About The Horse and Groom (initially The Kings Arms) 18th Century to the present day
Situated at 55 The Cross, opposite the junction with Rectory Road
The last of the pubs at Wivenhoe Cross, and still going strong after 300 years (with a few interruptions). This Adnams pub retains a traditional atmosphere and is well loved in the community.
Setting the scene
Until the 16th century Wivenhoe Cross was separated from Wivenhoe by the lands belonging to Wivenhoe Hall (this stood where Palmers Gardens is now). The Avenue did not exist as a public road – it was the driveway to the Hall. In order to get to Wivenhoe itself, from Colchester, the only route was via Rectory Road and what is now Belle Vue Road. Rectory Hill would take people further on to Alresford and Brightlingsea. This meant that The Cross existed fairly separately and was populated by a different type of workforce – mainly agricultural workers, servants, game keepers etc. whereas Wivenhoe had shipbuilders and fishermen.
Early years 1700 – 1800
A look at local records shows us that the pub has been in existence for 300 years. The building is 18th century with 19th century additions.
Nicholas Butler’s book “The Story of Wivenhoe” quotes from a 1722 ledger recording contributions to the poor. “Lamb for King’s New House” followed in 1725 by “Thomas Lamb for Kings Arms”. Records continue to appear irregularly and by 1756 Lamb is paying for “land at The King’s Arms”; this probably indicates that the pub was no longer functioning. It first appears in the licensing records as The Horse and Groom in 1772.
The next document, dated 1785, is a deed between James Bernard and Daniel Harvey/ John Bawtree/ Samuel Sargent. (ERO D/DB T1306) regarding:
“all that parcel of land called Cocks Land … [and] all that messuage…heretofore called The Kings Arms now called or known by the sign of The Horse and Groom with yards, gardens…now in the occupation of John Barrell. And a blacksmiths shop in occupation of Samuel Sargent.”
This would account for the name change- having the blacksmith next door meant that horses and grooms would be nearby.
The 1799 Tithe map records Hannah Sargent as the tenant of the Lord of the Manor’s property called Cocks now The Horse and Groom, still occupied by J. Barrell. John Barrell was the licensee from 1783 to 1801.
The Nineteenth Century
Prominent amongst the landlords were Edward William Scofield and his successor David Grimes. Edward became the licensee in 1836 but he also pursued his trade as a butcher. A document (ERO T/B 407/21) indicates that next to the forge was a building “in trade as a beerhouse, with cellar, stable, cart shed, slaughter-house and yard.” His wife Elizabeth probably helped him run the pub and she would have also been kept busy with their seven children. Edward died in 1852 and his wife became the licensee from 1852 to 1855, followed by David Grimes, born in 1833.
Records show that David, also a butcher, married Elizabeth in 1854 and became the licensee in 1857. She was 15 years his senior and his eldest stepson was only 4 years his junior. Having successfully run The Horse and Groom for 5 years they moved on to run The Bull by Anchor Hill. David was buried on 15 April 1888 and there is a detailed account of the funeral in the Wyvenhoe section [note spelling at this time] of the Essex Standard 21st April 1888. The report states that almost one thousand inhabitants from Wyvenhoe, East Donyland, Elmstead and Alresford and many friends and members of the Ancient Order of Foresters were present at the interment at the cemetery; he was obviously a highly respected member of the community.
An indication of the hours pubs were allowed to open comes in the Essex Standard 9th October 1874. Under the Licensing Act 1874, hours for closing would be: on a Saturday night from 11pm to 30 minutes past noon on Sunday, Sunday night 10pm to 6am and on all other nights 11pm to 6am.
There is a period 1871 to 1880 when no records can be found, so the pub must have closed temporarily.
During this century The Horse and Groom would have had increased trade from Browne’s Ropery which was also situated near The Cross. High quality ropes were needed for the wooden boats being built in the shipyards but as steam engines and metal ships took over, the ropes were no longer needed and Browne’s closed in 1899.
The Twentieth Century
According to sales records, The Horse and Groom did not suffer as much as the Wivenhoe pubs who were dependent on shipyard workers. Admittedly there were many fewer servants at the big houses and agricultural worker numbers had also declined but sales of beer on tap in 1925 at 146 barrels, after declining in 1932 to 130 barrels, steadied in 1937 to 154 barrels. Bottled beer was not popular at this time but wine and spirit sales at 25 gallons in 1925 increased to 75 gallons by 1937. Could this reflect the fact that more women accompanied their menfolk to the pub, sitting in the saloon / lounge bar?
According to the book “Sea-Change, Wivenhoe Remembered”, in the 1970s to 1980s, the pub landlord “didn’t tolerate people having too good a time”. The pub was nicknamed The Hearse and Gloom! At this time no meals were served, only bar snacks.
From 1991 the pub has been run by the same family – Simon and Dosh Smith, who had previously run The Station pub. Simon died in 2018 but his wife and daughter continue to provide a much appreciated ‘local’. Inside there are still two bars, there is a garden and a home cooked lunch (not Sundays) and a regular clientele, but newcomers are always welcome
Links to other pages on this website:
- Butler N, “The Story of Wivenhoe”, Quentin Press Wivenhoe, 1989.
- Dunn C J M, “Wivenhoe: a guide and short history”, Dunn for the Wivenhoe Society, 1980.
- Kay P, “Wivenhoe Pubs”, published by Peter Kay 2003.
- ERO: Essex Record Office
- Thompson P, “Sea- Change, Wivenhoe Remembered” Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006