History of Cranham's first pubs (part 1)

The Claydon family and their horse-drawn wagon outside The Thatched House in the early 1900s

The Thatched House in the early 1900s. The Claydon family standing outside the beer-house ran it for over 50 years. - Credit: Oliff family

There is a paucity of evidence mentioning any public houses in Cranham prior to the 1840s, although a sale notification in the Chelmsford Chronicle dated March 26, 1784, alludes to “Mr. Joseph Cooper, leaving his farm in the parish of Cranham, near to the sign of the Robin Hood".

Cooper’s estate was to the north of Cranham in the tiny hamlet once known as Coombe Green and it overlapped into Great Warley.

During the 18th century it was commonplace for farms to undertake brewing and mention was made in the sale particulars of Cooper’s farm of brewing equipment.

The Beer Act of 1830 brought about a nationwide proliferation of new premises selling beer, but it was not until the 1840s that records of Cranham’s public houses start to appear. White’s 1848 Directory lists two – Thomas Fenn and Joseph Foster (also Forster).

During the 1840s Thomas Fenn, a tenant farmer to Sarah Lloyd, was running a Beer-house from Bedlam’s Farm, on the west side of Front Lane. On May 13, 1847 he was fined 20s plus costs at Brentwood Petty Assizes, for allowing his beer-shop to remain open late.


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At this time Bedlams consisted of a farmhouse with an additional range of buildings, forming an inverted L shape, but it is not known how these were configured. The latter of these is of interest because Forster owned land and premises in Coombe Green, on the south side of Warley Road at the junction with Folkes Lane (now Beredens Lane).

Perhaps this was the site of the Robin Hood, although no subsequent records allude to a public house situated there. In 1852 James Gates purchased Kent’s Cottages in Lower Road (now St Mary’s Lane) from Richard Borham for £75.

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Borham, an illegitimate son of Robert Kent and Charlotte Borham, had inherited these from his father when he died in 1829.

Gates had married Charlotte in 1831 and hence was Richard’s step-father. He subsequently demolished the row of terraced cottages and replaced them with a beer-house, installing Henry Kent as the landlord.

The Plough beer-house which previously stood on the site of Plough Rise.

The Plough beer-house which previously stood on the site of Plough Rise. - Credit: Andy Grant

In 1857 Gates sold the premises for £600 to Samuel and R.G Frances. This public house later became known as the Thatched House.

James Gates had seen another development opportunity in 1857 when Sarah Lloyd died. Bedlam’s Farm was put up for sale, which included the beer-house run by Thomas Fenn. Gates bought it from her trustees for £755 and became its publican, obtaining a licence in the same year.

Thus, it might be noted he became inextricably linked to both of Cranham’s licensed premises.

Within a short space of time Gates set about redeveloping Bedlams. A new beer-house and cottages were built on the open fields opposite Bedlams. This beer-house later became known as the Plough.

In September 1860, the first mention by name of the Jobbers Rest is recorded, when John Kent unsuccessfully applies to Brentwood Assizes for a licence.

George Rowe had bought Cranham Workhouse in Lower Road (now St Mary’s Lane) on December 15, 1836 for the sum of £205, converting it into four tenements for local farm workers.

Rowe died on December 26, 1859, leaving the tenements to his son, Alfred, although probate was not granted in respect of this until February 7, 1861.

It would appear that during the interim, the executors of the will had permitted conversion of the tenements to include a beer shop at its western end.

In April that year James Gates Junior is recorded as the beer-house keeper at the premises, although by 1866 he has been replaced by John Philpot.

In February 1862, Alfred Rowe offered the premises for sale. Described as Cranham Cottages, for a few years before it had been a lucrative beer-shop let to Messrs. Fielder & Wright, Brewers of Brentwood, for a rent of £22. It was added that for a moderate outlay the premises could be altered in order to secure a spirits licence.

Part II will continue next week.

* More Andy Grant articles can be found on the Romford Memories Facebook group

Heritage: Pub signs told stories when people could not read

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