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Ye Olde King's Head history revealed
Ye Olde Kings Head pub was built in1547 and the building is now owned by Lord Sugar’s property company, Amsprop.
The entrepreneur and star of The Apprentice is not the only famous name to be associated with the Chigwell landmark however.
The former pub in High Road, now a Turkish restaurant Sheesh, was the inspiration for the Maypole Inn in Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge despite a Maypole pub existing in Lambourne Road, Chigwell Row.
John Forster describes, in his 1875 book The Life of Charles Dickens, a letter he received from the writer which in turn describes the King’s Head.
Dickens wrote: “Chigwell, my dear fellow, is the greatest place in the world.
“Name your day for going.
“Such a delicious old inn opposite the churchyard, such a lovely ride, such beautiful forest scenery, such an out-of-the-way, rural place, such a sexton!
“I say again, name your day."
The Grade one listed building was also a favourite of ex-prime minister Winston Churchill.
Chigwell historian John Redfern, 85, once had dinner with the wartime leader at the pub in 1953.
He said: “I remember having dinner with Winston when I was chairman of the Woodford constituency Young Conservatives.
“I don’t remember what we ate but I remember we discussed a framed menu on the wall of the upper room.
“It was from one of Admiral Harvey’s menus from a Trafalgar Night dinner he hosted there.”
Local rumours suggest the former coaching house was used as a secret meeting place for Roundheads during the English civil war with an underground tunnel to St Mary’s Church opposite acting as an escape route.
Mr Redfern who has worked at St Mary’s Church opposite the pub for 77 years corrected the rumour of the tunnel tunnel running from the church to the pub.
He said: “I am aware of a tunnel but it does not come to the church; more likely the tunnel runs to Chigwell School.
“As for a meeting place for the Roundheads, I don’t know about that.”
Restaurant manager Colin Hunt said: “The tunnel’s still there but we don’t use it because it’s all blocked up now.”
In his 1887 book, The Forest of Essex: its history, laws, administration and ancient customs, William Richard Fisher lists the three-storey venue as hosting the meetings of the Court of Attachments for the Forest of Waltham, which is now within Epping Forest, from at least 1713 and possibly as early as1630.
The court dealt with matters arising in the forests in the area and gave verderers the power to fine offenders no more than the sum of £10 which equates to just under £1,900 in today’s money.
Travellers as well as residents were responsible for the success of the King’s Head and, according to British History Online, in the 1820s Mary Draper from the pub ran a daily coach service from the site to Aldgate.
The website also notes the pub was a well established stop on many coach routes by 1844 when William Powling ran a service between the pub and his house near the Maypole in Chigwell Row in order to connect with another service to Ongar.
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