About The Bull (formerly The Trowel and Hammer) - From 1860s to around 1906

Located at the bottom of the High Street, at No.1

Research by Terry Garland and Michael Smither. Author Terry Garland

This building was once the The Bull in the late 1800s
Picture by Terry Garland
Anchor Hill in the 1940s
Wivenhoe Memories Collection
Map showing Anchor Hill and the site of The Bull
Bottom of the High Street between the former pub, The Bull, and the delicatessen.
Photo: Wivenhoe Memories Collection

The Pub Trail Index – click here

The only known surviving evidence of the existence of this pub is found in the 19th century censuses and a few newspaper articles from the 1890s. The building is 16th century and was a butchers as well as a pub for much of its life, hence the name of The Bull. The Trowel and Hammer name came with a landlord whose trade was a bricklayer, but reverted to The Bull on his departure. In the 20th century it became a sweet shop and later refurbished as a private residence.

The Bull was located at the bottom of the High Street (now number 1) next door to what was, for many years, The Bakehouse.  The building is situated at the core of the medieval village and its site would have had a prominent position facing Anchor Hill, which was probably the medieval market place.

The Reason for the Name

Sale documents from 19th century indicate that a butchers shop, slaughter house and stables formed the North side of Anchor Hill; the building with the two blanked off openings in the north-west corner may have been the stable buildings and the only remaining part of the original premises. In the 1841 and1851 censuses William Ridgley (born 1809) appears in the property as a butcher and by 1861 his son, also William (born 1832), is shown there as a butcher. In the Post Office Directory of 1862 William Ridgley Sn. is listed as a cattle dealer but he was not living in Anchor Hill. The Ridgley family came from Colchester where a number were butchers, fruiterers or grocers. The two Williams moved to Wivenhoe in the late 1830s and the son moved away to Clerkenwell in London in late 1860s.

The premises were sold as a beer-house in 1867 with B Pitt as the landlord from which it seems likely that the Ridgleys were earlier landlords. In 1895, after their move to London, William Jr’s daughter-in-law became landlady of the Elephant & Castle public house in Kensington, the only recorded evidence of a family connection to the pub trade.

Change of Name

An un-named beer-house appears in deeds of sale on 29 March 1867 as part of a lot of the premises forming a plot bounded by West Street, High Street and Anchor Hill:

“Messuage or tenement, now or late in tenure or occupation of John Fisher, copyhold of manor of Wivenhoe, in occupation of Ann Newton widow, and a tenement called The Forge formerly in occupation of Sarah King, now of Jonathan Summers now described as a messuage with bake-office, front shop, oven and outbuildings in full trade in occupation of J.W. Barrett, and adjoining messuage, in trade as beer-house, with cellar, stable, cart shed, slaughter-house and yard in occupation of B. Pitt.”

The properties were purchased by Mr Orbell George Green for £330.

The Trowel and Hammer was one of only two Wivenhoe pubs to be tied to The Wivenhoe Brewery, the other being The Brewery Tavern itself and as with The Brewery Tavern it was taken over by Daniell’s upon the closure of The Wivenhoe Brewery in 1874.  There is some evidence to suggest that it became a Free-house in later years and was probably the only free-house in Wivenhoe mentioned in an unidentified “Letter to The Editor” that appears in Dick Barton’s book (Barton 1975 page 75).

Benjamin Pitt and his wife Sophia were living in West Street in 1861 and his trade was listed as bricklayer. As part of their move to Anchor Hill they re-named the beer-house as The Trowel and Hammer to reflect his trade. Sophia was likely to have been the major influence behind the beer trade as she was from the Corder family, who by other marriages were part of the Goodwin family who ran a number of licensed premises.  In 1870 Benjamin died and in 1871 Sophia was shown as the landlady of the property named in the census as The Trowel and Hammer.

Change of Name Again

Between 1874 and 1881 the property became occupied by David Grimes, formerly a butcher of Wivenhoe Cross who prior to that was landlord of The Horse and Groom, the name was then changed back to The Bull; the census of 1881 lists David Grimes as a publican and butcher. In 1883 Mr Grimes, was summoned before the Court for selling beer during prohibited hours and fined £1. David Grimes died in 1888 and passed his estate to his wife Elizabeth, of the Blyth family.

By the time of a further court case in 1890 regarding Sunday drinking in Wivenhoe, The Bull had become a tenanted public house run by Messrs. Daniell & Co of Colchester, the licensee being Mr James Oakley who was succeeded on his death by his wife, Sarah Ann.

Sarah Ann was originally from Truro in Cornwall, her husband, James, was a mariner. James was some 22 years older than his wife, so Sarah was still in her forties when her husband passed away.  When the application for the transfer of the licence was made in 1890 following James’ death it was stated that his wife had been the principal licensee during his life, Sarah appears to have continued at The Bull until at least 1895.

The next landlord was William Cole, who had previously been a malster in Colchester as well as the landlord of The Yachters Arms.  The 1901 census records him as a market gardener as well as a licensed victualler.  William was notably younger than previous landlords, aged 36 in 1901, his wife was only 31 and the eldest of their 4 children was 13.  William would go on to run The Flag.

The Bull finally passed to George Best, who had previously been landlord of The Black Buoy.  George Best died at The Bull in 1906. The building died with him.

End of the Line

No known photographs from the early 20th century show the view of this part of the High Street that would have included this public house. It closed in June 1906 when the county council rejected the renewal of the licence. On 15 June 1906 the Compensation Authority confirmed that compensation for the loss of licence would be paid to Daniell & Sons, the owners of The Bull. The building has been put to various uses including a sweet shop in the inter-war period before being converted and sold as a private residence.


The group of buildings forming the plot between West Street and Anchor Hill are listed together as 1, 3 and 5 High Street and classified Grade II (NHLE entry number: 1225235, date first listed: 01-Jun-1973).The listing describes them as C16 house on a T-plan with the West Street wing being timber framed and plastered.

Links to other pages in this website:


  • Barton D, “Wivenhoe: its attractions, pleasures and eccentric natives”, Dick Barton Enterprises 1975. 
  • NHLE: National Heritage List of England   https://historicengland.org.uk/

General Sources:

  • Butler N, “The Story of Wivenhoe”, Quentin Press Wivenhoe, 1989.
  • Essex Church of England Parish Registers. Chelmsford, Essex Record Office
  • Kay P, “Wivenhoe Pubs”, published by Peter Kay 2003.
  • London, General Post Office and Kelly’s Directories 1871 to 1906
  • National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) England & Wales, 1858-1966, 1973-1995. Kew, Public Record Office
  • UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946.

The Pub Trail Index – click here

This page was added on 14/09/2020.

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