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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill

An old postcard of the Butt and Oyster

'...Pin Mill - where the weather beaten fishermen and daring smuggler meet in friendly intercourse, to relate their hair-breadth escapes and wonderful adventures, over a pipe and a jug, at the Butt and Oyster...' [1]

The hamlet of Pin Mill is reached through the village of Chelmondiston, (I was told when I interviewed a local bargeman for University Campus Suffolk, that the locals call it 'Cheldiston'). There is a narrow lane taking you down to the river Orwell and to the Butt and Oyster where there is a customer car park. Otherwise, you can park in the public car park, which stands about half way down the lane, when you can walk past the pretty cottages which nestle alongside the 'boaty' buildings to the water.

An old postcard (sent in 1914). Note; the wooden building to the right has since been demolished.
When doing the research for this historic pub I've come across so much amazing information for Pin Mill and the Butt and Oyster:
  •  The Butt and Oyster is reputed to be the Most Painted Pub in Britain
  • The author of children's adventure stories, Arthur Ransome, spent time at Alma Cottage (just up the road) and based two of his books; We didn't Mean to go to Sea and Secret Water here
  • Some scenes from the 1950 film Ha'Penny Breeze were filmed here
  • An episode of a BBC radio series, Country Magazine, was broadcast from the Butt and Oyster on Sunday 16 March 1951
  • In the 1920's, the tobacco company Churchman's located in nearby Ipswich, produced a card in advertisement of it's Counter Shag showing the bay window. (The picture used for this advertisement hangs above the fire in the bar.)
  • An episode of Lovejoy was filmed here in 1993
  • And, if all that's not enough, what about Hollywood celebrities dining here? In 2006, during filming of Cassandra's Dream, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell came here for lunch! 
The Butt and Oyster from the Orwell in Oct 2012

The Butt and Oyster and indeed, Pin Mill itself, is considered one of the most beautiful places in Suffolk and as such is very popular for visitors and for sailing, but in the past it was very much a working community.  Barges would have been seen going up and down the Orwell on their way to and from the Thames or collecting loads from the big ships which would anchor nearby at Butterman's Bay to come down to Ipswich.

The village of Chelmondiston and the hamlet of Pin Mill together were almost self sufficient, providing over time: a flour mill, a coal merchant, a forge, an undertaker, a boot maker, two grocers, three public houses, a physician and surgeon, a florist, a hairdresser, a saddler, a blacksmith, a butcher, a cycle repairers, a builder, a carpenter, a painter and a police station. But perhaps the most amusing, according to the Women's Institute, two carriers called 'Last' and 'Late'!

Of course, the main industry of the area is the building and maintenance of boats and the transfer of goods. It was a busy landing point for ship-borne cargo, and it was also a repair centre for the Thames Sailing Barges, there are still businesses in Pin Mill carrying on with the marine trade and there is a popular Sailing Club. A previous proprietor of the Butt and Oyster Inn was a Marine Store Dealer whilst later, the 'host' was 'renowned as a public singer of repute in Ipswich and a dealer in the antique'.[2]

View from the Bay Window in October 2013

The Inn is mentioned as early as 1553, when licensing laws began, and when it was issued with its first licence. The Admiralty Courts were held at the Butt and Oyster in 1546, 1549 and 1552 by the Water Bailiffs and Burgesses of the Port of Ipswich.  In 1610, an Admiralty Court was provided dinner and wine at the Butt and Oyster which was paid for by the Ipswich Corporation.

Low Tide September 2012
The area is also known for smuggling, which is interestingly noted in more than one book I have referred to, as an 'industry' rather than a 'crime'.  Will Laud, the smuggler and boyfriend of the local legend Margaret Catchpole, was said to have used the Butt and Oyster for these means.

Pin Mill is a beautiful hamlet mostly frequented by 'boaty' people, dog walkers and those taking in the magnificent view or a picturesque walk. We often visit the popular Butt and Oyster, it's just five miles from Ipswich and is a lovely old building with lots of charm and history and it's always busy, but don't let that put you off, the food here is excellent. It's part of the Deben Inns chain. If you just want to pop in for a drink, they serve continental style coffees, many types of tea, real ale and wines.

The Bar September 2012

Visit the Butt and Oyster any time of the year to take in the view and experience the ambiance. There is seating outside where you can watch the boats and take in the beautiful Suffolk coast in the summer months. Whereas, in the winter months, you can sit inside in the warm and look at the water from beside the cosy real fire. When you're sitting there, you can imagine, a few years ago watching artists, writers and photographers searching for inspiration, whilst go back a hundred or so years and imagine rubbing shoulders with the bargemen or even a smuggler or two.

If you are looking for walks near Ipswich, The National Trust provides details of a lovely walk round Pin Mill. Or have a look at Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Pub AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) Pub Walks where you can find a downloadable for a walk which takes you past Woolverstone Hall with a printable map and details.
If you would like to stay in Pin Mill for a holiday or a break, Alma Cottage, once the home of Arthur Ransome, is available for hire on a weekly basis.

[1] History of Ipswich by G R Clark, 1830 (Inns of the Suffolk Coast by Leonard P Thompson 1946)
[2] Inns of the Suffolk Coast by Leonard P Thompson, 1946
Best Inns and Pubs in East Anglia, James Lawrence, 1988
Inns and Inn Signs of Norfolk and Suffolk, Alfred Hedges, 1976
The Suffolk Village Book, Suffolk Federations of Women's Institutes, 1991

1 comment:

  1. Brings back memories! The Butt and Oyster was one of my parents' favourite pubs in the 1950s. No facilities for children though, so we'd be left in the back of the car and they'd bring us out a Vimto and a packet of crisps...