Oldest pub in England…?
According to a timeline featured on the Isle of Wight History website, the first White Horse Inn was built in 1454, making it the oldest pub on the Isle of Wight and one of the very oldest in the country. In fact, many pubs that claim to be the oldest pub in England have slightly dubious histories and did not start out as public houses, so are often not able to back-up the claim. However, Island local history is quite clear; the White Horse was recorded as a pub in the mid-15th Century and has remained so to this day.
Even the White Horse name itself is ancient and one of the earliest that was given to public houses. According to the History of Whitbread Pub Signs: ‘the white horse was a fertility cult of the Belgae, a tribe who occupied much of south east England between 50 BC and 50 AD’. The name also refers to the standard of the Saxons that was also adopted by the kings of Wessex.
Beautiful beer garden
The pub is an independently-owned freehouse that sits in the heart of the village and for many years had a distinctive thatched roof like many other older buildings in Whitwell. However, after an unfortunate spate of fires it was eventually changed for a slate roof in the 1990s. You can still see photographs of these fires framed in the main bar area. In fact, the pub has some fascinating vintage photos from around Whitwell to enjoy. They illustrate the village in bygone days, although many of the views have not really changed that much at all.
There is a beautiful and very well kept beer garden with plenty of seating and shady parasols for sunny days. Younger visitors will enjoy the children’s play area. The large car park means that there is never a problem dropping-by for a meal or a drink and it’s also a popular pit stop for walkers and cyclists. Booking a table is always recommended to avoid disappointment.
White Horse, The Kicker or just ‘dane chute’…
The White Horse is often locally called the Kicker and older villagers might just refer to it as ‘dane chute’. There’s more charming nostalgia about the pub in an article written for Wight Life magazine in the 1970s by AWR Caws, here’s an extract:
It would seem to have started life as an alehouse, the beer being brewed in a small room at the rear of the premises, now part of the public bar. At that time it was called, no one (knows why, ‘Chiddles Cottage’. It can, according to the landlord, claim to be the oldest pub still in existence on the Island and had connections with King Charles 1 who whilst imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle had officers hidden in various parts of the Island. Two of these gentlemen were, it is believed, living secretly at this inn while ways and means were sought to effect the King’s escape.