Page Updated:- Monday, 28 November, 2022.


Earliest 1385

Bull Hotel

Open 2020+

Bull Lane


01732 789800

Bull Hotel

Above postcard date unknown.

Bull Hotel

Above postcard, date unknown.


Above postcard, date unknown. Kind permission from Eric Hartland.

Bull Hotel 2013

Above photo 2013.

Bull Hotel 2010

Bull Hotel 2010.

Bull Hotel drawing

Above drawing, date unknown.

Bull Hotel sign 2013

Above sign, 2013.


The Bull dates back to the 1300′s as a coaching inn offering respite to weary travellers along the Pilgrim's Way.

An infamous haunt of smuggling gangs was the "Bull Inn." In 1799 a gang leader, Lieutenant Colonel Shadwell, was shot dead on 1st June by an army deserter, and his comrades wreaked a terrible revenge. The murderer and his comrade were savagely beaten to death by the smugglers, an event recorded on a stone set into the wall by the hotel.

"With an eclectic past, including being the headquarters of a renowned gang of smugglers, as well as a favourite watering hole for Battle of Britain pilots, the 600 hundred year old Bull is now a beautiful four star country retreat as well as a gourmet dining destination with an AA rosette for culinary excellence."


Under the Enclosure Act of 1814 a sale of 15 acres of waste land was held at the "Bull Hotel" in Wrotham in 1815. A William Williams paid 60 for 2 acres, He subsequently built the "Fox and Hounds."


Kent Gazette, 26 December 1778.

To be Sold by Auction, on Thursday, the 28th day of January, 1779, at the house of Richard Harvey, known by the sign of the "Bull Inn" at Wrotham in Kent, between the hours of 4 and 6 of the clock in the Afternoon, subject to such conditions as will be then and they're produced.

All that Messuage or Tenement, Barn, Stable, Orchard, and Garden; together with 5 acres of very fine Land thereto belonging; situate and being at a place called Clacket Green, near Plaxtol, in the parish of Wrotham aforesiad; now in possession of John Seamarke, as Tenant at Will.

The Tenant will show the Premises, and further Particulars may be had by applying to Mr. Woodgate, in Sevenoaks.


Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, Friday 27 January 1797.

John Lacey, Bull Inn, Wrotham.

Most respectfully acquaints and Nobility, Gentry, and others that he has fitted up the above Inn in the most commodious manner, with excellent stabling, &c. and has laid in a choice assortment of the best liquors, and assures them that no care shall be wanting to merit their favours.

Neat post chaises and able horses to any part of the kingdom, at the reduction of 15 per mile.

The stage coaches that go from Maidstone to London, stop continually at the above Inn, both going and returning.

Wrotham is eleven miles from Maidstone, twelve to Footscray, and thirteen to Sidcup.


From the Maidstone Gazette and West Kent Courier, 27 July 1830.

Better late than never.

The inhabitants of Wrotham proclaimed the King on Wednesday last. At the conclusion of the ceremony, nearly 500 of the poorer classes were regaled with bread, cheese and ale. In the evening the parties, who joined in the loyalty of the day, dined together at the "Bull Inn," and drank His Majesty's health, with other appropriate toasts, in flowing cups.


From the Kentish Gazette, 14 March 1843.


At the "Bull Inn," Wrotham, on the 27th ult., Messrs. Lenney and Swaisland shot at 11 birds each, when the former won. A sweep, seven competitors, was won by Mr. Hillyer, killing all his birds.


South Eastern Gazette 29 July 1856.


At the "Bull Hotel," Wrotham. Also a middle aged Woman, to take the management of 4 children, and assist in plain needlework. Likewise a Housemaid. The tap is quite away from the house. Good character indispensable. Apply to Mr H. Spencer, "Bull Hotel," Wrotham.


Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser, Tuesday 3 February 1863.


A Negro entertainment was given at the "Bull Hotel," Wrotham, on Friday last by the "Far West Serenaders," assisted by Mr. R Walters, Mr. J. Lanham, Mr. B Leazey, Mr. J. Kelly, and Mr. E. Smith. Not withstanding the unfavorable state of the weather, there was a company of about 60. The performance consisted of singing, wizardism, juggling, and plantation skecheres, with the whole of which the company seemed highly gratified.

From the Kent and Sussex Courier, 21, November 1873.


Magistrates’ Clerk’s Office—Before Major German.


Geo. Maddocks, gamekeeper, Jas. Johnson, waggoner, and Thos. Maddocks, waggoner's mate, were charged with stealing 12 bottles of champagne, two bottles of sherry, one bottle of cherry brandy, fifty cigars, &c., of the value of 6, the property of Mr. J. E. Shrubsole, of the "Bull Hotel," Wrotham, under the following circumstances: The prosecutor had catered for the Otford Castle coursing party on Wednesday, and having to provide also on Thursday, he left his goods in a part of the grand stand which was boarded off, and George Maddocks was left in charge. Thomas Maddocks, the son, was with the father, and he fetched, the prisoner Johnson, and they appear to have then made free with the wine. Mr. Shrubsole discovered the robbery on Thursday morning, and Sergt. Hilder, K.C.C., paid a visit to the house of the senior Maddocks, where he found that prisoner drunk, and there was a full bottle of champagne in the bedroom, and an empty bottle in another room, and three pieces of cigars in his pocket, and 21 cigars in a cupboard. When charged with stealing them, he said that it was through drink he had done it. The son subsequently admitted assisting to drink the wine, and three bottles of champagne were found at Johnson’s house.

Maddocks, sen., and Johnson were committed for trial, and the boy was discharged.



 The Complete History, as we Know it.

This inn known by the name and sign of the Bull was built during the reign of Richard II, in 1385. Though this original structure was considerably smaller than the present day edifice.

The house began trading under the sign of the Bull not long after it was built, but it was not until 1495 under the licencing enactment of Henry VII, that the house was granted its first licence. Before that it had been lawful for anyone to keep an ale-house without licence, for it was recognised as a means of livelihood not prohibited by law. Unfortunately the names of those who served ale here before 1495 are unrecorded for parish records do not begin until 1558, however the first keeper recorded under licence is one Mawer Beecher. It is impossible to determine how long he kept the Bull, but one can almost be certain that he died here, for in 1552, it was his son Elisha who was granted a wine licence for the house under the terms of the licensing legislation act of that year.

Elisha Beecher was still here in 1560 and 1562, but 1570 the Bull was kept by Henry Crass, a shoemaker of Wrotham Parish. Crass died here in 1581, whereafter the widow Crass took over the Bull and kept it until her death in 1596. In 1601, the Bull a "hospicum situate and lyeing wythin the parith of rootham, was sold with its wine licence to Jacob Grundy, inkeeper of Gravesend. When he died in 1638 the Bull passed to his son John and Richard, shipbuilders of Gravesend. In 1641, Richard Grundy purchased his brothers share of the Bull, but in 1649 upon his death it passed back to John Grundy heir to the estate of Richard. The following year he sold the inn to Nysall Hodsholl esq. who in that same year of 1650 leased it to Isaac Shoebridge, an inn keeper of Sevenoaks. He served as keeper here until his death in 1673, whereafter his widow Nyomi was granted a lease and kept the Bull until 1678, the year in which she died whereafter her daughter Susannah took over.

In 1682, she married William Evenden, a clothier of Wrotham Parish. In 1685, Cecily Hodshole widow and relict of Nysall sold the Bull to Joseph Matthews, a surgeon of Wrotham with William and Susannah Evenden in occupation. By 1702 William Evenden was the sole licensee, his wife having died in 1700. However by 1703 it was John Saker who was drawing ale at the sign of the Bull, and he continued to do so, until 1730 during which time the inn was sold on two occasions. In 1718, Richard Matthews sold it to Richard Crow, surgeon of Wrotham and he, in 1730 sold it to Hectar Crosby, a victualler of Sevenoaks.

Hector Crosby kept the house until 1753, when he sold it to another innkeeper called John Clifford. During his time here in 1761, the first of two incidents connected to the nefarious activity of smuggling involving the Bull, took place. On the evening of 6th October 1761, three smugglers were fired upon at Fishermans wharf Gravesend, during the course of which one of them, William Styant was mortally wounded. His companions carried him to Wrotham Heath where he was found to have expired. Leaving the body of their friend on the Heath the other two made their way to Wrotham, where they took refreshment at the Bull Inn. However a party of dragoons following close behind discovered the dead man and went to the Bull and arrested the two smugglers called Hide and Stanford. They were later sent for trial at Maidstone and eventually hung on Penenden Heath.

In 1772, John Clifford sold the Bull to Francis Gibbon brewer and maltster of Wateringbury. They leased the Bull to Solomon Brigden. He was still here in 1784 and witnessed the advent of faster mail coaches. The Bull had long been a coaching house but with the improvement of highways and speedier coaches, it became an established staging point. During the height of the coaching era the Bull underwent many changes the existing stables were enlarged to cope with the added volume of team changing that took place here, whilst the inn itself was altered by way of addition, an upper room was converted to a customs office so that His Majestys excise officers could receive and sort the mail delivered by coach.

In 1786, Jeremiah Shadwell took over as keeper of the Bull. He was the brother of Lieutenant Colonel Shadwell, leader of a smuggling gang that used Wrotham as a staging point for contraband ran in from the coast. The gang was known to have frequented the Bull on numerous occasions. On 1st June 1799 the gang leader Shadwell was shot by an army deserter in the inn. His associates pursued and captured the deserter and his companion and duly beat them to death. Jeremiah Shadwell may have been involved in the incident which would explain why he left the inn so suddenly for by the end of June 1799, one John Micklefield was keeping the house and did so for well over the first quarter of the 19th century.

In 1822, whilst in his hands a billiards room was added to the property, which Micklefield advertised as the Bull Commercial Inn and posting house, excellent facilities with reading room, billiard room and good stabling. In 1833, Richard Gibbon sold his brewery to Frederick Leney a coal merchant of Wateringbury. He became Frederick Leney and Son brewers and maltsters coal merchants and brick manufacturers of the Phoenix Brewery. Frederick Leney Junior kept the Bull until 1851 when he handed over to John Goddard Morgan, he in 1857 to Henry Spencer, he in 1863 to Thomas Bowles and he in 1872 to James Edward Shrubsole. During his time here he also kept the Borough Green Hotel. In 1890 he was succeeded by John William Trepess, he in 1894 by Walter Rowe, in 1897 by John Whale, he in 1902 by Mrs E. Hudson, she in 1904 by John Willis, he in 1906 by Henry Maguire and he in 1908 by Henry Short Millet, who kept the house for the duration of world war I, at its close he was succeeded by Alfred John Cape, he in 1921 by Edward Swift he in 1929 by John Cleary, he in 1933 by John Dykes and he in 1936 by Harold Prince.

For much of the second world war the Bull was the haunt of fighter pilots stationed nearby. The Bull remained in the hands of Frederick Leney & Sons Brewery until 1960 when they sold out to the Whitbread Fremlin Brewery. They eventually sold the Bull as a Free House. To-day it is owned by John Michael Dunnell and his wife Elaine.


Passage below from their web site. 2014

The Bull Hotel has catered to the needs of passing travellers and locals alike for over six hundred years. It has appealed to those in search of rest, fortification and good company, providing a quiet, tranquil respite from the troubles of many an age.

With a rich sense of history, The Bull can date its first license back to 1385. After extensive work, the hotel has been restored to its former 14th century glory, showcasing exposed oak beams, an inglenook fireplace and even war time victory stamps still evident on the ceiling.

In the picturesque village of Wrotham, the current owner, Martin Deadman, looks to continue this tradition. At The Bull the accommodation is cosy, clean and comfortable and with the AA Rosette restaurant earning praise from the national press, the service here is friendly, the food is without pretension and the atmosphere is relaxed.


Bull Hotel stone

Close to 'The Bull Inn', at Wrotham, is an inscription which reads: "Near this place fell Lieu Colonel Shadwell who was shot to the heart by a Deserter on the morning of the first day of June 1799. The Assassin with another Deserter his companion were immediately secured and brought to justice". There is a detailed epitaph to Colonel Shadwell in All Saints Church, Maidstone.

It turns out Colonel Shadwell was the leader of a gang of smugglers. They used 'The Bull Inn', which was owned by Shadwell's brother, Jeremiah Shadwell, as their headquarters. Wrotham was used by the gang as a staging point for contraband brought in from the coast.

The Deserters had come from the encampment at Cocks Heath (Coxheath), where they had been part of the Volunteer Brigade called into service because of the threat of a Napoleonic invasion. At Wrotham the Deserters were apprehended by Shadwell, but then one of them fired the fatal shot that killed him.


From the By James Walker, 26 May 2015.

Barry Dixon, formerly of Sandling Road in Maidstone, jailed for stealing close to 10,000 from The Bull Hotel, in Wrotham, where he worked.

A hotel worker is behind bars after he stole close to 10,000 from his employer.

Barry Dixon, formerly of Sandling Road in Maidstone, made false transactions to his own debit card months after he started working at The Bull Hotel, in Wrotham.

The 26-year-old, who worked as a restaurant manager after joining in March 2014, carried out 34 fraudulent transactions between July and January.

He was caught after he tried to process a fraudulent refund worth close to 400.

His boss challenged the transaction and Dixon claimed it was due to a customer being charged the wrong amount.

This arose his employer's suspicions and further checks revealed he was lying.

From his 34 fraudulent transactions he has stole 8,394 and he was arrested by police in January this year.

Barry Dixon 2015

Maidstone Crown Court. Picture: John Wardley.

Dixon pleaded guilty to one count of theft and was sentenced to two years in prison.

PC Toby Hawkins, the investigating officer for this case, said: "Dixon was stealing on a regular basis by inventing refunds to customers, some of which amounted to hundreds of pounds.

"He had only been in his job for a very short time but chose to repay the faith shown in him by abusing the trust of his employers.

"Theft is never a victimless crime and the sentence passed by the court will hopefully make Dixon think long and hard about his actions."


From the By Will Rider, 23 October 2018.

Owners of The Bull Hotel in Wrotham reveal secrets of Channel 4's Four in a Bed.

The filming took place in May and features other hotels in Hull, Wigan and Weymouth.

Lygia Fontanella

Lygia Fontanella (left) with breakfast chef, Mary Murray. (Image: Channel 4)

The Bull Hotel in Wrotham has been welcoming visitors for the last six centuries but the historic inn recently welcomed a new type of guest.

The inn, near Sevenoaks, is featuring on Channel 4's reality show Four in a Bed this week, where owners host and visit other hotels and rate their value for money.

Lygia Fontanella, an economist from Brazil, has run the hotel with her husband of 18 years, Martin Deadman, since 2007.

As well as housing a 2AA Rosette restaurant, the inn also recently received an AA Notable Wine Award for its wine selection.

'We didn't apply to take part'

Describing how the hotel became involved with the programme, Lygia, 50, explained: "It’s a long process. Actually, we didn’t apply to take part, they found us and thought that we were a fit for the programme. You have to do loads of interviews beforehand."

The filming took place over two weeks in May, with Martin staying behind to look after the hotel. Mary Murray, who has been working as the breakfast chef for the last ten years, took his place.

Lygia said: "It’s a very intensive process. It’s two weeks of filming everyday for the whole day. Sometimes it’s from 10am in the morning to 11pm or midnight.

She added: "That’s why we didn’t go together. It’s almost impossible for both of us to leave for two weeks to do the programme."


From the By Luke May, 31 October 2018.

The Bull hotel in Wrotham wins Four in a Bed on Channel 4.

An historic inn serving guests for six centuries has received an entirely modern award.

The Bull Hotel in Wrotham appeared on Channel 4's Four in a Bed last week, the show which pits four different hotel owners against one another.

Owner Lygia Fontanella and breakfast chef Mary Murray were invited onto the show, travelling to hotels in Hull, Wigan and Weymouth.

Lygia Fontanella and Mary Murray 2018

Lygia Fontanella and Mary Murray receive the Four in a Bed title.

During each visit competitors are asked to pay however much they feel the hotel is worth.

On all three of their visits, the pair paid the full price of each hotel.

The hotel in Bull Lane was the last to host, appearing on our screens last Thursday.

On Friday viewers saw each hotel give feedback on their ratings and discover how much they had been paid.

Filming for the results took place at Bradbourne House in East Malling in May.

The Bull came out on top and was the only hotel where one of their competitors overpaid - paying an extra 5 for their 115 per night room.

Mrs Fontanella, who owns the hotel with her husband Martin Deadman, said: "It was such an awesome experience, very intense and stressful but also rewarding.

"Channel 4’s team was extremely professional and worked hard to make us all feel at ease.

"We learnt a lot about filming a show, such as fitting and remove microphones, not to look at the camera, wait for your turn to talk, not to overtalk, which for us was particularly challenging, and repetition, repetition, repetition.

"This experience has changed the way we'll watch a TV show forever."


From an email received 26 March 2020.

Eric Herbert Freeman painting

The above photo was taken in the bar at the front of the building, on the right as you went in through what was at the time, as I remember, the main entrance off the road (Bull Lane).

The gentleman behind the bar is my father. If this was taken in 1948, he will have been 40 years old on 3 February, but it could have been the year before or the year after. 1948 is likely, since the picture being drawn could have been in celebration of his 40th birthday and/or of the birth of my youngest sister (now aged 72) who was born on that very same day.

It shows my father (Eric Herbert Freeman) behind the bar, having the finishing touches put to a drawing of him sitting in front of a bar (not the one actually in the Bull, I think). The drawing is being done in 'oil chalks', a kind of pastel that gives the impression, at a distance, of being an oil painting.

The gentleman in the white coat, who has just looked in from the dining room that was then to the left of the picture, is 'Fred'. Fred was actually Alfredo, a London Italian waiter who worked at Frascati (or just possibly the Trocadero) and was well known to my father from before the war. He worked at the Bull for a time. It could have been a couple of weeks, or it could have been longer. He worked at the Bull either as a busman's holiday, or as a retirement job. I don't know. I was about six years old at the time.

My father told me that Fred had a remarkable skill. If the Bull was busy, he would clear the last dishes and say 'You won't be taking coffee, then, Sir, Madame?' or, if they were slack, 'You would like coffee now?', etc. The customers did as they were bidden, and never took offence.


Bill Freeman.


From the By Secret Drinker, 29 May 2020.

Secret Drinker's best Shepherd Neame inland Kent pubs.

The fantastic response to my top five seaside pubs, added to the fact many locals are already planning for the glorious day they can reopen, has persuaded me I must also bring you my top Shepherd Neame inland pubs.

Just imagine the joy of sitting in a beautiful pub garden, a freshly pulled pint in your hand, while the sun blazes down and the birds twitter sweetly in the background.

I took some flak for daring to dream of the time we can revisit a lovely seaside boozer and gaze upon the waves again, but why shouldn’t we have something to look forward to?

If seven out of 10 people reckon the thing they’ve missed most during lockdown is the pub then just imagine getting back to these five fantastic pubs.

The only rule I set to be an inland pub is that if you look out of the window you can’t see the sea.

The pub at No.4 on my list isn’t a million miles away from Wrotham as the crow flies.

Bull 2018

On Linton Hill, the historic Bull Inn has leather sofas, a modern menu and an inviting garden with great view.

I haven’t reviewed the Bull Inn at Linton, near Maidstone, yet but called in en-route to a meeting one weekday evening.

The views from the back of the pub across the beautiful, sprawling Kent countryside are spectacular. Judging by the decking the pub has undergone fairly major redevelopment work, outside at least, to take full advantage of this asset.

Inside it retains the feel of real local and I liked it, but there can be no denying the main event are the views. If the current heatwave continues and you’re allowed back soon, do yourself a favour and drink in the scenery, with a pint of Shep’s best bitter.



BEECHER Mawer to 1552 dec'd

BEECHER Elisha 1552-62+

CRASS Henry 1570-81 dec'd (also shoemaker)

CRASS Mrs (widow) 1581-96 dec'd

GRUNDY Jacob 1601-38 dec'd

GRUNDY John & Richard (sons) 1638-41

GRUNDY Richard 1641-49 dec'd

GRUNDY John 1649-50

HODSHOLL Nysall (owner) 1650

SHOEBRIDGE Isaac 1650-73 dec'd

SHOEBRIDGE Nyomi (widow) 1673-78 dec'd

SHOEBRIDGE Susannah (daughter) 1678-82

EVENDEN/OVENDEN William (husband of above) 1682-85

HODSHOLL Cecily 1685 (owner)

MATTHEWS Joseph 1685+ (owner)

EVENDEN/OVENDEN William & Susannah 1685-1700+


SAKER John 1703-30

MATTHEWS Richard 1718+ (owner)

CROW Richard 1718-30 (owner)

CROSBY Henry 1730-53 (owner)

CLIFFORD John 1753-72 (owner)

GIBBON Francis 1772 (owner)

BRIGDEN Solomon 1772+

HARVEY Richard 1779+

SHADWELL Jerehiah 1786-June/99

LACEY John 1797

MICKLEFIELD John June/1799-1828+ Pigot's Directory 1828-29

LENEY Abraham 1832+ Pigot's Directory 1832-34

LENEY Frederick 1840+ Pigot's Directory 1840

LENEY/LINCEY Frederick jun. 1841-1851 (age 20 in 1841Census)

MORGAN John Goddard 1851-56+

SPENCER Henry 1856-63 (age 43 in 1861Census)

BIRCH Thomas 1861+ (age 47 in 1861Census) (Bull Tap)

BOWLES Thomas 1863-71

BOWEN George T 1871+ (also ostler & tap keeper age 32 in 1871Census) (Bull Tap)

SHRUBSOLE James Edward 1871-81+ (age 34 in 1871Census) (Bull Hotel)

MARTIN Thomas K 1881-91+ (age 47 in 1891Census) (Bull Inn)

FRYER Thomas to Apr/1890

TRESPASS James William Apr/1890+

ROWE Walter to 1894-97

WHALE John 1897-1902

HUDSON E Mrs 1902-04

WILLIS John 1904-06

MAGUIRE Henry 1906-Sept/07+ Kent and Sussex Courier

MILLETT Henry Short Sept/1907-18+ Kent and Sussex Courier

CAPE Alfred John 1918-21

SWIFT Edward Hibbert 1921-29

CLEARY John 1929-33

CLEARY Dennis 1930+

DYKES John 1933-36

PRINCE Harold 1936-38+

Last pub licensee had FREEMAN Eric Herbert "Bill" 1946-50

DUNNELL John Michael & Elaine ????

DEADMAN Martin 2007-14+


Pigot's Directory 1828-29From the Pigot's Directory 1828-29

Pigot's Directory 1832-34From the Pigot's Directory 1832-33-34

Pigot's Directory 1840From the Pigot's Directory 1840

Kent and Sussex CourierKent and Sussex Courier



If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-