History of the Cross Keys Public House

The Cross Keys was built around the turn of the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries and is grade 11 listed.  The pub was closed for a long time around 1972 when the brewery Lacons decided to sell it as a free house.

The Cross Keys is situated in a very attractive position on the edge of the Knoll.  It was built close to the position of the medieval Guild Hall which would have been the social centre of the village before the religious guilds were dissolved after the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century.  Pub signs showing the Cross Keys represent the keys of St. Peter.

A rental of Redgrave Manor dated 1768 shows that Charles Simpson was the tenant at a rental of four shillings and sixpence a year.  Simon Godfrey had a bill for eating and drinking of £4.14.6d in 1804, with only three shillings of this for lodging.  By the nineteenth century there were two more public houses on The Knoll, The Fox (changed to Fox and Hounds in 1855) and The Bunch of Grapes.  Three more pubs were in existence in the twentieth century, The Half Moon, The Drum and the Greyhound, in various parts of the village.  Redgrave churchwarden’s accounts show that the bell ringers alternatively used The Cross Keys and The Fox for beer after bell ringing on Christmas Day and Guy Fawkes night in the nineteenth century.

Inn keepers of The Cross Keys can be found in directories from at least 1830 until 1933 and during this period there were a minimum of ten.

Frederick Grover was the publican during World War ll.  At this time the Cross Keys was very busy with many soldiers and airmen from the UK and the USAF.  The American Hospital was situated in the park of Redgrave Hall.  Frederick’s grandson Brian can remember the singing, piano playing and laughter whilst he was in bed.

Leslie Driver took over the pub in 1949 and the brewers at that time were Lacons who were bought out by Whitbread’s in 1965 and closed the brewery in 1968.  After this date Whitbread’s began to close down unprofitable public houses.  The Cross Keys was put up for sale as a free house.  The villagers were up in arms when they heard the pub was going to be closed and even local TV came out to film it.  After closure it was eventually bought and refurbished by Bob Godfrey and re-opened in 1972.  He sold it to Marion Wilby in 1974 who ran it for five years and lived in the village until her death in 2017.

The Cross Keys passed through several owners after this.  George and Angie Estcourt ran it so successfully for nine years that two breweries tried to outbid each other to purchase it even though the publicans had not put it up for sale. Ridleys outbid Greene King with an offer too good to refuse and purchased it, but in 2005 Greene King of Bury St. Edmunds bought out Ridleys of Essex.

The Parish Council has received notice under Community Right to bid that the present owner of the pub intends to dispose of the property.  As it is an asset of Community Value the PC or another community interest group has the right to submit an expression of interest to bid for the property.

Jean Sheehan, Local Historian


%d bloggers like this: