A Short History of the Bell
The Bell was built in the 24th year of Edward I, in 1296. Little is known of its history at this time, although through its connection with the Church, the house was probably inhabited by monks.
However, by the turn of the 14th century, the house had been given up to the parish clerk or sexton of St Mary the Virgin, among whose many duties was to administer ale and bread to the poor of the parish. Ale may also even been sold, as it was lawful for anyone to keep an ale house without a licence. This had changed by 1495, and we know that local justices accepted the sureties of Reddyman Faythfule, “parish clerk and tippler of this house, the Bell”, that he would maintain a well run house.
The Bell, named after the single bell in the village church, stayed in the Faythfule family until 1552, when records show it was sold to Henry Sawkins of nearby Hawkhurst. He leased the house on, the lease eventually being taken by Robert Reynoldes of Ticehurst. Through his nephew, Thomas, the lease of the Bell remained in the same family for the next 50 years, latterly becoming a saddlery as well as an ale house.
Still in the ownership of the Sawkins family, by 1645, the Bell was a registered inn, licensed to lodge travellers at a nightly tariff of 1 penny per bed, which included the use of plate and linen and food.Stabling was extra.The house, at this date, contained a hall, parlour and tap room, with six chambers above. It would be another 80 years before the ownership changed again, the Bell this time being bought by a brewery in Lamberhurst. At that point, Susannah Slaney kept the Bell and remained here until her death in 1766, when she had been the tenant for 49 years.
A number of tenants took over in the years following, but the Bell was sold again in 1852 to the Culverden Brewery of Tunbridge Wells. It was around this time that the inn started to be advertised as a commercial boarding house, finally becoming a registered hotel in 1902.
In 1920, The Culverden Brewery sold the Bell to Philips and Co of West Malling. One of its tenants, William Tourle, was notable for also running a bus service between Hawkhurst and Tunbridge Wells
In the 1950’s, following a takeover by the brewer Flowers, Henry Reeve became the landlord until his death in 1953. Succeeded by his wife Elizabeth, she ran the Bell as a Whitbread pub, they having taken over Flowers in 1961. The tenancy was eventually taken on by her son-in–law Frederick, on her death in 1970. His wife, Pamela, took over in 1982 and remained here until her death and the Bell’s closure in the late 2000s. Pam is still remembered in the village and there is a picture of her and Frederick by the Bell’s main entrance.
Following Pam’s death, Richard and Roz Upton of Stonegate bought The Bell in 2008. A year in planning and a further two years restoring and re-invigorating the building brings us to November 2011, when the doors of The Bell were once again opened to welcome locals and travellers alike.
If you would like to read a more detailed history of the Bell, one can be found here.