Winston Churchill, Jeremy Thorpe, Edward VII, Queen Victoria and Eric The Keys… just some of the famous and infamous who have passed by or through the the doors of The Bull Inn…
Limpsfield residents have always been partial to a drink or two, so it should come as no surprise that this very small village has been home to many drinking establishments over the years. These included The White Hart, Coach & Horses (aka The Lord Rodney, now Rodney House), The New Inn, Wickhams Stores (brewery and shop), The (Old) Lodge and The Plumbers Arms on the corner of A25/Wolfs Row, which was demolished in the 1930s.
The Bull, while most likely the first pub in the village, has managed to weather temperance, recession, gentrification and developers, to remain the last one standing.
While the current building dates back to the 1600s, it’s thought to have been the site for a drinking establishment as far back as Saxon times and according to local historians, Charlie Jarrett and Roger Brasier, whose families have also been part of Limpsfield village and Chart for centuries, it’s mentioned in the Domesday Book as “a place for Saxons to drink ale and meade”.
The oldest part of the current building is the old snug section that runs alongside the lane between the bar and the kitchen, with 18th Century additions toward the road. It has largely remained the same with a few minor alterations, including the relocation of the door and demolition of an outbuilding or two and relocation of what were, until not that long ago, the spooky outside toilets up the lane!!
This unpretentious building is steeped in local history and has had its fair share of VIPs…
Albert Edward Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Princess Maud (his daughter later Queen of Norway) actually visited Limpsfield in 1898 to open the Noble Lowndes Home for Retired Actors and Actresses.
Limpsfield residents remain in the street following the royal visit. The Bull’s landlord, former postman, George Stafford stands outside having a smoke. In 1891, at just 19 years old, he was given the pub to manage by the Leveson Gower family (former owners of the Titsey Estate).
The same building had previously been visited and officially ‘opened’ in 1893 as a convalescent home by his mother, Queen Victoria and her daughter, Princess Victoria. Clearly the Noble Lowndes family had a lot of sway with the Royals (!) and was subsequently the Charing Cross and Henry Radcliffe convalescent homes before being bought by the Marie Curie Cancer Research Institute.
In the 20th Century, The Bull Inn continued to play an important role in Limpsfield life, hosting the 1937 Fire Brigade dinner, attended by local businessmen and presided over by Maisie Tolley (later Windscheffel), landlady of The Bull for over 30 years until 1967 and who was married no less than five times!
Winston Churchill, from just down the road at Chartwell was also a regular visitor, and his daughter, Mary (later Lady Soames) took riding lessons with Billy Poole (pictured outside on the lane between The Bull and Lilac cottage). In this photo, taken in 1947 they’re waiting for Winston who is inside the pub (probably finishing his cigar).
The Bull was a very lively place in the 1960s, with regular Saturday night entertainment by Eric The Keys on the piano, bartender, Happy Hapgood and a host of interesting patrons, two of whom were Jeremy Thorpe (who lived in Limpsfield as a youngster and went to Hazelwood School) and his alleged lover, Norman Josiffe (aka Norman Scott) who lived just over the Kent border and took riding lessons at the Westerham Riding School.
Since then, The Bull has continued to welcome locals and visitors from all over the world, and with its renovation and relaunch as Enterprising Limpsfield at The Bull planned for the autumn, we’re sure it will continue to thrive, entertain and host the famous, infamous and happily unknown for many years to come!
With huge thanks for all the amazing photos, courtesy of Charlie Jarrett and Roger Brasier’s ‘Jarrett Brasier Collection’.
ARTICLE published in the current Limpsfield Parish News. Summer 2018 issue. http://lttm.org.uk/stpeters/pn/