A brief history of The Bell Inn
History of the Bell Inn
The Bell Inn Building has a fascinating history going back to the 1500s when the property is believed to have been the Guild Hall of St Michael’s Church in Thorpe Le Soken until about 1545.
At this time the back of the building (Beer Garden) was in fact the front and it looked onto the church as was common practice in these times as all Guild Halls faced the churches they were linked to.
Saint Michaels’s Guild as The Bell was known at this time was confiscated by King Henry VIII, (as all Guilds were) when he initiated the English Reformation and changed the religion from Catholic to Protestant – this to allow him to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The name and the use of the building probably changed at this point.
Many years after this, The Bell was extended and this work was probably carried out by William Hockley who was the Landlord from 1726 – 1730’s and was a carpenter by trade.
William’s widow Margaret remarried a John Lingwood and either he or his son carved their initials in 1773 on the newly brick fronted Bell. These initials can still be seen beside the patio door, now at the rear of the building.
It is more likely that it was John’s son, as John Lingwood is recorded as the licensee between the years of 1769 and 1777. Two other members of the family also engraved their initials.
The Bell until this period has quite a history but just prior to the later John Lingwood’s stay as licensee, it was to witness another event in Thorpe’s history.
THE GHOST OF KITTY CANHAM
The Bell is reputedly haunted by a lady called Kitty Canham – The Beautiful Bigamist – who was married to the Vicar of St Michael’s Church, Alexander Gough.
One day Kitty mysteriously disappeared and although rumours were rife, it is thought she had gone to London. Whether she did or not is not clear, but what is known in fact is that she met, fell in love with and went on to marry one Lord Dalmeny, a wealthy business man who could offer a much more exciting life than the one that she had living in Thorpe as the Vicar’s wife.
They went on to travel the continent living a luxurious lifestyle and settling eventually in Italy.
In 1752 Kitty became seriously ill and when it was realised that there was no hope of her recovery, she made her last wish to be buried in St Michael’s Church in Thorpe le Soken.
After her death, her distraught husband carried out her wishes and brought her embalmed body back to England. Both of her husbands attended the funeral and Kitty is buried beneath the now extended church.
Thorpe’s churchyard boasts another legendary character. That of William Gull, Royal Surgeon to Queen Victoria and one of the prime suspects to be in fact Jack the Ripper.
In July 1999, The Bell suffered a devastating fire, which destroyed the entire roof, first floor and much of the cottages attached. It took almost 18 months for the building to dry out and a year to renovate it to its present state. As The Bell is a listed building the work was carried out under the watchful eye of the English Heritage Trust. Many discoveries were made in the process including the huge fireplace in the upstairs bar which had been bricked over until the fire. The building as a whole has been returned to its former glory.
When We Are Open
MON – SUN
11:00am – 11:00pm
12:00 Noon – 2:30pm
6:00pm – 9:00pm
12:00 Noon – 5:00pm
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