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Friday, 7 July 2017

The Finchingfield Lion - A Pub Worth Saving!

The Finchingfield Lion - A Pub Worth Saving!

A view of the village looking over the bridge

In the north-west area of Essex, England, lies the small, picturesque village of Finchingfield. Often described as a 'picture-postcard' village - and one of the most photographed - it calls to tourists to check it out for themselves. During my recent visit to the U.K., my friends and I decided to do just that and, although it was overcast for most of the day, it did not disappoint us. 

The Finchingfield Lion, on Church Hill.

Standing proudly on the slant of Church Hill, you'll find a delightful building that represents the best of a time-honoured traditional symbol of British hospitality and community - the British Pub! 

The first thing I noticed when we entered the Finchingfield Lion was the dog bowl in the hallway - which indicated that dogs were welcome! That - right there - was a big clue about the values of the owners. Stepping inside, we were immediately welcomed by Spade, who was serving behind the bar. We had popped in before the busy time, so we were able to chat with him - and it turned out that he was a mine of information. 

Spade - the epitome of friendliness and humour

Jacqui - one of the joint proprietors
His sister, Jacqui, who lives just 3 doors down the hill, had been a regular to the pub for many years. It had been owned by a younger couple who had decided to sell up and move on to new ventures. There was a strong possibility that the building was going to be refurbished as a tea room. There are two other establishments in the village that serve alcohol along with a meal. Although they are similar to pubs, the way they are set up reveal that they are more like restaurants. Delightful as they are, Jacqui felt that the village deserved to have a genuine pub in the traditional sense - not another tea room. So, she, her sisters, and their partners, purchased the freehold and they set about refurbishing it so that the tradition could be preserved. It was opened just before Christmas, 2016.

And what a great job they've done! 

All of the original timbers and ornamentation have been preserved - including the timbers which date back to the early 16th Century. In fact, some of the timbers were originally those commissioned by Queen Elizabeth 1st for ships to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588. 

Timbers dating back to the time of the Spanish Armada

The presence of a wood-burning stove adds to the ambience, and one could just imagine the warm comfort on a cold winter's evening, with patrons gathered to enjoy each other's company. 

Attached to the pub, just through an old (and low) wooden door, there is a full restaurant for patrons and visitors alike. The walls have been decorated with a variety of seabirds in splendid colour. 

Restaurant - accessed through a low, wooden door

Still in the process of improving the decor, Jacqui installed a lamp stand in the dining area while we were there. 

What really stood out for us, though, was the sheer friendliness and welcome that we received from Spade and Jacqui. From the moment we walked in, Spade made us feel as if we were the most important people in the village. A world traveler, with extensive publican experience, he shared with us that he had moved to Finchingfield in order to help his sisters get established. His friendly manner and dry sense of humour resulted in our decision to return for lunch after we had completed our tour of the village. 

The Lion 'Shield' - presented by the locals
I asked them if the locals had been supportive of their venture and they proudly showed us a congratulatory card that had been signed by the villagers who also had presented them with a beautiful metallic lion's head which adorns the wall above the woodstove alcove. 

The locals offered their full support

Spade explained that there were 4 rooms upstairs that would soon be open for a Bed and Breakfast experience and he took us up there to show us some of the rooms. 

A delighful 4-poster!
We were so impressed with how beautiful they were - and how the modern conveniences had been incorporated into the rooms without changing the original structure, complete with its wooden beams and its charming, uneven floor. Visitors would be able to imagine that they were back in an earlier century, but with everything they would need for their comfort. 

A mix of old and modern

An innovative 'coffee/tea alcove'!

View from one of the rooms - looking out at the old Guildhall opposite the pub.

We enjoyed our experience (and our lunch) so much that my friends, Alan and Elaine, decided to book a room to celebrate the anniversary of when they first met. (In fact, I'm timing this blog to that they read it upon their arrival on July 8th!) I'm sure that they will thoroughly enjoy being spoiled by the owners and their staff. 

If you are ever visiting Essex, you won't want to miss out on an excursion to this amazing village; and no visit to the village would be complete without dropping in to the Lion. 

View from behind the bar - thanks to Spade!

The pub, which stocks an extensive range of keg and cask beers, spirits and wines, also offers a menu comprising of home-made pub grub, curries, and locally sourced delights. 

For more information, visit their website at:   or call 01371 810400

Click the caption under map for directions:

Directions to the Finchingfield Lion

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