INNS AROUND THE ISLAND
The Griffin, Godshill
Drawn and written by A W R Caws
IT IS PROBABLY safe to say that Godshill has more tea shops to the square yard than any other village in the country. Standing sentinel, like a great early twentieth century battleship, over this array of tea gardens, cafes and arty-crafty shops is 'The Griffin', a solid dignified grey stone edifice of considerable charm.
This inn was, according to my information, built about one hundred and seventy years ago for the Earl of Yarborough, being used by him as a rest house and as a place for changing horses on his journey through the Wight. In the early part of this century it was tenanted by a man named Creech who, in addition to running the inn, which was at that time provided with considerable stabling, loose boxes, cow stalls, styes etc, also farmed the nearby land on quite a big scale.
The premises were taken over in 1914 by Matthew Buckle, a Yorkshireman, who had married a local girl, and it is to his daugher Mrs H Paul who was born at 'The Griffin' and now lives in Ryde, that I am indebted for a lot of the material in this article.
Mr Buckle ran the inn until 1945 and during this period it achieved such a reputation for serving good food, prepared by Mrs Buckle, that it was regularly visited by many well-known people of the day, including the then King of Spain. Sir Thomas Lipton the celebrated tea merchant yachtsman used also, during Cowes week, to hold dinner parties there.
Throughout the whole of this time there was no gas or electricity on the premises, the cooking being done on a coal range and the lighting provided by oil lamps, one of which was lit and hung every evening over the front entrance.
Above the door is a crest carved in stone and there are similar ones on the local school house and on the Freemantle gates arch which separates the parks of Appulclurcombe and Godshill. I have been told that this is the crest of the Worsly family who had associations with this part of the Island. There is some difference of opinion about the creature represented in the crest; some believe that it is a griffin and others that it is a wyvern.
In heraldry the griffin has the body, tail and hind legs of a lion and head, neck, breast, forelegs and wings of an eagle, whilst the wyvern is a two legged dragon with serpentine forked tail. The latter seems to me to be much the more accurate description of the creature depicted in the carving.
The bars, of which there are two, are decorated with many of the articles one expects to find in a country inn including brasses, pistols, horns and saddle bar stools.
There are on the walls numerous photos of the village cricket teams including one of a ladies eleven. A collection of china chamber pots embellish a window ledge in the public bar. Darts appear to be very popular at this inn; on each of my visits games have been in progress with both men and women participating.
The present landlord, Melvin Reed, previously a publican in London, has been running the 'Griffin' since May 1972.