A local historian Mr John Kay has very kindly provided us with details relating to the history of The Cock Inn – extracts as follows:-
The site of the Cock Inn and its garden is evidently enclosed from the verge of the adjoining Lewes-London road. Its freehold manorial tenure suggests it was granted before the mid-17th century as later grants of this type are all copyhold. Structural evidence suggests that the present inn building was built in the third quarter of the 16th century, and it may well be the original house on this site.
“A bundle of old deeds” that survived 150 years ago could well have provided detailed evidence about the early history of the house. From its position it could well have been built as a roadside inn, and for its first 200 years it stood here in complete isolation. It is first documented as an inn in 1739 and has been used as such ever since. It was purchased by farmer Daniel PENTICOST in the late 17th century, and remained in his extended family, several of whom seem to have occupied the property themselves, until the first decade of the 19th. It was then purchased by the Southover brewer William VERRALL. Ownership has since been in the hands of his commercial successors, recently passing via Watneys to the Inntrepreneur Group, and it has been occupied by a long series of brewery tenants.
The name The Cock is used consistently from the 18th century to the present. The earliest reference to the name so far identified is the 1739 will of Thomas BLUNDELL. The present inn sign shows a team of horses drawing a waggon from the belief that the name refers to a “cock” horse, an additional horse that could be hired to add extra power for difficult sections of road, such as those across the weald.
The Cock is a listed building, grade II, described as 17th century or earlier. The ground floor is described as painted brick, with weather boarding above. There is a hipped tiled roof and casement windows.
The building was visited by the Wealden Buildings Study Group in May 1994. Their investigations, briefly summarised in Ringmer History Newsletter No.106, showed that it was originally a 4 bay timber-framed building 1½ storeys high (i.e. the upper rooms extended above tie beam level into the lower half of the roof space). The upstairs ceiling ran below the collars that linked each pair of rafters. The 4 bays included a very narrow (3 feet 3 inches) smoke bay that now contains the inserted chimney but originally vented via the top part of the roof space to gablets at either end. At its base the fire was contained within low stone walls that survive as the base of the chimney. A 5th bay was later added at the south end of the house, with the old smoke-blackened roof frame hip reused. The original rear wall shows evidence of the small square framing panels typical of the later 16th century, and also of a windeye (a small window with wooden mullions but no glass). An Elizabethan building date, in the 3rd quarter of the 16th century, looks likely.
Around Historic Sussex, 18 May 1984 Brighton Evening Argus: ‘The history of the Cock Inn at Ringmer gives a clue to the origins of the nursery rhyme ‘Ride a Cock Horse’. For the building was once a substantial inn with expensive stabling and provided a valuable relay post for wagons making their way to Tunbridge Wells from the coast. at The Cock the horse teams hitched up a ‘cock-horse’ to provide extra pulling power on the long haul to Tunbridge Wells. the horse, which was hired by the driver of the team, was returned to the landlord on the return journey. Further evidence of this is provided by the stables where the car park now stands. The building itself was constructed in the 16th century and in its time has served food and refreshment to travellers and locals alike. Today it is a favourite spot for members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra when they are visiting Glyndebourne Festival.’
A tale of tragedy:
3 Jan 1846 Sussex Agricultural Express: This carried a long account of an inquest held on the body of Barnard SKINNER of Glynde, who had been gardener to General Trevor and his predecessors at Glynde Place for 40 years. The 20 & 27 Dec 1845 issues of the same newspaper had noted that General Trevor’s gardener had attempted to cut his throat “in a fit of mental excitement”, severely wounding the windpipe and several blood vessels but just missing his carotid arteries. He had received medical attention, but had died some days later. The inquest heard evidence from the estate farm bailiff that he had been passing his house when, summoned by cries from Mrs SKINNER, he had found Barnard SKINNER lying on his back in the kitchen, bleeding from the neck, with a razor nearby. Three or four days later he was again summoned when Mrs SKINNER said her husband had torn the wound open. He found him sitting upright in bed and quite delirious, and did not think the deceased, who looked wildly about, then knew him. An under-gardener, who who had worked with him for about 15 years and was also Mr SKINNER’s nephew, said that his uncle had been very singular in his manner for 4-5 days preceding his act, neglecting his work. He said that the deceased’s son, who kept The Cock at Ringmer, had died about three weeks previously. The deceased had consulted General Trevor about taking over this house, and by his advice agreed to do so, but afterwards regretted this decision, and the nephew thought that leaving the situation in which he had served for so many years preyed on his mind. His melncholy appeared to be increased the day before he committed his act. He was not embarrassed in his circumstances, but in the nephew’s opinion he was not right in his mind. Another gardener, who had sat up with the deceased for two nights after his first attempt, also gave evidence that he was delirious for part of the time, but in his lucid moments said “that it was through trouble and leaving his situation that he did it”. The verdict was that the deceased cut his throat while insane. The same newspaper advertised the forthcoming sale of his household furniture and effects at Glynde, which included tables, chairs, chests of drawers, a bureau and bookcase, two good clocks, for complete beds, chamber furniture, two tubs of pork, brewing and washing utensils, china glass and stone ware, table and bed linen and a few books and pictures.