© Graham Watson
Over the course of its long stay in Ware the Bed moved around between five inns
The White Hart Inn is first mentioned in a deed of 1426. The building was owned by the Guild of Corpus Christi and the Guild of Jesus, the successor to which are the Ware Charities. 600 years later they still own the building, which is now a branch of the HSBC Bank and the adjoining Lulu’s Coffee Shop at 73-75 High Street. In 1600 the host was Nicholas Bleake.
It is thought to be the original home of the Great Bed
The George is mentioned in 1439. The exact date that the Bed moved to the George is not known, but there is a new 15 year lease recorded for the White Hart in 1692 and this may have given a reason for the transfer of the Great Bed to another inn. The Great Bed was always owned by the hosts of the Inns.
The building is now occupied by Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Hairizon hairdressers.
When Prince Ludwig of Anhalf-Kohten visited Ware in 1596, he was invited to sleep in a bed in which "four couples might comfortably lie side by side"
In 1610 Prince Ludwig Friedrich of Württemburg stayed the night at an inn in Ware and slept in a bed "eight feet wide". (The actual size of the bed is 10' 9" x 10' 9" x 7' 6".) His Secretary wrote that the Prince slept in the bed at "The Stag" by which it is thought he meant "The White Hart".
The White Hart today
The George before 1760
The George today
The George is mentioned by Isaac Walton in The Compleat Angler where he describes a ‘Great Trout that is near an ell long’. (An ell was a measure of length of about 45 in, or 1.2m, in England)
The Crown was once considered the best known and most ancient inn in Hertfordshire. There are references to the inn in 1603. The original building was the posting house until its demolition in 1765. The site is now the Ware branch of the County Library.
The Great Bed was first mentioned at the Crown in 1700 and was at one time thought to be the first inn that the Great Bed had occupied, and a plaque above the original door records this fact, which is now doubtful.
The Crown today
Following the demolition of the Crown in 1765 the Great Bed was moved to the Bull. This also became the posting house until its demolition in 1848, although the tradition was carried on as the present building which replaced it was the main post office for Ware until the 1980’s.
The landlady during the 1800’s was Miss Fanny Brown, who is recorded as a ‘strong minded elderly spinster’. When Queen Victoria passed through on her way to Cambridge her carriage stopped at the Bull for a change of horses and Fanny Brown passed in a bowl of grapes through the carriage window.
The Bull today
The Great Bed was moved to the Saracen’s Head in 1848 after the demolition of the Bull and the retirement of Fanny Brown. The innkeeper at the time was Daniel Brown, thought to be a nephew of Fanny Brown.
The old Saracen’s Head was demolished in the 1960’s and a row of new shops built, but the Inn name continues with the present Saracen’s Head which is a few yards away by the River Lea.
The inn fell into debt following the death of Daniel Brown and the Great Bed left Ware when it was sold in 1869.
The Saracen’s Head in 1894
The Saracen’s Head today