Whilst exploring the rich social tapestry of St Hilary we have come across quite a bit of information about the Bush Inn.
The current tenants, Liz and Andy, have run the Bush since 2010 . They took over a newly renovated building as it had been destroyed by fire in 2009. However, through various documents we have found and conversations with villagers we can track back the history of our historic inn to previous owners and tenants (and its locals!).
Click on the read more link below for a fascinating story.
The Bush Inn is a Grade II listed inn which dates to the 16th century, and has a thatched roof, thick stone walls, low oak beams, flagstone floors, old pews, a stone spiral staircase, and an inglenook fireplace.
Iolo Morganwg was known to have visited the pub. The pub is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Ianto Ffranc, a highwayman of some notoriety in Glamorgan. One day he was charged by the authorities and hid in a cave about 200 yards from the inn (down the lane towards New Beaupre). He was caught and found guilty and hung from the gallows. His ghost has been reported to cross the main bar, with a stern look on his face.
We have also been informed that the Bush was the focus for the local 'mabsant', (wake or revel) which were traditional in Glamorgan in the early 19th century. The St Hilary mabsant was in mid -September, a week after Peterstone and a week before St Mary Church. It was a day to celebrate the saint who had given his or her name to their village and to the church. There would be a service followed by 'a great concourse of disorderly people, bawling, drinking, singing and dancing.' No change there then!
The first record we can find about ownership of the Bush is in the 1927 St Hilary directory in which the landowner is stated as being Mordecai John.
Caroline, the daughter of Ken and Edith Vaughan, provides us with the first memories of the Bush. She wrote to tell us that when she was a child in the 1950s Mr & Mrs Gwyn Evans ran the pub. They had three daughters: Gillian, Shirley and Lynda. Caroline recalls that the Bush was always packed to the doors on Saturday nights. The village children would sit outside and their parents would buy them crisps and a bottle of 'pop'.
She remembers that there was a thatched cottage behind the Bush (now the pub car park). Mr & Mrs Evan Frederick lived there with sons John, Albert and Stanley.
"My dad liked his evenings at the Bush where most villagers knew him as 'Ken the Box'. On a Saturday night my mother would join him. She had a good soprano voice and was often asked to get up and sing ".
Gwyn Evans was still the publican at the Bush in 1962, the year that the village won the Best Kept Village Competition for the second time. It was reported that he had lived there for 25 years
Oscar Ackerman (Little Hall Cottage) told us that "until the 1960s the Bush was a wet pub; the only food available was a packet of Smiths crisps or a pickled onion. Beer was one and sixpence a pint.
At that time the pub consisted of the front entrance bar and a serving area beyond, (where the office is today). There were two wooden barrels, both Hancocks HB, on trestles behind the counter and the beer was drawn from wooden taps, ("tapped" into the bung of the barrel). You could also get a Scotch or a gin and tonic. There was no TV or radio though.
The gents was a wall out the back, and there was a ladies toilet off the saloon bar, though there were few women seen there except on Saturday nights, when the piano accompanied the singing of hymns and arias.
In 1963, Hancocks the owners at the time, decided to move with the times and add a restaurant.
At the prospect of the rural tranquility being shattered by the introduction of a restaurant at the pub, Mr Aneurin David of Myrtle cottage organised a petition (add link) against it. He enlisted me, then a teenager, to canvass the outlying farms.
My stepfather Reg Griffiths, co-opted a Cardiff solicitor to draw up a petition with the view of presenting it to the Brewery, local and national Government. Names were drawn from the electoral roll and signed by local residents, some of whom still live in the village today. (Click here to see the petiton - 3mb pdf file) But all to no avail. The development went ahead anyway and Gwyn Evans and his family were relocated to the Star Inn, in Troes, where they retired". (Click here to see the original layout of the Bush in 1962 and the plans for redevelopment in 1963 - 1mb pdf file)
Rae and Graham Kitchen arrived in the village in 1967. The pub then belonged to Welcome Inns who owned several pubs (it is now owned by Punch Taverns) Mel Barnet, formerly the landlord of the Ship Inn in Barry, was the landlord at the time. More about Mel later!
Graham recalls that the Bush Inn had been altered a few years before they moved to the village. The end bar, where you could play darts, was a coach house. There were big double doors at the front where the bay window is now. Mel had the doorway knocked through from the middle to the end bar, which was used by the locals, because the middle bar was always full and the end bar was quiet. There was a view that this was the beginning of the end of the locals bar! There was originally a cottage called Rose Cottage in the car park of the Bush. It is not clear when it was demolished but we do know that Neil Frederick’s grandparents Evan and Florence lived there at one time.
Haymaking in those days was a village affair. Graham recalled how locals would help Lindsey Thomas with his haymaking. Their reward for working in the fields all day was the promise of a pint at the Bush. When they arrived for their well-earned drink Mel would have around 10 pints of beer lined up on the bar and would replenish them as soon as they were finished.
Mel ran the Bush Inn with his wife Thelma, who is thought to be still alive. He died in 1990 (the date is on a memorial stone in the churchyard, on the left side of the path from the kissing gate near the village hall) and his ashes are also in the churchyard. Thelma was a dynamo – she ran the restaurant and bed and breakfast (B&B) when they converted the living accommodation above the Bush. They bought the house behind the Bush (Dan y Bryn) so that they could create the B&B business. They were very successful and the B&B was particularly busy because the A48 was choc-a-bloc. There was no motorway at that time. It is thought that the Cowbridge bypass was built in the late 1960s.
Graham’s memory of Mel was of him always standing at the hatch in the middle bar chatting to customers with a keen eye on the till. “He never took his eye off the till”
Mel ran the Bush for 10 – 15 years. He then sold the pub and his house and went to Majorca. It is thought that the Bush was sold for around £35,000. Rob Price emailed us to tell us that they bought Dan y Bryn from Mel in 1972.
Mel participated in weightlifting competitions at the Olympics. We recently received an email through the St Hilary website from Mel’s son in law:
“I have just been in St Hilary with my wife. Her family ran The Bush Inn in the 1960s and I loved the village. My father in law is buried here. His name was Mel Barnet, and he took part in the weightlifting competition at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. I hope to come back soon. Best regards Pedro Mateus”
We have been in touch with the Olympic Museum to find out more about Mel’s achievements. They responded by sending a book (700 plus pages!) which documents everything about the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games and sure enough Mel gets a mention. It tells us that:
“On 27 July 1952 Mel Barnet represented Great Britain in the Heavyweight Lightweight Weightlifting event at the Olympic Games in Helsinki. It was the first time that this event was included in the Olympic programme”
According to a sports website Mel had the following podium finishes at major championships:
- 3rd in the 1950 World Championships Unlimited class (400kg)
- 2nd in the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games Middle-Heavyweight class (830 pounds)
- 2nd in the 1950 European Championships Unlimited class (400kg)
- 2nd in the 1951 European Championships Unlimited class (395kg)
- 2nd in the 1954 European Championships Middle-Heavyweight class (385kg)
- In the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games middle-heavyweight class he finished sixth (805 pounds)
- In the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games he represented England, but four years later he competed for Wales
Deri Trott took over when Mel left but the pub declined.
In 1976 heavy snowfall brought the village to a standstill. This picture of the lane up to the Bush, gives an indication of how badly the village was affected.
The pub was eventually taken over by Glyn and his wife Bernice from North Wales. They ran the pub when Monica and Terry Dennis arrived in the village in 1988. It was thriving then and was well used by locals. Ken ‘the box’ Vaughan was one of the regulars. He always sat on a barrel in the left hand corner of the middle bar. He lived on the Crescent with his wife Edie. Another character was Fred Elton-Jones who was always ready for a discussion about anything, often in the company of “Floss” and “Bones”. In 1988 Simon-le-Bon, of Duran Duran was visiting Fred, his cousin and ended his evening there by standing on the table in the end bar and singing a couple of his hits. Monday evenings was quiz night, when the pub put out two teams that completed with other local pubs. Tuesdays was always busy as the young farmers used to fill both the bars after their meeting.
Early in the 1990s the Bush was taken over by Sylvia Hitchcock, a former teacher at Cowbridge Comprehensive School, and her family (and her dog who sadly is mainly remembered for the occasional whoopsie in inappropriate places during service. Awkward!.)
Her son, Mark, was particularly active. For a short while Sylvia had a partner, Ted. But, unfortunately, Ted died suddenly. Gradually Mark took over the day-to-day running of the pub, ably assisted by Lisa and Linda – you wouldn’t want to argue with either of those! And Dave Boddie was the barman for many years. Lisa now manages the food section at Southerndown Golf Club.
Eventually Mark sold up and the lease was taken over by Phil Thomas (not the Phil Thomas from the village!) in 2005.
Initially, everything seemed rosy – an early hit with the locals was the screening of the Lions tour to New Zealand. The cooked breakfasts were great, even if the rugby wasn’t. And there were free chips for the regulars on Friday nights!!
However, despite taking over a thriving pub, Phil managed to run it into the ground as he overstretched himself, taking too much cash out of the business and eventually going bankrupt in 2009.
Despite his difficulties, the pub was kept afloat by the hard work of Luke, Janine, Fletch and Raymond the chef and Anne the waitress. They often went unpaid for long periods, as did many of the sons and daughters of residents of the village. And, whilst struggling to keep afloat managed to be awarded an AA Welsh Pub of the Year Award in 2008!
The chef was a Frenchman, Raymond. He was a very good chef and always keen to try something different. When a group of villagers, headed up by Terry Dennis, started up a dining group, called the Bushtuckers, Ray created a wonderful French menu for the group's culinary nights out. Behind the scenes Ray used to cut off pieces of raw meat and eat them to freak out the waiting and kitchen staff. He also used to stick his hand in the deep fat fryer and claim it didn’t hurt! The serving staff loved him – especially when he made them banoffee pies!
Eventually, Raymond had enough and left. The pub then went downhill with a succession of good-bad chefs and frequent cash flow problems. Luke and Janine eventually moved on to run the Carne Arms at Llysworney (although that is now closed).
Despite rumours to the contrary, a fire started accidentally on Friday, 18 September 2009. The cause appears to have been a spark in the chimney probably resulting from the manager at the time who was constantly burning the wood from the cupboards he had dismantled in the flat above.
Click here for more pictures of the fire and the rebuilding
(Although the most serious, this wasn’t the first fire. There are memories of a fire in the 1980s and a small fire in the 1990s in which the chimney was ablaze.)
After nearly 11 months of rebuilding, the Bush reopened on Wednesday 4 August 2010 under the caring ownership of Liz Silva and Andy Hooker who have lovingly restored the Bush to its former glory. Click here for more pictures of the opening night.
Memories of the Bush
My grandparents Evan & Florence lived in the village in Rose Cottage which once stood in the Bush car park and after that at number 1 The Crescent. My father Stanley and his brothers John and Albert grew up in St Hilary. My sister and I visited the village regularly and consider it to be our home. My father and mother both rest in the churchyard along with my grandparents. My grandfather planted the willow which stands outside the village hall where the round tree once stood.
I now live in deepest darkest Norfolk about 10 miles north of Norwich. A bit like St Hilary only without the hectic pace of life! Apart from my parents and grandparents nearly all the people I remember are resting in the churchyard. Bert Lassiter who used to cut our hair at my grandparents house on a Friday evening. The lovely Florry Foreman - if you ever wanted to know what was going on, just ask Florry! Susan Baker who is next to my parents was the lovely Mum of my old school pal David Baker. Joey Pope, Tudor Davies and so many others too numerous to mention or lost in the midst of time. I still see Roy Price whenever I visit the village and pop into the Bush for a quick catch up.
I met someone a number of years ago in the churchyard who remembered me from when we were both youngsters playing on the green. I couldn't recall her so I asked where she used to live. She told me that she and her family used to live at the bottom of the village beyond the Bush. Now when the new houses were being built in the late sixties and early seventies the old local villagers used to call that part of the village Beverly Hills because of the outlandish (for the era) designs. When I said '' Oh you mean Beverly Hills?'' she told me that people don't call it that anymore. Well, with the best will in the world and not to be offensive, I do and I know a lot of others who still do too. Sorry if you live down there! Old habits die hard.
The Current Day
So much so, that in 2011 the BBC used it, and the rest of the village, as the location for a Sherlock episode, The Hound of the Baskervilles which was aired on 8 January 2012. As well as being seen in the pub on frequent occasions Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were also spotted in the churchyard during filming.
The Bush has also featured in "Rory and Paddy's Great British Adventure" and was the setting for the S4C Christmas advert in the early 2010s.
It was always enjoyable to see the Glamorgan Hunt congregate at the Bush after the Boxing Day hunt and disappointing when the tradition came to an end. However, on 15 November 2010 the Hunt returned and after drinks and nibbles started the hunt from there. And… the tradition continues with St Hilary featuring on the annual hunt’s calendar.
Liz and Andy, keen to be involved in village life, were instrumental in organising successful village days to celebrate the Queens Jubilee and Kate and Williams Royal Wedding. And, with the involvement of villagers, various activities were organised to entertain throughout the day which culminated in a substantial amount of money being raised for the restoration of one of the church windows.
They have also been instrumental in organising Sunday quizzes, charity quizzes, boules competitions, Halloween nights for children, fantasy football league and golf days.
Andy has been the lynchpin of the Bush Inn Cycle Team which rides on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Twitter feed @bushinncycle
In particular, he plays a major role in The Ride for Dave, an annual mile bike ride to raise funds for Leukaemia Lymphoma research. It is held in memory of local Dave Evans who passed away on 8 October 2012. A settle dedicated to Dave is in the middle bar.
Village Christmas meal 2014
Christmas is always a busy time but locals are never too busy to celebrate at village events. This year was no exception when 60 locals gathered at the Bush Inn for the annual Christmas meal.
Food, as ever, was delicious. And, once everyone had had their fill it was onto the entertainment-carol singing. Liz provided everyone with song sheets and after a number of popular carols organised groups to sing the various parts of the Twelve Days of Christmas-which was very entertaining!
Mary Thomas and Colin White stood up for a duet. Whilst other sang their hearts out from their seats. However, the star of the show during the rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas was Heather Shaw. As an unexpected treat Colin White and Kersti Gamblin treated everyone to a Greek Dance – which could have done with some plate smashing – but we decided that Andy and Liz might not be too keen for that.
The Glamorgan Hunt
The Glamorgan Hunt is back at the Bush. And, before setting off across the fields, they are treated to mulled wine and nibbles. It is always a sight to see riders and hounds ready for the off and good to see that St Hilary once again has a place on the Glamorgan hunt calendar.
We are so fortunate to have such a great village spirit and to have Liz and Andy running our pub!
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