The Bell Inn

Above: The Bell, c1900

13 Frome Road (The Bell Inn). The current building dates from the early 19th century but it is likely that there were earlier ale houses and inns here, as it is located on an ancient trackway and close to the 15th century church. The earliest reference I (PH) know of is an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle of 30th April 1772 for an auction to be held at the Bell Inn. Edward Tovey was the innkeeper at that time, and when he died in 1785 the newspaper announcement read:

”Last Saturday died suddenly, aged 71, Mr. Edward Tovey, who for many years kept the Bell Inn at Road”

By 1834 James Budd was recorded as owner on a list of those eligible to vote. He was still owner in 1839 and Thomas Darvell was the occupier. In 1845 the Inn was largely destroyed by fire caused, it was said, by accident. Budd sold the site to Charles Saunders who rebuilt the Inn and became innkeeper for a few years. Then there was a rapid succession of innkeepers until 1897 when the Giles family ran the inn until 1932. Mr. Robert (Bob) Eke, landlord between 1974 and 1986, together with his wife, raised over £10,000 for the ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ charity. In recent years Richard Vesty was a popular landlord and he and Gill trained up many of the village youngsters for their first paid job, as waiters in the restaurant. [Extract from “History of Some of the Old Buildings in Rode” by Dawna Pine, second edition]

The Bell

Hostelries near Churches have been known since very early times, and made their monies largely from hospitality offered to pilgrims and visitors and their names from the Church Bell(s).  In the 19th Century it obviously occurred to someone that a tavern at the junction of the Frome/Trowbridge turnpike road and the path that continued to Westbury and Salisbury Plain would be profitable.  So it has proved, perhaps increasingly so as other Pubs in the village of Rode declined and closed and as the amount of traffic along the modern A. 361 road shows no signs of decreasing.  We do not know how old this Pub is.  It is listed in the 1841 Census of Road with Thomas Darvell as keeper, but in 1843 two Excise Entries were made, the first on 11th March and the second on 3rd October by Charles Mead and James Thomas Franklin respectively, each declaring:

“A Brewhouse marked BH containing a Mash Tun marked MT. Also six rooms marked No. 1 SR, No. 2 SR. No. 3 SR, No 4 SR, No. 5 SR. and No. 6 SR for the purpose of Brewing and Storing of Beer, Ale, Porter, Cider, Spirits and Tobacco for sale.  Also one room for Malt and Hops

The Brewhouse is in the yard in front of my dwelling.  No 1 is my Bar”.

However in the details of an auction held on 18th June 1877 the Bell is described as “newly built”!  Perhaps this latter referred to a re-build. Like many other Pubs the Bell had clearly brewed its own beer but on 8th January 1884 there was a sale of “the valuable BREWING PLANT and other effects, comprising excellent 210 gallon copper… 15 bushel new oak mash tub… 2 deal coolers, Underback, copper bottom hop strainer…tin wort pump…new malt mill… 5 capital store pieces sound and sweet [amounting altogether to 2,767 gallons capacity] and many 18 and 9 gallon carriage casks, etc., etc.” It is interesting to speculate if Sidney Fussell bought any of this equipment, but we have no evidence.

Through Directories we have an almost complete list of the various tenants and owners of the Bell up to the time of writing. Perhaps the best known of recent years was Mr. Robert (Bob) Eke who, with his wife, between 1974 and 1986, raised over £10,000 for the ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ Charity.  The inn belonged at one time to the Lamb Brewery of Frome, which amalgamated with Frome United Breweries Co. Ltd. in the 1950s, to become Frome and Lamb Ltd. However, by 1959/60, that Company had been taken over by Ushers of Trowbridge, which in turn ceased trading in the year 2000. Mr. Richard Vesty is its latest owner as we write (2006). [Extract from “A History of Brewing in Rode” by Sidney Fussell and Brian Foyston, 2006]

Above: The Bell, 1962
2 August 2023
Last Updated
2 August 2023