The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook, Berkshire
The Ostrich, Colnbrook - The 3rd Oldest Pub In England...And It's Haunted!
The Ostrich Inn is situated in the village of Colnbrook, near Slough in Berkshire. I've lived in Colnbrook for many years and used to work in the building next door to the Ostrich!
The Ostrich Inn (locally known simply as "The Ostrich") is said to be the third oldest public house in England and parts of the building date back to the 12th century.
King John is reputed to have stayed overnight at The Ostrich en route to nearby Runnymede where he would sign the Magna Carta, the historical document which formed the basis of all constitutional laws.
The infamous highwayman Dick Turpin is also known to have stayed at the Inn and legend has it that Jarman, one of the former landlords of The Ostrich, was a mass murderer who killed at least sixty of his richest customers while they slept at the Inn by means of a trapdoor under their beds which plunged them into a vat of boiling water. Jarman's murderous deeds and his hinged bed are believed to have been the inspiration behind the tale of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street!
Not surprisingly The Ostrich is rumoured to be haunted and has been the subject of several "paranormal" investigations, some of which have been televised.
Inside The Ostrich you can still see a small model of the "murder bed", along with a large stuffed Ostrich named "Esmerelda"!
Over 900 years after it first opened it's doors in the reign of King Henry I, The Ostrich is still a popular pub and restaurant. The interior has been modernised in recent years, but Esmerelda is still watching over it's patrons from her vantage point at the top of the stairs.
Read on to find out more about the rich and vivid history of The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook:
The Ostrich Inn,
The History Of The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook
Royal guests, highwaymen, grisly murders and tales of ghostly hauntings all form part of the long history of The Ostrich.
Colnbrook is now a village in the unitary authority of Slough, in Berkshire, England. The history of the village goes back a LONG way though, to a time when Colnbrook was a far busier and much more important place than Slough!
Mentioned in William the Conqueror's Doomsday Book in 1066, Colnbrook is so named as it is situated on a tributary of the River Colne, hence "Colne-brook".
In 1106 a man called Milo Crispin built an inn in Colnbrook called The Hospice. Over time, this name became corrupted and the inn eventually became known as The Ostrich.
Several more inns sprang up in the village and eventually Colnbrook became an important point on the main stagecoach route that ran from London to Bath. The numerous "coaching inns" in Colnbrook catered for the stagecoach travellers. They provided fresh horses for the coaches and food, drink and overnight lodging for travellers.
In 1925, in the book A History of the County of Buckingham, there is the following description of The Ostrich;
"It is of timber and plaster with a tiled roof and has a projecting upper story with gables at either end, and a gateway in the middle to the yard behind, the doors to which still remain. Inside there is a good deal of 17th-century panelling and a staircase of the same date. In a room on the first floor are the remains of a curious arrangement whereby a flap could be let down from the window to enable passengers to enter the room directly from the top of a coach. In a room on the first floor of one of the shops there is a shield above the fireplace with the arms: Argent a fesse dancetty sable. In a book written by Thowe of Reading, and quoted by Lipscomb, there is a description of the murder of thirteen persons by the landlord of the Ostrich Inn and his associates and the circumstances which led to their apprehension. In 1624 and 1666 this inn belonged to Maud wife of Thomas Langley, and was valued at £4 yearly. It is called Eastridge or Ostridge in 1682. There is preserved in the inn a pistol said to have belonged to Dick Turpin who used the house."
The structure of the Inn dates to the early 16th century and parts date back even earlier. No less a personage than King John is rumoured to have stayed overnight at The Ostrich on his way to nearby Runnymede and the signing of the Magna Carta - one of the most significant events in history as it signaled the birth of democracy.
The Ostrich is now preserved as a Grade II* Listed Building.
You can see two wonderful old photographs of The Ostrich Inn in the period 1910-1919 at Colnbrook Views - Olde Colnbrook
The Murders At The Ostrich Inn
Jarman, the serial killing landlord of The Ostrich Inn in Colnbrook may possibly be the inspiration behind the story of Sweeney Todd!
The murders at The Ostrich Inn are believed to have possibly been the inspiration behind the fictional story of Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - originally a 19th century serialised "penny dreadful" horror tale about a murderous barber (the eponymous "Sweeney Todd"), who slits the throats of his customers in order to rob them. He disposes of the bodies by pulling a lever on his barber's chair which releases a trapdoor which opens into a pit. Once in the pit, the corpses are made into meat pies by an accomplice to provide an additional means of income! Quite terrifying, but seemingly based on fact if legend is to be believed.
The murders which may have inspired the creation of Sweeney Todd were committed at The Ostrich by a seventeenth century landlord of the Inn, a man known simply as "Jarman" (some sources give his name as "Jerman").
Like the highwaymen, the enterprising Mr Jarman saw a means of supplementing his income by relieving rich travellers of their money, clothing and goods. He didn't want to take the same risks of face to face robbery that the highwaymen did, so he devised a cunning plan. In one of the Inn's best bedrooms (referred to in some accounts as "The Blue Room"), he built a trapdoor directly under the bed. Once he was sure that his intended victim was fast asleep (and one can imagine him plying the hapless individual with enough alcohol to ensure that he was out for the count), the evil publican would sneak into the room and release the lever that held the trapdoor shut. The bed frame was fastened securely to the trapdoor, so the poor customer would suddenly be rudely awakened by being tipped downwards into a vat of boiling water (some versions substitute water for boiling oil or fat) situated in the room directly below.
Once the boiling water had done it's work, Jarman would then strip the body of all valuables and dispose of it by throwing it into the River Colne. By selling the victim's horse to local gypsies there would be no remaining trace of the traveller and if any enquiries were made, he would deny all knowledge of the missing traveller ever having visited his Inn.
Nemesis caught up with the wicked Mr Jarman when he killed a well known merchant named Thomas Cole. After killing Cole, he disposed of the body as normal, but for some reason Cole's horse escaped and was found wandering nearby. The animal was recognised as belonging to the missing Thomas Cole. To make things worse for Jarman, Cole had been seen entering The Ostrich and the authorities were informed.
A search of the premises was made and Jarman's ghastly machinery of death was discovered, as were the remains of the unfortunate Mr Cole floating in the Colne. Some versions of the tale state that Colnbrook gained it's name because of the murder of Thomas Cole, i.e. "Cole-in-the-brook", but as I've already mentioned, the name Colnbrook pre-dates the demise of Mr Cole by several hundred years, so whilst it would be a wonderful tribute to his memory, unfortunately this isn't the case.
Jarman and his wife (who had been an active participant in the murders) met their ends on the gallows and the ghost of poor Thomas Cole is believed to haunt the upper storey of The Ostrich.
A Grim Almanac of Old Berkshire
The murders at the Ostrich Inn said to have been committed by Jarman, the evil landlord are featured in A Grim Almanac of Old Berkshire, along with a photograph of the model of the "murder bed" (the model can still be seen in a display case in the bar area of The Ostrich) .
Presented as an almanac (a day to day listing) of horrible historical happenings from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries, as well as the legend of the Ostrich Inn, the book covers lots of other ghastly, grisly and gruesomely grim crimes which happened in the county of Berkshire!
The Ghosts Of The Ostrich Inn
The Ostrich Inn is said to be haunted by several ghosts and has been featured on TV programmes which investigate the paranormal.
The spectre of Thomas Cole is apparently not the only resident ghost at The Ostrich!
Mark Bourne who worked at The Ostrich said:
"Strange noises, ghostly figures and objects moving by themselves are all in a days work if you are employed at the Ostrich Inn".
According to GhostStory.co.uk:
"A woman in Victorian dress has been seen, and other shadow figures have been seen in the upstairs corridors. Noises have been heard and staff have opened locked rooms to find lights and electrical equipment switched on. There have been reports of feelings of despair and cold spots in the downstairs ladies toilet. This used to be the pantry, and the spot were Jarman would have stored the bodies of the victims he murdered."
Spooky...is it true? I don't know. I've visited The Ostrich many times and have never encountered any phantoms...but who's to say I won't in the future!
Several paranormal investigations have taken place at The Ostrich and the inn was featured on the TV show Most Haunted in 2002 (Season 1, Episode 6).
Video: TV Series "Most Haunted" - The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook
Dick Turpin And The Ostrich Inn
The notorious highwayman Dick Turpin had associations with the Ostrich Inn.
Colnbrook is associated with numerous highwaymen who frequented the area due to the rich pickings to be gained from robbing travellers on the route between London and Bath.
The famous (or should that be "infamous") highwayman Dick Turpin is known to have associations with the Ostrich Inn and is believed to have hidden out there. Local tales tell of Turpin shooting the keeper of the local toll house which was situated close to the inn, presumably in order to steal the substantial sums of money collected from travellers who had to pay a toll to pass through the area.
Legends tell of Turpin escaping from retribution either by the simple means of jumping out of a window, or fleeing via a rumoured secret tunnel under the Inn
The Ostrich Inn Today
Good food and drink in comfortable modern surroundings are the keynotes of the Ostrich Inn today...but the ghosts and the legends haven't been forgotten!
The interior of The Ostrich was refurbished in 2006 retaining all the best features of this very historic building!
Foodwise, a wide variety of dishes are on the menu and the aim is to cater for a range of tastes and budgets. The bill of fare includes light snacks and meals including sandwiches and salads, alongside much loved traditional "pub classics" such as pies, fish and chips, sausage and mash, steaks and burgers, as well as a mouth watering selection of "Chef's Favourites" and desserts.
For thirsty customers The Ostrich has a wide range of draught lagers, ciders, cask and seasonal ales, along with a selection of bottled beers and a small, but thoughtfully chosen wine list.
Click here to see more details of The Ostrich's Menus.
Video showing interior shots of The Ostrich Inn
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© 2009 LouiseKirkpatrick