and coprolites were mined. In 1900 the landlord of the Bell was Walter Green shown as publican in the 1901 census.

Before we finally reach Shottisham we take a detour to Ramsholt. A previous post covered the village and its pubs. It is repeated here with changes.

The land below Ramsholt Church is full of streams some of which flow into a creek like watercourse. We assume this was the stream that seamen once rowed up to the well by the pub, The Anchor, to get fresh water. The pub no longer exits like the rest of the old village. The licence was moved to a building above the dock in about 1820 which was called The Dock Inn. In the early part of last century, the licence was moved again to the current location The Ramsholt Arms. The current pub started life as a Hotel in the 1920s when the holiday trade started. Robert Simper in his book, The River Deben, has a photo of the Ramsholt Arms in 1908 with shelters. These were built to serve tea to people who came by horse and cart.

The predecessor of the Ramsholt Arms, the Dock Inn, was shown in the 1865 Post Office directory as run by a John Pooley. There were only 4 other buinesses in Ramsholt at that time, three farmers and a coal merchant, Samuel Page. It was a small place even then with only 180 souls reported in the 1861 census.

And finally to Shottisham. We have covered the lost pub in Shottisham. Extracts from the original article is repeated here.

At least one house In Shottisham has two previous uses. The Old Police House. It was an ‘Ale House’ before it became the Police House. It was pointed out to me that the Police House front door is wider than normal and you can see this as you pass by. Apparently, this width was used to get large barrels into the alehouse, not very large policemen.

With the Ale House and The Sorrel Horse pub, the village had two drinking establishments. In 1851 the village had 372 souls, up from 161 in 1801. That number of people, mostly agricultural workers, could support two pubs. In Whites directory of 1855, the village was shown to have two ‘landlords’, Joseph Laws, shoemaker and beer-house and Sus Manthorpe, victualler of the Sorrel Horse. I expect Joseph had the alehouse and did a bit of shoe mending on the side. In 1896 (Kelly’s directory) the village was recorded as having a bobby. My assumption is that the Police House was not an alehouse by that time. It may have been the licensing law changes in 1869 that put paid to the alehouse. Joseph had moved to Birmingham by 1861 and his occupation recorded then was Boot and Shoemaker.

Not sure how many people survive in this village now, but this would have reduced from the 2011 census number of 197 with more houses being turned over to holiday rentals or weekend cottages. There has also been quite a bit of amalgamation of multiple small dwellings into one property.

We now just have the Sorrel Horse to drink in. I spoke to a previous landlady and landlord who were both visiting from Dorset. Interestingly they had both managed the pub at a similar time but not at the same time. There were not married to each other then. I asked them if the pub had changed since their time, the early 1990’s. They responded ‘well they have changed the fire’. They obviously did not take a close look at the thatch. Whenever I see an old picture of the inside of the pub it does not look very different to now. I just love the fact that it is so unspoilt although I did notice a review once that said ‘yeah the pub is OK but it looks like it has not changed since the 60’s’.

Lost pubs are not a thing that is confined to the Peninsula. Changing lifestyles have made a trip to the pub a bit if a treat, mostly, rather than a habit. Pubs have changed. When I was young all you could get was a a roll or a pork pie, crisps, nuts and later pork scratchings. In London you could get an arrowroot biscuit to feed to your kids who were made to wait outside whilst mum and dad got drunk. Also the jellied eel and seafood stall was often kept outside by some enterprising local. Now pubs can have Michelin stars and three months waiting lists for a table.

About 25% of pubs have closed since 2001. Hopefully with more communities aware of the need for at least one pub in their villages then more effort will stop the ‘last’ pub in a village closing. According to one report, 2010 was the first year that food sales overtook drink sales in pubs generally. However for a pub to be a ‘pub’ it must have a welcome to ‘just drinkers’ as well as diners. How many pubs have you been in where the welcome was to diners rather than people just wanting a drink. Sometimes, in summer, when we go into certain pubs on the Peninsula we find that all available tables are set out with cutlery and napkins often all with reserved notices. Just remember landlords when the tourists are gone the locals are providing your trade.

2 thoughts on “The Peninsula’s Lost Pubs

  1. Shingle Street is still part of Bawdsey Parish. The original route to it was along the sea wall path from East Lane. With the road from Hollesley now linking it to SS, the outer reach of Hollesley Parish is at the concrete parking area just before the Coastguard Cottages. Beyond that is Bawdsey Parish.

    Liked by 1 person

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