Nice and toasty inside

Nice and toasty inside

The Fleece Inn is a public house in Bretforton, in the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, England: the half-timbered building, over six hundred years old, has been a pub since 1848, and is now owned by the National Trust. The inn was extensively damaged by fire on 27 February 2004, and after repairs and rebuilding were completed the Fleece officially reopened on 18 June 2005. The pub holds an annual asparagus festival asparagus and auction while there are three morris sides based at the pub: Pebworth, Belle d'Vain and Asum Gras. There is a regular folk night plus concerts and weddings in the medieval barn.

Owned by the National Trust, The Fleece Inn was originally built in the early 15th century as a longhouse (an early type of farmhouse accommodating both livestock and humans) by a prosperous yeoman farmer called Byrd. It later became a pub, which was rebuilt in the 17th century and remained in the Byrd family until 1977, when Lola Taplin bequeathed it to the National Trust. Lola was a direct descendant of Mr Byrd, and lived her entire life at the Fleece. She died at 77, having run the pub on her own for the last 30 years of her life. The Inn suffered serious fire damage after a fire broke out in the thatch in February 2004, and the business temporarily moved to a nearby barn during the 14 month long restoration.

Reputedly Oliver Cromwell’s pewter dinner service was exchanged on the way to the battle of Worcester and this is on display at the pub. Even if this account is not true, it is an example of 17th century Jacobean English Pewter ware. A curious medieval tradition also survives at the Fleece, preserved in accordance with Lola's wishes. This is the practice of chalking "witch circles" on the floor in front of each hearth to prevent witches from getting in through the chimneys. There are also "witch marks" on the inside of the door, to keep evil spirits out.

The BBC used The Fleece Inn and the surrounding village green for its 1994 production of Charles Dickens' novel Martin Chuzzlewit; the pub was renamed the "Blue Dragon" for the duration of shooting.

** – EVESHAM – **

Evesham is a market town and parish in the Wychavon district of Worcestershire. It is located roughly equidistant between Worcester, Cheltenham and Stratford-upon-Avon. It lies within the Vale of Evesham, an area comprising the flood plain of the River Avon, which has been renowned for market gardening. The town centre, situated within a meander of the river, is regularly subject to flooding. The 2007 floods were the most severe in recorded history.

The town was founded around an 8th-century abbey, one of the largest in Europe, which was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, with only Abbot Lichfield's Bell Tower remaining. During the 13th century, one of the two main battles of England's Second Barons' War took place near the town, marking the victory of Prince Edward who later became King Edward I.

Evesham is derived from the Old English homme or ham, and Eof, the name of a swineherd in the service of Egwin, third bishop of Worcester. It was originally named Homme or Haum and recorded as Eveshomme in 709 and Evesham in 1086. The second part of the name (homme or ham) typically only signifies a home or dwelling, but in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire was commonly applied to land on the sides of a river, generally in bends of a river, which were liable to flood.

Some sources (notably Tindal) incorrectly cite 'holm' as a source for the town's name; but this is simple ignorance of early forms of the name. Some sources (Rudge, Tindall, Lewis, May, etc.) incorrectly give the name of the swineherd as Eoves, but it should be Eof, as explained as long ago as 1920 by O.G. Knapp:

  • "It is impossible that Eoves should have been the Swineherd's name for several reasons. In the first place the letter 'V' is not found in the Saxon alphabet, having been brought to this country by the Normans; so that Eofeshamme, given in one of the charters, indicates the older and better form of the name... But even if Eofes is older and more accurate than Eoves it cannot be the original form of the name. A moment's reflection will show that if Evesham means the meadow of some person, the name of that person must be in what Grammarians call the Genitive (or Possessive) Case, Singular. This in modern English is nearly always denoted by 's placed at the end of the word; the apostrophe showing that a vowel has dropped out of the termination. Anglo-Saxon had a larger selection of endings for the Genitive Case, but the one in –es (the original form of our modern 's) belonged to what are called 'strong' Masculine nouns, which usually ended in a consonant. Eofes, therefore, would be the natural Genitive of a man's proper name, Eof. Ferguson suggests that the original form of the name might have been Eofa, but such a name would correspond to the 'weak' nouns which made their Genitive by adding not –es but –an; in which case the name of the town would have been Eofanham, as is shown in the case of Offenham, the Ham of Offa or Uffa. We may therefore take it as certain that the real name of the Swineherd was not Eoves, Eofes, or even Eofa, but Eof. And this is not a mere theoretical reconstruction, for Eof was actually a Saxon name... The form Eoves, though current for many centuries, is a mere blunder."
  • The Abbey.
  • Evesham Abbey, which became possibly the third largest in England, was founded by Saint Egwin, the third Bishop of Worcester, in around 701 AD, following the vision of the Virgin Mary to a local swineherd or shepherd named Eof. An entry in the Great Domesday Book of 1086 lists Evesham, mentioning "Two free men; Two radmen; Abbey of St Mary of Evesham; Abbey of St Mary of Pershore; Edmund, Abbot of St Mary of Pershore; Walter, Abbot of St Mary of Evesham; Aethelwig, Abbot of St Mary of Evesham; King William as donor; Odo, Bishop of Bayeux; Ranulph; Turstin, Abbot of St Mary of Pershore; Walter Ponther; Westminster, Gilbert Crispin, Abbot of St Peter."

    The abbey was redeveloped and extended after the Norman Conquest, employing many tradesmen and significantly contributing to the growth of Evesham. Income for the abbey came from pilgrims to the abbey to celebrate the vision and visitors to the tomb of Simon de Montfort. As a result of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, Evesham Abbey was dismantled in 1540 and sold as building stone, leaving little but the Lichfield Bell Tower. The abbey remains are a Scheduled Ancient Monument (No. WT253), and parts of the abbey complex, Abbot Reginald's Wall (registered monument) and the ruins of Abbot Chryton's Wall (Grade II), are English Heritage listed buildings. The abbey's coat of arms is used as the crest of Prince Henry's High School. Two surviving buildings with links to the abbey are the Middle Littleton Tythe Barn and the Almonry Museum and Heritage Centre, which is housed in the old almonry of the abbey and also displays artefacts from excavations there.

  • The Battle.
  • Following the Battle of Lewes a year earlier, where Simon de Montfort had gained control of parliament, the Battle of Evesham in August 1265 was the second of two main battles of the Second Barons' War. It marked the victory of Prince Edward, who led the 8,000 strong army of his father Henry III, over the 6,000 men of de Montfort, and the beginning of the end of the rebellion.

    The battle was a massacre; de Montfort's army were trapped in the horseshoe bend of the river, Although Simon de Montfort and his son were killed, Prince Edward's victory was not decisive towards the King's hold on the country, and the struggle continued until 1267, after which the kingdom returned to a period of unity and progress that was to last until the early 1290s. It is believed that the Battle of Evesham was the first time that the St George's flag was used to officially represent England.

  • The Town.
  • The medieval town developed within the meander of the River Avon, while Bengeworth developed to the east on the opposite bank of the river. In 1055 a market was granted to the Saxon town by King Edward. In the 11th century Leofric, Earl of Mercia, had a hunting lodge at Bengeworth. Leofric founded Holy Trinity Church with his wife Godifu (Lady Godiva). Godifu, who died in about 1067, is possibly buried at the abbey. During the reign of King Stephen, William de Beauchamp erected an adulterine castle at Bengeworth, whose occupants vied for control of the town and abbey. When Abbot William had the castle destroyed between 1149 and 1159, he consecrated the site as a graveyard to prevent the castle being rebuilt.

    In 1728 the London to Worcester road through Evesham was turnpiked as was the Evesham to Alcester road in 1778 improving communications in the area. Evesham is at the junction of the A46 and A44 trunk roads – the 4-mile (6 km) £7 million, A46 single-carriageway bypass to the east of the town opened in July 1987 as the A435.

    The River Avon is a navigable waterway linking the River Severn at Tewkesbury to the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal at Stratford-upon-Avon. The river between the town and Stratford is managed by the Upper Avon Navigation Trust, and below by the Lower Avon Navigation Trust, reflecting the administration of the river since the Restoration, when the lower Avon required only modest repairs, but significant investment was required above the town. The ancient Hampton Ferry links the town to Hampton.

    In 1845 an Act of parliament was passed for the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway and Evesham railway station opened between Honeybourne and Pershore. The station is on the Cotswold Line from Oxford to Worcester, Great Malvern and Hereford. There are trains every 45–55 minutes to London Paddington that take approximately 1 hour 45 minutes and trains to Birmingham take around 90 minutes (changing at Worcester).

    Merchant's House

    Merchant's House

    Abbey Almonry

    Abbey Almonry


    ** – Visiting – **

    A traditional English pub. The Fleece Inn is a half-timbered medieval farmhouse which originally sheltered a farmer and his stock. The Inn was first licensed in 1848. Fully restored to its former glory, with witches circles and precious pewter collection, it has developed a reputation for traditional folk music, morris dancing and asparagus.

    Click here for a list of forthcoming events.


    Location : Fleece Inn, Bretforton, near Evesham, Worcestershire, WR11 7JE

    Transport: Evesham (National Rail) then bus 2½ miles. Bus routes: 552/553 from Evesham to Chipping Campden

    Opening Times : Daily, 10:00 to 23.00.

    Tickets : Free

    Tel: 0138 6831173