Fleece, Bretforton

The Cross
WR11 7JE
01386 831173

The Fleece in Bretforton is a remarkable pub which is fundamentally unchanged since the nineteenth century. It’s a timber-framed building which started life as a farm in the 15th century and had a rebuild in the 17th century (photos 1 & 2).

It became a pub in 1848 and was run by the same family until Lola Taplin, the last of the line, died in 1977. She donated it to the National Trust with the condition that it should remain in its unspoilt state. To this day it remains one of the most unaltered pubs in the UK. Inside there are three rooms, the Brewhouse, the Pewter Room and the Dugout. The Brewhouse was where the homebrewed beer and cider were made until the 1930s. Now it has flagstone floors, a high backed settle, a grandfather clock and a fireplace (photo 4). Carved in the hearth of the fireplace are circles to prevent witches and evil spirits entering through the chimney.

The Pewter Room is where the important collection of 17th century pewter is stored in a wooden dresser (photo 5). Legend has it that Oliver Cromwell left it here on his way to the Battle of Worcester in exchange for gold to pay his troops. This room also has a high settle and flagged floors, and until recently hosted the folk club. The Dugout was once the games room and the unused dartboard is still there (photo 6).

The weekly folk club and occasional comedy gigs are now held in the restored 18th century barn next to the pub, which like the pub, is Grade II listed. The folk club, Fleecey Folk, attracts a number of well known acts, and promotes larger folk acts at the Bretforton Theatrebarn just down the road.

There’s a huge garden and orchard outside which is very popular when the sun shines. The Fleece has a great range of ales with Purity Mad Goose and Uley Pigs Ear as regulars plus assorted guests. There are also three or four real ciders. Back in Lola Taplin’s time only one real ale was sold, DPA from Mitchell & Butlers, straight from the cask. An old M&B sign is still there, on the outside wall (photo 4).  Food is another big draw here and traditional pub grub is served, with much of the food sourced locally.

Lola Taplin is part of a tradition in the UK of a long serving woman licensee presiding over an unspoilt pub, but as time moves on they are sadly becoming fewer. What did surprise me though, given that she was alive in my lifetime, is that she has been elevated to the status of ghost. Apparently she throws food and other objects around the bar. No food was served in her day so maybe she doesn’t like the new fangled ways. A more traditional ghost, a 17th century cattle drover called Spot Loggins, is celebrated at the pub each November.

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