Category Archives: Pubs and restaurants

The Hand and Crown

h&c website pic 2014

Within High Wych ecclesiastical parish but also within the civic borders of Sawbridgeworth stands the Hand and Crown. Legend has it that it is the oldest Inn in Hertfordshire. The sign of the hand and crown points to falconry being practiced. Indeed, pockets of land around Sawbridgeworth including Pishiobury and the Manor of Groves were donated by King Henry VIII to his then wife Anne Boleyn and Henry was an avid falconer. That however is as far as it goes and there is no actual documentary proof of this to be found in the archives. Neither Chauncy’s three volume history of Hertfordshire of 1720 nor Edward Cussans’ similar tomes of 1870 mention the place by name.

Two more recent books, a royal commission report on the historical monuments of Hertfordshire from 1911 and Page’s Victorian County History for Herts, published one year later confirm the H&C as having been built in the fifteen hundreds. Page even put a nice picture next to its write up. See below.

h&C image.from pages victorian county historyRecently an interesting document came my way: an essay written in 1955 by Janet Needham, the 13 year old daughter of the then landlord Percy Needham. You cannot expect historical accuracy from such writing of course but it did provide a unique insight. Let me quote or rather paraphrase: “In the early seventeen hundreds Queen Anne came to visit the H&C. She stayed in what is now known as ‘Queen Anne’s Room’ or in short ‘Annie’s Room’. Shortly before this visit, the house had been converted from a farm into a coaching inn. Annie’s room has a lovely fire place with the coat of arms, and with a priest-hole beside it. Opposite is the prie-dieu. During the Reformation an altar would have been placed in here, with candles and a cross, for worship.”

A 13yr olds Description of The Hand & Crown 1None of this of course amounts to real and definite proof of the actual age of the Hand and Crown be it the building or the Inn. For that we have to go to the archives where we find a document dated 3rd October 1724. It is a settlement made out on the marriage of Edward Bussey (the younger) and his bride Ann Ford by Edward Bussey of Little Bookham Surrey, father of the groom and Nathaniel Ford, father of the bride. It concerns a house and land referred to as “Garlick’s Close” otherwise Cook’s Croft on Pissers Street (Pishiobury?) Sawbridgeworth. The property was bought from Messrs Peter Snow and William Hodsell. Ownership from date of the document was held by the respective parents until their deaths when it would pass to the young couple. From that I presume the house and land were a wedding gift from the parents on either side. There is no mention of the premises being used as an Inn. The “Hand and Crown” name only starts being used in the early eighteen hundreds.

1724 H&C settlement small

In 1847 the Hand and Crown was sold at auction. In 1861 ownership passed to Messrs Hawkes of Bishops Stortford, a brewery of reknown at the time. Hawkes became Benskins, Benskins became Ind Coope, Ind Coope became Allied Breweries.  The photograph below dates from 1877 and was given to me by Jenny Scott. Jenny Scott is related to the Hawkes . William Hawkes  lived at Falconers (sometimes spelt Faulkners) just opposite the Hand and Crown which of course served Hawkes beer.

Hand  Crown 1877 sDuring the tenure of the Needhams at the H&C, the son of the family found some items either in the priest hole or the altar recess. There was a “French Docket”, some foreign coins and an “engraving” mentioning ”Turlington Balsam of Life” This was a semi medicinal concoction for sale between 1744 and the early 1900s. Turlington bottles were and are collector’s items. The paper probably was a booklet or brochure advertising the balsam and published in the 1750s. It was donated “to the Key Glass Factory in Edinburgh Way for their Museum of Glass”.
1847 auction 6    turlingtons balsam brochures

Landlords at the H&C in the eighteen hundreds were Nathaniel Harrington, John Palmer, Edward Crisp, Joseph Wybrew, Daniel Cakebread, Robert Christian, George Baldock and William Burridge. In 1905 Edward Charles (Charlie) Nottage took over. Charlie Nottage and his wife Sarah (Sally) took over the Hand and Crown. The Nottages had three daughters, Martha, Bessie and Frankie and a son, Richard Charles who died age 13 in 1913. In the first world war, the three daughters all joined the VAD, as explained elsewhere.

H&C Landlady Sally Nottage 1905-1943    H&C Charley and  Sally Nottage 1905-1943

Charlie and Sally managed the Hand and Crown on their own until the mid twenties when they were joined by Bessie, now surnamed Chadwick and Frankie aka Em. Bessie had three children, Richard, Peter and Sally. Frankie did not marry.  Bessie’s daughter Sally now takes up the story.
“I was born in October 1926 in a backroom of the pub. The midwife who delivered me was “Grannie Springham” then living in one of the pink cottages on the Green. Grannie Springham used to lay people out and also was a midwife. She was about to retire in 1926 but promised my mother to deliver me as her last ever job.

Hand & Crown 2 (2)Growing up in a pub had its attractions. With our father absent Granddad was the head of our family. He was strict. Twice on Sunday we went to church. We also needed to be silent during meals as “talking gives you indigestion”. Granddad smoked a pipe and kept chickens, turkeys and ducks. One duck was a particular favourite. Joey, we called the bird. When Granddad went to the outside toilet he used to hand Joey his pipe who then kept it in his beak and stood guard outside. Thus the animal was saved from the pot.
Every week the brewers would come with a cart and two beautiful horses. The men wore leather aprons and wheeled the barrels in the yard and from there into the cellar. Once a year there was the hunt with the men all dressed up in their red jackets and the women in black. It was a very impressive sight.”Hand & Crown c1929 sOne “regular” who used to visit the Hand and Crown in the late thirties was Tamara Desni, aka Brodsky a German born actress. She was probably best known for appearing with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in the historical epic Fire over England. Her husband at the time (she married four times!) was the director Bill Gillett and they lived in the Thatched Cottage (H.W. Lane).

In the late forties, early fifties cycling clubs started calling at the H&C. The first cyclist to come was a man from Leytonstone who turned up one day and asked for food. The Hand and Crown did not cater at that point. “I don’t drink tea” the man said, “I drink cocoa”. Mother Bessie served him a jug of cocoa, bread and butter, cake and jam which was all homemade. A week later the man turned up with a friend. More would come, 20, 30 of them. They were served dinner including pudding at half a crown and tea with scones etc at one and threepence. In the minds of many the Hand and Crown is still associated with cyclists sitting outside the pub in the sunshine having a drink and a rest.

Charlie Nottage died in 1940. Sally continued on her own for a while with the assistance of her two daughters, Bessie in the kitchen and Frankie behind the bar. During the second world war seven soldiers were billeted in the Hand and Crown. In 1943 Frankie took over as landlady. She carried on until 1955 when Percy and Jessie Needham took over.

The Needhams had previously been Landlord and Landlady at the John Barleycorn Inn in Threshers Bush near Harlow, for five and a half years. They had two daughters, Janet and Margaret, and a son, Graham. Sadly Graham died in 1993 age 59yrs.

Having installed Percy and Jessie as landlord and landlady, Benskins Brewery set about an extensive refurbishment programme. Jessie proved a worthy successor to Bessie Nottage and extended the catering. Food was now on offer every single day. Cycling clubs continued to use the Hand and Crown as a favoured stopover point. Workers at the Edinburgh Way Industrial estates discovered the attractions of the Sausage sandwiches and other culinary delights. Soon the pub was buzzing at lunchtime. In 1957 Benskins was sold to Ind Coope, but this made little difference to the day to day running of the place.

Hand & Crown Mary & Joe Mascall s

Mary and Joe Mascall’s golden wedding

Annie’s room was occasionally used for special celebrations. Mary and Joe Mascall celebrated their golden wedding there in the 1950s. On the below picture you can see quite a lot of locals from Hand Terrace and beyond. The Randalls, the Bardwells and the Searles can all be seen as can a regular John White. Host Percy Needham in all his glory stands on the right, Jessie stands in the middle of the back row.

Hand & Crown & High Wych Youth c1960 s

 The ‘High Wych Gang” in the late 50s

The room was also used by the High Wych Gang” (youth club) in the late 50s That Club in its various guises was an important feature in the sixties, seventies and even eighties. Led by (uncle) Stan Oakley, the High Wych Gang, performed plays, concerts sketches and pantomimes such as Cinderella. I wrote about these earlier on. Solid friendships and even marriages resulted from Club meetings. Reunions continued for many years and I am told one such meeting is being planned right now.
In December 28th 1963 Janet Needham married John Springham. “I got ready over the road at Falconers. Mrs Davies who lived there then kindly let my bridesmaids and I change in her house for more space and privacy! As our wedding car was waiting I met my father with whom I would set off to St. James’s Church up the road. We were both rather nervous so decided to have a quick drink for courage I had a brandy and milk and dad had a scotch. Bert Helmer and his wife stayed on to look after the pub whilst we were away at church. Another, more unhappy, situation had also arisen. Just before Christmas and whilst serving in the bar Mum tripped over my father’s foot and fractured her skull. She was in Haymeads Hospital, Bishop Stortford. She insisted that the marriage should still take place so after the service a friend drove me, my new husband John and four of our five bridesmaids to Stortford. We entered the ward armed with my bouquet, which I gave Mum, and a bottle of champagne. The patients and nursing staff all clapped and cheered!

Percy Needham passed away in 1967. He had been a very popular landlord. Jessie then continued on her own. She did well but retired in the early seventies. For a short spell she lived at Mulberry Green Harlow, and also at Actons. After that she moved to join her daughter and son-in-law John in Cornwall. She missed her friends though and moved back to a ground floor flat in Ware. She passed away in 1994 aged 84.

Between the seventies and the nineties, when current owners Bill and Jackie White took over, a number of companies owned the Hand and Crown. Forgive me if I cannot mention them all or reconstruct what happened when. Amongst them were Ind Coope, Allied Breweries, Brent Walker, Pub Masters and Punch Taverns. Managers during that time were Ken Marriage, Kevin Green, Peter de Sauvry and Daphne Lampard.
Bill and Jackie started out in 1992, initially as managers but in 2009 they bought the freehold. During that period the H&C also changed from a place for drinking to a gastropub. Over the years a number of VIPs found their way there. Kenny Ball was one as was Rod Stewart and the boys from Blue, one of which lived just down the road. When the Beckhams threw a pre world cup party in 2006, Jenson Button, one of the guests came to the H&C for a bite and a drink.

2014 H&C interior

The Hand and Crown’s interior as it is now.
One intriguing aspect of the H&C is the presence of a tunnel starting underneath the present kitchen in easterly direction towards the house named Falconers. What the purpose of the tunnel was is not known. One possibility is the transport of barrels of beer from Falconers to the pub. After all William Hawkes, one of the founding fathers of that brewing dynasty lived at Falconers from the 1850s to the 1880s. They very possibly did brew beer on the premises. Another possibility is tied to the fact that Falconers had (or still has?) an underground water cistern, so the tunnel may have been used to pump water between the two houses.
Nowadays the Hand and Crown is under the management of Andy Wolohan. Bill and Jackie White are in the process of slowing down and do not live locally anymore. The food is still good and appreciated by many.

Thanks this time go to Sally Elkins (nee Chadwick), Jenny Scott, Janet Springham (nee Needham) Jackie and Phil White, Eric Willison, and Andy Wolohan. Information was also found in Wikipedia and at HALS. The Hand and Crown website can be found at :  http://www.handandcrown.co.uk/

The (Rising) Sun High Wych 1834

1834 1230  herts mercury rising sun for sale

Hello,

Recently I came across an advert from the Herts Mercury, published  in their edition of 30th December 1834.  See above. It tells us that the “well known public house called the Sun together a grocer’s shop” plus a homestead, 7 acres of land and six capital cottages will be auctioned following the bankruptcy of Joseph  Rivers.

A number of questions can now be asked:                                                         1. who was Joseph Rivers?  Was he perhaps related to the Rivers family from the nursery of the same name?                                                      2. Who bought the Sun – Rising  Sun and who became landlords?

It may very well be that I will have to rewrite my Rising Sun article as a result of this find.  I will definitely have to do some extra research. Meanwhile, does anybody have any ideas?

Let me know.  You can do so through the comment function (which now once again works) or through e-mail.

Regards,  Theo

The Rising Sun Leek competition

rising sun  leek competition ltr nigel rivers, fred kempthorne, unknown

Isn’t this a jolly picture?  And aren’t these leeks fine specimens?           From left to right you see Nigel Rivers, Fred Kempthorne, Sid Puncher and an unknown. Picture taken at the climax of  a gardening competition sponsored by High Wych’s famous hostelry.  I would date the scene some time in the mid eighties. Can anybody tell me more?

8 – The Half Moon – Chandini

On the twentieth of January 1702, in the fifth year of the reign of Queen Anne, Lawrence Michael Martin of Roydon sold the Half Moon Inn to William Russell of “High Whites”. See reproduced indenture below. Three hundred and eleven years and three weeks later, on Wednesday the thirteenth of February, some of us were invited to the opening of the Chandini Restaurant, now standing at the same place on our Village Green. Fine Indian Cuisine is now served there. Forgive me if I get a little bit nostalgic.

43129 r contrast small

Whether Martin and Russell served ales themselves I have been unable to ascertain. What I did find is that in 1765 Daniel Haddon and Mary Lawrence sold the Moon on to Andrew Sharpe. Interestingly Andrew’s daughter Elisabeth then married Thomas Rivers the second, yes the one from the Nursery of that name. Another indenture, this one dated 16th April 1805 shows how Rivers together with his brother in law sold the Moon on to a William Beldam. Beldam must have acted on behalf of Hawkes and Hawkes brewers from Bishops Stortford. This is in fact confirmed in W. Branch Johnson’s book on Hertfordshire Inns. Other signees of the 1805 document were William Woodham and Thomas Bird. In 1898 Hawkes sold out to Benskins who in turn sold out to Ind Coope in 1957. 

However, owning a pub did not mean actually serving the pints. The earliest actual Half Moon licensee on the annual “”Victuallers Recognizances” and one who served from 1806 to 1826 was William Prior. Upon Prior’s death in 1828 the Hertfordshire Mercury wrote that “aged upwards of 70, he left a numerous family to deplore his loss”. Prior was followed by Thomas Dalton and James Glyn, The Glyns and the Daltons intermarried. Ann Dalton was James Glyn’s sister in law. John Dalton, whilst living at the Half Moon, also worked as a cobbler.

hw undated The Half Moon ew manip

The Half Moon in the early 20th century

Other licensees were William Wybrew from 1861 to 1871, Alfred Gatwood around 1886,  George Powe in 1891, Henry Miles in 1894, George Holden in 1901 and  Thomas Pither in 1908. Archibald Blair stood at the taps from 1911 until 1929. He was followed by Herbert Nelson Smith who was there from the early thirties until at least the end of the second world war.

After the second world war the Helmer family (Bert and Joan) took over. Herbert Smith was in fact Joan Helmer’s stepfather. Bert’s tenure did not last long and he was followed by William and Kathy Bury and their son, young Bill, one of the sources for this article.

55 bill bury sr and his daughter in law daisy at the half moon in the fifitiesBill Bury Sr. and his daughter in law Daisy at the Half Moon in the 1950s

One local many still remember from that time is Buke (real name Arthur Mascall) who lived along High Wych Lane in a house that only got electricity and plumbing in 1973. Usually dressed in a rather “informal way”, he was often seen wandering about with a three wheeled cart in which he kept the vegetables he sold.  I have it confirmed from two independent  sources that  Buke used to put a gold  sovereign on the counter announcing this should cover his drinks until further notice.  Another regular, Ernie Springham, often played the  concertina, a primitive squeeze box type accordion, or as he called it, his “Tina”. This was not always appreciated by all. I am told that at one point the instrument was sawn in half by irate fellow drinkers!    

55 buke001  hw 52 or so ltr Buke, Frank Prentiss, Len kempthorne001

Buke.                              Buke again plus Frank Prentiss and Len Kempthorne

It was strange that in those days even a small pub such as the Half Moon was divided into a public bar and a saloon. These divisions were very real with people in working clothes not welcome in the saloon.  As it was so small, the Moon was sometimes called “the doll’s house”. There was even talk of a ghost.

The Burys were followed by Dick Askins, who was followed by Peter Walker.  He was in turn followed by Dave and Janet Herring. The Herrings, who did away with the division between public and saloon bars, were in charge from 1982 until 1998.

Rumour has it that during their tenure thieves broke into the cellar through the metal grill and got away with some beer. Access to the cellar was restricted afterwards. What is true is that at some point thieves stole a barrel of “ullage” (beer that had gone bad) from the yard at the back. They probably suffered from stomach pains afterwards!

Jason and Katie Noel managed the Half Moon in the first few years of the 21st century. Jason was a dab at hand interior decorating whilst Katie’s work as a cook is still praised.

According to the CAMRA database the Half Moon Inn closed on 1st March 2009. It did carry on as a restaurant but regrettably stopped serving beer on draught. For most of the time though it stood empty. Until that is, the Mojid family, owners of the Shadona restaurant in Bishops Stortford took over.  The grade II listed building has been restored and refurbished with great respect for its heritage. Entry is once again through the front. At the back an extension dining room has been built which fits in beautifully with the rest of the building. The food is fine; the chef de cuisine was voted chef of the year 2013 in a recent survey of curry houses. High Wych can well do with such a good a restaurant. Still there is that name. Yes, I have been told Chandini or Chand means moon in Hindi, but who speaks Hindi here in High Wych?. Far more importantly however we have a major enterprise at the centre of our community.  That is important. It would be churlish not to wish Jay Mojid, his family and his colleagues all the success in the world.

2013 March chandini smalI     chandini back room small

Fine Indian Dining in High Wych: The Chandini

Thanks this time go to Roger Beeching, Bill Bury, Richard Dixon, Nina Elsdon, Janet and Dave Herring, Lily Mynott, Christopher Mynott  and as always the people at HALS, aka County Archives.  These articles would be impossible without your contributions, your memories, stories and photographs.

3 – Susan, Sid, Steve and Gary: tales of the Rising Sun.

Let me tell you about the Rising Sun, our only remaining village pub. How old is that hostelry? My honest answer is that I do not know. An indenture or document of sale on show at in the pub is dated 1864. County archives have similar documents dated 1827 and 1847. One name mentioned there is that of John Patmore of High Wych another, Daniel Brown of Ware. The latter has a connection with the White Heart Inn, original home of the “Great Bed of Ware” now on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In the 1860s the Tyser family took up residence in the Rising Sun. They described themselves as beer retailers and bakers, a very common combination. The Kelly directories mention James Tyser in 1862 and 1869, Joseph Tyser in  1874, 1878 and 1890, William Tyser in 1895 and finally from 1902 onwards until at least 1919 Susan Tyser. In the 1920s “Baker White” was in charge He may have been the last one to combine bakery with beer retailing. In 1929 William Oakley and his family moved in whilst Fred White remained as baker. In 1943, 14 years later Iris Oakley married Sid Puncher.

hw55 rising sun small

A picture of the Rising Sun from the early fifties. 

That name, Sid Puncher will of course be familiar to many.  Originally he worked for his father’s coal merchants business, occasionally making his cart available to people who were moving house. Upon his marriage to Iris he moved into the Rising Sun. When in 1957 on William Oakley’s death the licence passed to Iris Sid started spending more and more time at the pub particularly helping out with the heavy work of handling the casks. For many years though he carried on doing other jobs such as gardening at the Manor of Groves and driving a school bus for handicapped children. Strange though it seems, Sid Puncher himself never held the licence. Until their retirement in 1987 the licence was held by Iris.

iris and sid009

Iris and Sid in their glory days

By the early 1970s the Rising Sun was one of only a handful of pubs in East Herts and West Essex still serving real ale and the only one to serve it by gravity dispense. I myself can still remember seeing Sid Puncher bend down for every single pint! People travelled for miles to sample his beautifully kept best bitter. So it was no wonder that CAMRA, the campaign for real ale started its local branch in High Wych Village Hall directly opposite the Rising Sun.  Chris Bruton, CAMRA’s national chairman at the time came down for the occasion and Sid provided three firkins of ale which all went.

Sid’s reputation as a character was well deserved. Steve Prior, who took over in 1987 tells me “Sid in later years never turned the outside lights of the pub on. That would only encourage passing trade as they would be people he didn’t know. It was probably more to do with the electric bill as he was renowned for being careful”

Once when the Brewery surveyor was doing an inspection of the premises he asked Sid about the lack of washing facilities as there was no toilet/basin upstairs and just a butler sink by the back door. Sid told him he washed standing at the sink and the draught from the back door dried him off.

iris and sid008

Sid behind the bar – looking around the corner: son John

A few years after taking over the pub Steve was replacing one of the floors upstairs and came down for a lunchtime pint. Sid was in the bar and asked him what he was up to. He then explained that many years previous he had dropped a half crown in the bedroom and it had gone beneath the floorboards. Steve  said he’d keep an eye out. “Sure enough I later found it exactly where he said it would be. I never did give it back and still have it stashed away somewhere.”

A final Sid story from Steve: “After Mrs. Oliver (the village police man’s wife) died I was round at the police house by the school with her son going through some of Jack Oliver’s old bits and pieces. Later when I saw Sid he asked me if we had come across the rabbit nets Jack had confiscated from Sid when he had caught him poaching. That must have been decades previous but he had never forgotten. I think he figured Jack had been using them himself for all those years.”

Steve did make some minor changes to the Rising Sun after Sid Puncher left. The little tables for instance on which the casks rested were heightened so that the barman did not have to bend down so low for every pint.

Nowadays Gary Cunningham, stands behind the taps at the Rising Sun. The interior has changed quite a lot since Sid’s days. One thing however has not changed: the quality of the beer. I can personally vouch for that.  Meanwhile, Sid’s (as it is still called by many) while still features in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide.

On the 2th March 2013 our very own Rising Sun was once again voted CAMRA’s Pub of the year. Brendon Sothcott, that organisation’s branch chairman, came down for the presentation and noted that there were no less than seven different beers on tap. “Amongst the nearly 200 pubs in the areas, there were several outstanding ones but the Rising Sun has once again won the contest by a clear margin”. Twice before the Rising Sun has won the honour, once under the old regime and once in 2009. A happy Gary Cunningham told “Pints of View” CAMRA’s newsletter that he was putting in a kitchen so that “we can do food to compliment the beer, not to turn the place into  a smart restaurant”.

The above article is partially based on Tom Coppack  “Loss of a local legend” published by CAMRA and “the Local” an article from the Herts & Essex Observer from the early eighties.  Articles and photographs were supplied by Celia Puncher (Sid and Iris’s daughter) and as mentioned, the editors of “Pints of View”. Stephen Prior provided those wonderful stories.

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The Rising Sun today