The Crooked Billet

Past & Present

The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row is now one of England’s finest & most traditional country inns. It is hidden well off the beaten track, down a narrow winding lane nestled between beech & oak & backing onto a meadow.
the Crooked Billet, pre-postmark date of 1904

 

 

 

The Crooked Billet, pre-postmark date of 1904.
Built in 1642 it was once the hideout of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, who was romantically attached to the landlord’s daughter Bess.

It operated as a small holding, selling locally produced ale from its tiny cellar. The original cellar is still a feature today.

Paul Clerehugh took over the Crooked Billet in 1989 & quickly gained a reputation for providing excellent food. Paul, a self-taught chef, has not changed any of the original features that give the pub its unique character & charm. Inglenook fireplaces, low timbered ceilings, flagstone floors & old, scrubbed pine tables all remain. And there is still no bar – beer is drawn directly from casks in the cellar.

 

The Inglenook fireplace at the Crooked Billet, circa 1930.

The Inglenook fireplace at the Crooked Billet, circa 1930
Silas 'Bill' Saunders, examining a chair leg that he had just turned on his pole lathe, the Crooked Billet, 1928.

Outbuildings located in the car park were used as a bodgers workshop until 1960. Today these house a bakery, producing bread for the pub & local schools. Mr Silas Saunders was the last chair bodger, turning furniture legs & ladder rungs on a pole lathe. The lathe, along with Silas’ tools are now homed in The Rural History Museum at Woodstock.

Silas ‘Bill’ Saunders, examining a chair leg that he had just turned on his pole lathe, the Crooked Billet, 1928.

The Crooked Billet publican in 1930, 75 year old Silas Saunders, checking chair legs he had turned that day.The Crooked Billet publican in 1930, 75 year old Silas Saunders, checking chair legs he had turned that day.

Granny Saunders & family at the Crooked Billet, circa 1930.

Granny Saunders & family at the Crooked Billet, circa 1930.

Tent pegs stacked outside the Crooked Billet, circa 1930.Tent pegs stacked outside the Crooked Billet, circa 1930.

Side view of the Crooked Billet, circa 1930, Tracey Saunders in the doorway.

Side view of the Crooked Billet, circa 1930, Tracey Saunders in the doorway.

The pubs large end dining room was originally a dormitory housing cherry pickers working in Stoke Row harvesting fruit.

Today the Crooked Billet is a favourite destination for foodies (those appreciating unpretentious well-sourced, well-cooked ingredients) & chefs (recent sightings of Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver, Anthony Worrall-Thompson & Marco Pierre-White).

In 1989 the Daily Mail referred to Paul’s cookery as “Gastro pub gastronomy”, being the first occasion the term was used & making the Crooked Billet the first ‘Gastro Pub’, a name Paul dislikes intensely – he says that if this is the case then “Jesus was born in a gastro pub”.

The pub features in all the main food guides, has been included in Time Outs ‘Best Out of London’ two years running & has been voted ‘Favourite Foodie Pub’ by Waitrose.

 

Many television programmes, adverts & big screen movies were filmed at the Crooked Billet – Patriot Games, Jeeves & Wooster, Landgirls, Midsummer Murders & numerous food & chef related shows & cookery programmes.

Paul & Stephen Fry during filming

The Crooked Billet provides a relaxed informal atmosphere to enjoy unfussy, beautifully & lovingly prepared food. Lots of local & predominantly seasonal British ingredients. Friendly, attentive personality driven service & unspoilt, un-gastro-pubbed, rustic rural settings.

Sale of Crooked Billet in 1930

 

 

 

“Wish I’d have bought it in 1930! When it sold for £770, Mrs Sarah Tracey Saunders the Licensee was paying £9 rent per year!”