The History of the Bold Forester
There has been a public house on the site of the Bold Forester from as far back as the 1840s, when a pint of beer at breakfast was considered a healthy way to start your day and the government was urging us to drink more. Here we take a brief look at the history of the Inn and some of the people who have run it.
As part of the government of the day’s drive to change the nation’s drinking habits, and at a time when it was considered by many to be safer to drink beer than water or milk, several Acts were introduced that led to a steep rise in the number of licensed premises in Britain. These included the Licensing Act of 1828 which permitted cities and towns to license premises for the sale of alcohol, and the Wellington’s Beerhouse Act of 1830 which allowed anyone to brew and sell beer from their home. It is during this time that the Bold Forester Inn was first established.
The Tithe Map of 1841 shows the premises known today as the Bold Forester being owned and occupied by William Knight and the annual tithe assessment of his property valued at 8s 6d (about £25 today) payable to the rector of the parish.
William Knight was a local man, born and raised in Soberton. The 1841 census records his occupation as blacksmith and that he was living on the premises with his wife Harriet and young family. In the 1861 census he declares his occupation as both blacksmith and publican and by the 1871 census he is assisted by his sons William and John as publicans and by his two youngest daughter, Mary and Maria, as housekeepers.
The formal recording of public houses began in 1869 with the introduction of the Wine and Beerhouse Act which placed all licensed premises under the control of the local magistrate. In this year William Knight was registered as the first licensee of the Bold Forester Inn and there are records of subsequent licensees through to 1962.
The records of the Petty Sessions for Droxford show that William’s son John Knight transferred the license to Frederick Broomfield in December 1874 who was succeeded in 1877 by local man William Titford, described in the 1881 census as a ‘publican and dealer’.
Other notable licensees include George Welch from Torpoint in Devon whose tenure only lasted a year and who was convicted and fined for permitting drunkenness on his premises; Ernest Mizen, who ran the Inn for over 30 years from 1913 to 1944; and Mary Ann Blackman who was the first female licensee of the Bold Forester. When records ceased in 1962, Walter Lawrence MacNally was the licensee. Walter had been at the Forester since 1944.
The Petty Sessions also kept records of the large brewers who owned the Inn. In 1903 Henty & Sons of Chichester were the owners, with Tamplin & Sons of Brighton becoming the owners in 1955 and Watney Mann in 1959. In the 1960s Watney Combe Reid & Co. Ltd. owned the Inn. The annual rent paid by William MacNally in 1944 was set at £26 (about £1,000 today).
Interestingly, Ordnance Survey maps show a Blacksmith shop as well as an Inn on the premises right through to the early 20th century when William Knight’s original smithy business was still going strong.
The Bold Forester Inn was acquired by the current owners in 2017 who carried out a sympathetic £1m refurbishment and upgrade project which saw the premises reopen in March 2018 with the excellent bar, restaurant and facilities you see today.