History: Story behind London Road’s Golden Fleece Harvester restaurant

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 September 2019

The Golden Fleece restaurant in London Road, Brentwood, in 1900. Picture: Sylvia Kent

The Golden Fleece restaurant in London Road, Brentwood, in 1900. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Sylvia Kent

This week, Enjoy Brentwood More’s history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle, Sylvia Kent talks about the history behind the Golden Fleece Harvester restaurant.

Take note you amateur history lovers!

If you live in the borough of Brentwood, you can't fail to discover some amazing buildings, probably within walking distance of your own home.

When I was recently commissioned to seek and write about 50 buildings within the borough of Brentwood, I discovered hundreds more interesting structures in the dozen or so surrounding villages, as well as others still extant - many timber framed - in centre of the town itself.

The choice for my book was difficult, as you can imagine.

Take for instance the Golden Fleece Harvester restaurant, these days serving up a tasty lunch at 101 London Road in Brentwood.

This ancient inn enjoys an intriguing past.

Way back in the Middle Ages the building was once the home of the master of Brentwood's leper hospital, which was close by.

However, the Golden Fleece building, which has a hammer-beam roof and original cross-wings is still testament to the sturdy building's longevity, although numerous additions occurred in later centuries along the north side.

Much of the inn's timbers date from the late 13th to mid-16th period.

Back in 1745, the Golden Fleece was listed as one of Brentwood's principal coaching inns.

As probably the last standing building before the hill's ascent, the Golden Fleece became a welcome refuge for refreshment and rest before the pull up into Brentwood town.

It has been said to be one of the oldest inns in England and it was the inn where the stabled link horse was added to help pull the coaches up the steep hill.

The tavern played a conspicuous part in local history and we find mentioned in old Parochial Minutes of 1752 that 'at a special session held at the sign of the 'Fleece' in Brook Street on Monday 6 April 1752, an order was made and signed by three Justices of the Peace that the officers of South Weald be nominated by rotation equally'.

Hidden alcoves and beams were discovered during the 1950s' rebuilding and when an old rafter/beam was discovered, the following inscription was found which indicated the presence of the local Defence Volunteer movement during Napoleon's era reading: 79th Reg. A.D.1793, LDV

Local author the late Elizabeth Baxter in her book Brentwood My Heritage wrote:

"The sign of the Golden Fleece' reminds us of a period in England's history when the woollen trade was one of the greatest industries. "We learn from the woollen annals how extensively the weaving of wool was at one time carried on in this very parish.

"A resolution was passed at a Vestry meeting held in 1801 requesting the Vicar of South Weald to make the necessary plans for the supply of wool and spinning wheels to the poor of the parish."

After 500 years, the Golden Fleece staff still supplies food and comfort to the travelling public, but is now known as The Harvester.

To learn more about our borough, read BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS published by Amberley Publications 2019.

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