Great Leighs is famous for its brand new, state-of-the-art, horse racing venue, but it is also the home of a much older property. It’s the location of St. Anne’s Castle Inn, now just The Castle, which is believed to be the oldest inn in England.
As with many ancient buildings, this one is blessed (or cursed) with a ghost. Several actually, ranging from a blonde girl, a small boy, a bride in a wedding dress, a cat(!), and a man who murdered his wife and child – you certainly get good value here. But things would not be the same without a witch. Some say that in 1621, Anne Hughes was executed for murdering her husband and practising witchcraft, that she was buried at Scrapfaggot Green Crossroads and that she was then covered with a large boulder to stop her spirit from rising again. All we know is that a similar stone now resides just outside the car park and that, when it is moved, things happen. You have been warned…
The pub did warrant a mention in the Domesday Book and it is said that it has occupied this site since 1171. Quite old, then. Well certainly the chimney, some beams and other assorted bits looked it. It served drinks to the pilgrims travelling to Thomas Beckett’s tomb in the twelfth century and, in its cellars, there are the remains of tunnels leading to Leez Priory and Great Leighs church. Much was destroyed by fire in the 1500’s, hence its more modern appearance, made even more so by the corporate, but sympathetic, face lift administered by its new owners dragging a tired old venue, past its shelf life, right into the twenty-first century. And it is here today that it plays host to the final Sports and Classic Car Breakfast Meet of the season.
The day started with a little fog but, as the clouds lifted allowing October’s frail sunlight to rest upon our gathering, the last wisps of greyness were soon banished leaving us with a bright Saturday morning fit for any self-respecting petrol head. The sun also brought in the cars. They didn’t stop coming with several sadly turned away. Many familiar faces were present, including some from our region – John and Lynn Squibb and family, Chris White (and E type), Graham Cook and your writer. Doug and Jackie Warren were not to be left out, popping in on their way to the airport.
I almost missed Neil Wylie who brought along one of my favourite cars of the day, a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette presented in turquoise and white – what a stunner! And that wasn’t the only thoroughbred to grace the gathering. Regulars included a ’38 Buick Eight convertible, a couple of modern Ferraris plus a 328 and a ’69 365, real head turners. Fancy a Pony car? Well, a nice black and gold 350GT Mustang burbled in next to a lovely late 40’s MGTD. Aston Martins were in the ascendant, outnumbering the Porsches (probably). Plenty of Vantages and DB9’s, both tin and rag tops. Young boys looked in awe at the assembled Lamborghinis and there were a fair number to choose from, two with great registration plates. Other attendees included a Sunbeam Tiger, probably a 4.3 litre V8 judging from its C plate. Remember the Astra GTE? A fine example was parked up towards the back, a 16-valve stormer that you don’t see much of these days; did they have a digital dash? Nearby, was a Datsun 240Z – the Japanese E Type. Now rare with good ones increasing nicely in value. A stately ’64 Silver Cloud wafted in, decked in silver over blue, although the paint job didn’t look like a Crewe original. Lovely car though. Bringing us more up to date and complimenting the Rolls, was a green Bentley, I think a Continental R Mulliner from the mid to late 90’s…with cream leather.
Not everything was an exotic. Someone came in a Nissan Juke(!) whilst a couple of Minis squeezed in, although one of them did have an engine in the boot (and in possibly some of the rest of the car). I counted three TVR’s. What about those outrageous interiors? There were also examples from Jensen, Mercedes, Maserati, Toyota, Audi and a sole red MGBGT, still like those. Oh, and finally, we shouldn’t forget the Jags. Not too many this month. The MK 10/420G (which is it?) dragster regular was present, accompanied by Chris’s E type Roadster and our two XJS’s.
Well, that’s all for this year. Maybe see you next time. Oh, and the breakfast was good as well.