King’s Head and Bell, 10 East St Helen Street
There was an inn on this site before 1554 when it was noted in a survey as The Bell. Its status as a major inn in the Bury or market area of the town is shown by the high rent paid by the lessee of the time, John Whitewell.
It seems to have been in the eighteenth century that the King’s Head was first added to its name. This may have been an attempt to connect the property with Charles I. Charles certainly made visits to Abingdon before and during the Civil War, but there is no direct evidence of his presence at The Bell. During the nineteen century the name reverted to The Bell or The Old Bell.
The present structure is mostly eighteenth century with some evidence of seventeenth century work. In 1801 there was stabling for thirty horses; by 1810 stabling for nearly a hundred was claimed. In the nineteenth century the inn supplied horses for the Volunteer Fire Brigade, though the recommendation was to pull the engine by hand if the fire was close by. For accommodation there were three parlours, a large dining room, and twelve sleeping rooms as well as attics above.
In May 1865 the Borough sold the premises to the brewers Carter and Morland who had also bought both the Abbey and Eagle Breweries in the town. The front was remodelled in or shortly before 1907 to its present appearance. The present version of the name, the King’s Head and Bell, probably dates from this remodelling.
See Glossary for explanations of technical terms.
© AAAHS and contributors 2013