History of Bear Inn and Berkswell
The inn’s original name – The Bear and Ragged Staff - comes from the arms of the Earls of Warwick, the former Lords of the Manor of Berkswell. Shakespeare refers to Warwick’s emblem ‘The rampant bear chain’d to the ragged staff’ in Henry VI, and a giant wooden bear climbing a pole can still be seen outside the pub today.
Although the history of the inn during the 16th and 17th centuries is uncertain, recent renovations revealed a Cromwellian helmet and boot embedded in an interior wall, and the dining room is known as Cromwell’s Room, commemorating the time when Cromwell’s troops lodged in the village during the English Civil War prior to the Battle of Kenilworth.
Just outside The Bear Inn stands a relic from the Crimean War - a cannon captured from the Russians at Kerch in 1855. First ceremonially fired at a dinner in January 1859, when fired on the second occasion in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the blast broke windows all over the village.
By the 19th century the inn prospered, described in 1874 as “a large house, well fitted up with every convenience, and much resorted to by pleasure parties from Birmingham and Coventry.” As the focal point for Berkswell village life, for centuries the inn hosted the annual October Stattis Fair, where farm-workers and servants would gather from the surrounding countryside seeking to be hired by local farmers for the coming year.
By the late 1800’s The Bear employed ostlers to care for guests’ horses, and the inn provided horse and cart and dog and cart transport to its patrons. A ledger from 1895 records that a dog cart journey to Hampton in Arden cost three shillings and sixpence, the same price as a bottle of whisky.
During World War II the inn was popular with Coventry citizens escaping the Blitz, and the floor of the bar was often crowded with sleeping bodies.
Berkswell itself provides the perfect rural setting for visiting the historic Bear Inn. With its thatched cottages, leafy lanes, old church, village green and quaint five-legged stocks, it’s the picture-perfect English village.
Thought to date back to Anglo-Saxon times, its name comes from Berculs-well. ‘Bercul’ was an Anglian chieftain, while ‘well’ indicates the village had its own stream or spring, which can still be seen bubbling into a stone tank on the village green near The Bear Inn.
Berkswell church is a fine example of Norman architecture, with its beautiful red sandstone exterior and magnificent crypt with some Saxon stonework. The noted Yorkshire woodcarver Robert ‘Mousey’ Thompson carved the church’s splendid oak font and his famous hallmark – the mouse – is also present at the church. In fact, there are 17 of them in total!
Other notable buildings in Berkswell include the 14th century Nailcote Hall and Grade II listed Blind Hall Farm. This glorious brick and timber building is situated on a lovely trail connecting Berkswell with Meriden, the centre of England – part of the 100 mile Heart of England Way, running from the Cotswolds to Cannock Chase, linking two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As it has for centuries, today The Bear Inn provides a warm welcome, delicious pub food and tasty Sunday lunches to all its guests. Whether walking the Heart of England Way or exploring historic Berkswell, The Bear Inn provides the perfect location to pause, relax and recharge, with fine wines and cask ales.
Directions to The Bear Inn
You can find The Bear Inn on Spencer’s Lane in Berkswell. Situated just minutes off the A452 in the heart of the countryside, just 15 minutes from Coventry and lessn than 20 minutes from Solihull. Key CV7 7BA into your satnav to find us.