High Street Pubs
Cheshunt High Street
By Nicholas Blatchley
There’s now only one pub in Cheshunt High Street, the Old Anchor, but at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, there were eight (though another survivor, the Old English Gentleman in Turners Hill, effectively serves the southern end of the High Street). Their histories can be traced through the various documents I’ve used to study the High Street’s history, but I’ve also had the help of the pubshistory.com website. The Cheshunt section can be found on http://pubshistory.com/HertsPubs/Cheshunt/index.shtml. Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses: an historical gazetteer by Graham Joliffe & Arthur Jones was also very useful.
One curious detail is that two of the eight pubs, the Ship and the Anchor, had nautical names in a town not known for its seafaring tradition (and we could maybe add the Lord Nelson to those). This may be chance, but it’s possible that there’s a connection with a nearby house, Effingham Place. This was demolished early in the 20th century, but in the 16th century it was presented to a Captain Bellamy by Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of England and commander of the fleet that defeated the Armada. Maybe the pub names reflect a tribute to his connection with the High Street.
Travelling south to north, the pubs are:
The Haunch of Venison
This pub, with its characteristic sign showing two satyrs carrying a huge haunch of venison between them, dates from the 17th century, and was a venue for theatrical productions in the 18th century. In 1669, the name is recorded as the Vine and Castle, but when John Miller, a Cheshunt butcher, acquired it in 1701, he changed it first to the Shoulder of Mutton, then to the Haunch of Venison.
In 1791, it was owned by the brewer William Whittingstall, while in the 1842 Tithe Award it’s listed (almost certainly by mistake) as the Haunch and Venison, and the licensee is given as Benjamin Whittlebury, although he’s elsewhere named Whittenbury. By 1851, the licence had been taken over by John Richler. Both, incidentally, were described as “victuallers” rather than “beer shop keepers”.
Licensees in the later 19th century included Robert Sadd, James Palmer and Mary Payne. By 1908, it had come into the hands of Jacob Frost, and he’s given as the licensee both in the 1911 census and in the land Tax records.
In 1842, the pub was already owned by the Hoddesdon brewery Christie & Cathrow, and Christie’s continued to run it into the 20th century. In the 1960s, when I first remember it, it was being run by Ind Coope.
The pub was rebuilt in 1936, and it even survived the indignity in the 1990s of being renamed “The Boozer” (presumably by someone who’d had their soul surgically removed). In 1994 it reverted to its original name and signboard, but was demolished in 1999 to make way for flats.
The Woolpack, one of two remaining pubs when it succumbed to the developers only a year or two ago, is first recorded in 1756, when Elizabeth Bean ran it, and next under Thomas Docwra in 1826. In 1839, John Darton was the licensee, while three years later the 1842 Tithe Award gives Sarah Darton. I haven’t been able to find precise details about the Dartons, but records suggest that she was thirty years younger than him, so more likely to be his daughter than his widow. The pub then passed quickly through the hands of William Farr, James Kemp, John Anderson and John Smith, to spend the rest of the 19th century in the hands of Charles Ayles and his daughter Mary Ann.
The Woolpack was rebuilt in 1911, and in that year’s census it was in the hands of Frederick Donaldson Gibbs. The Land Tax records give the occupant as “Ayles”, but this is almost certainly a reference to the previous licensee, and a trade directory in 1914 names the licensee as Charles Bowen.
The Woolpack was owned by Meux & Co, the brewing family who owned Theobalds Park. By the early 1970s, when I began taking note, all the High Street pubs were either McMullen or Ind Coope, but I can’t remember which the Woolpack was.
The Horse & Groom
Based on vague memories and pictures I’ve seen of it, the Horse & Groom was a rather dingy pub a little north of Cadmore Lane. This opened slightly later, the first reference to a landlord being in 1861. That was Charles Eastwick, and licensees came and went regularly through the later 19th and early 20th centuries, the only one to last very long being Samuel Scott (before 1881 to after 1895).
In the 1911 census, it was in the hands of Harry King (though the 1912 Kelly’s Directory is rather grander, calling him Harry William George King). William B. Hart took it through the war, and from the 1920s it was run by the Freeborn family.
In the Land Tax documents, the pub is owned by Hatfield brewery Pryor Reid & Co. This was subsequently bought up by Benskins, and a picture from the 1940s shows it as a Benskins pub, with the name J. Freeborn over the door.
The Horse & Groom was demolished in the early 1960s as part of the redevelopment of the High Street, and its site is now part of an estate of maisonettes.
The Ship Inn
Although it was demolished about the same time as the Horse & Groom, I have much clearer memories of the Ship. Not that I ever went inside (I was still in single figures) but I used to walk past it and was fascinated by the swirling bottle glass in the windows.
The Ship dates from the 17th century; it isn’t mentioned in the Tithe Award, but a daily passenger coach service ran from it to London. The licensee in 1842 would have been either Robert Parrott or George Acton. In 1851, it was run by Benjamin Coomes or Coombs (both spellings are used) but for most of the rest of the century it was in the hands of first Henry Harvey, then his widow Mary. As we’ll see later, it was surprisingly common for widows to take over their husbands’ licences, and some appeared to be highly effective at running pubs.
In the 1911 census, when the licensee was William David Nicholson (whose occupation is given as “Time Keeper”, with his wife Alice as “Time Keeper Assistant”) it’s described as the Ship Hotel. In a photograph (undated, but all traffic is horse drawn) the pub sign calls it the Ship Inn, while a plaque on the side of the building says the Ship Hotel, so it seems that the names were used in parallel for a while.
The Ship appears to have been a Christie pub, and in a 1948 picture the sign proclaims it as belonging to Taylor Walker. Like the Horse & Groom, the Ship Inn and its fascinating windows made way in the early 1960s for blocks of maisonettes.
The Red Lion
I have vague memories of this building from the early 1960s, although it wasn’t functioning as a pub by then. I haven’t been able to find details of how old it was, but the architecture shown in surviving pictures suggests that it was an old coaching inn.
Through the early part of the 19th century, the licensee was one John Medcalf, but by 1842 and 1851 it was in the hands of (variously) Susannah Metcalf, Susan Medcalf or Susannah Medcalf. I think it’s safe to assume that these were all the same person, possibly John’s daughter, unless she was his very much younger widow.
By 1851, it was occupied by William Sadd, and then a series of licensees up till 1890, when the licensee is record as Mrs Mahalah Thomas. After her death after 1902, a series of short-lived occupants were succeeded by her son Frederick Thomas, who was there by the 1911, where for some reason the pub is listed just as the Lion.
The Thomases are an intriguing family. Successive censuses suggest that at least five siblings were living there, ranging in ages in 1911 from 47 to 70, and all single — all except the seventy-year-old Albert, whose wife never appears on any census, although he’s listed as married, not widower. Curious.
The last date a licensee is recorded (still Frederick Thomas) is 1922, and it’s possible that this is when it ceased to be a pub, though I can’t find any specific record of this. The building became a private home, and was demolished in the 1960s, along with a row of cottages, to be replaced by The White House, supported flats for the elderly that stand further back from the road than the original buildings.
There was a story going around at the time, which I’ve been unable to substantiate, that “treasure” was found under the floorboards of the Red Lion when it was demolished. If it’s true at all, this was doubtless exaggerated — perhaps what was found was an old sock-full of money.
The (Old) Anchor
The High Street’s one surviving pub, the Anchor (now known as the Old Anchor) is notable for the whitewashed building and the large, freestanding anchor erected beside the building. This is said to have come from Milford Haven and was installed in 1968. The pub is first mentioned in 1785, when it was run by Francis Morland. It doesn’t figure in the Tithe Award, but William Miller, a beer shop owner recorded in both the 1851 census and the Kelly’s Directory the same year, appears to have been its landlord since at least 1838.
Through the 1860s and 1870s, it was run by William Norris, and then, for the rest of the century, by Charles Clark. By the 1911 census, his widow Mary Ann Clark had taken it over, and she remained in charge until around 1930, after which it passed to her daughter, Annie Sharpe.
The Anchor has been owned by McMullens since 1892, and is currently the only pub open on the High Street.
The Lord Nelson
The Lord Nelson stood not far from the Anchor, probably just on the other side of Mill Lane. It isn’t mentioned in the Tithe Award, and the earliest reference I can find to it is in the 1851 census. Although it seems more logical that it would have been named around the time of Trafalgar, no doubts pubs continued to be named after Nelson for some time afterwards, and the name may have been influenced by the nearby Anchor.
For most of its lifetime, the pub seems to have been in the hands of the Govey family, beginning with James Govey in the 1851 census, listed as a beer shop keeper and shoe maker — the same year’s Kelly’s Directory lists him only as a shoemaker. This isn’t unusual, since beer house keepers frequently seemed to have doubled up in other occupations.
The pub was taken over by his son, James Thomas Govey (curiously, after a few years run by James junior’s father-in-law, Humphrey Spanton) and by 1911 his widow Ellen Govey not only owned and ran the Lord Nelson, but also owned a number of the nearby houses. Although it’s difficult to know for sure, it’s tempting to visualise Ellen Govey and Mary Ann Clark of the Anchor as two formidable widows dominating the neighbourhood.
By 1917, the licensee was John Young, and the last record of the pub is in 1926. It certainly wasn’t there by the 1960s, when the site it probably stood on was occupied by a garage. There are now modern flats there. Unfortunately, I could find no picture of the Lord Nelson for this article.
The Two Brewers
The Two Brewers stood roughly opposite the Lord Nelson, in the row of cottages just to the north of Brookfield Lane. A photo from 1905 shows a small, cottage-like pub with a McMullens sign over the door.
The pub isn’t mentioned in the Tithe Award, although other records show that the landlord at the time was Thomas Munt. By 1851, it had been taken over by Ann Noyes, a relatively young widow. She remarried in 1856 to a man called John Vigus, but the marriage was unsuccessful. In February 1858, Vigus was arrested for violent assault both on his wife and a police constable who went to her assistance.
Ann apparently refused to give evidence against her husband, who was only convicted of assaulting the constable, but the following year, “Ann Vigus, the keeper of the Two Brewers beershop, Cheshunt-street, and whose husband (John Vigus) descried her in August, applied for an order for the protection of her property against her husband, should he at any time return. The Magistrates made the necessary order.”
Ann died only two years later, aged only 46 or 47, though the cause isn’t recorded. The licence was briefly taken over by her daughter, and then passed to Joseph Loynes, George Cant and Charles Cleaver. The last record is in 1901, where the Two Brewers is given as the residence of Jane Taylor, described as an “Inn Dining Room Waiter”, and it doesn’t figure at all in the 1911 census.
Part of that row was demolished around the time of World War 2, with Anderson shelters being built in front of a row of houses standing back, in addition to Carlton Road, while the remainder, including the part where the pub had stood, was demolished in the 1960s/1970s clear-out. The Two Brewers, though, was long gone by then.