King's Head

Suffolk - Laxfield

A historic pub interior of national importance

Listed Status: II

Gorams Mill Ln
Laxfield
IP13 8DW

OS ref: TM296724

Tel: (01986) 798395

Website http://www.laxfieldkingshead.co.uk/

Real Ale: Yes

Public Transport: Near Bus Stop

Bus: Yes

View on: Whatpub

A superlative, unspoilt village pub which features a remarkable main bar. The building was started in the 16th century and was extended to the left in the 18th. Its unspoilt nature results from its being run by the Felgate family from 1882 to 1979. The front doorway leads into the main bar which is dominated by high settles on three sides, the backs of which define a corridor running round the room – a rare, historic arrangement paralleled at the North Star, Steventon, Oxon. The settles face a fireplace, at the sides of which are cupboards for keeping items dry. It has a quarry tiled floor which extends through the corridor and into a room on the right. Behind this the corridor continues towards the rear via a further opened out space on the right. Facing this is a large multi-drawer cupboard. Finally, at the back, we reach the servery, which is in fact also the cellar and has no counter – beer is served direct from casks on the stillage. The dining room in the left-hand portion came into public use relatively recently. Sadly in early 2016 much of the traditional brown woodwork was painted over in modern gastro-pub blue.

A superlative, unspoilt country pub including one of the most remarkable public bars anywhere that is unchanged in 150 years. This is one of only eight traditional pubs left in the whole of the UK without a bar counter including the other Heritage Pubs the Cock, Broom, Bedfordshire; Milbank Arms, Barningham, Co. Durham; Red Lion, Ampney St Peter, Gloucestershire; North Star, Steventon, Oxfordshire; Tuckers Grave, Faulkland, Somerset; Rose & Crown, Huish Episcopi, Somerset; and Manor Arms, Rushall, West Midlands.

The origins of the building lie in the C16 and it was extended on the left in the C18. It is timber-framed and plastered, with the plaster lined to imitate stonework. Its unspoilt nature is as a result of being run by the Felgate family from 1882 until 1979. Adnams owned the pub from 1904, when they purchased Fisher's Brewery estate, until they sold it in 1972 (it had closed in 1969). It closed again in 1991 and then Tony Harvey of Tannington Hall and 8 other local people formed a consortium to buy the pub and they sold it back to Adnams in 2001. They have recently leased the pub to a local catering company and, sadly, the new leaseholders have added the ubiquitous 'gastro' pastel shades of paint to wood panelling and fireplaces.

The front doorway leads into the Settle Room, quite a large room with a red and black quarry tiled floor, originally it was the parlour of the house. Nothing has changed in 150 years with the room dominated by high Victorian settles on three sides and focused on the log fire with a mantelshelf almost reaching the ceiling; note the trivet for placing a joint of meat on for roasting over the hearth and on either side cupboards for keeping things warm and dry. Sadly, most of the fireplace has recently received a coat of 'gastro' cream paint. There is a scrubbed top table but no food is served here. The backs of the settles with iron stays attached to the ceiling in fact define a corridor which runs right round the room and has an old basic bench. There really is nothing quite like this room anywhere else and is undoubtedly the core of the public house.

There are only a handful of similar rooms or snugs formed of two or more high backed settles left in the whole of the UK. They can be found at the following Heritage Pubs – the Holly Bush, Mackeney, Derbyshire; Malt Shovel, Spondon, Derbyshire; Green Dragon, Flaunden, Hertfordshire; Red Lion, Kenninghall, Norfolk; North Star, Steventon, Oxfordshire; Bell & Cross, Holy Cross, Worcestershire; Old White Beare, Norwood Green, West Yorkshire; Red Lion, Llansannan, North West Wales;; Crown, Snape, Suffolk;; Wheatsheaf, Raby, Merseyside;; Galway Arms, East Retford, Nottinghamshire;; and Anchor, High Offley, Staffordshire .

On the right a latch door leads to the Card Room, a room of considerable age in the 16th century part of the building and would have been the kitchen of the house. It has a black and red quarry tiled floor, fixed seats all around the room attached to the old tongue and groove dado panelled walls (recently painted a pastel shade of blue), an old (now disused) wood surround fireplace (recently painted a 'gastro' cream colour) and just two scrubbed tables. On the long table in the card Room you will see markings that relate to a Far Eastern game called ‘Go’.

Behind this is the Tap Room with a red and black quarry tiled floor which was possibly brought into use at a later date. It consists of a three-sided pew seating around a large scrubbed table, plain panelling (recently painted a pastel shade of blue) and a tongue & groove and panelled ceiling; opposite this a large multi-drawed old cupboard which is the storage place for crisps and nuts.

Behind this in turn, is the servery which is in fact the cellar with a concrete screeded floor and casks of beer on stillage and no counter, but it is here that you come to place your order and the beer is served direct from casks on stillage. As you enter look on the right for the wooden structure that was an early servery, now with some modern shelves. In the cellar are a couple of old Adnams enamel signs advertising their bottled beers and Tally Ho. Here is one of the few modern items in the pub – a fridge for bottles.

At the end of the passage around the settles through a low doorway and over a small step is a small lobby with uneven brick floor leading to the Dining Room in the rear left hand part of the pub. The dining room was originally the living room and brought into use in 1992 to meet expanded trade. This room has good but modern settle seating and scrubbed tables in keeping with the rest of the pub and a genuine early 20th century tiled and cast fireplace. Note the old bell in the rear left of the settle room / at the end of the passage – it is still wired up and was used for table service in the dining room but this is no longer the case so ringing the bell is more of an irritation nowadays. On the wall above the fireplace where you will find a couple of ropes that ring the bell are painted the following “Pull the chord, Ring the bell, Give the landlord merry hell.” And “Afore ye sit upon the bench, Pull the chord to call a wench, She’ll bring a Jug, Your thirst to quench”.

As befits a pub as unspoilt as this the toilets are outside. Put up for sale in 1992 and under threat of modernisation, Tony Harvey of Tannington Hall formed a consortium to buy it. Any tenant who wished to run the pub had to agree that there would be no fruit machines, no piped music, no pool table, no cigarette machine, no fried food and no modern bar. It was sold to Adnams in 2001 and still these rules have been complied with!

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