The History of The Bell Pub


The Bell forms part of the picturesque view of Woodham Walter as one approaches from the South.  It is a timber-framed house with exposed timbers built in the late sixteenth century.  Built as a lobby entrance house with a rectangular plan, it has the appearance of a hall and cross wing house for the roof of the parlour end is at right angles to the main roof.  The upper storey of the parlour end is jettied.  The bressumer is decorated with carved oak leaves and acorns.  Access to the attics, probably used for storage or additional accommodation, is by the original stairs.  The nineteenth century single storey eastern extension was occupied by a shoemaker’s workshop.


The Bell is the oldest of Woodham Walter’s public houses.  According to the village tradition, it was built in the same year as the church.  There may be some truth in this assertion for various architectural features of the building indicate it was built some time during the second half of the sixteenth century.


It was first recorded in the extant court rolls of the manor in 1665 when Frances, widow of Henry Oughan, became owner of ‘Bowers, Rankes alias The Bell inn in Woodham Walter’.  The house had been left to Henry by his father who described it as ‘The house Humfrey Willett now has his dwellings in’.  In 1593 Humfrey, an innkeeper, appeared at the Quarter Sessions charged with keeping a disorderly house and allowing dancing on Sundays during service time.


Isaac Osborne bought The Bell in 1682.  He lived there for thirty years and played a prominent part in village life.  There are few years when he did not sign the parish accounts alongside other leading parishioners.  After his death The Bell was let to tenants.  In the mid-eighteenth century Widow Wynn, the licensee, was reassessed for Window Tax when the number of windows was reduced from thirteen to seven.  In 1930 workmen discovered one of the small windows which had been blocked up in 1757.  The brewers who owned the property decided to have all the plaster removed and more windows were revealed.


In 1823 sale particulars described The Bell as a substantial and commodious house with a tap-room, two parlours, liquor and beer cellars, bake office, with oven to bake seven bushels, brew office, three bedrooms, and three attics.  The outbuildings included a granary, a store cellar, a chaise house, stabling and coal house.  The catalogue concluded with: ‘The sale of this property offers an advantageous opportunity to any person desirous of a good situation as Innkeeper and Baker.  The Bell which is the only public house in the parish is well situated for trade in the populous and respectable village of Woodham Walter.


During the nineteenth century most of the licensees had sidelines.  When George Todd died in 1838, he left his business as publican at The Bell to his wife and also his business of cordwainer and shoemaker.  When the floor boards in the little addition at the east end of the building were taken up to be repaired, many leather shavings were found under the floor.  Mark Joscelyne, another licensee, was also a cattle dealer, and George Ager, a carpenter.  In the early years of the twentieth century, Fredrick Green, the landlord, took passengers to and from the railway station at Hatfield Peveral in his pony and trap.