The Spotted Cow Old and New

Childhood memories by Lorna Hines (nee Smith)


Richard ( Dick ) and Win Smith became tenants of The Spotted Cow in the spring of 1953.

If I could liken the character of the pub it would be similar to that of The Dolphin in appearance and also of the cottage in Strood Green Farm opposite.  However, it is some time since I visited the Dolphin that to may have changed on the inside.

The Spotted Cow was a lovely old pub that I'm sure these days would have been a listed building.  The pub faced the road with a frontage parking space for at least 4 cars! A large private flower garden and lawn extended to the south.  To the north Dad had a vegetable plot that he tended with care in the little spare time he had.

A wooden garage was situated the behind the yew tree that still stands to-day.  That tree is all that remains now.  An old stable and small barn lay behind the garage.  My sister and I used to love playing in the barn. To us it was a huge Wendy house.

The covered porch at the front of the building led to a small off sales counter.  To the right was a very snug saloon bar and an extension had been added at some time to accommodate an indoor ladies loo. The men had to face the elements and use the outdoor facilities if nature called. To the left of the front entrance was the public bar.  It's strange how I find the smell of tobacco and beer quite revolting now but then it was a homely smell; the open fire, the woft of beer and a musty, smoky odour.  The brick fireplace was situated at the far end and the counter was to the right of the entrance door.  An old wooden settle stretched along the inner wall.  Old Flo Marshall was quite insistent that she had her place on that settle and would give a poke with her walking stick to anyone who had the nerve to sit in her patch.  The fire place was especially welcoming on a winter's night and looked very festive at Christmas time with a beautifully decorated tree on one side and the crib on the other.  I can still hear the laughter of the regulars (customers) who frequented the pub.  Customers regularly teased me as I grew older that my Mother used to sit me on the counter and give me sips of her beer.  It's no wonder I lacked  concentration at school! To my sister and I these people were almost part of the family.

Duncan Cooper who worked the farm for General Goulburn was a particular favourite of ours.  We would spend much of our summer holidays hay-making with him on the farm opposite.  He and his family welcomed Linda and I into their home each Christmas for several years while Mum and Dad worked through lunch-time opening.  Christmas night was the only night in the year the pub closed. 

Behind the counter the stairs were hidden behind a curtain that matched those hanging at the windows.  At the top of the stairs was the loo.  I remember getting locked in there once and Paddy Macfadden climbed a ladder and through a very small window to unlock the door.  To the right of the stairs was a bedroom which became my very own room when I caught Chicken Pox.  To the left a corridor led to two bedrooms at the front of the house and another bedroom and the bathroom at the back.  On the ground floor, behind the counter a doorway led through to a galley which I seem to remember housed the Welsh dresser and behind this was a stone sink. To the left of the galley and up a step was a private living room.  Through the galley led to the kitchen.  I think this had a quarry tile floor and I distinctly remember a dip in it's surface right in front of the cooker.  When the poor old house was demolished the dip was discovered to be covering a 90ft. well!

Spotted Cow sign

Beyond the kitchen was a ground floor cellar and the back door leading to the yard which housed the empties crates and wooden kegs.  I don't remember this myself but Mum told me a tale of how I put one of my sister's frogs in one of these barrels.  It was half full of stale beer that was to be returned to the brewers.  The frog sadly drowned in the brew.  What a way to go!

I also remember 'helping' Dad to 'bottle up' the Britvic fruit juice bottles and put the empties in the crate.  These had to be laid in a particular way before being returned to the suppliers.

Across the ditch at the rear of the pub was a triangle of garden which was later sold to The Silver Mist. There was also access to the outer buildings and the gardens from the rear of the pub.  At the bottom end of the flower garden was a hedge with an opening which led to a corner of rough ground covered in brambles.  This plot of land was used to build the new Spotted Cow in 1962. 

The old pub was in a bad state of repair so I believe it was the brewery who decided to knock it down and build a new one.   Mum laid the first and last brick of the new pub.  We have cine film of her climbing the ladder in Tony Osbourne's trousers to lay the last brick on the back chimney. ( Mum never wore trousers before and never did again!) I remember feeling quite excited about moving to a new 'house'.  The rising building made a great playground for us at weekends.  However, when the day came for them to knock down the old pub I felt quite distraught and the thought crossed my mind ( at the grand age of 8 ) to stand in front of the bulldozer.

But we were packed off to school and returned that evening to see a huge heap of rubble.  The old Spotted Cow was no more.

When the new pub opened there was a grand opening ceremony for which my sister and I were able to take a day of school.  Mum did one of her grand parties to which many other licensees were invited along with all our locals.

The rooms in the new building were huge.  The public bar had a parquet floor and cow hide rugs laid down. Needless to say these didn't last to long as they weren't quite the thing for the working man's muddy boots.  Much of the furniture came from the old pub including the old settle which Flo continued to turf folk out of until she died.

The saloon bar was thought to be very classy.  There was a selection of new seating in cane and I think, mahogany veneer.  Both sets were comfortably upholstered. The front side of the counter was decorated with cow hides. I have to confess I thought that was gross!  The fireplace was made of stone, possiblyYork.

Each bar had an antique till and the beers pumps were a bit of a feature too. The taps were fitted into the tops of three wooden kegs that had been cut to fit onto a  piece of copper which been  mounted on the wall at the back of each bar.  This gave Dad an opportunity to show off his linguistic skills.  Whenever he cleaned the beer pumps he would write the date on the kegs in Arabic.

The enormous windows were dressed in very expensive looking drapes.  Who ever would have thought that the trimmings to these would finally end up as part of Guy Fawkes clothing to be burnt on Bonfire Night.  I still have a supply to use for future Guy's.

A door behind the public bar led to an outer cellar and this led to an enclosed cellar in the centre of the building.  A service kitchen that was approached through a door from the saloon bar.  This had a hand pulled lift in which cooked food could be easily transferred from the upstairs kitchen.  Walking through the kitchen, the back door was to the left and the stairs to our accommodation on the right. Beyond the kitchen was a utility room. Upstairs again, the rooms were very big.  At the top of the stairs to the right was a bathroom with a double sized airing cupboard.  Coming out of the bathroom a right turn would lead straight on to a living/ dining room with a balcony which at the time was a real novelty.  The upstairs kitchen was sited at the back of the building and was fitted with wooden cupboards, two cookers, a double sink one of which had a very modern waste disposal unit.  The number of tea spoons that got trapped in it!  To the left of the stairs a corridor lead round to the bedrooms. All two of them. There would have been three but for some reason Mum only wanted two. 

The design of the building was very angular, very sixties and the roof was made of copper which was extremely noisy when it rained. It was a pub that would have fitted intoCrawleytown with ease but it never had the charm of the old pub and was totally out of character in the village.

I think at first business was pretty good and the local customers were as regular as ever. Mrs. Barbara Cannon used to cook lunch-time meals and this was successful for a while. 

Parties on New Years Eve and May 6th which was Mum and Dad's birthday, will never be forgotten to those who came along.  Vast quantities of food were prepared for both events with the help of ever faithful barmaid Pat James whose sense of humour was a great attraction to many customers and Betty Hodge who cleaned the bars for many years.  Both remained very loyal to Mum until she died three years ago.  In the early days I remember Dick Boxall stirring the punch ready for the stroke of midnight at New Year.  Mum would also cook enough haggis so each customer could sample a piece.

During summer months customers were able to enjoy their refreshments sitting in the garden most of which was to the front of the pub and again Dad continued to keep this looking attractive. Dad had a wonderful sense of humour and over the years he had gathered information on a range of topical subjects which he frequently shared with his customers.  Dad said that a pub was a social meeting place in which you met people from all walk's of life.  He used to sing comical old ballads and recite poems some I assume he learnt in his youth and others that he had made up himself.  I remember one or two of these but sadly there are others that I only remember parts of.  I wonder if any of you remember his version of 'When The Spotted Cow Caught Fire'. 

I'm not sure exactly why trade gradually began to dwindle but I think it was a combination of factors.  Beechams employees had made good use of the pub in the early days but they expanded and their own canteen catered for their needs or possibly  they preferred the character of a traditional English pub such as the Dolphin and The Seven Stars. During the summer weekends the pub used to benefit from Londoners on route to the coast as it was an ideal half way stop.  However new and faster roads eventually put a stop to this.  Also, Dad was well past retirement age and he was getting tired but sudden increase in the cost of housing during the seventies dashed any hope of buying a retirement home.  Eventually in January 1979 they retired to a brewery cottage in Redhill.  In the last few months of his life Dad would often talk about how he would like to come back to 'the old village'. He was buried in Betchworth in the company of some very dear old friends.  Mum did return to live inKenward Courtjust a few yards from the spot where the original pub had stood .

© Lorna Hines, August 2000