Ideally located in the centre of Woodbridge, The Bull Inn is a 16th century coaching inn that overlooks the historic Market Hill, the Shire Hall and the 15th century St Mary’s Church.
The current building has been extended over the years and stands on the site of an older hostelry of the same name. The present building dates from the days when it was a posting house for the stagecoaches which ran from London via Colchester, Ipswich to Norwich. Around the bar, you will see parts of the original timber-frame which is pre-dates the current structure and is thought to be from the 15th century along with several other buildings around the market square.
The earliest references appear in the Ipswich Journal in 1726 whilst in the records of 1734 it is referred as an “ancient inn”, formerly known as The Pyed Bull and The Black Bull.
George Carlow was the owner of The Bull in 1738 and in his will stipulated that 20 shillings of wheaten bread be given to the poor of Woodbridge on Candlemas each year. Carlow was a member of a religious sect long extinct called the Separate Congregation whose chief belief was keeping Saturday sacred – Sunday being purely a day of rest. Being not accepted for burial in the church or chapel, he therefore was interred in his own private tomb to the rear of The Bull. As the year’s passed, this property, along with The Bull Ride was sold off for private residential use and it became increasingly difficult to distribute the bread on his grave.
Despite the ongoing property development, nobody has dared move the tomb, probably because of the inscription, “Weep for me dear friend no more for I am gone a little before. But by a lite of pity prepare yourself to follow me. Good friends for Jesus sake forbear. To move the dust entombed here. Blessed be he that spares these stones. Cursed be he that moves my bones.”
You will find Carlow’s Room at the rear of The Bull and bread rolls are now distributed to school children in early February each year.
From 1861 to 1887 John Grout was the landlord. Grout was a world-renowned horse dealer who was very popular in the town bring much employment as well as attracting the rich and famous. The Bull Ride stables once supplied horses to almost every crowned head of Europe, including the King of Italy who frequently stayed at The Bull on horse-buying expeditions. For many years, the front of The Bull included the coat of arms of the Italian royal family.
Further notables who have stayed at the Bull include representatives of the Kaiser and the Viceroy of India, who came to buy horses for the imperial and vice-regal stables.
John Grout’s equine fame attracted the rich and famous of Victorian society including The Duke of Westminster and Baroness Burdett-Coutts.
At a time, which was probably a golden age for Woodbridge, John Grout was also a good friend of Edward FitzGerald who had just a few years earlier in 1859 published The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Edward FitzGerald’s literary fame would take many years to develop and John Grout was certainly the more popular and famous figure. For 14 years, Edward FitzGerald, lived just opposite The Bull at number 10 Market Hill and he often entertained his fellow artistic luminaries of the day known as the ‘Woodbridge Wits’ at The Bull. One famous friend was the Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, who also stayed at The Bull.
John Grout was not overly impressed with the Poet Laureate and commented that ‘he might be a very good poet but he doesn’t know a damned thing about horses’
William and Harriet Miles took over the business in 1887 having previously managed the business for John Grout and previously working for as the coachman for the Fitzgerald family at Boulge Hall. Harriet succeeded in the business after the death of her husband in 1899 and subsequently it was passed to her son, William who was the landlord until 1922. During this period, they horse dealing business continued but with the rise of the automobile, the Bull Ride became increasingly irrelevant for the business.
The rear of the property, called the Bull Ride, used to have stabling and has recently been converted for business use and residential property. The stables, which were called the “Bull Ride” had capacity for over 170 horses.
During the famous 1939 Sutton Hoo expedition, the archaeologist from the dig stayed at The Bull and often brought back finds for identifying, cataloguing before being sent on to The British Museum. The Bull has hosted some of the rarest and most priceless of archaeological finds in the British Isles.
Famous guests over the years also include: –
Vittorio Emanuele II, of the house of Piedmont and Savoy, became the King of Italy in 1861 was a frequent visitor to The Bull and a good friend of John Grout. The coat of arms adorned the front of The Bull for many years.
The Victorian Poet Laureate – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Winston Churchill – often stayed due to local military presence and early radar work at Bawdsey Manor.
Robert De Niro during filming of Elveden
English author Daniel Defoe in 1734 visited The Shire Hall and The Bull.
To more recent times, Sarah and David Clarke acquired Woodbridge’s prestigious and historic Bull Inn in March 2019, with plans to restore it to its former glory, making it a hub for the town’s social life.
Sarah is originally from New Zealand but has lived in the UK for the past twenty years mostly in London and working in the financial services world. Like many Kiwi’s Sarah has a passion for sport and the outdoor life.
David is from Nottingham and having spent (too!) many years in an office, wanting to focus on his passion for great food and wine.
Most of Sarah’s family are back in New Zealand but her only brother married a local girl and when The Bull came on the market, we jumped at the opportunity.
We hope that our offering reflects the best of what England and New Zealand has to offer!
List of Landlords and Landladies since 1726