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The Bear is one of the grand coaching inns of England, with a long and varied history.

It is thought to have developed a lodging house for the adjacent medieval Priory of St John which was founded by 1232. There is documentary proof of its use as a Hospice in 1464.

Earliest information: 1464
Date of current building: 17th century (or earlier)
Listed: Grade II

Thumbnail History:

- Hospice associated with adjacent Priory of St John

- Important coaching inn on the Bath and Bristol road

- Part of Chilton Foliat / Littlecote estate

- 1464 first written record of The Bear

- 1464-1547 Held by the Crown (and 5 of Henry VIII's wives)

- 1547-1589 Owned by Darrell family

- 1589-1893 Owned by Popham and Leybourne-Popham family

- 1688 William of Orange at The Bear

The Bear lies in Charnham Street, which formed part of Wiltshire until the boundary changes of 1895. It was always part of the manor of Chilton Foliat and Littlecote until 1893. The manor was in the hands of Henry VII and later Henry VIII, who passed it to five of his six wives (only Anne Boleyn failed to own Chilton Foliat).

Description of property:

From Listed Building records: Hotel. C17, 18, 19 and 20 with possibly older core. Tiled, hipped roof. 2 ridge chimneys to main block. Painted brick. 2 storeys and attic.
Elevation to Charnham Street: 2 storey canted bay with vertical sliding sashes and glazing bars to each end of elevation. 7 vertical sliding sash windows with glazing bars on first floor and 3 small gabled dormers centrally placed. Ground floor has service door to left, 2 sash windows, main door under C20, stucco porch with doric columns and broken pediment, 4 further sash windows to right.

Photo Gallery:

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- The Bear Hotel, Jun 2007

- The halfpenny token minted by William Bell, "vintner at The Bear", 1668

- John Ogilby's map of London to Bristol road, 1675, showing the two routes between Kintbury and Marlborough

- Part of map of Charnham Street, c1750 showing the Berks-Wilts boundary passing through The Bear (see 1636)

- The plaque on the wall of the Bear Hotel, unveiled to commemorate the tercentenary of the meeting between William of Orange and the Commissioners of James II, Dec 1688.

- The Bear's famous "Tavern" Clock, made by The Marsh family of Highworth in the 1730s.

- The Bear used to be called the "Black Bear" in the 19th century to distinguish it from the "White Bear".

- The Bear and Charnham Street, c1877, from carte-de-visite by William Softley Parry

- The Bear corner, a tinted photo, c1904.

- The Bear and Charnham Street, c1905, from a glass lantern slide

- The Bear and Charnham Street, c1903 (posted 24 May 1905) [Freeman's Series litho]

- The Bear and Charnham Street, 1907 ["W6632"]

- The Bear, c1908

- The Bear Tomato House, c1908

- Titled "Bear Street, Hungerford", c1910

- Similar photograph to previous, but black & white, and titled "Charnham Street, Hungerford", c1910

- Advert for the Bear Hotel, c1910 [Berkshire by Pen and Camera]

- Funeral cortege of Freddie Pratt leaving The Bear, 9 Jun 1910

- The new "Fire King" fire engine outside The Bear, 22 Sep 1910

- Coach and coachmen outside The Bear, c1910

- The Bear, Riverside and Stradling & Plenty's Garage, c1912. [Collier, ?B616]

- The Bear and Riverside, c1912 [Tomkins & Barrett, Swindon]

- The Bear Hotel, 1914

- The Bear Corner, c1914

- The Bear Corner, c1914

- Bear Corner and Charnham Street, c1914. {E. Barnard series]. Note, this is the same view as "bear_10" which is titled "Bear Street".

- The Bear and Riverside, c1914

- The Bear and Charnham Street, c1914

- The Bear and Charnham Street, 9 Jul 1921. [A. Parsons]

- The Bear and Riverside, c1930

- A stage coach and four horses outside The Bear, c1930.

- The Bear, c1930

- The Bear, c1930

- The Bear Corner (Post-marked 17 Aug 1928)

- The Bear Corner [Similar to above - HGFD 1]

- Flooding in The Bear Yard, 16th May 1932

- The Bear, c1935 [Raphael Tuck]

- "Bear Corner", c1938

- The Bear, c1938

- Autographed photograph of Laurel and Hardy, sold (Apr 2015) at SAS Auctions, Newbury. Said to have been obtained in Hungerford, 1947. (With thanks to John Taylor)

- The Bear Hotel, c1950

- The Bear Hotel, c1950

- The Bear corner, 1957. [H.1895]

- The Bear Hotel and Charnham Street, 1962

- The Bear corner, Easter 1953 (Moya Dixon collection)

- The Bear corner, looking west, c1973.

- The Bear River Bar, 1974

- Arrival at Hungerford, 4am. By George Denholm Armour, taken from The Hunting Tours of Surtees, Edited by E D Cuming.

- Duke of Marlborough with Roy Tudor-Hughes and Robin Tubb, English Tourist Board Award, 1980s.

- Cover of "The Bear Hotel - The Story of an Ancient Inn", by Mr EL "Jim" David, 1989

- The Bear Hotel, c1990, showing the old stage coach.

- The Bear Hotel, Jun 2007

- Interior of The Bear Hotel after refurbishment by Greene King, Feb 2014

- The historic stuffed bear at the Bear Hotel. In the early 20th century it used to stand near the entrance door, but was later moved to a display cabinet in an internal corridor, in which the tavern clock is now housed. [Photo Feb 2014]

- Plaque commemorating William of Orange's visit 7th-8th Dec 1688. [Photo 30 Nov 2019].


The earliest known reference to The Bear was an escheatment which placed the manor of Chilton Foliat and The Bear in the possession of the Crown:

In the Roll of Escaet of 4° Edward IV (1464) of Ph. More, Escheator of the Counties of Southampton and Wilts. Misc Rolls 463, the Jurors found that:

"De Manerio de Chilton Draycotte et Salley ac de uno messive hospicio in Charleham Strete voc let Bere, cum pertin com Wilts. Alionora Ducissa Somers defunct fuit seisit in dinco suo ut de feido".

The early Lords of the Manor of Chilton Foliat were:

1300-1327 Henry Tyeys
1397-1417 Thomas, Lord Berkeley
1432-1439 Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick
1448-1455 Edmund, Duke of Somerset, son-in-law to the Earl of Warwick. Killed at St Albans, 1455.
1455-1464 Eleanor, Duchess of Somerset, widow of Edmund and daughter of Richard Beauchamp
1464 Escheated to The Crown (see above)
1464-1483 Edward IV
1483 Edward V
1483-1485 Richard III
1485-1509 Henry VII
1509 Henry VIII
1509 Catherine of Aragon, who, in 1523, ordered oaks to be cut down in the Manor for the repair of the Church at Chilton Foliat
1536 Jane Seymour
1540 Anne of Cleves
1541 Catherine Howard
1543 Catherine Parr. Shown in a survey of the Manor in 1547
1547 Sir Edward Darrell
1549 "Wild" William Darrell
1589 Sir John (Judge) Popham; then Attorney General, and later Lord Chief Justice)

The Bear remained in the hands of the Popham and Leyborne-Popham family for over 300 years until it was sold from the Littlecote Estate in 1893.

[For more detail, see British History online]

The origin of the name "The Bear":

The name of "The Bear" or "The Black Bear" is thought to derive from the "Bear and Ragged Staff" - the Crest of the Earls of Warwick, who were Lords of the Manor in the 15th century. According to legend, one ancestor of the family was known as "The Bear" for having strangled such an animal with his hands, while another ancestor used a young tree as a club with which to slay a giant. The Bear was known as the Black Bear during the 19th century to distinguish it from the White Bear further along Charnham Street. Follow this link for more on the Origin of Inn Signs.

1537 (VCH, Vol 3) Robert Braybon held the inn when three highwaymen stopped here who were accused of robbing John Flowre, clothier, between Bagshot and Windsor Park:

12 July 1537: ROBBERY of JOHN FLOWRE, Clothier.
Depositions, taken 12 July, 29 Hen. VIII, before, Rob. Abbot of Malmesbury, John Hamlyn, and Anthony. Styleman, justices of the peace for Wiltshire, of – :

i. Rob. Braybon, otherwise called Keeper, of Charnelstrete, Wilts, "inn-holder of the ostree of the Beere" (Bear) adjoining to the town of Hungerford, as to the persons suspected of robbing John Flowre, of Worton, clothier, between Bagshot and Windsor park. That one Thos. Bryght and two others, ''one of whom Bryght called Master Wasshington, came to his house the day before St Nicholas' eve, lodged there that night, and left at 8 next morning, saying they were servants to Mr. Gryffith, of Staffordshire, knight, and wished to see some land of their master's. They returned at 4 in the evening, saying they had come by the bp. of Sarum's manor of Rammesbury, about three miles from deponent's house, and departed on St. Nicholas' day. Eight days afterwards he met Bryght and Washington in London at a tailor's shop in-Fleet Street in far better apparel than before, and they invited him to dine .at the house of one — Whelpeley, in St. Antholin's churchyard; where he met one Master Huntley, a servant of the King.

ii. Joan Brusse, servant of the said Braybon, says the three persons lodged in the house on Monday before St. Nicholas, and she thought one of them was Mr. Baymfeld, who had land at Rowde beside the Devizes. –Signed by the justices.
(Letters & Papers, Henry VIII, Vol 12, pt 2, No 247)

1540 (VCH Vol 3): "This inn was attached to the manor of Chilton Foliat, and with that manor was granted in Jan 1540 to Anne of Cleves, and in the following year to Katherine Parr."

Lady Anne, sister of William duke of Juliers, Gueldres, Cleves and Bergen .... Grant for life, in consideration of the marriage to be celebrated between the King and her, ... [a very long list of property] ... the lordship or manor of Chilton alias Chilton Folyat with a hospice called le Bere in Hungerford, Wilts and Berks. (Letters & Papers, Henry VIII, Vol XV, g.144).

... the lordship or manor of Chilton Folyett and the inn called the Bear in Charnam Strete near Hungerford, Wilts and Berks. (Letters & Papers, Henry VIII, Vol XVI, g.503).

The Darrell family, owners, 1548-1589:

1548-9: The manor of Littlecote, including The Bear, was granted to Sir Edward Darrell:

Whereas Henry VIII for 1,118l 8s. 5½d. intended to grant Edward Darell, knight, his heirs and assigns, the lands specified below, and Darell then paid in the Augmentations 460l. and has now paid a further 658l 8s 5½d:

Grant to the said Darell of the lordship and manor of Chilton Folyatt, Wilts, the advowson of the rectory, the park and its liberty, the land called Chilton Park, the inn called le Beeres Inne within the town of Hungerford, Wilts, the meadow called Lordes Meade in Chilton, the warren of coneys in tenure of Anthony Hungerford, knight, in Chilton Folyatt, and all lands and. liberties (long list) in Chilton Folyatt, Leverton and Hungerford, Wilts and Berks, or elsewhere, pertaining to the said manor; all which premises lately were parcel of the jointure of the late Queen Katharine.

And grant of all other lands in the places aforenamed which were parcel of the said jointure.

Except advowsons other than that of the rectory of Chilton Foliatt.

To hold to the said Edward Darell, knight, his heirs and assigns, of the king in chief by the service of the twentieth part of one knight's fee.

Exoneration. Issues since Annunciation 37 Henry VIII. These letters without fine or fee. By K. [II.893.]
(Pat. 2 Edw VI, pt. 6 m17)

Sir Edward Darrell died two years later, leaving the estate to his son William Darrell - the "Wild" Will Darrell, who was accused of murder of a newly born baby at Littlecote House. "Wild" Darrell was an unpopular man locally, and following the scandal of the alleged murder, he fled to his friends in the Royal Court (who included Sir John Popham), managing to live his life in considerable luxury. On leaving Court in July 1589, he returned to Littlecote, where he was killed on 1st October the same year when he fell from his horse.

Robert Brabon (Brabant) died c1565.

c1565-1576: Henry Edes. He married Brabant's widow Joan, thus acquiring the inn. Henry Edes died in 1576.

Sir John Popham and the Leyborne Popham family, owners 1589-1893:

Sir John Popham took possession of the Littlecote estate, along with the Manor of Chilton Foliat and The Bear. The Popham family were to remain Lords of the Manor for over three hundred years until 1893.

1576-1591: William Curteys. When Henry Edes died, his widow Joan married William Curteys, her third husband. Curteys died c1591 and was succeeded by his tenant:

c1591-c1609 John Underwood. It was during John Underwood's time, in 1592, that Queen Elizabeth made one of her many progresses, and passed through Hungerford. It is quite possible that she did stay at the Bear. Certainly, one of her coachmen on that tour fell ill and died at the Bear, as the following entry in the parish register for 30 Aug 1592 makes clear: "Buried: Mr Slie, one of the Queen's coachmen who died in the progress at John Underwood's in Charnham Street at the sign of the Bear".

c1609-1615 Edward Woodyore was innholder. He died 8 Dec 1615, and was succeeded by his nephew:

1615 Richard Woodyore

16?? Samuel de Luke

16??-1620 Edward Collynson. Wiltshire Lenten Recognisances (PRO E180/45 No 194) 8 Mar 1619/20: Edward Collison of Charnham Street, innkeeper. Sureties: John Cooke innkeeper and John Hatte yeoman, both of the same.

1636 Thomas Smith(?). In 1636 John Taylor, writer, traveller and later innkeeper, wrote about his travels, and referred to an inn in Hungerford, not giving its name, but stating that the county boundary ran through the house.

King Charles I stayed at The Bear Inn, 1644:

On Sunday 17 Nov 1644 King Charles I came to Hungerford, and stayed two nights at The Bear Inn. For more on this see 1642-51 Civil War.

1668-1691 William Bell. The Constables' Accounts and Churchwardens Accounts contain several references to payments to "Mr Bell at ye Beare". It was William Bell who produced token coinage in 1668 (see his halfpenny token in the Photo Gallery, and Token Coinage). William Bell died 1702. A memorial stone is in St Lawrence's Church graveyard, close to the main south entrance door.

Samuel Pepys' visit to The Bear Inn, 1668:

It was during William Bell's time as landlord of The Bear Inn that the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, visited. On 10 Jun 1668, two years after the Great Fire of London, he visited Hungerford and dined at The Bear Inn, whilst on a journey from Abingdon to Salisbury. He wrote: 'So come to Hungerford, where very good troutes, eels, and cray-fish. Dinner; a mean town. At dinner there 12s.'. He took a guide to show him the way to Salisbury, at least until the cathedral spire was in sight. The roads of the time were still in a dreadful condition, and when in the area later in the same month, Pepys lost way between Newbury and Reading!

William of Orange at The Bear:

In 1688 a very important part of English history took place in Hungerford. The Catholic King James II had ascended the throne in 1685, but his reign was not to last long. He became increasingly unpopular and by 1688 there were moves afoot to remove him from the throne. In November that year, the Protestant Prince William of Orange, who had married James' own daughter Mary, landed at the head of a strong army at Brixham, Devon, hoping to obtain considerable support for his cause from the West Country landowners. He then headed for London to claim the throne of England, and on 6th December he left Salisbury, and stayed the night at Colingbourne. The next day he came to Hungerford, and it was here, at the Bear Inn, that he met the Commissioners appointed by James II. For more on this meeting, click William of Orange at The Bear.

After a few days the Prince of Orange left Littlecote, and went on his way to Windsor. During 1689 he was crowned, and later that year he passed through Hungerford again, this time as King William III. No doubt it was a very important day for the town, in view of the role it had played a year previously.

1691 - The Constables' Accounts include many references to The Bear. In 1691 it was the meeting place for the Constable, Thomas Woodroffe, and a few of his "naybors" to discuss the indictment of Robert Osmond, Constable in 1689, for his retention of a deodand. (One of the ancient privileges of the Manor of Hungerford, or indeed of any Manor, was that of Deodand, a deodand being an animal or article which had caused the death of any person. The animal or article became forfeit to the Crown or Lord of the Manor, and it often happened that a dispute arose between Crown and Manor over these perquisites, which were often of some considerable value. It is not stated what the deodand was in this case, but the difficulty arose because the man had received "his mortall Wound" in Sanden Fee, but died in the Manor of Standen Hussey.)

1694 - One of the many Probate Inventories for Hungerford relates to William Burcombe, "innholder of Charnham Street". He was almost certainly innholder of The Bear, and the detailed inventory is of great interest. It lists 8 rooms (with 34 beds) including the Kings chamber, the Queens chamber, the Half Moon chamber, the Bear chamber, the Crown chamber, the Mitre chamber, the Green chamber and the Bell chamber.

1702 Daniel Parker: The Poor Rate for Charnham Street 1704 lists Daniel Parker as paying 8s 0d.

1731 Sun Fire Insurance Vol. 36/151 Policy No. 58558 10 August 1731: George CHURCH at the Bear Inn in H. innholder on his dwelling house being the inn aforesaid and goods and stock therein and on the outhouses thereto belonging. Brick and tiled as hereafter: on dwelling house only. £100; household goods and stock £350; brewhouse £50; barn £40; stables £60; wine vault £40; beer cellar £60. Total £1000.

c1735 Date of The Bear's "Tavern" clock.

More on the Bear Hotel's "Tavern" Clock:

The magnificent "Tavern" clock in the Bear Hotel was removed when Greene King bought the hotel in 2013, and offered for sale at Woolley & Wallis Salerooms, Salisbury on 19 Feb 2014.

The accompanying description says: "By Marsh of Highworth. An early tavern clock with rectangular shield dial, gilt Roman hours and outer Arabic minute ring with diamond half hour marks, signed beneath the chapter ring Marsh Highworth either side of a gilt painted Father Time type figure, the large ears attached to the trunk decorated with barrels and vine leaves, the door now glazed, cushion base, the rectangular plated movement with four ringed pillars, the four wheel train with large diameter barrel wheel, brass hands with counter balanced minute, circa 1735, 62in (157cm) high.

Provenance: Recently removed from the Bear Hotel, Hungerford, where it reputedly has been since new. The clock is recorded and discussed by Gratto, Martin 'The Tavern Clock' p. 147.

Ono Marsh of Highworth died in 1733. The business was continued by his widow Jane until 1735, possibly making this one of the last clocks by the Marsh family ever to be made. The clock still retains its original movement and a rare illustration of Old Father Time."

The estimated sale value was £6,000 - £9,000.

For more on the Marsh family of clockmakers, Highworth, see the Brian Loomes website.

The "tavern" clock at The Bear was an early example, and was special because it is thought never to have left The Bear.

These "tavern" clocks are often known as "Act of Parliament" clocks. The term came about (long after these clocks were already in existence) because in 1797, a tax against clocks of five shillings was introduced by Prime Minister William Pitt to raise desperately needed money to help fund the war against the French.

The tax was very unpopular among clock makers and was repealed after nine months because it practically obliterated the trade overnight; not only were people no longer buying clocks, but they were throwing existing clocks away!

The large clocks in inns had to be kept for the timing of coaches and were later (though incorrectly) said to have been developed as a response to this tax.

The Turnpike along Charnham Street to Marlborough:

Some major changes to the roads around The Bear came about in the 1740s.

Although a very early road - the "King's Street" ran through Hungerford to Marlborough, it had become more usual for the route to deviate north of Hungerford.

The quality of the roads was terrible in the 17th and early 18th century - rutted and dusty in summer, a mud-bath in winter. Even in 1668 Samuel Pepys lost his way on a journey from Newbury to Reading, and there was a great need for good quality maps.

John Ogilby made a vast number of road maps in the 1670's, and his edition of the London to Bath road in 1675 (shown above on this page) shows two alternative routes near Hungerford. The first route left the route taken by the present-day A4 just west of the Kintbury turning, and followed the road along Radley Bottom, Upper Denford, Gipsy Lane, and. Leverton to Chilton Foliat, Ramsbury and Marlborough. The second route continued through Charnham Street past The Bear to Froxfield, through Savernake Forest to Marlborough. Follow this link for more on Turnpike Trusts, and on Coaching.

When the Hungerford to Marlborough road through Savernake was finally turnpiked in 1744, most of the trade followed this route - and The Bear, along with all the coaching inns along Charnham Street, would have enjoyed increased trade.

Timeline (contd):

1739 Alexander Burton

1753 William Ryman

1756 Edward Smith

1759 John Whale.
1772 The Trustees of the Hungerford-Lechford Turnpike Trust first met in 1772 at the Black Bear - the 'house of John Whale'.
1780 (LTA) "Mrs Popham for the Black Bear Inn, occupier John Whale, £3 13s 9½d"
1781 (LTA) "Mrs Dorothy Popham for the Bear Inn, occupier John Whale, £3 13s 9½d"
1785 (Royal Exchange Fire Insurance) Vol. 11 Policy No. 95048 31 October 1785: John WHALE the elder of the parish of H. Berks innholder, on furniture in his dwelling house and offices adjoining, brickbuilt and tiled situate in Charnham Street and known as the Black Bear: £750.
- Wearing apparel: £50.
- Utensils and stock in trade: £400.
- Utensils and stock in trade in 4 stables adjoining, brick and tiled: £150.
- Utensils and stock in trade in a meadow near: £50.
- Total £1400.

1792 (UD) "The Bear"

1796 Elizabeth Whale - the "Black Bear"

1804: The Coat of Arms of the Leybourne-Pophams was placed over the front entrance to the hotel, when the failure of the male line of Pophams required an addition to the name.

1815 (LTA) Proprietor William Leybourn Popham; Occupier John Moss.

1817 Pew Rent Books, No.9: "To Edward William Leybourne-Popham for his house called the Bear Inn, in occupation of John Harris ". [Usual rent 3s or 4s per annum]

1818 Richard Compton

1823 (PD) Sarah Hincks - Black Bear, posting inn
1830 (PD) Sarah Hincks - Bear

1836 J Satchell

1840 William Burtt
1841 (CS) William Burtt (50), inn keeper, wife Hester (49), 1 brother, 1 sister-in-law, 1 waiter, 5 servants, 7 lodgers, 1 ostler (Richard Goddard, 45, in out house).
1844 (PD) William Burtt
1844 (SD) William Burtt
1847 (KD) William Burtt - Commercial Inn & posting house.

Coaches leaving The Bear in 1847:

- Star - 2.30pm to White Hart Inn, Bath
- Optimus - 8.45am to Beau Sauvage, Ludgate Hill
- Optimus - 8.30pm to Castlet & Ball, Marlborough
- Star - 3.30pm to the station at Reading for the 7 o'clock train

1847 Snare Directory: William Burtt - innkeeper
1850 Slater Directory: William Burtt - inn and posting house
1851 (CS) William Burtt (62), Innkeeper; wife Hester (61); David Saunders (69), Waiter; Samuel Pocock (41), Cook; Sophie Drewet (24), Barmaid; Elizabeth King (22), Chambermaid; Jane Wilkins (19), Kitchenmaid; John New (19), Boots.
1854 Billing Directory: William Burtt (coach times given)

The coming of the Great Western Railway:

The railway opened to Hungerford in December 1847. The line was continued west to Seend and onwards in 1862. (Follow this link for more on the Railway). The opening of the railway brought to an end the grand coaching era - and The Bear (and other inns on Charnham Street) would have suffered significant reduction in trade. Some were to close, but The Bear adapted and developed.

Timeline (cont'd):

1861-1874 John Welch
1861 (CS) John Welch (Bear Inn) (40), innkeeper and farmer, wife Elizabeth (45), brother, 2 nieces, 2 nephews, 1 sister, 2 lodgers, 4 servants. Bear Tap: Martha Reed (50), innkeeper. [also in the census were #112 - #119, apparently west of The Bear, but there are no properties there until Strongrove. Hill, Nather, Fishlock, Gilbert, Palmer, Walker, Gregory, French]
1863 Dutton & Allen Directory: John Welch
1864 (BD) William Burtt - family and commercial hotel, and posting house. Excise Office.
1866 (BK) John Welch - Parcel Agent, Bear Hotel.
1867 Melville Directory: John Welch - "Black Bear". Burtt had moved to Eddington.
1867: John Welch paid an annnual rent (to the Leybourne-Pophams) of £13 5s 0d.
1867 Advert in NWN 20 Jun 1867 for John Welch providing various horses, dog-carts, basket Phaetons for hire.
1869 Post Office Dir: John Welch - "Black Bear", Commercial and Family Hotel.
1871 (CS) John Welch (52), hotel keeper and farmer, 115 acres, employing 2 men, 3 boys, wife Elizabeth (56), 2 nephews, 1 niece, 1 assistant (barmaid), 4 servants (cook, housemaid, boots, and parcel boy). Bear Tap: Martha Reed (60), 2 servants.

1877 (KD) George Herrington - "Bear", commercial and family hotel and posting house.

c1877-1880 John Platt

1881-1893 William Woodmass Rennie
1883 (KD) William Woodham Rennie (sic!)
1891 (CS) William Rennie (48), Hotel keeper; wife Elizabeth (49), 4S, 2D, 1 servant.
1891 (KD) William Woodmas (sic!) Rennie - family and commercial hotel. Conveyances to meet every train. Loose boxes.
1891: "This old established Commercial Hotel and Posting House is entirely under new management and refurnished. Visitors will find good accommodation with modern charges. Wines and Spirits of first quality. Posting in all its branches. Flys to and from every train. W.W. Rennie, Proprietor.

William Rennie, owner 1893-1894:

The Bear is sold by the Leybourne-Pophams: In 1893 William Rennie bought The Bear from the Littlecote Estate. However, as the Popham family had owned it for over 300 years, there were no deeds to prove ownership! A local Marlborough solicitor resolved the problem by making a Statutory Declaration based on the knowledge that his grandfather, father and he himself had served as Stewards of the Littlecote Estate, and that he had assisted his father in that office for many years. He further declared that The Bear had been in the possession of the Popham family for 300 years and had formed part of a marriage settlement dated 4th and 5th July 1668, the marriage being that of Sir Francis Popham with Helen Rogers. The sale proceeded, at a purchase price of £1,500 (for The Bear and the adjacent land in Charnham Street). A mortgage was raised, partly provided by the vendors.

One feature of the conveyance from the Littlecote Estate was a Right of Way from the Town Mill in Bridge Street for vehicles and pedestrians through the Bear Yard to Charnham Street. One must presume that this was claimed through long usage, at the insistence of the Mill owner.

1894: (November): Extensive floods in Charnham Street.

The Atlas Brewery, owners 1894-1897:

1894-1898 Mrs Eliza Jane Rennie. In 1894 Mrs Rennie and another (possibly her husband, who was by this time a very sick man) sold the inn to Mr Edmund Parfitt of the Atlas Brewery in Newbury, but remained as a tenant. Mr Rennie died later in 1894, the Atlas Brewery took over the mortgage, and it thus became a "tied house".
1895 (KD) Mrs Eliza Jane Rennie, Bear Hotel, Charnham Street.

In 1895 there were significant County boundary changes which included the transfer of the Wiltshire portion of Hungerford Parish (including The Bear and Charnham Street) into Berkshire. This had the interesting benefit of altering the licensing hours so that the patrons of The Bear and Tap could enjoy an extra half hour of drinking without having to move to the John o' Gaunt Inn or the Barley Mow - which had always been in Berkshire.

1896: Mr Parfitt granted a (full repairing) lease to Mrs Rennie for seven years at £54 per annum.

The South Berks Brewery, owners 1897-1936:

1897: Atlas Brewery became part of South Berks Brewery.

1898-1905 Mrs Edith M Osmond
1899 (KD) Mrs Edith M Osmond
1900 (CD) Mrs Osmond
1901 (CS) Mrs Edith Osmond
1902 (CD) Mrs Edith M Osmond
1903 (KD) Mrs Edith M Osmond

1906 (CD) W Jasper, 'Bear' hotel, Charnham Street
1907 Telephone Directory: William Jasper

1908-1909 G Cleminson
1908 (KD) J Cleminson (sic!)

1909-1911 Mrs Sharp
1909 (CD) Mrs Sharp

1910: Mr Freddie Pratt
1910 (Jun) Two months before the new motor fire engine came to Hungerford in 1910, one of the brigade members, Mr. Freddie Pratt, landlord of the Bear Hotel, was killed in a terrible road traffic accident in June 1910. (See Tragic death of Mr Freddie Pratt)

c1910: A public house broker's valuation (Buckinghamshire Records Office) described the Bear as "Exceptionally nice roadside hotel some 70 miles from London in good hunting, fishing and sporting country, on the Bath Road. Comprises: Entrance Hall, Good bar, Coffee, Billiard and Drawing Room, 2 parlours, 10 bedrooms, Kitchen and usual offices, large yard, stables, garden, terrace and lawn etc. Rent £25; Licence £20; Return about £1,600. Price £950.

1911 (KD) Mrs Lucy M Pratt, widow of Freddie Pratt.
1911 (CS) Mrs Pratt, sister-in-law Mrs Annie Lucy Pratt, 3 servants, 27 rooms.
1915 (KD) Mrs Lucy M Pratt
1920 (KD) Mrs Lucy M Pratt, Bear Hotel, Charnham Street.
1924 (KD) Mrs Lucy M Pratt

1924-1931: Major Wyndham Knatchbull
1928 (KD) Major Wyndham Knatchbull
1929 (KD) Major Wyndham Knatchbull
1931 (KD) Major Wyndham Knatchbull, known as "William"

1931-1938: Horace Archer Cadd.

1932 (May): Extensive floods in The Bear and Charnham Street.

1934 (30th Oct)-1938 (26th Oct) Horace Arthur Cadd

1934: Lease (of 42 years) granted to Messrs Stradlings of Newbury of 141 ft frontage on Charnham Street with 90 ft depth, on which Stradlings built a garage and filling station.

Messrs Simmonds of Reading, owners 1936-1953:

1936: South Berks Brewery was taken over by Messrs Simmonds of Reading.

1936: The sale of The Bear was subject to the 1934 lease to Stradlings (see above).

1938-1939 Mrs Maude Mary Cadd, widow of H A Cadd.
1939 (KD) Mrs H A Cadd, Telephone 178
1939 (BK) Mrs M M Cadd, Bear Hotel.
1940 (BK) Mrs M M Cadd

I have been told (by John Taylor, Mar 2015) that in 1947, the entertainers Laurel and Hardy stayed at The Bear, and many local people (including his mother and sister) obtained their autographs. Can anyone confirm this? John adds: "Laurel and Hardy were appearing in Swindon and stopped over at the Bear hotel. My mother recalled Stan Laurel waving through the window downstairs at  the crowds with his trademark grin. Her sister Wendy remembered being  held up high to reach them and both girls got autographed photos.  Regrettably they were given away or lost as it was only years later that  Laurel and Hardy endured as popular culture legends. (See Photo Gallery for an autographed photo of Laurel & Hardy, obtained at Hungerford, 1947).

See also: Bear Hotel brochure, written whilst the Cadds were landlords. Includes photos and prices! (From Stewart Hofgartner)

1948 (10th Oct)-1953: H Cecil Davies, Clerk to the Magistrates.

Fitch family, owners 1953-1960:

1953 (1st Jul)-1960: Reginald Ernest and Ena Fitch. Freehold owners. The Fitchs (previously owners of The Castle Hotel in Hastings and the Kings Arms in Swindon) bought The Bear of £12,250. They promptly sold the garage and filling station. They also sold a further 162 ft frontage on Charnham Street to Berkshire County Council, who were planning to build a Fire Station on the site.

Jim Davis (The Story of an Ancient Inn) mentions that the Fitchs maintained a very high standard at the Bear, Reg Fitch being a very popular and jovial host. A frequent visitor was Geoffrey Webb, who picked up pieces of rural happenings and incorporated them into the script for "The Archers". In 1960 (or 1961) the Fitchs retired to Swindon, and The Bear was sold to Mr McIntyre.

Arthur McIntyre, owner 1960-1968:

1960 (Jun) - 1968 Arthur Donald McIntyre (also owner of Elcot Hotel at Kintbury until 1963).

Peter Reeves, owner 1968-1978:

1968 (10th Sep)-1978: Peter Reeves (P & J Reeves (Hotel and Catering) Ltd), licensee of the Nag's Head, Great Missenden, bought The Bear (as The Bear Hotel, Hungerford, Ltd) for £23,000. (See "£23,00 buys hotel steeped in history" - NWN Sep 1968). Another genial and enterprising host, ably assisted by "Ron and Mabel". He increased the number of rooms by converting space over the old stable block, the ground floor of which was converted into a roomy bar called "The Barn". It was around 1968 that the M4 motorway to Wales was starting to be developed, although it was not open near Hungerford until 1971. The increased traffic along the A4 through Hungerford between 1968 and 1971 brought greatly increased trade to The Bear. Once the M4 was opened, the passing trade reduced dramatically.

1975: During the winter, a fire caused great damage to The Barn.

Roy Tudor-Hughes (Fine Inns Ltd), owner 1978-1988:

1978 (23rd April) -1988: Roy Tudor-Hughes (Fine Inns Ltd). See "Hungerford Hotel sold for £200,000" - NWN Apr 1978.

In January 1979 the porch of The Bear was damaged when a Truman Beers tanker travelling west along Charnham Street skidded and collided with the building. See "Was he only there for the Bear?" - NWN report 1 February 1979.

1987: Kennet Suite refurbished for £365,000.

County Resort Hotels Ltd, owners 1988-1989:

1988: Miguiel and Jennifer Ares

May 1988: Fine Inns plc accepted an offer of £4.40 per share from County Resort Hotels (just under £6 million), including hotels at Pangbourne, Cirencester and East Horsley near Guildford. See "Bear grabbed in £6m. deal" - NWN 19 May 1988.
County Resort MD - Robert Feld.

Stephen Swire (Resort Hotels Lts), owner 1989-1992:

1989-92 Stephen Swire - Resort Hotels (including The Three Swans and Elcot Park).

Jarvis / The Bear Ramada Jarvis, owners 1992-2005:

Aug 2001 The owner/operator Jarvis entered into a franchise agreement with global hotel chain Ramada, and becamse known as "The Bear Ramada Jarvis"!

Follow this to read a terrible review of The Bear in The Daily Mail on 22 Jan 2005: An Inspector Calls.

Nick & Rowena Howat (Considered Hotels Ltd), owners 2005-2013:

Mar 2005 Bought by Nick Howat and his sister Rowena Howat (Considered Hotels) .
Major refurbishment (£750,000). General Manager - Colin Heaney.

Green King, owners, 2013-present:

Mar 2013 Bought by Greene King as one of their "Old English Inns" portfolio. Closed Oct-Nov for major refurbishment.
Nov 2013: Re-opened after refurbishment. See "Bear Grand Re-opening", NWN 14 Nov 2013

Key to sources:

BD - Billing's Dirctory
BK - Blackett's Directory
CD - Cosburn's Directory
CS - Census
KD - Kelly's Directory
LTA - Land Rax Assessment
PD - Pigot's Directory
SD - Snare's Directory
UD - Universal Directory

See also:

- The Bear Inn, a short paper by Norman Hidden

- Charnham Street Photo Gallery

- Coaching and Hungerford

- Early Licensees

- Turnpike Trusts

- Priory of St John the Baptist

- Postal History

- Inns & Alehouses

- Highwaymen

- William of Orange at The Bear, Dec 1688

- Constables' Accounts, 1658-1789

- Charnham Street floods, Nov 1894

- Tragic death of Mr Freddie Pratt, Jun 1910

- Fire Service 1910-1924

- Charnham Street floods, May 1932

Bear Hotel brochure, written whilst the Cadds were landlords. Includes photos and prices! (from Stewart Hofgartner)

- "£23,000 buys hotel steeped in history" - NWN Sep 1968

- "Historic figures stayed at The Bear", Hungerford WI - NWN 20 Jan 1977

- "Hungerford Hotel sold for £200,000" - NWN Apr 1978

- "Improvement plans for the Bear hotel" - NWN 30 May 2013

- "Historic 300-year-old clock spared auctioneer's hammer" - NWN 6 Feb 2014

- "Old clock goes back home to The Bear" - NWN 13 Feb 2014

- Bear Hotel [HHA Archives A75]

- "The Bear at Hungerford - The Story of an Ancient Inn" by EL (Jim) Davis, 1989.[HHA Archives N33]