Back to the Chequers for Dinner
The Ashdown Forest has always been a favourite Tourist area. And the Chequers Inn in Maresfield is a very popular place for a meal, to spend the night, or just to enjoy a drink with friendly company.
The history of the Chequers is very interesting;
Post invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 and his implementation of the Doomsday Book* in 1086, networks of counting houses were developed all over England. Taxes due from landowners and businesses would be collected at these offices. The TAX officers used a piece of Chequered cloth on which the taxes would be counted. Hence the name given to the many TAX offices up and down the country was ‘The Chequers’.
Age of Chequers
The Chequers has had origins in the village of Forest Row from 1452, this being confirmed by various references to the Chequers in a variety of old literature and architectural investigation. Given the name, The Chequers, it is thought that origins of the Chequers may date back to 1086 when William the Conqueror implemented the Doomsday Book*. However this remains unconfirmed as yet and we are working on verifying this information.
Coaching & Posting Inn
The Chequers has been through many phases in its life. In previous years the Chequers was used as a ‘Coaching Inn’ and a ‘Posting Inn’.
‘Coaching Inns’ were used during the era of horse drawn coaches, which ferried people all over England. The ‘Coaching Inn’ provided a place for the passenger to eat and rest, while the horses were changed and the coach made ready to continue on it’s journey.
‘Posting Inns’ were used to collect post from the surrounding area and passed on to the horse drawn mail coaches, which would take the mail up to London. The mail would then be sorted and sent on to its final destination.
Mail Coach Robbery
Smugglers used this Inn extensively and it was this inn that was associated with a famous mail coach robbery, which took place at the foot of Wall Hill on June 27th 1801. John Beatson and his adopted son William Whalley Beatson hid in a meadow at the bottom of Wall Hill, by the entrance to an old Roman road. The mail coach made its call at the Chequers Inn to collect the weekend’s mail and then proceeded up Wall Hill, where it was waylaid by these two thieves just after midnight. The Beatsons took between £4,000 and £5,000 of the approximately £14,000 total the mail coach was carrying that night. Captured and arrested some weeks later in Liverpool, they still had in their possession £3,500 from the robbery. Their trial took place on March 29th 1802, by Judge Baron Hotham with the jury finding both men guilty and sentencing them to death by hanging. Gallows were erected on the spot where the robbery took place on April 17th 1802; in the presence of 3,000 people, Beatson and his adopted son were hung until dead. This was to be one of the last public hangings to take place in England.
WW2 (Sep 1939 – Aug 1945)
During WW2 the Chequers was on loan. A plaque imbedded in an external wall of the Chequers reads.
“Through the generosity of the owner, this house was a service club W.V.S (Womens Voluntary Service) 1939 – 1945 (TOC-H)”.
Inglenook Fireplace & Bread Ovens
Inside the Chequers resides one of the largest known inglenook fireplaces in Sussex, which is also home to a spacious bread oven. A huge 3.7 meter long bressumer beam stretches the width of the fireplace held up by two sandstone pillars.
Knife Sharpening Stone
In the original section of the Chequers, next to the large inglenook fireplace in the Smuggler’s Bar sits, imbedded in one of the supporting sandstone pillars, an old knife sharpening stone. This was used during the centuries to sharpen knives. As you will see this stone has been well used over the years.
Over the years, a variety of visitors to the Chequers have reported sighting a ghost-like figure sitting peacefully by the fireside. Reputedly a gentleman sits in a rocking chair smoking a pipe, dressed in a white shirt with black breeches. It is curious that unrelated people have reported the same description over the different sightings and over the years.
Discovery Of The Well
In May 2005, during some building work taking place at the Chequers, a builder almost fell down an ancient well, as he was excavating the ground. Much to everyone’s surprise a well dating back to c1452, in perfect working order was discovered.
Originally Three Cottages
Architectural evidence suggests the Chequers, was originally built as three cottages used for private dwelling. The recent ‘Discovery Of The Well’ would support this, as the well would have been used to supply fresh water to the three cottages.
We’d had a nice meal there nearly two years ago;
But, boy, was I wrong! The food was better than some so-called fresh local meals that I’ve tried!
Last time we were greeted by Steve Taylor the Manager, and his partner Sarah Hale, who waited on us.
They hadn’t been there long. They transferred from another Greene King pub.
This time, it was Steve’s night off, but he said Hi. He and Sarah are now married with a beautiful daughter.
When the restaurant is closed, nobody is turned away. Steve and his staff will always sort them out a sandwich, and not many pubs or restaurants will do that!
How long does it take to make a sandwich?!
Two words; Customer Service.
We were waited on by Ben Hayward, who was serving behind the bar last time we were there. Now he’s the Supervisor.
I was pleased to see that there’s now a Vegan and Non-Gluten menu.
Ben actually gave me a taster of each of them and I chose Ara Sauvignon Blanc Rose, from New Zealand at £18.99.
It’s described as Elegant & refreshing rose with red berry aromas, passion fruit, apricot & gooseberry & a crisp dry finish.
To start, John had Garlic Mushrooms, mixed leaves and Mayo, £4.79.
He said they were lovely and crispy on the outside and juicy inside.
I had Oak smoked chicken Liver Pate topped with Thyme Butter, & Caramelised Red Onion chutney & bread. £5.29.
It’s a good starter to eat while chatting as you can spread it on your toast & nibble it.
John next had Crispy chicken in a basket, which was two battered Cajun Chicken pieces, skin on Fries and a Garlic Kiev Sauce.
It was a large amount, and John said the chicken wasn’t dry at all. Good value for £9.89.
Sadly they’d run out of steak, so I chose Sausage, Champ Mash & fresh vegetables with gravy. £9.89.
There were four sausages! I managed two. Again it was a huge meal.
I got plain mashed potato and not champ, and I do love champ!
Katie Vaughan came to talk to us. She was the Chef there for four years, but now is the Assistant Manager. She remembered us from last time.
After a short break, we ordered sweets. John had Bramley apple & Blackberry Crumble Pie & Custard. £5.29.
Amazingly, he found room to finish it!
I had Millionaire’s Cheesecake with Shortbread, Toffee flavoured Sauce & Clotted Cream ice cream. £5.49.
I’d describe it as the perfect pud.
Then John had a coffee and I suddenly fancied an Irish Coffee.
The service was excellent and professional, without being intrusive.
Ben was more than just a Waiter, he was a Host!
Katie came to say goodbye as she had finished her shift, but she kept popping out to do little chores, and she was still there half an hour later. How’s that for dedication?
The new chef is still finding his feet, and he needs to get his ordering right. I heard someone in the next table complaining because his cheeseboard only had half the cheese selection.
Ordering supplies for a restaurant is a fine balance of keeping up supplies and over-ordering so you don’t waste food.
But he’s a good cook.
The food and service were first class. But I was looking forward to a nice, juicy steak!
Maybe next time.
Would I eat at the Chequers Inn again?
Of course I would!
Brunch & Breakfast is served every day until noon. From £4.49.
Sunday Roasts cost from £10.49.
The Chequers caters for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings etc in their large Function Room.
Uckfield Folk Club meets for Open Mike every 3rd Wednesday.
The Chequers Inn
Tel 01825 763843