The Bear is one of the grand coaching inns of England, with a long and rich history.
It is thought to have developed a lodging house for the adjacent medieval Priory of St John (see War Memorial) which was founded by 1232. There is documentary proof of its use as a Hospice in 1464.
The Bear was part of the manor of Chilton Foliat and Littlecote, and was owned by five of Henry VIII’s six wives.
King Charles I stayed at The Bear in 1644 during the Civil War and Samuel Pepys stayed in 1668 whilst on a journey from Abingdon to Salisbury. He wrote: ‘So come to Hungerford, where very good troutes, eels, and cray-fish. Dinner; a mean town. At dinner there 12s.’.
In 1688 a very important part of English history took place in Hungerford. King James II, a covert Catholic who had ascended the throne in 1685 was increasingly unpopular and by 1688 there were moves afoot to remove him from the throne. In November that year, the Protestant Prince William of Orange, who had married James’ own daughter Mary, landed at the head of a strong army at Brixham, Devon, and then headed for London to claim the throne of England.
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A casual glance at this wonderful brick frontage suggests that the house is Georgian. However, look more carefully and you will see that it has four bays on the second floor, five bays on the first floor and six bays on the ground floor. The re-fronting was added to an ancient timber-frame house, probably in 1710.
The Croft Hall opened in 1900. The site was originally part of the land used for the Free Grammar School, founded in 1635, which closed in 1884. In 1898 the school building was sold to Sir William Pearce of Chilton Lodge and soon demolished.
The Parish Church of St. Lawrence was built in 1814-16 in Georgian Gothic style. It is adjacent to the Kennet and Avon canal, and the Bath stone for the church was the largest of the early contracts for the canal company after the canal had opened in 1810.
The Croft is a quiet green, lying away from the hustle and bustle of the High Street. It probably originated as the village green of the original vill of Hungerford, before the "new" medieval town was laid out slightly to the east sometime between 1180 and 1250.
This is Hungerford’s main War Memorial. It was built on the island in Bridge Street which had, since 1232, been the site of the ancient Priory of St John the Baptist. The Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII.
The plaque above the church door states that this church opened as a Congregational Church in 1840. The Nonconformist congregation, founded in Hungerford in 1671, moved to this site in 1793.