The Bridge Inn – Hilaire Belloc – “The Four Men”

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Bridge Inn – courtesy of The Four Men…

‘Mr Duke’s parlour at The Bridge Inn’
We will be singing some Sussex folk songs (courtesy of Chris Hare), in The Bridge Inn, on the evening of the 23rd of February after our Belloc ‘walk’ around Amberley village.
The Bridge is mentioned on day five of ‘The Four Men’ (Belloc’s literary pub crawl across Sussex). In this ‘Farrago’ the four featured travelling companions journeyed the twelve miles from Storrington to Duncton. On this leg, Belloc featured four inns: The Sportsman (just outside Amberley and where we will be having afternoon tea) and The Black Horse (now sadly closed) plus The Bridge Inn (next to Amberley railway station) and The George & Dragon in Houghton  (where our meeting will be held at 1.30 PM). Belloc, as “Myself”, the narrator remarks:
“We came at last past the great chalk pit to the railway, and to the Bridge Inn which lies just on this side of the crossing of the Arun. When we had all four come into Mr. Duke’s parlour at the Bridge Inn, and ordered beer and had begun to dry ourselves at the fire, the Sailor said: ’Come, Grizzlebeard, we promised to tell the stories of our first loves when we came to Arun; and as you are much the oldest of us do you begin’”.
Bob Copper (the famous, and now sadly deceased, Sussex folk song revivalist) in his book ‘Across Sussex  with Belloc’ continues:
“Let us press forward over Arun, and pursue our westward way beneath the hills. On the sturdy, stone bridge I paused to watch the dark waters glide smoothly below me, eddying round the cut-waters and carrying clumps of grass and river weed along the current. The meadows at the side were grazed down close, leaving only small patches of yellow ragwort here and there. I walked along the causeway and felt a strange satisfaction in seeing the speeding motor cars brought to a standstill by a herd of cows coming in from the field”.
Set in the stunning Arun Valley, in the South Downs National Park, The Bridge Inn with its lovely beer garden is a delightful traditional English Pub, serving well kept real ales and delicious, locally sourced, home cooked food. Belloc stopped here in 1902. The Post Office Directory of 1890 and 1905 show that the Mr. Duke, who he makes reference to, was Walter Duke the landlord here during that time. The census of 1901 lists other residents of the house as Esther, his wife, plus sons Clarence and Frederick and three daughters Eva, Maria and Mabel.
After the The Bridge Inn Belloc pressed on to the George and Dragon in Houghton:
‘So we did as he bade us, crossing the long bridge and seeing the water swirling through on the strong brown tide, and so along the causeway, and up the first ride into Houghton, where is that little inn, ”St. George and the Dragon”, at which King Charles the Second, the first King of England to take a salary and be a servant, drank as he fled from Worcester many years ago.’

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