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bell inn (3)

207 Preston Road

 

The original Bell Inn on this site may have existed for generations before it was documented and at this time Preston Plucknett was just outside the Yeovil borough boundary. The Bell Inn was first named as such in Kelly's directory of 1842.

The first Bell Inn, shown surrounded by orchards and coloured pink on the map at left, was L-shaped when seen from the road. It was built of stone and had petrol pumps in the front (see photo below). The entrance to the 'jug and bottle', for sales to be taken off the premises, was at the rear of the building.

The Bell Inn was demolished for road widening in the late 1930's and the current building was built to serve Preston Plucknett which, by this time, had become part of the Borough of Yeovil. It is now a large red brick building with stone mullioned windows under a grey slate roof with dormers. The internal layout has changed several times and the building has been extensively enlarged at the rear.

During the Second World War the Bell Inn was a Civil Defence rendezvous site.

In 1950 the skittle alley of the Bell was earmarked by the Corporation for use as a 'care of the homeless' furniture store in the case of a civil emergency - that is, the outbreak of another war.

The Bell was sold by Bass Charrington to the Hungry Horse Co Ltd in 1999. In January 2013 the Bell was burnt almost to the ground as seen in the photographs below. The following is from the Western Gazette of 24 January 2013.

 

Cause of Hungry Horse fire could remain a mystery

Fire service investigators say they may never know what started a huge blaze that destroyed a Yeovil pub. The site of The Bell on Preston Road has been sealed off since an early-morning inferno on Sunday, January 6. Last week the Western Gazette revealed that the building had been too unsafe to enter as experts tried to establish what started the fire. This week a spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire Service said the severity of the fire and the instability of the property meant it had been impossible to establish the cause.

The blaze at The Bell was described by fire service group manager Paul Cregan as the biggest in Yeovil for 12 years. More than 16 fire engines from across Somerset were called to the site after flames ripped through the building in the early hours of the morning. It took crews four hours to bring it under control, as police attended to assist with road closures. Eye-witnesses described hearing explosions as the roof collapsed due to the intensity of the fire. Nobody was in the building at the time. Greene King previously said it was committed to rebuilding and reopening the pub.

 

The Bell was rebuilt during 2013 and re-opened just in time for Christmas. See photos below.

 

 

 

The first recorded licensee was Joseph Drewer who was born about 1806. In the 1841 census he is recorded as a 35-year old innkeeper with his wife, Benedicta née Dean, their two children and Benedicta's mother, also called Benedicta. Joseph was also listed in Kelly's Directory of 1842 and Hunt's 1850 Directory but I couldn't locate him or Benedicta in any further records.

The next licensee was John Rodberd, born in Preston Plucknett about 1826, the son of master blacksmith William Rodberd and his wife, Maria. In the 1841 census 15-year old John's occupation was given as blacksmith apprentice and he, his parents and siblings lived next door to the Bell Inn, so I'm guessing there was a forge there where both John and his father worked. In the 1851 census 25-year old John was listed as a smith and victualler, living in the Bell Inn with his sister Emma as housekeeper, next door to his parents and siblings. During the next ten years John married and moved to Melcombe Regis, Weymouth, Dorset and the 1861 census listed him as the inn keeper of the Half Moon Inn in Melcombe Regis, with his wife Jane and their daughter, Tabitha. John and Jane spent the rest of their lives in Melcombe Regis where John remained a publican and he and Jane had at least another five children.

Daniel Maynes was born around 1820 in Ireland and was listed as the Bell's inn keeper in the 1861 census (although the pub was not named) with his Yeovil-born wife, Sarah, his nephew James Butts as a servant and his mother, Mary, visiting from Ireland. They were not found in any later records.

John Martin was born in Trent, just northeast of Yeovil, about 1814 but there were too many people called John Martin in and around Yeovil at the time to be able to trace much detail. In fact all that is known for certain is from the 1871 census in which he is listed as the Bell Inn's inn keeper with his wife, Ann, who was born in Axminster, Devon.

In 1881 it would appear that the Bell Inn was not operating. Having trawled through the whole of the census for Preston Plucknett, the Bell is not mentioned and neither is anyone in the parish employed as an innkeeper, beer seller, licensed victualler, etc. In fact the only person coming close was a 79-year old widow listed as a grocer and living in a 'cottage' in Preston Street. The next listed licensee was Ernest Guy who appears in the 1891 census as the manager. It is likely therefore that the original Bell Inn building was demolished in the 1880's and replaced by the present building by the brewery.

There is no further information on Ernest Guy other than he was born in Dorset and was only 19 years old when he was the Bell Inn's manager. Similarly there is no further information on the next licensee, John Cartridge.

William Albert Dade was born in Yeovil in April 1858, the son of leather dresser William Dade and his wife, glove pointer Keziah, née Culliford. In the 1861 census William, Kesiah and their six children (of whom William was the youngest) were living in Rotten Row (today's Market Street). By 1871 the family had moved to Queen Street; William was still employed as a leather dresser but Keziah was listed as a shopkeeper and 12-year old William was employed as an errand boy. By 1881 William was a journeyman tailor, living on Reckleford with his new wife, Emily Jane, and baby daughter, Emily. Emily died in June 1887 and William remarried in January 1889. The 1891 census lists him as a tailor living at 3 Wyndham Street with his second wife, Annie, ten-year old daughter Emily (from his first marriage) and baby Gertrude. In 1895 Kelly's Directory listed William as a tailor and beer retailer at the Market Street Inn but by the following year, 1896, he had moved to the Nelson Inn in Eastland Road. The 1901 census lists William as a tailor and innkeeper, living with Annie and four daughters; Emily, Elsie, Lilian and Audrey (baby Gertrude had died in 1891 aged just 9 months). Some time during the following ten years William became the licensee of the Bell Inn and the 1911 census lists him as the innkeeper with Annie assisting in the business, with Elsie, Lilian and Audrey still at home. William died in June 1926.

Many thanks to Mike Bolton for finding three photos of the original Bell Inn on this site shown below and Mrs Barbara Harper, née Hallett, daughter of the 1920's-30's landlord Alfred Hallett, for her permission to reproduce them here.

 

Yeovilians remember....

Thanks to Mike Bolton for his observations on 1920's and 1930's landlord, Alfred Hallett as follows - "Mr Hallett was a real entrepreneur and dabbled in a lot of business ventures both in Yeovil and Cullompton and elsewhere, with connections in Poole. He not only was the innkeeper, but also the garage man, car hire merchant, gun owner. and erstwhile tooth-puller for the locals! The new Bell wasn't built until after Mr Hallett and his family left in the mid-thirties. I remember the Bell being a squaddies' pub for soldiers from Houndstone walking into Yeovil."

 

 

gallery

 


From my collection

The old Bell Inn, photographed circa 1920. At far right are seen two thatched cottages; the first was at one time the village post office but was later the home of the Beale family. The other cottage was occupied by the Saunders family.  Both the Bell Inn and the cottages were demolished for road widening. At the side of the cottages was a stream - Dodham Brook - that runs from the top of Larkhill and eventually flows into the River Yeo.

 


Courtesy of Mrs Barbara Harper

The petrol pumps at the front of the first Bell Inn on this site. Just visible at top right is the inn sign (which, apparently, squeaked loudly when it was windy) on the stone-built L-shaped building.

 


Courtesy of Mrs Barbara Harper

This photograph, taken during the late 1920's or early 1930's, shows the stone built L-shaped Bell Inn. The inn sign is just visible at top right and, below the lamp, a 'Car for Hire' sign. The photograph is, presumably, the car for hire being enjoyed.

 


Courtesy of Mrs Barbara Harper

Alfred John Hallett, landlord of the Bell Inn from at least 1919 until the mid-1930's, seen here with his dog at the back of the Bell where he garaged his vehicles and had a small forge/workshop.

 

The Bell Inn photographed during the 1960's.

 


Courtesy of Chris Rendell

The Bell Inn photographed in 1989.

 

Now simply known as the Bell, photographed in 2009 the only real difference is the two-storey extension at left and the tacky street signage. 

 

Fire crews attend the Bell in the small hours of 6 January 2013. (Photo - Western Gazette)

 


Courtesy of Vivien and John Cornelius

Oh dear.... the ashes of the Bell, January 2013.

 

Seen after the disastrous fire of 6 January 2013, there's not a lot left of the Bell. It will hopefully be rebuilt soon. 

 

Looks like its going to be a long job.

 

There - all better in January 2014. You'd hardly notice the difference (apart from the out-of-keeping brilliant white entrance doors).

 

licensees

 

1841 – Joseph Drewer – Inn Keeper (1841 census) pub not named but in Preston Plucknett
1842 – Joseph Drewer (Kelly's 1842 Directory) listed as Bell, Preston
1850 – Joseph Drewer (Hunt's 1850 Directory - Inns & Public Houses) listed as Bell, Preston
1851 – John Rodberd – Smith and Victualler (1851 census) listed as Bell Inn
1852 – John Rodberd – Inn Keeper (Slater’s 1852 Directory) listed as the Bell, Preston
1859 – John Rodberd (Harrison, Hodder & Co 1859 Directory)
1861 – Walker (Kelly's 1861 Directory)
1861 – Daniel Maynes – Inn Keeper (1861 census) pub not named
1866 – Thomas Purchase - Bell Inn & Mason (Kelly's 1866 Directory)
1871 – John Martin – Inn Keeper (1871 census) listed as Preston Bell Inn
1875 – Mrs Tabitha Curtis (Kelly's 1875 Directory)
1883 – Mrs Jane Rodberd (Kelly's 1883 Directory)
1889 – William Treasure (Kelly's 1889 Directory)
1891 – William Treasure – license transfer (County Petty Sessions, April)
1891 – Ernest Guy  – license transferred (County Petty Sessions, April)
1891 – Ernest Guy – Manager (1891 census) listed as the Bell Inn 
1894 – Thomas Guy – Bell Inn & Blacksmith (Kelly's 1894 Directory) 
1898 – Licensee not named (1898 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn, Preston Road
1901 – John Cartridge – Landlord (1901 census) listed as Bell Inn, Preston
1902 – John Cartridge – (Kelly's 1902 Directory)
1906 – William Albert Dade – Bell Inn & Tailor (Kelly's 1906 Directory)
1910 – William Albert Dade – Bell Inn & Tailor (Kelly's 1910 Directory)
1911 – William Albert Dade – Innkeeper (1911 census) listed as the Bell Inn, Preston Plucknett
1914 – William Albert Dade (Kelly's 1914 Directory)
1919 – Alfred John Hallett (Kelly's 1919 Directory)
1923 – Alfred John Hallett (Kelly's 1923 Directory)
1927 – Alfred John Hallett (Kelly's 1927 Directory)
1935 – Arthur James Paull (Kelly's 1935 Directory)
1936 – AJ Paull (1936 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1938 – AJ Paull (1938 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1947 – AJ Paull (1947 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1949 – EJ Jeans (Kelly’s 1949 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1951 – EJ Jeans (1951 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1954 – EJ Jeans (1954 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1957 – EJ Jeans (1957 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1964 – Edwin J Jeans (Foord's 1964 Directory) listed as 207 Preston Road
1965 – Licensee not named (1965 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1968 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1968 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1969 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1969 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1970 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1970 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1971 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1971 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1972 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1972 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1973 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1973 Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1974 – Licensee not named (1974 Yeovil Directory) listed as Bell Inn
1987 – Licensee not named (Denton’s 1987 Directory) listed as Bell Inn