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Cock Inn, High street, Chelmsford

Chelmsford pub index

A listing of historical public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in Essex. The  Essex listing uses information from census, Trade Directories and History to add licensees, bar staff, Lodgers and Visitors.

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Residents at this address

In his position as landlord, Richard Putto was evidently popular with his fellow-townsmen, for we find him elected on more than one occasion to the honourable office of parish warden at the Church of St. Mary's. In fact, he apparently took great interest in matters appertaining to the town generally.

Potto was a most zealous and enthusiastic upholder of the Roman Catholic cause. This was the prevailing religion of the day, and conscientious Protestants, or so called "hereticks," unfortunately had a sorry time of it ; several of them, both in this and other towns throughout Essex, suffered martyrdom for conscience sake.

Mention is made in Foxe's Book of Martyrs of Potto, and of  "The Cocke" inn. It is in connection with the case of George Eagles alias Trudgeover, who was apprehended near Colchester, and stood his trial at the Old Sessions House, Chelmsford, on the charge of treason, upon which indictment he was found guilty, and sentenced to be "hung, drawn, and quartered." Foxe records :
After sentence had been pronounced he was carried to the Crown, at Chelmsford, where Richard Potto, the elder, of the Cocke, teased him to confess that he had in his prayer offended the Queen, and to ask forgiveness, when he said he had not offended Her Grace. He was shortly after placed upon a hurdle or sledge, and drawn to the place of execution, being first bound, reading devoutly with a loud voice from a psalm book in his hand. Then the said Potto continued to tease him until the Sheriff commanded him to desist.

" The Crown," to which Eagles was in the meantime conveyed by the sheriff, was situated at the corner of Springfield Road. At this inn, temp, Henry VIII, there was a room set apart which was known as the " sheriffs prison," and in which were placed the king's arms. Owing to this incident, the hostelrie has actually sometimes gone by the name of " The King's Arms," in lieu of the above-named sign.

Dr. Taylor, it will be remembered, was lodged in this particular room for the night when on his way from London to Hadleigh to suffer martyrdom. ". The Crown " Inn was shortly afterwards pulled down, and upon its site was erected one of the best known taverns in Essex— "The Old Black Boy." The first part of Eagles' sentence is supposed by some to have been carried out at Rainsford End, the local Tyburn.

There was a field near this spot, now built upon, and marked on the old tithe map " Gallows Field." It is from this fact that the lane adjoining, leading from the high road at Rainsford End to Waterhouse Farm, is called " Gallows Lane." Hundreds of criminals have suffered for various offences at Gallows Field ;

Not so with regard to the case of Eagles. In support of this theory, there is an instance of a similar sentence being carried out in Chelmsford a few years previous to the above, that of a clergyman of Great Leighs, who had been chaplain to the queen, named Dr. James Mallett, who had the courage to express his sentiments regarding the king (Henry VIII), and who was executed for this offence, as the following extract from an old record in my possession will show: "Jaymes Maylette, clerke, Batcheler of Dyvinyte and P'son (parson) of Moche leyes, was drawen, hanged, and quartered on the markett hyll Chelmesforde for hygh treasone on Frydaye ye firste daye of Decemhere 1542."

There is no doubt but that Putto was an eye-witness of both these gruesome spectacles. Possibly he was present also at the burning of the martyr Wats, who slept the night previously at an inn nearly opposite to "The Cock," named the " Lyon Ine."
In the year 1557 the name of Richard Putto appears among the list of ratepayers of the town (numbering about 130) in the warden's accounts, being the : " Quarter's roule gathered uppon ye parrishoners of Chelmsforde and Moulsham by Master Reynoldes, Master William Myldemaye, and Rychard Maryone, churchwardens from mydsomer, the yere of o"" Lorde God 1557 untyl that daye twelvemonth 1558: — Item receyved of Richard Putto for foure quarteres, VP VII I*"

This seems to be a very small annual payment, but it must be remembered that the value of almost everything, compared with the present time, was then extremely low. For instance, a quart of beer only cost one penny, a quart of wine eight pence, and the wage of a moderately competent artizan was eight pence per day. (There were also 240 pence in a pound). 
In the same year another reference is made to this inn as follows : " Payd at Putto's, at the Coke, for ye clarke's brekefast when he came to help sing messe (mass) before y® justis of assice, XIII*" This individual, it is recorded, came from " Writtal," and "receyved for his servis— XVIIP" Concerning Putto's death,  Foxe states : " Though he lived until Queen Elizabeth's reign, he had little comfort, and then wrangling with two of his neighbours in his own house, and feeling himself not well, he desired a servant to accompany him to a chamber, when he fell on a low bed like a lump of lead, and, foaming at the mouth, never spoke afterwards, being senseless for three or four days, and then died." The entry of his death in the Parish Register is simply : " Richard Putto, innholder, died 5th Januarii, 1559."

1557/Richard Putto/ratepayer, 1557; occasionally ‘warden', St. Mary's; died in Chelmsford, 5 January 1559/../../.. *

A subsequent landlord of " The Cock Inn " was named Browne. He, like his predecessor, took no little interest in parish affairs, being one of the inhabitants of the town who with others advanced the money to help carry out the " Miracle," or "Passion playe," as it was called, in connection with the church, and by which amusement as well as instruction was afforded to the townspeople in those old dreary, monotonous days. This took place at the feast of Corpus Christi, and usually lasted for several days.

Hence the following extract from the warden's accounts in the year 1562 : "Paide unto Goodman Browne, of  'Ye Cocke,' for olde detie he lente at the firste playe, XL*" Later on one Nycholas Sutton was " mine host " of this tavern, and in the year 1607 he was delegated to the office of churchwarden. The wine for sacramental purposes at St. Mary's was supplied from this hostel, and also from the " Whyte Harte " hotel, the latter some years previously being described as "abuttinge uppon a heathe." This, no doubt, had reference to the then wild, uncultivated land at the rear of the hotel, towards the river, and overlooking the grounds of the old Friary.

1560 - 1562/Goodman Brown/supported & promoted annual parish ‘Passion Playe'/../../.. *

1591/Widow Alestan/paid 2d rent in 1591, including barns, stables, yards and gardens/../../.. *

1607/Nicholas Sutton/also churchwarden, St. Mary's/../../.. *

On the occasions when the plague broke out in Chelmsford, more than one of the household of " The Cock Inn " fell a victim to its ravages. It was bad enough in 1603-4, but in the year 1625 it raged fearfully in the town. Travellers and others fleeing from London generally made Chelmsford their first halting place for the night, and in several instances they brought the distemper with them. It is a curious fact that servants and " chamberlaynes " at some of the inns of the town were the first to take the disorder, then followed  the various members of the landlord's family. In most instances the landlord himself was the last to succumb.

Those were gloomy times for Chelmsford, trade being almost at a standstill. The inhabitants were driven almost to their wits' end. In their extremity numbers flocked daily into St. Mary's Church, and partook of the sacrament. Consequently an extraordinary quantity of wine was consumed. Ordinarily, 38s. was sufficient outlay for " bred and wyne " for the year ; but on that occasion something like £8 was expended, bread then being a penny a loaf, and wine (as before mentioned) at the rate of eight pence per quart. This, too, was at a time when the population of both Chelmsford and Moulsham did not exceed 2,000, and only adults communicated. During the pestilence of 1665 matters were even worse, and such was the demand for graves that in some instances persons were actually buried in the gardens or orchards attached to their houses. According to tradition, this was the case at " The Cock Inn," and it would be not a matter of surprise if, in digging the foundations for the Wesleyan Sunday Schools, which will be located in the garden, a skeleton or two was unearthed.

Although this inn was generally known as " The Cocke," according to the title-deeds of the property the original name was " The Cocke and Coache." As is often the case in a sign with more than one name, the latter term, by continued disuse, is dropped. Evidently it was so in this instance. The name of this sign was adopted in allusion to the pastime of cock-fighting, which was indulged in to a great extent in former times.

What the affinity of " The Cocke and Coache " indicates, it is not easy to define. It is a significant fact, nevertheless, that on a coach arriving in a town where it was known that a cock-match was pending, the passengers oft times constrained the coachman to defer continuing the journey until the match had come off.

The stewards of the Chelmsford Races in former times, in order to entertain the numerous visitors who were sojourning in the town for three days on these occasions, besides providing balls, concerts, and other entertainments, generally inaugurated a cock-fight. In The Chelmsford Chronicle of July 18th, 1777, there appears an advertisement headed : " Chelmsford Races. A main of cocks to be fought, between Middlesex and Essex, at the 'Saracen's Head.' Feeders — Fisher, Middlesex; Dorrell, Essex." Bufton, in his Coggeshall Diary alludes to the numbers of fighting-cocks that emanated from that locality, and which were delivered at London and intervening towns.

1776/John Marryon/for several years, ending 1776/../../.. *

1777/John Murduck/Alehouse Keeper, Licensee 1777; Sureties held by Thomas Hull & Henry Sweeting/../../.. *

Happily this barbarous custom has long since died out. It is many years since a cock-fight took place at this old hostelrie. All those who participated in the so-called pleasure are gone and forgotten.

But not so with regard to Putto, for the names of Richard Putto and " The Cocke Inne " are so indelibly stamped upon the page of history, that they will be perpetuated and remembered so long as the world lasts.

Situated on the east side of High Street, Chelmsford, and abutting on the old stone bridge, recently stood a building of somewhat unpretentious exterior, with no attractive appearance whatever, or anything at all striking to a casual observer. Save only those who might be cognisant of the facts concerning its historic associations, numbers would naturally pass it unheeded. However, as it has just been demolished in order to provide a site upon which to erect a more imposing structure for the Wesleyan community of the town (in lieu of the present chapel in Springfield Road), the present time may not be inopportune for recording and giving certain incidents and events that have transpired — which to some may prove to be interesting — in connection with these premises in the old-time days.

Few, probably, are aware that this erection formerly figured as a much-frequented and noted old hostelry, dating back for nearly four centuries, and once known as " Ye Cocke Inne."

leaden casements and projecting sign, could not fail to be observed by strangers and others, it being one of the most conspicuous houses to be seen, more especially the side front facing the river, which was plainly visible for some distance when coming down Moulsham Street.

With exception of the end wall of red bricks — a more recent addition — the erection consisted principally of lath and plaster, an extraordinary quantity of massive oak beams and joists being used in its construction, many of which measured a foot square. To give some idea of the extent of ground the building and premises comprised, there is a frontage of 57 feet, with a depth of about 125 feet to the backwater known as the " gullet," and the garden —
which is approached by a small bridge over the latter — measuring 68 feet by 92 feet.

Subsequent to its being an inn, which is some-where about 150 years ago, a brick parapet was carried up, and the whole exterior plastered with stucco. Although internally it had been subjected to modernising alterations, nevertheless its oak-panelled hall, and likewise rooms on the ground floor, substantial staircases, spacious landings leading to several capacious rooms, and sleeping apartments, also almost endless closeting and store-room accommodation, with extensive cellarage, running under the adjoining house, are plainly indicative of the purpose for which it was evidently intended, viz., a tavern well suited to afford excellent accommodation to travellers in general, and the public in particular.

The top of the building, with its quaintly-formed lean-to, was perhaps the part most intact. There was to be seen the oak balustrading of the Tudor type, surrounding the staircase on that particular landing. In one of the back rooms adjoining, there appeared to be a window filled in, leaving only a small aperture to admit the light, no doubt efiected to avoid the window duty impost of former days.
The vehicular entrance was by the side of the river, next the stone bridge, or more correctly speaking, the original wooden bridge consisting of three arches thrown over the Cann by Bishop Maurice. The workshops and shedding, now falling to decay in the spacious yard at the rear, were no doubt once some of the stabling utilised when this was an inn.

* Provided by Bruce Murduck

And Last updated on: Saturday, 18-Jul-2020 10:11:31 BST