History of The Chequers Inn and Redbourn
Though it’s difficult to date The Chequers Inn precisely, English Heritage notes its “timber frame with painted brick” as 16th century. The earliest recorded reference, however, is on a map from 1760. Back then the pub was part of Fish Street Farm, which belonged to the estate of James Grimston, 2nd Viscount Grimston, MP for St.Albans.
The Chequers Inn started life as a coaching station. It stands on the A5183, formerly the ancient Roman road, Watling Street. Between 1780 and 1830, the ‘Golden Age of Stage-Coaching’, Redbourn became known as the ‘Street of Inns’ with at least 25 pubs and inns lining the main road. Located just short of the River Ver, The Chequers Inn was a frequent stop-off for Royal Mail coaches en route to London or York.
By 1838, the introduction of a railway line between London, St. Albans and Birmingham signalled the demise of stage-coaching. Nevertheless, the inn continued to thrive and was eventually taken over by Frances Carter Searancke, the famous brewer of Hatfield.
The village of Redbourn is referenced in the Domesday Book, though it is likely that the parish was established long before that. In 1178 remains were unearthed on Redbourn Common, said to belong to Saint Amphibal, the travelling Christian priest who converted Saint Alban to Christianity. In honour of this momentous discovery, a priory was founded upon the site.
Not far away, on Church End, stands St Mary’s Church, the oldest building in Redbourn, which celebrated its 900-year anniversary in 2010. It was built 1100 by Richard de Aubenay, the second Norman Abbot of St. Albans Abbey.
Snaking its way south through the village is the River Ver. When you see how tranquilly it trickles along today, it is hard to imagine it once powered mill wheels. Nevertheless it did, and there are still several old mill buildings dotted about the village.
Redbournbury Mill to the south is recorded in the Domesday Book, though it is thought to have existed since Saxon times, when it was donated to the Abbey of St.Albans. Until the mid 1950s the mill was run by Ivy Hawkins, officially the last female miller in England. Today the mill is a museum and bakery, though it still produces stoneground flour, something it has done for over 900 years.
Between 1857 and 1938 there was a steam-powered silk-throwing mill, Woollam’s Mill, which stood on Redbourn Common. Today all that remains is the Old Silk House, now the Redbourn Village Museum, but it was once home to the silk factory manager. When World War II began in 1939, the mill was taken over by Brooke Bond, and it remained a tea-packaging factory until the late-90s when it was sold off, and the Old Silk House donated to the village.
Milling wasn’t the only industry to flourish in Redbourn. On Redbourn High Street you will find Redbourn Village Hall, which was once a factory for making straw hats! And from 1866, watercress was grown in the cool, clean waters of the River Ver, a practice that continued until well into the 20th century. Today, the old watercress beds provide a lush haven for freshwater wildlife.
A five-minute drive from The Chequers Inn, on the outskirts of the city of St. Albans is the Theatre of Verulamium, once an ancient Roman town. Built in 140AD, it comprises a theatre with a stage and is the only example of its kind in Britain. The ruins were excavated in 1847, while subsequent digs have unearthed a Roman town house, a shrine and several shop foundations.
The city’s skyline is dominated by St.Albans Cathedral, with its mix of different architectures, including Roman bricks thought to have been salvaged from the ruins of Verulamium. It stands on the site where St. Alban is buried, having died as the first Christian martyr some 1700 years ago.
Perched on the banks of the tranquil River Ver, just minutes from Junction 9 of the M1, The Chequers Inn is the ideally located. Whether you’re exploring the chalk hills and abundant wetlands of the Ver Valley on foot, cycling the The Nickey Line, or passing through the picturesque villages and bluebell woods of historic Hertfordshire, stop-off at The Chequers Inn and enjoy a traditional pub meal, or pint of cask-ale with us.
Directions to The Chequers Inn
You can find The Chequers Inn on Redbourn Road in St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Simply key AL3 7AD into your satnav.