Clare Bear & Crown
Clare Bear & Crown
also traded as Bear
Closed: between 1920 and 1970
20 Market Hill
grid reference TL 770 453
It's shown as an un-named hotel on this old OS map from about the end of the 19th century. interactive map
The Suffolk Historic Buildings Group state this is one of the most important buildings in Clare. Sometimes known just as the Bear, and earlier as New Hall, this is a 16th century double gabled house built on the site of the bailey barn and woodyard, and much altered early in the 19th century when it was re-fronted.
Historically it has been listed as a family & commercial hotel & posting house.
It was originally a trading house, probably for woollen goods. A claim has been made that it was once the town's Woolhall, but neither the deeds of the house nor other records confirm this, so at best the claim must be reckoned to be an unsubstantiated tradition. It used to be called Newhall, under which name the establishment is known to have existed in 1547. For a time it was a private hotel, then business premises, and in 1998 was restored for private residential use. It comprised a hall, the central truss with crown post of which survives, and two cross wings which originally had projecting upper storeys and whose dragon beams survive on the inside. The spandrels and moulded arch of the original carriage entrance, with beautifully carved and painted green dragons, have been re-set inside the hall of the present building. The interior has some moulded ceiling beams and exposed timber framing. Regarding the carvings, a paper read by CLARE SUFFOLK Book II The streets of Clare.
13 'W.S.W.' to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology June 14th 1849 (presumably before the removal of some beams, although a few of the figures mentioned are still visible on the exterior) says:- 'In front of the Bear are some carvings on a small scale. They are all below the overhanging part of the chamber. On a bracket which supports this at the north end there is what I think must have been meant for a falcon having the head of a maiden with flowing hair, one of the badges of the House of York; and on the uprights of the window are a falcon and a dragon, which, if latter were black, were also badges of the same family; but if the dragon was red, it must be referred to Henry VII, and the figures may have been executed in his reign, when, by his marriage with Elizabeth of York, the two rival houses had become united; and this appears the more likely as a piece of ornamental carving, resembling the Tudor flower moulding, occurs on the above-mentioned bracket. There are some other subjects, which I think are a dragon of a different shape, and some lions, and a human head with flowing hair between two lions; but of these I am not at present prepared to offer any explanation'.
The members of the ‘Good Intent’ Lodge, M U I Odd Fellows, held their anniversary at the Bear Hotel. The procession formed at the Market Hill at 1pm, headed by the Clare band, marched around the town. At 2pm about 70 members and friends sat down to a substantial dinner, provided by the worthy host, Mr Joseph Deeks. Ipswich Journal, July 1875**
Thanks to Carl Benson of the Suffolk Latch Company for the historical photos.
(Most pub, location & historic details collated by Nigel, Tony or Keith - original sources are credited)
(historical detail found in Clare Book II streets
(some old PO directory information courtesy of londonpublichouse.com)
(** historic newspaper information from Stuart Ansell)
(*** historic newspaper information from Bob Mitchell)
Old OS map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.