Pub 8 – Answer

Pub 8 : The Anchor Inn, Leek Wootton

Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe History: The Anchor Inn

The Anchor Inn, Leek WoottonThomas Morris and his family owned the pub until selling it to the Wise family in 1853. Four years later, in 1857, Henry Wise pulled down the Anchor Cottages, replacing them with new dwellings on the same site. The Ragsdale family, originally from Nottingham, were employed as tenant licensees. John and Elizabeth Ragsdale and their niece Sarah were also to have long-lasting connections with the village. Elizabeth was still Landlady of The Anchor when she died in 1884, aged 81, but John carried on until retiring, with Sarah, to Leamington Spa.

Like their predecessors, Joseph Caves, his wife Harriet and their four children, who took up residence in 1887, were also to inhabit the pub for a long time. Harriet died suddenly in 1893, aged forty-four, and Joseph re-married. On Joseph’s death his daughter, Alice, and her husband John took over the pub, keeping it in the family until her retirement in 1936. By all accounts she was a real pub owner, very smart and fun. She was a good businesswoman and it is thought that she might have done bed and breakfast. Her husband used to take a pride in the pub’s appearance, keeping the steps white and joking that he had “half a bed to let” when she went away on trips.

Billy Bass took over in 1936/7 and ran the pub until at least 1948.

Between about 1950 and 1961 Frank C Martin was the landlord. Frank, a good looking man, would put on his blazer and play the piano in the lounge on a Friday or Saturday night, Ivor Novello tunes were a speciality, and he is remembered with great affection to this day.

Jack and Lily Gibbs took over from Frank Martin in the early sixties. Jack Gibbs died pulling a pint and, unusually for those days, the brewery agreed to the tenancy being transferred to his widow Lily, in recognition of her long and loyal service.

Lily was a fascinating character in her own right. The same regular remembers “…down the stairs Mrs Lily Gibbs would make her usual dramatic entrance. She had been a widow for a good many years but remained slim, handsome, tall and statuesque. Strikingly blonde, beautifully made-up and immaculately dressed, she presided over a superb pub with firmness and great good humour.”

By the early 1980s the brewery was hoping to modernise the pub and increase its rental income from the site but was committed to honouring its agreement with Lily. She herself used to say, “I’ll be carried out of here”, but in the end she left very suddenly. Paul MacMahon, on a brewery visit, just prior to Christmas 1978, was surprised to hear her say “I want to leave on the 8th of January.” The timing was appalling and potential replacements were few. Paul made the chance remark that he “wouldn’t mind having it”, and shortly thereafter he and his wife Mary took over.

Mary MacMahon sadly died in 1988 but her legacy lived on. The Anchor had been involved with charity fund-raising for some time, which continued, and some seven thousand pounds was raised in her memory for the Walsgrave Cancer Appeal. Happily, Paul later met and married Sheila, a local teacher, who settled into running the business with him for the last three years before they retired to Kenilworth in 1994.

Following the retirement of Paul and Sheila MacMahon, the licence was taken over by Patrick McCosker and colleagues, who run a local chain of pub/restaurants. They have changed the nature of most of the pub by extending the kitchens, adding more tables and offering an extensive menu throughout trading hours. The bar, however, still provides a watering hole for the locals.

Extracted from ‘Leek Wootton and its Hamlets