Historical Notes on the 'Bear Hotel'

The Bear at Hungerford is one of the oldest and most historic Inns of England and is reputed to date back to the 13th Century. Standing on what has been called "the Crossroads of England" it has witnessed many famous events in our history.

Its name and fine sign derive from the famous “Bear and Ragged Staff” badge of the Earls of Warwick, owners of the Manor of Chilton Foliat in the 15th Century to which The Bear belonged. The Coat of Arms over the entrance on Charnham Street is that of the Popham Family who were Lords of the Manor of Chilton Foliat from 1607 to 1929.

It is recorded that in 1537 Robert Braybon, landlord, gave evidence against three highwaymen who had stayed at the Inn and were accused of robbing a merchant between Bagshot and Windsor. Three years later Henry VIII gave the hostelry to Queen Anne of Cleves and in 1541/2 to Queen Katherine Parr who survived him. Queen Elizabeth I visited Hungerford and it is said that one of her coachmen died at The Bear.

During the Civil Wars, Hungerford was embroiled in the fighting and in 1644, before the second Battle of Newbury, Charles I made The Bear his Headquarters.

The two famous diarists of the 17th Century, John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys, both stayed at The Bear and were impressed by the quality of the fish.

From 6th to 8th December 1688, William, Prince of Orange, later King William III, stayed at The Bear and on the morning of 8th in his bedchamber he met the Commissioners of James II last of the Stuart Kings, Lords Halifax, Nottingham and Godolphin bargained with the Prince all morning and in the afternoon he retired to Littlecote House. Within a short time James Stuart had fled to France and William and Mary jointly ascended the throne.

During the coaching era The Bear was a busy and thriving hotel but with the coming of the railways it declined somewhat. The rise of the motor car in the 20th Century has resulted in The Bear regaining its ancient and well deserved popularity.