The George Inn Public House
There has been a recorded settlement in Hadleigh since the first century. Its name is said to derive from the Norse word "Haethlega" - a heath covered place - and whilst it retains its natural beauty in many parts, Hadleigh has evolved into a delightful small market town with different styles of cottages, shops and houses all "huddling together in a fascinating higgledy piggledy of different periods." For a time, Hadleigh was renowned as the richest Suffolk wool cloth town in the region. But, as you might expect from such a historic place, stories of ghosts and mysteries abound and it is hardly surprising that at the centre of so many local tales lies The George Inn Public House.
There are rumours of underground passages from here leading to various locations in and around the town; escape routes for criminals over roof top pathways, hidey holes for priests or smugglers' contraband. Perhaps most famous is the pub's association with "The Hadleigh Gang", who, led by John Harvey of Pond Hall, smuggled tea and other dry goods through the town during the mid 1700s. Horses, carts and countless varieties of contraband were roaded through the town, and meetings took place secretly behind locked doors.
One infamous night, Customs Officers and Dragoons raided Hadleigh to find a huge stockpile of tea. They took it to The George for safe-keeping, but during the night were attacked by smugglers and cut-throats. After a bloody encounter where lives were lost, the gang recovered their loot. They did not get away scot free though. In later years, smugglers John Wilson and John Biggs were hanged for their part in the crime - perhaps at Gallows Hill at the far end of the High Street. John Harvey though, it seems, although captured, managed to endure seven years transportation. It is said he returned to Hadleigh and to his old ways!
THE GEORGE TODAY
The George Public House enjoys a superb position half way along the high street. It is close to the stunning parish church of St Mary's. It is picturesque, welcoming, a home from home. It's a true community pub of the type that is all too rare these days.
Authentic and true to its origin as a meeting place at the heart of the town, there is nothing pretentious about the George. It is one of those places where you can relax and be yourself, assured of a warm welcome from familiar faces at any time of day on any day of the week. A healthy mix of regulars and those passing through this charming town ensures there is always a lively buzz. Sometimes a band will play or a quiz night will entice most of the town inside. Everyone is welcome - dogs too - and, huddled around the bar, you will find an expert from any field: plumber, solicitor, electrician, accountant, builder, shopkeeper, teacher, farrier, florist, upholsterer, cook and more. And if you cannot find the man you need, someone there will know him.
"Oh, you need 'Chicken John'!" I was once told when my farmyard cockerels had become rather troublesome. When 'Chicken John' could not be located, another regular offered to come and help me out with his shotgun - he looked eager! In the end the Landlord came and found Jamaal and Limaal happy new homes. You see, nothing is too much trouble at The George.
A double fronted wrought iron gateway shows this is a medieval coach house. Top heavy with mouldings and apricot coloured rendering that pours over the pavement into the street, the entrance lures visitors into its clutches. Like a lobster pot on a sea bed filled with the promise of a tasty treat, the gateway draws you into a labyrinth of gardens, lounges, a restaurant and living quarters. You do not need to be inside for long to feel the effects of its fascinating history, which seeps from the very walls and oozes out from blackened beams.
Lounge areas are illuminated by a mix of natural light and electricity, which throws a milky glow over proceedings. Nooks and crannies secreted round corners provide intimate hidey holes, whilst larger expanses of oak floorboards are peppered with tables and chairs. Leather clad benches hug the bay window, so larger parties can rest in comfort for an afternoon of hospitality feeling they are home from home, right next to the clink and twinkle of a busy bar. Some play cards; others dominoes or darts. The day's headlines are discussed and digested; daily papers sit unobtrusively at one end of the bar. Everyone communicates. Conversation moves freely round the room and vibe travels, infecting even the most 'wannabe-anonymous' guest eventually.
The restaurant is roomy, open nearly all the time and is staffed by regular, well-trained staff that soon come to know your favourite tipple. Food is freshly prepared and cooked on the premises; some produce is grown by the Landlord on his alotment. There are baguettes of the day, soups too and, should you fancy something that does not appear on the menu, staff at The George will do their best to oblige. I recently had home-made rice pudding with brown sugar, fresh cream, ice cream and custard! The poor waiter kept coming back to ask me if I was sure I really wanted all those things. Yummy!
In a lobby that leads out to gardens and a good sized car park, there is a noticeboard. Pinned to this are hundreds of business cards. No matter what you need, you're sure to find a contact there.
And as you venture out into the beautifully landscaped garden, you cannot miss the stunning pots dripping with hanging tomatoes, grapevines, geraniums, bougainvillea and more. Great parasols shade you from long hot summer days and patio heaters keep you warm and cosy deep into the winter freeze.
The George has something for everyone. Whether you are a local person who has simply not visited yet, or a holiday maker passing through in search of a pub lunch and a pint; whether you are a young couple looking to escape the rigours of the working week, just yearning for a cheeky pinot grigio, or a family who needs somewhere safe to take the children; whether you are a professional, a student, a sportsperson or unemployed, you will be warmly welcomed at The George Inn, Hadleigh.