The Rose and Crown Inn is one of Amberleigh’s oldest buildings; built at the end of the 16th century by a man named Ebenezer Coswell, a wealthy merchant, it began life as a manor house. As was often done during this period, people would open their homes to serve drinks to the locals and these “pot houses” later evolved into pubs and inns which is how the Rose and Crown transformed into the establishment it is today.
Elizabethan in style, the exterior of the building is of daub and wattle between handsome upright beams lending a stately look. Lead light windows of many little diamonds catch the light, some in generous mullioned windows at ground level, others in the oriels and dormers of the jettied façade. A great wooden door with ample iron hinges is at a central position between the impressive windows creating an attractive focal point to the structure while ornate chimneys and stone tiles crown the edifice making it an impending sight when entering town from the north east road.
Early in the 17th century when Amberleigh became a popular stopping point on the road to London, this grand house evolved into a coaching inn under the guidance of its new owner Percival Madgwick. Much work was done to enlarge the yard and mews to the rear of the building to accommodate the horses from the various routes that must be changed to keep up the pace of the coach. The Ostler now had a team of grooms to help with this laborious job of making sure there were “fresh horses” for all coaches arriving at the inn. The Jakes, or outhouses, resided at the end of the yard making this a well travelled area of the property. Primarily Mail Coaches frequent the inn but there are other franchised routes for varying destinations.
The interior of the house was expanded to accommodate a greater number of overnight guests as well as private parlours for meals to be enjoyed without the noise and distraction of the common rooms. It was at this time the name Rose and Crown was bestowed upon the inn to honour Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth I whose long reign ended on the 24th of March 1603.
Upon entering the Inn one is awestruck by the magnificence of the grand hall with its hammer-beam roof and immense fireplaces. A gallery is reached by two ornately carved wooden staircases framing this area. Off to each side of the hall smaller rooms fan out and the kitchen resides at the rear of the great hall overlooking the yard. As with any public house there are telltale signs of its age and endurance. One can just make out the faintly carved message from early on in the inn’s existence which reads “Hail stones the size of this bigness fell on this day in 1589” punctuated with a circle drawn the size of a walnut. Other areas have initials or names memorialising patrons of long ago. One such patron Alex Weaver was a prolific visitor, his name being found in numerous places throughout the inn. Many a joke of seeing Alex Weaver has been enjoyed by the staff.
After the Civil War when the country was lead by Oliver Cromwell (1653 – 1658), the name of the inn was changed to “The Rose” to distance it from any associations with the royal family, adhering to the new ethos of the land. But when the monarchy was once again in place and Charles II was made King, the original name was restored to the inn. It has even been rumoured Charles II hid at the inn in his escape from the Roundheads on his way to the coast.
After a time the inn fell into disrepair and was not much visited any longer. This was a great loss to Amberleigh for it had brought many travellers to the village. For over 50 years the inn sat neglected, the family who owned the property had not the money to make the many repairs needed when business declined. This is when the Wallis’ came and fell in love with Amberleigh and took on the behemoth task of restoring the inn to its former glory. Under the husband and wife team of Leandrea and Bryan Wallis the inn has made a resurgence and is now a popular stop on the way to the newly formed spa town of Cheltenham. The assembly rooms enlarged and elegantly redecorated, host monthly balls as well as salons, lectures, musical events and card parties which are enjoyed by all.
One Mr. Launcelot William Penn takes pleasure in funding many of the entertainments and he considers his job as Master of Ceremonies a very serious undertaking. No ill behaviour is permitted under his careful watch and all my depend upon him to make a pretty introduction to a new guest among the locals.
With such dedication and attention to the needs of its patrons, once again the Rose and Crown has life and is the focal point of the village, a place where everyone may take part in the many fine entertainments.