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History of The Bull

The Bull is a very old inn and the earliest documented record is from The Ipswich Journal in October 1726 and refers to the then landlord William Cooper. At this time, it is already referred to as an "ancient inn".

We have a wooden panel inscribed with the date 1675 whilst the old oak frame of the building is thought to date from the sixteenth century along with several other buildings in the square. 

For many years it was a coaching inn and a regular stopping house of the union stage from London, Ipswich and then onto Norwich. With the demise of the coaching route, the stables at the rear of the property were used for horse dealing.

Carlow’s Dole

George Carlow was the owner of The Bull in 1738 and in his will stipulated that 20 shillings of wheaten bread be given to the poor of Woodbridge on Candlemas each year.  Carlow was a member of a religious sect long extinct called the Separate Congregation whose chief belief was keeping Saturday sacred – Sunday being purely a day of rest.

He was mot accepted for burial in the church or chapel, he therefore was interred in his own private tomb to the rear of The Bull. As the year’s passed, this property, along with The Bull Ride was sold off for private residential use and it became increasingly difficult to distribute the bread on his grave.

Despite the ongoing property development, nobody has dared move the tomb, probably because of the inscription;


“Weep for me dear friend no more for I am gone a little before.

But by a lite of pity prepare yourself to follow me.

Good friends for Jesus sake forbear.

To move the dust entombed here.

Blessed be he that spares these stones.

Cursed be he that moves my bones.”


You will find Carlow’s Room at the rear of The Bull and bread rolls are now distributed to school children in early February each year.

John Grout

From 1859 to 1887, John Grout was the landlord. Grout was a world-renowned horse dealer who was very popular in the town bringing much employment as well as attracting the rich and famous.

The Bull Ride stables once supplied horses to almost every crowned head of Europe, including the King of Italy who frequently stayed at The Bull on horse-buying expeditions. For many years, the front of The Bull included the coat of arms of the Italian royal family.

Further notables who have stayed at the Bull include representatives of the Kaiser and the Viceroy of India, who came to buy horses for the imperial and vice-regal stables.

John Grout’s equine fame attracted the rich and famous of Victorian society including The Duke of Westminster and Baroness Burdett-Coutts.


Edward FitzGerald

During this time, which was a golden age of art for Woodbridge, John Grout was also a good friend of Edward FitzGerald who had  just published The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Edward FitzGerald’s literary fame would take many years to develop and John Grout was certainly the more popular and famous figure.


For 14 years, Edward FitzGerald, lived opposite The Bull at number 10 Market Hill and he often entertained his fellow artistic luminaries of the day at The Bull. One famous friend and resident was the Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson.


John Grout was not overly impressed with the Poet Laureate and commented that ‘he might be a very good poet but he doesn’t know a damned thing about horses’.


William Miles


William and Harriet Miles took over the business in 1887 having managed the business for John Grout and previously working for the Fitzgerald family as the coachman at Boulge Hall. Harriet succeeded in the business after the death of her husband in 1899 and subsequently it was passed to her son, William who was the landlord until 1922.


During this period, the horse dealing business continued but with the rise of the automobile, it became increasingly irrelevant for the business.   

The rear of the property, called the Bull Ride, used to have stabling and has now been converted for business use and residential property.  The stables once had capacity for over 170 horses.


The Dig


During the famous 1939 Sutton Hoo expedition, the archaeologist from the dig stayed at The Bull and often brought back finds for identifying and cataloguing before being sent on to The British Museum. The Bull has hosted some of the rarest and most priceless of archaeological finds in the British Isles.


Famous Guests

Vittorio Emanuele II, of the house of Piedmont and Savoy, became the King of Italy in 1861 was a frequent visitor to The Bull and a good friend of John Grout. The coat of arms adorned the front of The Bull for many years.

The Victorian Poet Laureate – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Winston Churchill – stayed due to local military presence and early radar work at Bawdsey Manor.

Robert De Niro during filming of Elveden

English author Daniel Defoe in 1734 visited The Shire Hall and The Bull.

Sarah and David Clarke


To more recent times, Sarah and David Clarke acquired Woodbridge’s prestigious and historic Bull Inn in March 2019, with plans to restore it to its former glory, making it a hub for the town’s social life. 


Sarah is originally from New Zealand but has lived in the UK for the past twenty years mostly in London and working in the financial services world. Like many Kiwis, Sarah has a passion for sport and the outdoor life.

David is from Nottingham and having spent (too!) many years in an office, wanted to focus instead on his passion for great food and wine.  


Most of Sarah’s family are back in New Zealand but her only brother married a local girl and when The Bull came on the market, we jumped at the opportunity.


We hope that our offering reflects the best of what England and New Zealand has to offer!

Horse & Carriage approx 1909.jpg
Bread distributed according to Carow's Dole in 1905

Loaves of bread being distributed according to Carlow's Dole in 1905

John Grout, landlord of The Bull from 1859 to 1887

Edward FitzGerald was a regular at The Bull

William Miles, landord from 1887 to 1899

Archaeologists from the 1939

dig including Basil Brown

Sarah and David Clarke

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