Letter: history of the Grapes in Bell Street

Photo of The Grapes Hotel, sent in by Richard Symonds


Richard Symonds, former Surrey Recorder for the Brewery History Society, has written in with a history of the Grapes Inn, which once occupied the Knights site in Bell Street, Reigate.

The building is currently being restored, to become six flats and two shops (Oliver Bonas and Waterstones).

A bunch of grapes, that hung down at the front from a bracket, were removed during the work but will be returned.



Your readers may (or may not) be aware that the building which until recently housed the well-respected local business of Messrs Knight’s the Drapers, was once an inn called the Grapes.

It was originally called the Bunch of Grapes and was built about 1780 by Richard Cheeseman to rival the also newly built White Hart opposite, of which he had also been the tenant. It never attained the same reputation as the latter however. It incorporated an alehouse formerly known as the Bricklayers Arms, and lost its licence in 1910.

According to Bryant’s Survey of 1785, it was listed as tenement 177 and described as:

“Messuage, yard, gardens, and appurtenances, called by the sign of the Bunch of Grapes, sold with above and is on lease to Richard Cheeseman from 1781 for 31 years at £4 per annum. William Matthew polled 1698; Thomas Saunder 1710. North to the Swan Inn yard. Formerly Thomas Saunders who sold it in 1759; John Saunders, Thomas Moorer, since of Richard Cheeseman, now Henry Crunden.”

There is a footnote stating that “In 1814, Henry Crunden was given a lease for £14 years.”

In the 1827 survey, the rates of the inn were computed to have been £17 per annum.

On the 1843 Tithe map, it is given as Property No 974 on map, and described as:

“Grapes Inn, Stabling & yard, owned by Earl Somers and run by Sarah Crunden, area: 10 poles.”

In Eves census 1860/1, it is given as property no. 276 on map, and described as The Grapes Inn, owned by Earl Somers and run by Sarah Andrews.

There is a report in a local paper dated Sat Aug 2nd 1873 that:

“On Friday evening, several tradesmen and others supped together at the Grapes Hotel, Reigate on the occasion of bidding farewell to the late landlord, Mr E Downing, who has conducted the house for 4 or 5 years, and welcoming his successor, Mr E Kemp, from London. A pleasant evening was spent, the health of the late and the present landlords being drunk with great cordiality.”

On a more official note, a report from the Borough Bench dated Monday August 18th 1873, stated:

“The licence of the Grapes Hotel was transferred from Mr E Downing to E Kemp, 106, Sloane Street, Chelsea.”

An advertisement also appeared in January 1878 for the hotel, stating:

“The Grapes Commercial Hotel, Bell Street, Reigate. Every accommodation for bicyclists and other travellers. Proprietor, Mr W Pitcher.”

The Petty Sessional records 1892 describes the inn as:

“The Bunch of Grapes, Bell Street. Fully Licensed inn, owned By lady Henry Somerset. Lesee, the Friary Holroyd’s & Healy’s Brewery Co to whom the inn is tied for trade. Licensee is Emily Fitcher who resides on the premises. The house is a Commercial and family Hotel.”

Notes from W.M. Bushby state that Lady Somerset tried to get the Bell public house, which stood opposite the Grapes, closed down in 1895 when its lease ran out, but failed.  As she was the head of the temperance movement in England one might think that her motives were connected with that cause; she owned the Grapes’ leasehold and let it to a brewer, not something in the spirit of temperance.

Mr Bushby’s notes also state that Knights took it over as a shop in 1912.

I trust this may be of interest to your readers. Please also find attached a photograph of the inn as it was in its heyday.

Richard Symonds  (former Surrey Recorder for the Brewery History Society, now retired).



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