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 de Silva and Andy Hooker, 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 to previous owners.
The buidling and early history
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 C. 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 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 Bush was included in the sale by auction of the St Hilary Estate. Messrs Stephenson and Alexander were dealing with the sale which was scheduled to take place on 13 November 1913. In the documentation the Bush Inn was described as "a valuable double licensed village inn and premises together with a garden at the rear, now in the occupation of Messrs Wm Hancock & Co. upon lease of 21 years from 2 February 1898 at a rental of £35 per annum. It contains parlour, tap room, sitting room and grate. Back kitchen, cellar and pantry. Old brew house fitted with baking oven and boiler. Four good bedrooms. Back yard with wash house and boiler, urinal and WC. The building comprise of stable with loft over, loose box, yard with separate entrance, coach house, fowl house and chaff house. Two old WCs at the end of the garden are also included in the sale of this lot. The wooden loose box and the water cistern are the property of the tenant. The tenants also rent, at a nominal rent of 1s per annum the old cottage and garden adjoining the former, now being used as a loose box."
In the 1927 St Hilary directory the landowner is stated as being Mordecai John.
Memories of The Bush
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 daughter’s Gillian, Shirley and Lynda. Caroline recalls that the Bush was always packed to the doors on a Saturday night. 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.
Caroline says “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. 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 owner at the time, decided to move with the times and add a restaurant. At the prospect of the rural tranquillity being shattered by the introduction of a restaurant at the pub Mr Aneurin David of Myrtle cottage organised a petition against it. He enlisted me, (Oscar Ackerman) 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. But all to no avail. The development went ahead anyway and Gwyn Evans and his family were relocated to the Star Inn, in Treos, where they retired."
Here's an extract from the petition - some of the signatories still live in the village! (the full size images are available on request)
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 with his wife Thelma - a wedding day phtoraph is below. 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.
Tessa Shellens of Cowbridge worked as a barmaid at the Bush in the summers of 1968 and 1969. These are here recollections:
"In 1968 I was a very pecunious University student in need of a job and became the summer barmaid at the Bush for two long hot summers. Looking back maybe it was the best job I ever had. I might have been good academically but my practical skills were minus and I had no idea how to serve drinks especially draft beer ...oh dear.
However assisted by fellow more wordly students and the permanent bar staff (all people who had second full time day jobs too) I slowly began to grasp what was required by Mr Barnett.
The very scary Mr B stood guard at the bar morning and night and didn’t miss anything even when you thought he wasn’t looking. Dressed in very smart blazer (with a Commonwealth games badge) he would say “Moussec” . He had his own supply of this English kind of sparkling wine made I understand from grape juice imported from France. Have never seen it since! He would stand and sip the drink duly delivered and scrutinise our activities. Any mistake resulted in a glower and a sigh of desperation from him and a feeling of total helplessness from me. However I persevered and gradually his demeanour and mine relaxed a little. He clearly loved the village and everyone who lived there, the local atmosphere was wonderful!
The atmosphere was so lively....a local community hub for everyone (I knew all the St Hilary gossip) and in the lounge bar/ dining room a blend of visitors seeking out the Vale and good food. Sunday lunchtimes had just the best atmosphere....up till then I never knew that drinks before Sunday lunch were very on trend!
Two memories: on the day of the moon landing Mr B spent some time connecting a TV and an aerial so he could prop the TV on the bar for everyone to watch. On the night of the investiture there was a big hop in the village hall well supplied by the pub and having washed up the glasses we ran across to join the dancing.
Mr B was despite his steely exterior very fair as a boss. He insisted on ensuring the chef fed us properly and got particularly annoyed when he thought the waitress was getting a better lunch than me! On my last shift he said ...”when you started working you were so hopeless I wanted to sack you but I knew how much you needed the money. I admired how you stuck at it and became the best barmaid...! “ He even asked me to come back!"
Mel participated in weightlifting competitions at the Olympics. We 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. The picture of the lane up to the Bush, gives an indication of how badly the village was affected.
The 80s and 90s
Glyn, and his wife Bernice from North Wales 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”. It was during this period that Simon Le Bon, from Duran Duran was seen in the pub. From Russell Thomas 14 May 2020: Simon Le Bon was Fred Elton Jones’ nephew. We went for 24hrs non stop if I remember- it was one of the wildest , memorable times. We then went up to his flat in Chelsea a couple of weeks later - enough said!"
This is an advert for the Bush from 1991 when Glyn was running it it.
Early in the 1990s the Bush was taken over by Sylvia Hitchcock, a former teacher at Cowbridge Comprehensive School, and her family (plus 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 Body was the barman for many years.
Lisa moved on to manage the food section at Southerndown Golf Club and is now retired.
The 21st Century
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, Phil provided chips for locals around 9pm on a Friday evening.
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, 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. He was very good and always keen to try something different. When a group of villagers, headed up by Terry Dennis, started up Bushtuckers he created a wonderful French menu for the groups culinary night 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 closed down under their watch).
The fire, closure and reopening
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.
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. Click here to see more photos of the fire and the rebuilding work.
After nearly 11 months of rebuilding, the Bush reopened on Wednesday 5 August 2010 under the caring ownership of Liz Silva and Andy Hooker who have lovingly restored the Bush to its former glory.
Click here to see all the photos of the opening night.
The Bush is now going from strength to strength.
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 2010.
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 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 expertly run by Terry Dennis since 2010, and which continue today, They have also organised charity quizzes (2013) boules competitions (2011), a halloween nights for children, fantasy football league and golf days. And, their annual Easter Egg Hunt is a well attended and fun event.
Halloween 31 October 20009
|Face painting||Senior Champion Ray
with fellow finalist Sandra
|Junior Champion Pippa
with felow finalist Tom
Boules 28 August 2011
The Bush hosts a Christmas meal for villagers and regulars and there is always some raucous carol singing - here's a selection of photos from the meal on 10 December 2014.
The star of the show during the rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas was Heather Shaw. An unexpected treat was Colin White and Kersti Gamblin who 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.
Andy played 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 villager Dave Evans who passed away on 8 October 2012. A settle dedicated to Dave is situated in the middle bar. Here's details of the cheque presented to Velindre in 2014.
Here's the link to the Bush's website.
Complied by Monica Dennis, Ffynnon Wen, St Hilary, CF71 7DP