The History of The Cat & Custard Pot
Many of our guests are interested in the history of this ancient inn, which has been meeting the needs of local people for food and drink, and for convivial company for over 300 years.
It was built between 1700 and 1710 by the Estcourt family, who owned and built much of the village of Shipton Moyne and were great landowners for many centuries in North Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire.
The building was an off-license and ale house; also comprising a village store, a bakery and a post office until 1924 when the Estcourts sold it to the Stroud Brewery Company. The Post Office moved to the other end of the village in the late 1950s. Thence the inn passed, in 1962 when Stroud Brewery went into liquidation, to West Country Inns, part of the Whitbread Group. Ken Grey, who remains as the Manager of The Cat & Custard Pot, became a tenant of Whitbread’s in 1984.
In 1991, when Whitbread’s were required by law to reduce its holding of off-license inns from 6,000 to 2,000, the freehold of the business was bought by Ken Grey.
Ken’s family, one of the senior families in Malmesbury, trace their ancestry back to the time of King Athelstan, the grandson of King Alfred the Great, who gave land to the Burgesses of Malmesbury in recognition of the help the King received in his wars against the invading Danes. Malmesbury was one of the “Burghs” or fortified towns that Athelstan established. Ken’s grandfather was a Burgess of Malmesbury and Ken has inherited his Common Rights.
It was a Director of the Stroud Brewery Company who named the ale house “The Cat & Custard Pot”, so that has been the inn’s title for close on 100 years. And what a suitable name it is: bringing to mind “Handley Cross or Mr Jorrocks’s Hunt” and the five other books celebrating life in the English countryside in a bygone age. These books, the first volume of which was published in 1854, with illustrations by John Leech, were described by the famous author Surtees as “professing to be tales, not aspiring to the dignity of novels”. Watercolours from “Handley Cross”, including “The Kill on the Cat & Custard Pot Day”, remain throughout the inn as part of the splendid collection of pictures.
To remind us how close England was to invasion in 1940, there was a searchlight and its crew stationed under canvas in the field behind The Cat & Custard Pot over that dangerous time. The Home Guard’s gasmasks and other equipment remained in the inn until very recently as sombre relics of World War 2.
So this interesting inn has connections with much of English history, which may pass through your mind as you are nourished and entertained at the sign of The Cat & Custard Pot.
In early 2014, Ken Grey decided to sell The Cat & Custard Pot. The new owners are a group of five families – all friends, and strong supporters of the village, living locally. They want above all for this well-known and popular inn to continue in the long-term as a key benefit for Shipton Moyne, for people living locally, and for visitors attracted by this pleasant and historic inn.
The Cat and Custard Pot
The Cat and Custard Pot c.1950 - Wilf Merrett
The Kill on The Cat and Custard Pot Day