The Bell Inn at Horndon on the Hill, Essex had a chequered early history. In 1553 a local landowner, Thomas Higbed, was burnt at the stake on ground to the rear of the Inn for 'heresy.' An historical society 'blue plaque' fixed to the front of the building commemorates the grizzly event.
Happily it wasn’t long before weary travellers were receiving, if not warmer, then certainly more friendly hospitality. The impressive architecture of the building with its courtyard (awash in summer with magnificent flowers), balcony and archway entrance reveals its prime business in those early days as a ‘coaching inn’ providing sustenance and accommodation for travellers on their way south to ford the River Thames at Highams Causeway. Inside the building, the original king post is still in place carrying roof timbers over a thousand years old.
The longevity of the building has clearly had some impact on the proprietors who have held the Bell in the same family for over 70 years. John and Christine Vereker are second generation incumbents having taken over from Christine’s parents in 1970, who in turn took the Bell in 1938, finding it without electricity or running water.
Whilst both electricity and running water are now safely installed, the Verekers have also taken great care to ensure that some of the better traditions of the old coaching inn have been preserved. Accommodation has been restored although whether or not some of those early travellers would now recognise the five magnificent suites, is a moot point. They may well recognise the names of the bedrooms though – all famous mistresses in history whose personalities are reflected in the rooms lavish and witty décor.
Downstairs, two bars (one panelled in oak wood with an open fire, the other set on an original flagstone floor) both serve a wide selection of well kept real ales, although you may note a healthy bias toward several local breweries. Over 20 wines by the glass are available and complement a broad, high quality wine list offering exceptional value.
Booking is essential in the restaurant where the bustling, cosmopolitan atmosphere spills over into the bar area. Some tables are allocated for dining in the bar to keep up with demand. Additional function and private dining rooms, accommodating between 10 and 40 people and a further 10 bedrooms up the road in the 17th Century Hill House, completes the broad range of hospitality available at the Bell.
Our aim is to provide the hospitality and services of the traditional English “Inn”, but in a context suited to the modern guest. We hope you enjoy the result.