The Cross

The Cross Inn 1922
The Cross Inn 1922

The Cross was the first of Boxted’s public houses and the only Inn. It was first recorded in 1784 and formerly known as the Dog and Partridge.The house is thought to have been built towards the end of the 16 th century, and started trading as an alehouse in 1600. The property belonged to the Rivers Hall estate and was rented (copyhold) by a Thomas Boniface, Master of Ale and the official Ale Taster for the Parish Vestry. The building was situated at the main crossroads of the village, and was probably chosen as the first ‘pub’ because of its position. In the early days, perhaps because the ale was too strong, it was “much affected” with “excessive drunkenness” and a cage was built on the green outside to “restrain these minor offenders” hence giving the name to Cage Lane.

The Cross Inn circa 1920

Civil War – Royalist support:

At the time of the Civil War a John Fitzgibbon was the landlord. He was supposedly the illegitimate son of Lady Gibbon, lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I. He was reputed to have been involved in the escape of Lord Goring, commander of the Royalist force that occupied Colchester, via Boxted in 1648. According to legend Fitzgibbon was captured by the Roundheads when they attacked Hill Farm and the inn and “shot to death”. His ghost is supposed to walk the grounds of the Cross each July.

In about 1750 the property was freed from copyhold to Rivers Hall, together with 30 acres of land which forms part of the playing field and council estate today. At this time it acquired the name “Dog and Partridge”, and was listed as an inn.. An inn was required to give food and succour to the traveller, and stable his horse. It could also sell the new-fangled “beer” and spirits as well as ale.

In 1850 its name was changed to The Cross, after John Cross, one of its most popular landlords. Since the 18 th century to the middle of the 20 th, its various landlords farmed the 30 acres of land belonging to the property. Before the 1872 Licensing laws, all the ale and beer was brewed in an outhouse, the brewhouse, at the rear of the inn. The 1872 Act prohibited “brewing in sheds and backhouses” and the property was sold to Daniels’ and Sons brewery at West Bergholt. Towards the end of the 19 th century a butcher’s shop was opened in the thatched barn adjoining the inn, with a slaughterhouse next to the brewhouse.

The Cross Inn 1986
The Cross Inn 1986

The property was sold, modernised and opened as a restaurant around 1990 but the venture did not succeed and a few years later it was converted into a private house.

I am indebted to Heather Johnson of Colchester, whose great uncle and great aunt, Henry and Beat Soar, ran the pub in the 1950s, for the following information –

The pub, which had sold beer for more than 500 years, had claimed to be the village’s first and oldest public house. Part of the building is believed to date back to 1480. The pub had an adjoining 11 acre field on which they kept goats, cows and pigs. Livestock prices at the time meant they could buy a calf for £1 and sell it on for £5 in a very short space of time – which supplemented the innkeeper’s income considerably. Today the same field is known as Crossfield.

In the post-war years the pub became a popular gathering place for the local hunt.