|The Peldon Rose is an ancient inn that has stood for centuries on the corner just before you reach the Strood, the causeway leading to Mersea Island. It is a much altered and added to 15th century house, timber framed and plastered, with a red plain tile roof. Turn off the main road by its pond, and you come
to centre of the village of Peldon. Now, as then, it is a refuge for travellers when the tide crosses the road and Mersea Island is completely cut off. In the nineteenth century, it was a coaching inn. Wents Mill still stood opposite and further along on the same side there was a landing stage by The Strood, for boats to dock at high water, still being used as late as the Second World War where corn that had been dried in Bonners Barn was shipped out, loaded by POWs. Pictures of The Rose have graced many travel guides to Essex; it was famously badly damaged by the 1884 Peldon Earthquake and features in many tales of ghosts and smuggling.
From the 1870s to the late 1950s the same family lived in and ran The Rose. They were the Pullens, and as of 2018, Penny, the great granddaughter of landlord George Pullen and his wife Jane, was still living locally on Mersea Island.
Jane Pullen née Mead
The most celebrated of the proprietors of The Rose was Jane Pullen née Mead. She was born in Messing in 1852 the daughter of Samuel and Sarah Mead. By consulting censuses and Kelly's Trade Directories we discover her family move to Mersea by 1861 and both her father, Samuel, and brother, Charles go into the pub trade, running The Dog And Pheasant and The Fox. Her husband, George, whom she marries in 1868, subsequently takes over The Fox from his father-in-law and is still listed as landlord there in 1878. By the 1881 census George and Jane have two children George William aged 12 and Lily J. aged 9 and are running the Peldon Rose pub. George is described as an Innkeeper and market gardener. So it would seem that George and Jane took over The Rose between 1878 and 1881.
Their son, George William Pullen was also to go into the pub trade but sadly died very young, at 38. In the 1901 census George W. Pullen, is running The Yorkshire Grey pub in West Ham, with his wife, Laura (née Green) and two children, Basil Ivan Pullen and Clare Green Pullen. (Another daughter Hilda was not yet born). According to George's granddaughter, Penny, he moved to the Cherry Tree pub in Colchester following the pub in West Ham but died in 1908. His wife, according to Penny went back to London with her daughter but Ivan was doing so well at Colchester Grammar School it was decided he should live with his grandparents, Jane and George, at The Rose and continue his education in Colchester. As a youngster living at The Rose, Ivan would bike to school in Colchester daily and went up Lodge Lane, Peldon, across where the reservoir is now and through to Layer de la Haye. His grandfather George was to die only a year later in 1909 and Jane continued to run the pub and offer a home to grandson Ivan right up to her death.
In her book Toasted Cheese and Cinders, Sybil Brand wrote of her childhood memories (she was born in 1899) of her Uncle George and Aunt Jane Pullen
One day a messenger came to the door. Uncle George, my eldest Pullen uncle, who kept the Rose Inn, Peldon, was very ill and mother was needed to help nurse him.
I have a faint memory of seeing him once, driving a gig with a white horse, but this was to be his last illness and his competent wife, Aunt Jane, carried on as licensee. Hannen Swaffer and J Wentworth Day have both written of her and her story of the ghostly horseman who rides on The Strood, the only road to Mersea Island, on moonlit nights.
After Uncle George's death, mother and I sometimes had tea at the Rose in the little room through the bar. Every detail is etched on my memory from the crisp lettuce and bread and butter to the low ceilings and beams and Aunt Jane's brisk voice. I had an idea I shouldn't be there, having heard of a new rule about young persons under sixteen not being allowed in bars. I knew nothing about hours of opening and ate my tea oppressed with a sense of guilt, never mentioning my worries to mother and Aunt Jane.
Kay Gilmour relates an interesting story which must refer to, surely, the last 'heriot' to be exacted locally. A heriot was a feudal custom dating to Anglo-Saxon times whereby upon the death of a tenant, his horse and military equipment was given to the Lord of the Manor.
Miss Wilkinson, now living at Tollesbury (1955) remembers quite well the day the Steward of Pete Hall Manor, demanded from Mrs Jane Pullen of the Peldon Rose on the demise of her husband in 1909, the heriot due to the lord of the Manor, Mr A Eagle of Pete Hall.
Mrs Pullen's best beast was Kitty, the grey mare, behind which she and Florence Wilkinson drove weekly into Colchester market. Kay Gilmour Peldon In Essex Village over the Marshes
Miss Wilkinson related that Jane wept bitterly at the request but was able to make a monetary settlement instead of parting with her beloved Kitty.
Penny never knew her great grandmother, Jane, but was told many tales. There was a large picture of Jane on the taproom door and everyone commented that her eyes seemed to follow you! There was also a spyhole in the door and Jane had a poker with a knob on the end which she was happy to use on members of staff who weren't doing as they should!
The countryman, wildfowler and writer James Wentworth-Day knew Jane well in the 1920s and in his book Essex Ghosts he gives us not only an insight into Jane's character but also of the clientele frequenting the pub.
She was a sweet old lady of Dresden china elegance with a penetrating eye, a commanding manner, exquisite hands and bone structure, all feminine charm and fragile fearlessness. She dressed in black satin, kept pickled adders in jam jars, stood her saucepans and cooking pots on an exquisite Chippendale sideboard and ruled her customers with a gentle rod of iron.
Fishermen, oystermen, winklers straight off the frozen mudflats, wildfowlers muddied to the eyebrows, shepherds and their dogs straight off the tussocky marshes within the sea walls; barge skippers just back from Holland and roaring tight; cattle drovers; farm labourers and hunting farmers.
I knew Mrs Jane Pullen, in the far-off twenties when she was landlady of that historic 400 -year old inn, The Peldon Rose, which sits among hollyhocks and roses at the landward end of the Roman causeway called The Strood, which connects Mersea island with the mainland of England
After about fifty five years at The Rose Jane was to die suddenly in 1935.
DEATH OF MRS PULLEN After an illness of only one day, Mrs Pullen of the Rose Inn has passed away at the age of 83.
The deceased was not feeling well on Monday and spent the day in bed. On Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock there was
a sudden change, and Dr Neill was summoned. Mrs Pullen who before her marriage was Miss Jane Mead of West
Mersea came to the Rose with her husband, Mr George Pullen 45 years ago, he having been former licensee of
The Dog and Pheasant, West Mersea. He predeceased his wife in 1920. The Rose is one of the oldest inns in
England and one of the few free houses which remain. Mr and Mrs Pullen were well-known in the days of
horse-drawn waggons, the house being a convenient stopping place between Colchester and Mersea
Essex County Standard 22.2.1935
She left her grandson Basil Ivan the pub.
In his book, Marshland Adventure, James Wentworth Day clearly revisited The Rose shortly after Jane's death in 1935 and before the start of the Second World War in 1939. With his gift for Essex dialect he tells us one of Jane's colourful tales which probably owes some of its language to Rudyard Kipling's poem 'A Smuggler's Song'.
...that...ancient house, The Peldon Rose. Long and low and red-roofed, with eaves that almost touch the ground, it has stood at the junction of the marsh-road and the sea-road for the better part of 500 years. And there until a few years ago, dwelt my ancient friend, Mrs Jane Pullen. Mrs Pullen was about eighty when she died shortly before the War. Upright as a dart, with fine, small hands and feet, clear, penetrating eyes and a rare dignity, she had a wealth of fine old furniture and a store of the memories of the old rough days. There is a pond hard by the inn. And of this pond she told me a story.
'When I was a little gal' said she, 'I laid in me bed and I heard the smugglers' hosses go by in the night. They stopped outside the house. I sat up in me bed'.
'Turn yor face to the wall, gal! You hear nothing and see nothing!' said my father. And then there was a splash in the pond. Soon after the hosses went on up the road again.
'You see there was a great deep shaft in the bottom of our pond and they always used to drop a barrel of spirits down that shaft and then shove a barrow-load of earth on top of it. The 'Cisemen could drag the pond for a week and never know there was a thing in it!'
This shaft in the pond was filled up within my own memory. Marshland Adventure, James Wentworth Day
In Wentworth-Day's book Essex Ghosts Jane also recounts hearing the ghost Roman Centurion on The Strood.
Basil Ivan Pullen
Following Jane's death, grandson Ivan had to apply for the licence to run the pub. He had already met (Agnes) Mary, a nursing sister at Essex County Hospital, who had been taken to The Rose for a drink by a colleague from the hospital. A condition of getting the pub licence was being married so Ivan and Mary married as quickly as they could in 1935 and subsequently over the next few years had two daughters Penny and Rosemary.
Ivan was proud of the fact the pub was a free house and was determined to keep it going. It was his home and had been in the family over 50 years by then. His grandmother had also bought quite a number of properties close to The Rose over the years. She owned Strood House and Rose Cottages which were rented out; Penny recollects the four tiny cottages were rented out for 2/6d a week. They owned the land opposite The Rose, where in Ivan's time the showman, John Downs, was to bring his family and funfair, including Gallopers and Swing Boats, to camp for the winter. The Downs family stayed for the duration of the Second World War when their showman's traction engine was used on the fields for the war effort and the two families were to become very close.
Shortly after Jane's death, the following article was written in the Essex County Standard
'Peldon Rose!' I got out of the bus and made my way to this centuries old hostel where for well over half a
century Mrs Jane Pullen was the hostess. Mr Basil I Pullen is the host now. There is a pond by the side of The Rose where widgeon, pintail, pochard and other ducks sport. It is said that in days gone by, smuggled
brandy was secreted beneath the water of this pond Mr Pullen's grandmother had known the Reverend S Baring Gould,
one-time rector of East Mersea and author of 'Mehalah', 'a man who always went whistling and singing along the road'. Talking of incidents connected with the house, Mr Pullen had heard his grandmother tell of an
old man who one day arrived bringing with him a hen and a sitting of eggs. He set the hen in a corner of
the taproom and did not leave the house until the chicks were hatched.
Your Essex No 30 At Peldon by Cyril R Jeffries 1935/36 Essex County Standard
When Ivan and Mary took over the pub in 1935 there was no electricity and Mary used to have to trim the lamps and set the fire before opening to their customers.
Ivan's girls Rosemary and Penny were baptised and both later married at St. Andrew's Church, Abberton and went to school at West Mersea.
Penny describes their childhood as idyllic. In front of the Rose, Ivan made a garden with a fence to make sure the little girls didn't run out into the road. He was keen on roses and grew them over the arch in the garden. He grew strawberries in a field behind the pub and kept pigs at Rose Farm across the road. He had a fine collection of ornamental wildfowl on the large pond by the pub.
The girls had a bell tent they used to camp in all summer, and picnicked on the marshes.
They rode ponies - the roads were a lot safer then - although Penny recalls they could always hear when George Scales, the farmer at Harveys Farm was driving his tractor at breakneck speed through the village and they knew to keep out of the way! Johnny Knight 'the knackerman' from Home Farm (his business was at The Hythe) used to turn up at The Rose with ponies that he was supposed to be taking to the knackers yard and Penny and Rosemary would have the ponies, break them in and then sell them on. They had a little boat and their Dad would take them to Ray Island for picnics. Sometimes they caught eels and would eat them freshly cooked as soon as they got home. Ivan also dug out a 'swimming pool' in the marshes which would fill up when the tide came in and was a safe place for the family to swim. The girls went to Sunday school at the Methodist Chapel in Lower Road, Peldon, and Penny remembers being taken on the handlebars of her Dad's bike down to the chapel.
Penny had Art lessons with 'Grimey'. Mr Grimes, the artist and cartoonist who lived at Strood Villa, [Pyefleet House] just along the road from The Rose. He used to grumble at having to produce a cartoon for the Evening Star every evening throughout the war. It was 'Grimey' who painted the pub sign with a large white Rose on one side and a large red rose on the other - drawn from two of Ivan's precious roses.
Did it replace the old sign described in the 1880 novel Mehalah by East Mersea's Rector, the Reverend
Sabine Baring Gould?
There was the inn an old-fashioned house, with a vine scrambling over the red-tile roof, and an ancient standard
sign, before the door, on the green, bearing a rose, the size of a giant turnip.
World War 2
Ivan was in The Home Guard. The famous picture of the Home Guard outside The Rose includes their tame fox, Renny, sitting on Ivan's lap. Ivan had found some cubs in a den, so young their eyes were still closed. Their mother had been shot. Ivan raised Renny by hand, he was totally tame and given the chance used to love snuggling under the bedclothes.
Ivan was in charge of an arms store (located behind Ray View). The store was like an Anderson Shelter with a corrugated iron top.
He told his daughters that if the Germans landed on Mersea, there were plans to blow up the Strood.
In February 1944 the pub was hit by incendiary bombs and the Downs boys (the fairground family who were spending the war camped over the road) helped flick
the burning debris off the roof with sticks.
The famous Rose Inn was illuminated one Friday morning by the incendiaries, one of which fell on the roof.
By good fortune it must have struck a joist for it bounced clear without penetrating. Ceiling plaster was
strewn all over the floor and onto the bed but no one was hurt. Hervey Benham, Essex At War
Penny recalls lying in bed and there suddenly being holes in the roof and it seeming to be daylight outside. She and her sister were wrapped up in an eiderdown brought downstairs and put by the big fireplace in the Rose in the belief that it was the safest place to be if the roof collapsed. There were a lot of unexploded bombs outside and the children weren't allowed to go out for several days.
The garden next morning contained many holes whitened by the magnesium ash and the surrounding fields were
literally covered with them. The doorstep of a house nearby was shattered by another incendiary. On the other
side of the road two sheds were hit. One was full of wood and the other of coal but the fires were soon
extinguished by neighbours. Hervey Benham Essex At War
One night all Ivan's collection of ornamental ducks living on the pub's pond disappeared and it was only natural to point the finger at the American airmen billeted down the road! Airmen practising on the reservoir in preparation for the Dambusters attack on German dams used to go in the pub for a drink. Penny relates that they were superstitious and never drank pints only ever halves!
A German plane came down locally and the story was that the airman was to be escorted to The Rose until the police could collect him. Being so young and in bed Penny didn't get to see him!
It was Ivan and Mary who had Rose Farm built over the road after the war and they were to live there after they gave up the pub. Throughout their long connection with The Rose they knew all the locals and were well loved. Mary, being a nurse, was called upon when people were ill, injured or needed a relative laying out.
Some of the oak timbers as you enter The Rose via the main door were taken from Langenhoe Church which was demolished in 1963.
Penny left home at 18 to train to be a nurse. Her sister Rosemary was married to a tea plantation owner
and lived in India. Having to leave the plantation quickly because of the difficult political situation
there they moved to New Zealand losing most of their possessions in the process. Rosemary still lives in New Zealand while Penny lives in West Mersea.
When Ivan and Mary decided to sell the pub the headline read
AN OLD ESSEX LANDMARK IS BEING SOLD
The Peldon Rose, one of the best-known Inns in Essex, is to be sold. The present licensee for 23 years, Mr Basil
Pullen has lived there all his life, and The Rose has been associated with the Pullen Family for over 80 years.
Built in the fifteenth century, the old house is still in its original state inside.
Essex County Standard Friday 30th August 1957
For Ivan and Mary, who had moved into Rose Farm across the road, plans were to move to New Zealand where their
daughter, Rosemary, was living.
Archie Moore, local woodturner, made a special wooden bowl as a farewell present from the village. Fittingly, the wood was taken from an old oak tree on the corner opposite the pub pond that had become unsafe and had to be cut down. Best wishes were sent via the local Parish magazine.
For three generations (over 100 years) the Pullens of The Peldon Rose have been known in our village. Mr Basil
Pullen has lived here all his life. Now the time has come for him and Mrs Pullen to join their clan in
New Zealand and we wish them all the best on their long journey and in their new home
Peldon and Wigborough Parish News December 1972
Sadly, Ivan became ill and only three months later in March 1973 he was to die of cancer and he and Mary never got to their new life in New Zealand.
Today, The Rose still has a reputation for good food and drink, and a refuge if you get caught by the tide.
It has a pond, a lovely cottage garden at the front and tables and seating in the back. It offers B and B and can cater for meetings, wakes, and weddings. The old part still reflects the building's great age but a large modern conservatory was added to the back to make more room for dining. Penny was shown around what changes have been made to her family's old living quarters upstairs and felt completely disorientated it was so different from when she was a child.
Peldon History Project
Thanks to: Penny Burr
Essex County Standard
Hervey Benham Essex At War
The Mead and The Pullen Families - from censuses and trade directories.
In early censuses, Jane's father, Samuel Mead, is listed as a farm labourer and the family are living in
Messing until the 1861 Mersea census reveals they have moved to Mersea.
In Kelly's trade directories of 1870 and 1871 Samuel is listed as running The Fox, West Mersea, (although he is still down as an agricultural worker in the census of 1871). Judging by Kelly's directories from 1874 and 1878 Samuel has subsequently become a grocer and landlord of The Dog and Pheasant in West Mersea. In the census of 1881 his son Charles, Jane's brother, is running The Dog and Pheasant, and Samuel and his wife Sarah have moved to Peldon close to The Rose where his daughter Jane and her husband are now landlord and landlady.
Jane married George Pullen of West Mersea in 1868 and by the 1871 census they were living in the road leading to the church in West Mersea, George working as a fisherman. In 1874 George seems to have taken over the Fox from his father-in-law according to Kelly's directory and is still listed as landlord in 1878. By the 1881 census George and Jane have two children George William aged 12 and Lily J aged 9 and are running the Peldon Rose pub. George is described as an Innkeeper and market gardener. So it would seem that George and Jane took over The Rose between 1878 and 1881.
In 1891 George Pullen is described as an Innkeeper and seed grower and their son, George William, as a cattle dealer. Jane's parents are living nearby. Jane's father dies in 1895 and his death aged 80 in West Ham and away from home could be explained by the fact that his grandson, George William Pullen, is running The Yorkshire Grey pub in West Ham in the 1901 census, with his wife, Laura (née Green) and two children, Basil Ivan Pullen and Clare Green Pullen. They are by the following year no longer there and there is another licensee. The fact that Samuel, his grandad, seems to have died in West Ham in 1895 could be explained by George already managing the pub there by then.
Samuel and Sarah were both buried in Peldon Churchyard. Samuel died in 1895 at the age of 80 and Sarah in 1910 at 93.
By the next census in 1901 their children are no longer at home and George and Jane are still running The Rose.
Their son, George William dies in 1908. Then George dies in 1909. By the 1911 census Jane has her grandson Basil Ivan aged 13, born in Blackheath, East Donyland, living with her and two women who are bar staff and cook. A difficult time for Jane, her father dying in 1895, then her son George William in 1908 and her grandson, Basil Ivan, subsequently living with her, her husband George dying in 1909 and then her mother in 1910.
Pullens of Peldon Rose by Sybil Brand