Jeffrey John Bell is a name many of you will recognise but, for those who don’t, you will see his name proudly displayed above the door of his pub, the Ypres Castle, a 17th century inn, tucked away beneath Rye Castle ramparts in the historic Gun Garden area.
Jeff contacted me following my article, entitled Taking Stock in last week’s Rye News, and we arranged a socially distanced meeting this week which coincidentally just happened to take place on CAMRA’s 50th birthday, to talk about the missing stocks outside his pub – though, thanks to an eagle eyed reader, we now know them to be called pillories and not stocks.
I had no preconceived idea of what Jeff was like, and no idea that he had moved away from his previous career as a lawyer, to follow his other passion – real ale and craft beer.
A broad South Shields accent wasn’t something I had expected either, and you don’t hear that distinctive twang very often locally. Once we got chatting it soon became obvious that Jeff loves what he does as he is passionate about his pub, his ‘new’ profession as landlord, his customers and the uniqueness of Rye. Just a few of the reasons he moved here in 2017 after previously leasing two pubs in London.
Through choice, the pub has been closed through lockdown. However, home delivery sales of a varied selection of craft beers, local ciders and wines has been very successful, and this is an independent ‘wet led’ pub which doesn’t concentrate its focus on food. It’s a traditional hostelry where drinkers are always welcome.
One of the main attractions which distinguishes this pub from many others is the partially walled beer garden, possibly one of the largest in the area and with stunning views out across the estuary as far as the eye can see. Come April (subject to government announcements), this will be open once again for visitors to enjoy a glass or two of something special in unique surroundings. For those who can’t wait that long, don’t forget the home delivery drinks menu, available now.
The pub acquisition in 2017 included the pillory, a real talking point and a popular pilgrimage destination for those looking for a historic photo opportunity, but the pillories are not as old as they appear and perched on the edge of a sloping part of the garden, they posed a serious health risk, and were possibly an accident waiting to happen.
So to prevent the inevitable, Jeff decided to donate them to the Rye Castle Museum where local neighbour, Dave Wright, a plumber and general contractor will shortly be installing them in the rear courtyard for future generations to enjoy, generously financed by Jeff Bell. Their new home will attract visitors to the castle for that ‘must have’ photo opportunity which no doubt will find their way onto the various social media sites, which is what the very grateful Castle committee are hoping for.
Where the pillory once stood has been re-seeded and in time a wild meadow garden will appear for all to enjoy safely. Thankfully too, the mystery of the missing ‘stocks’ has now also been solved.
When we all get the green light, can I suggest you extend your bucket list and add to it a visit to the Ypres Castle in April. Jeff is not just a generous and very affable guy, he also has a lot to talk about, so go and meet him, have a drink and a natter. I think you will find he delivers on all counts.
Image Credits: Nick Forman , Instagram .