yesterday                              and                                   today





o Origins of the name

o History of the building

o Fixtures and fittings

o The Chequers as a coaching inn

o The stone in The Square

o The beer - and "Shrimp Brand"

o Imagine the scene

o The Square in times past

o People & events

o The Friendly Brothers

o Bellringing and the Chequers

o Tales from the tap room

o Short Walks

o Doggerel


o Artworks & past Landlords


A previous pub sign

todays pub sign


There are several possible origins of the Chequers name. The Romans are said to have brought the name and the chequered sign into this country to signify an inn or ale house. They in turn were believed to have adopted it from the Egyptians. The sign has also been found on houses excavated in Pompeii. It is said to have indicated that games such draughts were played on the premises. In fact, chequers is the old English name for draughts and it is still called that in America.


There is a chequered pattern on the front of the Church tower, an indication of a long-standing relationship with the Church next door, possibly back to the days of the friars. There is also a chequers tree that was grown for its berries and used for beer making before hops were introduced. Its other name is the Service tree but because it develops a chequered pattern on its bark it is better known as the chequers tree.


Equally, it has been said that the name came about due to another relationship with the neighbouring church and the collection of tithes or taxes. As early as 1600, the tax collector would use a board of black and white squares to assist in tallying up the tithe monies brought to him by the people of the village whose property was owned by the church. As each person made their payment, the tax collector would place their coins on a square. Once every square had been filled, the task was complete. Those who couldn`t pay in cash took produce to the tithe barn which, until the 1970s, was located on the other side of the churchyard.

It has also been suggested that the chequered motif originates from a link with one of the Goldhanger Lords of the Manor. All Lords of the Manor had a manorial coat-of-arms but one family, the Heveninghams who held the position in the late 14th & 15th century, had a chequered motif in their heraldic shield. This is their Coat-of-arms...


Finally, whatever the origins of the sign, the chequered motif fulfils the prime objective of a pub sign in that is has to be easily recognisable without using the written word. In the past many customers would not have been able to read. It must also be visible from a distance and at night without artificial lighting to guide travellers towards the inn.


The Chequers has been an alehouse, and later an inn and public house, for around 250 years. The house was however built about 500 years ago, probably by a yeoman or small landowner as his private ressidence. It is in a prominent position in the village next to St Peters church, which is much older, and is on the east side of The Square. It is said to have been used as a court house when first built.

There is very little documentary evidence of the building`s origin, however by studying the design and construction of the building today much about how it and when it was built can be determined. An historical building analysis of the Chequers was carried out in the 1990s by Janet White and a copy of her report is in our archives and online here.

Like most buildings of its age, it has been altered and extended many times in its life and some evidence of the past and the changes were lost in the process.There may have been a building on the site before, but the present one started life around 1500 during the Tudor dynasty. It was a time of great changes between the medieval period and the Renaissance and this is reflected in the building.

A typical Medieval Hall House had a central full height hall with a two storey wing at one end and rooms or a wing at the other for the owner and his family. Looking at the timber framed Chequers from the street we see evidence of this arrangement with the gable of the service or store wing on the right and hall next to it. There is no clear evidence of a private wing to the left of the hall. Originally the oak and elm frame would have been exposed but as fashions changed and to give protection from the weather the timbers were covered with plaster, hiding the original wattle and daub infill.

The main door from the street is in its original position and leads to the cross passage with the door opposite, just after the entrance to the bars, in the back door position at the rear of the original building. The front wall of the wing on the right would have stuck out with a jetty at first floor level and with the ground floor wall flush with the doorway. As you enter the cross passage the first room on the right, with the Bar Billiards table, was the Buttery, or store for drinks especially ale. More recently this room was the Landlords parlour. The next door is to the Pantry where perishable food was kept. From this room there would have been a steep flight of stairs or a ladder to a large store room above. The roof above this upper room has a Crown Post construction. This type of roof is known from the 13th century, but was especially popular from the 14th century for domestic building in the south east of England. Crown-post roofs disappeared when open hall houses became redundant in about the 1550s. The roof space also has "wattle and daub" partitions...

a view of the roof space taken from the 1990s report

Turning left from the cross passage we enter the "hall", which has changed enormously. As we walk a couple of paces through the doorway there are remnants of the rear wall of the Tudor hall on the right. Like many similar houses, it is likely that the hall would have been open to the roof and that the fireplace, chimney and upper floor were added later. Traditionally medieval halls had an open fire in the middle and the roof timbers, exposed to the smoke, would have been blackened.

Originally, the timbers in external walls would have been in-filled with "wattle and daub" leaving most of the external timbers exposed. This together with the jetted first floor and the period windows would have given the building very different appearance as shown in the sketch. There is a mixture of oak and elm in the building and the elm would not have survived 600 years of external exposure.

artists impression of the original building with the beams exposed, a jettied first floor and period windows

Early photos taken in The Square show wooden glazing bars on the front windows, this would be in keeping with the other local large houses, such as the Old Rectory, Hall Farm and the Mill House.

The present roof has no soot blacked timbers. So, the implication is that somewhere between 75 and 125 years after the original house was built the owners decided to "modernise" it. The original bricks of the fireplace in the present front bar probably date from around the late 1500`s to the early 1600`s, and the original mantel beam can be seen. The "modern invention" of a chimney made living in a house less smoky and less likely to burn down. At the same time the outside walls were heightened, upper rooms added and the roof renewed with a shallower pitch. In the 1700`s a large extension, now the rear bar, was added.

Early photographs of the building taken from The Square show a very noticeable sag in the main roof, which is not present today, indicating that in the last 100 years the roof has been renovated and the beams repositioned.

The timbers and workmanship of the building are not first quality but there are small features, typical of the times, that show that the carpenters cared about their workmanship. For example, the main beam of the ceiling of the front bar is chamfered and finished with rough lambs tongue stops. On the other hand, some materials are defiantly substandard; some of the "daub", on the wattle in the filling between the timbers, appears to have come from the clayey mud of Goldhanger Creek instead of the traditional lime and hair (or straw) plaster.

The out buildings at the rear of the building, now the kitchens, were built as stables with cobbled floors and a hay-loft above. There is no sign of a well at the rear of the property, which would have been typical for such a building. The close proximity of the well and pump in The Square opposite, which was known to produce high quality water, probably meant that a private well was not needed. This meant all water had to be hand carried from The Square, probably using two pails and a yoke, but other villagers had to carry it much further (mains water didn`t appear in the village until 1937).


The impressive fitted corner display cabinet in the main bar is clearly very old. This type of fitment was known to be used as a shrine and an occasional altar after the Reformation in 1547 with the cross and other religious items stored in the hidden cavity below when not in use. Whether this particular cabinet was used in this way is not certain, but the reformation did result all "monuments of feigned miracles" being stripped from St. Peter`s next door and sold locally. See... Documents for 1549 - Church Goods, an inventory of the contents of St Peters Church.

corner display cabinet                Corner cupboard in the parlour

in the main bar                              now the games room

The long bar in the main room was once much shorter, being just a few feet in length close to the door. It was fitted with a pair of wooden shutters that were kept closed in quiet periods in the winter, so that the main bar could be shut off from the remainder of the building and left unheated. In the 1960s there were an impressive collection of high Windsor-backed arm chairs in the main bar, which gave a dignified appearance to the room. The bench seats came from the Goldhanger Wesleyan Chapel.


artist`s impression of the Windsor chairs in the bar in the 1960s


the main bar

the tap room

This picture that has been hanging in the tap room for many years has a particular significance... is a 1906 photograph that shows Frank Wellington in a 1903 Voiturette with William Page of Follyfaunts in a horse and trap. As far as is known Frank Wellington never lived at Goldhanger, however he was related to several members the Page family who were Goldhanger farmers, but was a well known automotive engineer, vehicle manufacturer, dealer and motor racing enthusiast.


In the days of horse drawn coaches and wagons the section of the Maldon Road, that today bypasses the centre of the village, probably did not exist. See... Local highways and byways from the past and East-west routes – Maldon Rd. The absence of an inn and other old buildings along that stretch of road supports this. Traffic between Tollesbury, Mersea and Maldon would have come into the village to water the horses at the ponds and village pump, and so that passengers and drivers could use the facilities of the inn.

The Chequers had stables in the back yard, so stage coaches on longer journeys may well have changed horses. There was also a wheelwrights just across The Square to repair or replace any wheels damaged on the poorly maintained gravel roads between the villages.

It would have been important for the landlord and staff to anticipate travellers arriving in The Square and the window in the back bar, that today looks into the churchyard, could once have had a clear view up Church Street. The red brick walls now around the churchyard were built in the 1850s and prior to that it is believed that Church Street was wider with trees set back nearer the Church. There are also signs of a previous north facing window in what is now the store room which would also have had a good view up Church Street.


The stone in the Square in 1906, before being set in the paving

The large half-round stone set in the pavement in The Square opposite has its own peculiar history and link with the inn. Although it is generally assumed to be a corn millstone, it almost certainly wasn`t. It has no hole in the centre and millstones are usually complete solid circles. It also has a large groove or trough on the underside, which is not typical of a millstone. The unique white flakes visible on the surface, have identified the stone as hard granite unique to Haytor quarry, Dartmoor, Devon, so it must have come by sea to Essex. The other half was once said to be nearby in the village as a door step, although broken. Historian Miller Christy wrote about the stone in 1909. See... Documents-2, 2nd & 3rd items: 1909 & 1911 - The Goldhanger Stone


Mystery still surrounds the original purpose of the stone and why it came to be in Goldhanger, the most likely explanation being that it was part of a cider press. An alternative theory has been that it was a "Pug Stone" used for mixing clay for making bricks. In either case it would probably have been powered by a horse. We do know however, why it is in its present location - it was placed there to assist Chequers guests to mount their horses on their way home. It is also said to have been used in the past as a scrubbing stone when washing clothes adjacent to the well. Before the days of a pavement the stone was free-standing and hence significantly higher as shown in the 1906 photo, but children became adept at crawling around the curved "tunnel" as a challenge and the stone was filled with concrete to block it off for their safety.


Originally both beer and cider would have been made in the village. Conveniently, there was a windmill and malsters just two doors away in Fish Street and a second malsters further down the street. Goldhanger was also well known for apple orchards. As recently the 1970s orchards were all around the village, including the fields just behind the inn where D`arcy Spices and Coxes Orange Pippins were grown by farmer Charles Page. Today just one commercial orchard remains in the village.

In the days when fishermen sought entertainment in the village, there was said to have been five alehouses in the village, some licensed some not. Locations for the others included: Bird in Hand, Dolphin Cottage in Fish St., and No 2 Fish St., which more recently was the bakery.

In the past The Chequers has been owned by various breweries and the many postcard scenes of The Square over the last 100 years show a variety of brewer`s names on the building. Two of those were Shrimp Brand Beers and “Russells Gravesend brewery”. In fact Shrimp Brand was a trade name of the same Gravend based brewery in Kent. That brewery took over the Writtle Brewery Co and its 90 Essex based pubs in 1900. The Writtle Brewery Co had been supplying the Maldon area since the 1870s, so would have also supplied The Chequers at that time.

the sign was across the front of the pub in the early 1900s...

a close up of the sign reveals “Russells Gravesend brewery Celebrated Ales”...

by the mid1920s the sign had changed to Shrimp Brand Beers...

Russell’s Shrimp Brand beer was delivered by sea and the rivers on sailing barges. These Thames barges, still based in Maldon and occasionally visiting Goldhanger Creek, were sailed by just two men, so was a very economic form of transport, and they could sail with equal ease in rivers, creeks and coastal waters. The Maldon timber merchants Sadds, owned four barges which they used to transport timber all around the south coast...


Barges bearing the Shrimp Brand mark brought regular shipments of beer and other ingredients from Gravesend to a purpose-built Russells depot at the Fullbridge wharf. The beer was then delivered around Essex by horse drawn drays and later by petrol driven trucks with Shrimp Brand over the cab. The two man crew were given an allowance of beer for each trip to deter them from interfering with the cargo!

This impressive art deco style building at Fullbridge wharf was built in 1924 as indicated in the red brick trade mark inscribed over the main entrance, but the building was sadly burnt down and destroyed in 2011 while being used as a chemical warehouse. The photos above were taken shortly before that fire.  Russells Gravesend brewery operated from 1858 to 1932 before being taken over in that year by Trumans, at which time it owned over 200 pubs in Kent and the those in Essex previously owned the Writtle Brewery Co, including those along the north bank of the Thames and these locally...

The Chequers


The Compasses

Great Totham

The Kings Head


The White lion

Market Hill, Maldon

The Jolly Sailor

Hythe Quay, Maldon

The Half Moon



Here is a letter written by Arthur Appleton of Church Street, Goldhanger, to the local MP of the day in May 1918 during WW-1 and at a time when The Chequers was a Shrimp Brand owned pub. . .

Dear Sir,

I write you on behalf of our branch of the Workers Union which numbers 70 members to ask if you will kindly use your influence to get us an extra allowance of beer allocated to the Chequers Inn Goldhanger which we use as a mess house.

We are all asked to work extra hard these times upon the land with longer hours and feel that we obtain benefit from our pint of beer when taken with our food. It is not a case of asking for facilities for excessive drinking, but simply asking for a drink of beer to help out our reduced diet of meat and bread.

We do not ask for any increase of brewing as many houses in towns such as Witham and Maldon have many of their customers left to join up the army or will be leaving very soon for that purpose. Consequently the houses have really more beer than is necessary. Here there are more men coming upon the land such as disabled and or unfit soldiers. The beer that goes to those house in towns where so many of the men are being called up might be diverted to our industry, especially during the coming hot months.

We are doing our best by working hard to grow more food stuffs and feel completely done up, as it were, when for about 3 days each week we are not able to obtain what we have always been used to, the house being closed during that period having only one barrel per week allocated to it under the present system.

I am faithfully yours,


Arthur Appleton, Secretary

The original letter is in the Essex Records Office



Although the building hasn`t changed a great deal, a visit to the Chequers two hundred years ago would have been very different experience from today. Approaching the building from across The Square it would have appeared as a very grey place by today`s standards, a sense of dereliction; with cracked and flaking walls; no cream and white paintwork; no written signs; no hanging baskets of flowers; just the chequered board to indicate that this was an inn. At night there would be a candle in the window and an oil lamp by the front door to light the way (electricity did not arrive until 1937).


Initially, the inside would also have appeared very dark, an oil lamp on the bar, with most light coming from the flicker of large wood fires that reflected on the copper and pewter ornaments and utensils adorning the walls. The once lime washed internal walls brown from the smoke. No curtains, cushions, or carpets covering the flag-stone and tiled floors, but the bar would have seemed warm and welcoming.

Beer and cider was served in glazed earthenware or pewter tankards, at room temperature straight from the barrel (no cellar then or now), with the choice limited to "old beer" (dark, with floating hop pieces), light, or best. Talk at the bar was the opportunity to hear of events in Maldon and London, and of wars happening in far away places. Only the wealthy read The Times. Late in the evening cards, dominos or draughts on the chequered board would be played in the tap room. On a Saturday evening there might be a song accompanied by a banjo or accordion.

For a meal there was also little choice: soup, bread & cheese, or for the "upper-crust" customers the roast meat of the day, served with the upper crust of the loaf, perhaps with some boiled root vegetables, all delivered on a large pewter plate and eaten with just a knife and the fingers. For afters: an apple; more beer.

At closing time the villagers would walk home by moonlight (no change there). The farmer from the edge of the village would unhitch his horse from one of the hitching rails near the front door and mount using the stone opposite in The Square for much needed assistance. The horse would find its own way home.


Today the Chequers is the only business in The Square. Before the motor car arrived however, the village was relatively isolated and much more self-sufficient. Then, properties around The Square were thriving businesses, supplying the everyday needs of villagers. For hundreds of years the well and pump in The Square provided the main source of fresh water and the daily trek to The Square would have been combined with a visit to the shops and the inn.

There was a general store and post office; a wheelwrights and cycle shop which sold paraffin, and later, petrol in re-usable tin cans; a clockmaker; a blacksmiths; a carpenters shop with a sawpit; and a bakers. A few yards along Head St. There was a butchers with a slaughterhouse in the backyard. There would have been fresh fish for sale outside fishermen`s cottages down Fish Street and few yards up Church Street milk, butter and cream was available at Hall Farm.

A toy fair was held annually in The Square on Whit Monday up until the first world war. "Toys" included many knick-knacks, fruit, etc. A maypole was always erected on Maydays for dancing until much more recently.

It has been suggested that the village pump would have originally been in the middle of The Square, with the land that is now the Chequers car park being part of The Square. We can only speculate how this land came to be part of the Chequers - at some stage it was most likely it was used as a pasture for horses for the Chequers guests. As the business grew and more horses, carts and carriages parked in The Square, the landlord at some stage probably fenced it off, perhaps to separate the horses from children, or perhaps to provide overnight accommodation for un-tethered horses. In the 1820s Tithe map the land is listed as "Chequers garden" and it has been known to have been used to grow vegetables, an aerial photo displayed in the Chequers shows vegetables growing there as recently as the 1960s.

The 1820 "Tithe Awards" for Goldhanger, effectively the tax demand of the day, listed the "Chequers Inn & garden" as 2/6d (old money) whereas the Blacksmiths was 4/6d and the Mill & House was 13/6d. In the mid 1800s the red brick walls were built all around the village to keep farm animals going to and from the three farms in the centre of the village out of the gardens.


A recent view from the Tap Room window looking east across The Square and along Head St.

The Chequers enjoys the early evening sun and the occasional impressive sunset.


As a house belonging to a yeoman (a middle-class countryman) when first built in the 1500s, it is said to have been occasionally used as a court. Two types of court were likely to have been held in the premises. The Manorial Court was presided over by the Lord of the Manor with the assistance of his steward, who would have approved property transfers in the village. The steward would have entered them in the Manorial Roll and written out the deeds. Manorial Courts also resolved minor disputes and handled petty crimes. These courts ended in the 1925.

At the request of the Lord of the Manor and the village constable, the circuit judge would have been called in to preside over any major prosecutions in a criminal court. It has been said that what is now the main bar was used for these court sittings, but also that one of the first floor rooms was also used, with another bedroom being used for the judge to robe up. As recently as 1890s there were newspaper reports of the Chequers Inn being used for inquests. Over the 500 year period involved, both are likely to have happened. It is also said that when the occasion arose a gibbet was erected across the road on the land that was once the Chequers garden, or a paddock, and is now the car park. In the 16th and 17th centuries smugglers found guilty of killing coastguards, or "riding officers" as they were know then, were executed and gibbeted locally. It is also said that a possible reason why Head Street acquired its name was because the heads of those executed in The Square were hung in the street.

The first recorded licensee of the Goldhanger Chequers was one Edward Smith who held the licence in 1769. However, it would have been an inn well before this date. A Manorial Court Roll reveals that the Surveyor of Weights and Measures reported the Chequers for "short measure" in 1758. There have been many landlords since that period, all of whom can be identified in licensing documents, census returns and trade directories.

The Chequers and Goldhanger has had a long-standing reputation for involvement in smuggling. Before the Coastguards were stationed in the village in 1822 it was sufficiently distant from Maldon to escape the attentions of all but the most diligent government officers. As the Chequers was the only legal inn listed in Goldhanger in 1769 it undoubtedly played a part in this illegal activity that had gone on for generations before. It is said that there was a cellar at the rear of the building used as a temporary store. The Essex coast marshes were known to be unhealthy so there were hardly any big houses and few magistrates resided in the area. A favourite technique in Goldhanger was to float rafts or tubs along the Blackwater and beach them in the isolated creeks.


Tales have been handed down of the villagers turning a deaf ear to noises at night, and next morning finding their horses lathered and a keg of brandy in the porch. They say the smugglers bound sacking round the wheels of the carts and over the horses` hooves to dull the sound and to hide tracks and hoof prints. The goods were often stored for a time on route. The smugglers went from Fish Street up Head Street, Blind Lane or Wash Lane to Tiptree Heath which was said to be the "sorting office".


Smuggling probably progressively died out after the coastguard station was set up the at Goldhanger in the 1820s, which also coincided with the decline of local fishing trade. The coastguards remained in the village for about 100 years. "The coast is clear" was originally a smuggling term, meaning "there are no coastguards about". Early photographs show coastguards outside the inn wearing a distinctive sailors type of uniform and hat. They were probably good customers of the inn. See also. . . Smuggling at Goldhanger


In the early 1900s, when Charrington`s used Osea Island as an isolated home and treatment centre for alcoholic brewery employees and licensees, the flow of alcohol reversed and liquor from the Chequers was taken across to the Osea Island "patients" in a small boat. Bottles were tied to a navigation buoy close to the island to be retrieved latter. Since then the buoy has been locally know as "the doctors buoy".



with information kindly supplied by the late Cecil Chaplin

The Goldhanger Friendly Brothers was originally an early form of mutual sickness benefit, life assurance and a working mans club and is unique to the village. It was originally associated with the earlier Wesleyan Chapel located near The Square and has had other names over the 200 years, including The Friendly Society, Society of Good Fellowship and The Good Intent. The early Society folded when a local school teacher disappeared with the funds. It was reformed in 1903 and in 2003 the centenary of this was celebrated at the Chequers.

Although probably originally based in the Wesleyan chapel, the Chequers has been their main venue for over 100 years. Dr Salter of Tollesehunt D`arcy referred, in his well known diaries, to attending "the Hand-in-Hand Club Fest" at Goldhanger in 1864, he was probably referring to the Friendly Brothers, but this name has not been used elsewhere. Early Friendly Brothers dinners at The Chequers, typically for 70 members, consisted of beef or mutton roasted in the bakers oven over the road, with the vegetables provided by the members. The dinners were suspended during the war years. Today the Chequers continues to hosts the Friendly Brothers annual Christmas dinner, which is still attended by 60-70 members.



The Friendly Brothers outside The Chequers in 1910.

There is a Coastguard sitting in the front row. The ladies were the landlord`s family and staff.


More about. . . The Goldhanger Friendly Brothers



It is no surprise to find that the long association between St Peters Church and the Chequers extends to bell ringing next door. On hot days it can be thirsty work and there was a tradition in many towers to send the junior member of the band to the nearest pub with a large jug for beer or cider, which was passed around the ringers for refreshment. Many towers still have the jug, but in Goldhanger they probably just all walked next door. In the winter, and before electricity came to the village in 1937, the tower would have been extremely cold, and a quick trip to the bar to warm up would also have been very welcome.

view of the bell tower from the main bar

In the past the bellringers were farm workers and labourers, and in the 1880s the Revd. Ellacombe a west country vicar, became so disgusted with his unruly and probably drunken ringers that he designed a mechanism to enable his trusted churchwarden to ring all the bells. The mechanism became popular and known as Ellacombe chimes. A set was fitted to St Peter`s bells in 1908 and is still maintained in working order today.

With eight bells, an additional benefit is that simple tunes can be played, so don`t be surprised if your next meal in the Chequers restaurant is accompanied by "You`ll Never Walk Alone" or "Happy Birthday" on the Church bells! At Christmas time carols are played on the chimes and in the past the ringers played carols on hand bells in the hallway of the Chequers in exchange for a pint, which was drunk from a large upturned hand bell. Wednesday evening is practice night and not always the most tuneful time. Beware of the rush for the bar at 9pm.

St Peter`s bells in the churchyard near the Chequers window in 1952

when the belltower was being refurbished. The bellringers were probably in the bar


Prince Nicholas, later to be Tsar Nicholas II of Russia had lunch and/or stayed at The Chequers in the late 1800s or early 1900s while visiting the famous Dr Salter of Tolleshunt D`arcy. Dr Salter was known to be fluent in the Russian language, travelled often to Russia to judge dog shows as president of the Kennel Club, and met members of the Russian royal family on many occasions. It is thought the Prince joined Dr Salter for a duck shoot on Osea Island and Tollesbury Marshes after visiting Queen Victoria. A previous visitors book at the Chequers had the Prince`s signature in it.

During World War 1 there was an aerodrome, or "Flight Station", at the edge of the village on the Maldon Road and the pilots of the tiny bi-planes regularly frequented The Chequers. In March 1918, 20 aircraft of 74 Squadron landed at Goldhanger on route to the front at Ypres. The Flight commander was Captain Mick Mannock, later to be promoted to major. Despite being blind in one eye he officially shot down 73 enemy planes, unofficially he shot down nearer 100.

Mannock wrote in his diary of a farewell drink at the Chequers pub before departing for Ypres. The landlord, Henry Hind, made the pilots extremely welcome, but not so welcoming was the village "big shot", who objected to the singing in the bar. Mannock offered him the choice of a drink or be thrown out! The "arm of the law", said to be none other than the well know local GP, Dr Henry Salter, who was captain of the local volunteer force, chose the drink and joined in the merriments. "The departure of the airmen the next day was marked by a few hangovers". Mannock was later shot down and was awarded the VC posthumously. This is a summary of an article written by Stephen Nunn entitled When Goldhanger played Host published in 1990.

On bonfire nights in the early 1900s, prior to the tarmacing of the roads, an annual ritual took place when a large November 5th bonfire was lit in The Square by the village youths. As excitement rose the youths would roam the village in search of wooden objects to fuel the fire; farm gates would be chained and locked for the night. On one occasion, the heat was so intense that it cracked some of the Chequers front windows. There is a newspaper report from November 1910 of a court case when four Goldhanger “labourers” were prosecuted for putting an empty beehive on a fire in The Square on bonfire night. One of the defendants said in court that Goldhanger had celebrated Guy Fawkes night with a bonfire in The Square for 50 years. There is another newspaper report from November 1921 when a Jack Johnson, labourer from Goldhanger was prosecuted for a similar offence. He said “there has always been a bonfire there on Guy Fawkes night”. The prosecutor said “The flames shot up 20 feet and houses were only yards away”. The defendant was fined 4 shillings and Dr Salter the chairman of the bench said “I daresay other will subscribe to the 4 shillings. At this time Guy Fawkes night celebrations were frequently merges with local Armistice day celebrations, as the dates for the two events were just six day apart, and Jack Johnson was most probably the brother of one of those Goldhanger men killed in the Great War.”

artist's impression of Bonfire night in The Square

For a short time around 1925 Charles Mann became the Landlord. He shared this role with the many other activities for which he was well known: wheelwright, blacksmith, undertaker, Bell tower captain, Chairman of Parish Council, School manager, and last but not least he was a member of the group of Goldhanger men who travelled to Spitzbergen, at the beginning of the 20th century to prospect for gold.

One of the longest serving landlords was Jack Spitty, who was in residence from 1926 to 1953. He was a well known barge skipper and the Sailing Barge Association still awards the Spitty Trophy. He often said his forebears were "Essex pirates and smugglers" and was so involved with barges that he named all his three children after barges.

During World War 2 the local Ancillary Fire Service team`s equipment was stored in the Old Rectory farm buildings and the Air Raid Post "control room" was in what is now the Chequers kitchen, complete with one of the few telephones in the village.

USA G.I.s travelling from their base at Messing airfield were regular visitors to The Chequers during the second World War. Jeeps would be regularly seen parked along the Church wall on a Saturday evening. They came to know the Chequers through visits to the village as observers of bomb target practice in the estuary. (See. . . WW-2 page with photo)

Just after World War 2 some redundant military aircraft seats were acquired and were used for many years as seating in the tap bar.

In the 1960s the landlord and his wife became convinced that the Chequers was haunted after they repeatedly heard the sound of a crying baby at night, but never found one. Barmen have also heard the crying.

Lou Spooner, who was just 3ft 7inches tall, and lived in Fish Street, was a regular in the tap room when not travelling with a circus. At the weekends he frequently entertained other customers by tap-dancing on a table, accompanied by his brother on a piano-accordion.

During the 1960s a television advertisement was believed to have been made using the main bar of the inn. A customer is seen sitting in the window with a pint but looking rather irritated, with the church bells ring in the background. The camera pans around and the bar and the bells stop. When the camera returns to the man he seems much happier. The camera pans down to his feet and under the table there is a clapper from one of the bells.

Bellringer's Door A former resident, who spent his youth in the village, remembers there being a door from the bar that went directly into the churchyard. Customers were told that this door was for use of the bellringers only! Great story, but sadly there is no evidence of there once being a door in the old red brickwork on the outside of the building that forms the boundary to the churchyard.

In the late 1960 & early 70s when Dutch Elm decease was rife and logs were plentiful, the landlord "opened up" the fire place in the tap room by removing a red brick insert, similar to those still in the other bars and in the winter roaring open fires kept the tap room extremely warm. Inevitably, the chimney caught fire and the fire brigade had to be called to put out the fire. The landlord was strongly advised by the brigade not to have such large open fires again to protect the building and its customers.

The landlord later however, acquired the reputation of being mean with fuel, and on one bitterly cold day, when the fire was clearly inadequate, the landlord left the premises for a short time, only to return to discover that customers had chopped up two chairs and had added them to the fire for more heat.

In the early 1970s when re-paving work was being undertaken in the back yard, the landlord announced that some brick foundations had been uncovered that could possibly be of Roman origin. The work was suspended and archaeologists were invited to inspect the find. In the meantime, word of the find quickly spread around the village and everyone went to look into the hole in the yard. However, the experts declared the brickwork was part of a Victorian urinal.

In the 1970`s the local baker delivered bread to the outlying villages. Once a week at the end of his delivery day he would call at the Chequers where the landlord of the day would purchase his last few loaves. The delivery to the pub was always the same. When the baker arrived outside the pub the landlord, hearing the baker`s van, would slip the bolt on the front door allowing the baker entry, and he return to his lounge (which is now the pool room) to watch the television news programme. The baker would walk into the bar, leave the bread on the counter, draw himself a pint and then record the final transaction of the day in his round book.

One November evening in 1973 the usual ritual took place. But on this occasion the baker, standing at the hatchway with his pint, looked across into the saloon bar and noticed a tall man sitting near the fireplace, a glass of beer was on the table in front of him. The baker, unconcerned, carried on with his bookwork. The man got up from his seat to leave the pub, and the baker noticed he had long grey hair and wore a grey trench coat that flapped against him as he passed. This prompted the baker to say `Good Evening`, but the stranger did not answer. When eventually the landlord came into the bar to settle his bill the baker asked him who the stranger was and recounted what had happened; `well` said the landlord `you are definitely the first customer I have seen this evening`. Pale and shaking the baker pointed to the empty beer mug on the saloon bar table and hurriedly left for home.

The pub had a long-standing sociable tradition of "sipping", that is while waiting for your beer at busy times when the landlord had to go to the "cellar" to pour it, locals would offer a sip from their glasses. When the new pint arrived it was polite to return the gesture.

The landlord and landlady of the Chequers in the 1980`s had an Arabian friend who often came to stay with them at the pub for several weeks at a time. Although a Saudi Arabian, he was very partial to a gin and tonic. During an early visit he had accepted several drinks from fellow patrons over the course of an evening and after being made aware that it was the custom in the UK to buy those you were drinking with a reciprocal drink he felt he had offended his companions. For the rest of his stay, and many visits afterwards, he would purchase his evening gin and tonic and a drink for everyone else in the pub.

In the 1970s and 80s Sunday night jazz nights became extremely popular and bands from all over southern England performed. However, it became so crowded that it was very difficult to reach the bar and the landlord cancelled the events due to a lack of takings.

Mary Rose, former landlady, wrote her memoirs In 2007 of her and landlord Jack Hulbert`s time at the Chequers in the 70s and 80s. The book is entitled "The Licence" (see entry in the Virtual Library). Their son worked on Osea Island and a chapter of the book describes the family`s involvement with the island.

During the early 1980s a television crew spend a day filming at the Chequers and interviewing locals in the Tap Room about their memories of working on Osea Island. The programme, called Causeway`s End, was broadcast on BBC television at the time and is still a pleasure to watch. It described the Charringtons retreat on the island for "inebriates" just before World War 1, it showed scenes from HMS Osea as the navy called it during the war, and more recent scenes of the island, including horses at work, barges, vehicles on the causeway, etc. It also described, however, how Goldhanger residents in the past supported activities on the island and how, over the years, the island`s residents have used the Chequers as their mainland base. . .

audio extracts from the programme:




The history of Osea Island is one of our Local History Talks




part of an article written by Bill Meehan in the 2003

St Peter`s Church is a imposing building with 11th Century origins and a 15th Century tower. The tower can be seen from a long way out in the wide Blackwater River and has served as a useful navigation mark for hundreds of years. A public footpath starts at a kissing gate, into the churchyard and thence through two rows of yew trees to an unusual little stile in the far churchyard wall. Near here you will find two Commonwealth War Grave headstones, where Second Lieutenants Sydney Armstrong and Frederick Crowley are buried. Both lost their lives over Goldhanger in WW-1.

Spare a thought and perhaps a smile and a cheery wave, for the two pilots as you walk through. The footpath leads on to a delightful walk around fields to the seawall, back via the playing field at the bottom of Fish Street and thence to your starting point at the church - twenty minutes if you step out, forty if you dawdle. If you go in summer you`ll see larks rising, hovering and falling. In October to March, with luck, you`ll see the Brent Geese who come here from Siberia to spend the winter every year. You may see them feeding at the water`s edge as the tide recedes or flying in formation overhead.

The view you will have across the Blackwater to Osea island will be as it was when the pilots of C Flight, 37 Squadron, saw it when on patrol in 1916-18. When you have completed your walk and arrived back at the church, you will find the Chequers Inn next door, should you need sustenance. See also. . . The Great War - Flight Station


A poem by Bill Meehan

My favourite approach to the wobbly plank

is down to the playground and up to the bank,

along the sea wall past an old barge, quite rotten,

dumped there in the forties, forlorn and forgotten.

Look out for the mooring posts near the sea wall.

They`re stout, blackened timber, standing there tall,

for you to moor up, coming in on the tide,

and when it goes out, just climb over the side.

You can walk ashore here, high and dry on the shingle

and make your way up to The Chequers to mingle

with old salty dogs, bewhiskered and tanned

puffing their pipes with their pints in their hand.

This pub is next door to the Church of St Peter.

An arrangement like that could hardly be neater

for answering the needs of a dry congregation

in search of relief and some mild celebration.

This is the last verse and I`ve not mentioned geese

or dunlins and skylarks, summer evenings and peace.

But shush. Keep it quiet, for I`m sure you`ll agree

Goldhanger`s secrets are for just you and me.


The Chequers has always been a popular subject for artists

here is a selection of that artwork from the archives...






Edward Smith

Essex Records Office


John Cooper

Tithe Awards, Chelmsford Chronicle


George Cowell

Pigot`s commercial directory


John Cooper

Census, White`s Directory


James & Caroline Bitten

Census, Kelly`s Directory


William & Esther Good



William Good

Post Office, Chelmsford Chronicle


William Russell

Kelly`s Directory, Post Office


William Joseph & Eliza Harvey

Kelly`s, Chelmsford Chronicle


James McDonald

Kelly`s Directory


Sidney & Elizabeth Haskins

Kelly`s, Census


Frank Norton

Friendly Brothers plaque in pub


Harry Hills



Henry Hinds



Robert Westbrook



Charles James Mann



Jack Heard Spitty









Peter Wardlord



Jack & Mary Hulbert



Trevor & Joan Jones



Phil & Dom



Some of this information in taken from:


Some of the material included here originates from:

Unpublished letter by Arthur Appleton in 1918 - with the kind permission of his descendants

Goldhanger - an Estuary Village by Maura Benham, published in 1977

The Goldhanger Stone: What Is It?

by Miller Christy, in Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, 1909

When Goldhanger played Host written by Stephen Nunn, published in The Journal (M), 1990

An unpublished Study of The Chequers Inn written by Janet White in the 1990s


The Goldhanger Digital Archive wish to thank the landlords of The Chequers for permission to take the recent photographs

and thank the many Chequers customers who provided much of the information and tales from the past.


© - Goldhanger Digital Archive 2019


    top             home