We recently came across over some historical research about the Bull, which dates the building back to 1397. Believe it or not, from being used as a buther’s shop, it also suggests that the building welcomed some notable guests later on in the 17th century, including Lord Nelson and even King Charles II.
As an inn, the Bull has been receiving guests since 1610 – that’s 409 years – and there’s also a reason why we have the only red brick facade in Burford.
A history of the Bull at Burford
1397 – A Papal Bull authorised the construction of a guest house on the site
1473 – Records from this year show that there was a building on this site called “The Bull” belonging to Burford merchant John Pinnock, who left it first to his son John, who owned the Angel next door on Witney Street.
1489 – John’s daughter signed the property over to the trustees of the Parish Church
1539 – Trustees leased the Bull to butcher Richard Dalby (and later to his son, also Richard)
1588 – The property was bought from the Crown by William Typper and Robert Dawe, but in 1595 it was reacquired for the town
1610 – Having been used during the reformation as a butcher’s shop, in 1610 John Silvester moved the existing Bull Inn from 111–113 High Street to 105 High Street and set about renovating certain parts of the building, including fireplaces and panelling.
1630 – The Bull appears to have been used by Royalist troops for a time during the Civil War. The innkeeper at this time was John Cooke
1670 – Famous visitors included Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton (the Trafalgar Suite is named in memory of their stay) as well as King Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynne. In fact, Charles Beauclerk, the son of King Charles II and Nell Gwynne was created ‘Earl of Burford’ and later Duke of St. Albans.
1690 – The Bull is the only red brick building on Burford High Street and the facade was added at roughly this time, either by innkeeper William Tash or his son, John who died in 1747.
1750 – Burford was by this time a very busy stop on the route from London to Cheltenham and Wales, and the Bull prospered from this trade. The Market Room (now rooms 8 and 9) was in demand for meetings, sales, Auctions, plays and balls.
1768 – The princely sum of £196 was spent on further building work.
1784 – The Bull continued to attract the rich and famous but other tastes were also catered for, with cock-fighting at the Bull.
1793 – Now owned by John Stevens, former butler at Cliveden, the Bull hosted a ball after the annual Venison Feast.
1797 – The Bull suffered a serious fire, killing seven coach horses.
1802 – Stevens hosted a lunchtime visit by Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton when on their way to Milford Haven. The party obtained new horses at the Bull.
1820 – Stevens died and the bull was run by his widow and son, James into the 1830s.
1873 – The Market Room ceased to be used for town business, the market ended as the town went through a period of decline.
1936 – By now owned by Clinch & Co. of Witney, Burford and the Bull saw a period of revival as it could cater for motorists and cyclists. The Bull was offered at this time as “a real old hostelry which has not been restored, yet abounds with possibilities for opening up old fireplaces, beamed ceilings and walls.”
1982 – The building suffered a fire but remained open as an inn
2007 – Condemned for fire and safety acquired by the current owners, who completed major renovation work
2019 – Ten years after being re-opened by the current owners, the Bull is a thriving inn with a friendly welcome, comfortable rooms, wonderful food and happy guests.
It’s worth remembering, though, that no building with over 600 years of history doesn’t have the odd squeaky floor!