INNS AROUND THE ISLAND
Drawn and written by A W R Caws
The White Horse, Whitwell
ASK ANYONE in 'Whittle' the way to The Kicker' and you will almost certainly, be directed to 'The White Horse Inn'. It is by this name that the pub is affectionately known in the locality.
This unique inn is situated in the village of Whitwell right in the heart of rural Wight somewhere between Ventnor and Godshill. It has been standing here for a long, long time, in fact, if my information is correct, since 1460.
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.
The Inn with its white stone walls and thatched roof presents a pleasing sight as one approaches it through the village. It was taken over by the brewery in 1702 and it has been run for the last five years by Mr and Mrs Geoff Pike.
During this time it has become a popular meeting place for a lot of local characters, musical evenings are frequently held with both local and outside talent performing, and the almost extinct game of 'Rings', which appears to be still popular in this district, has been played here during the winter months.
There are at present two bars both of which are quite small but Mr Pike tells me that the brewers are having to make some extensions in the near future and it is hoped that the present character of the place will not, as has happened with other Island pubs, be ruined in the process.
On entering the inn do not be surprised to be offered 'A sninch of puff' as snuff is on sale at the bar and seems quite popular with some of the regulars. You may also be entertained by mine host with numerous anecdotes some of which have led to his being known to some of his customers as 'Geoff— how-this-is-true-Pike'.
Under the present management 'The Kicker' has built up a reputation, unusual in village locals, for its stock of wines, many of which are sold by the glass. In addition appetising snacks prepared by Mrs Pike are available. Geoff is a staunch Isle of Wighter and believes that anyone describing himself as an Islander cannot be the authentic article but is most likely a half-naturalised 'ovener'. He comes from a family of photographers and tells me his grandmother or perhaps it was his great-grandmother was one of the first women professional photographers in Hampshire.
He is a proficient operator of the camera and several examples of his work are on view in the bars. In addition to some good shots of the inn, there is one of a local character standing in the doorway of the pub with this curious caption — 'His Majesty Maurice King of Whitwell, Emperor of Roud, Baron of Kingsgates, Chancellor of the Duchy of Stockbridge, Archduke of Nettlescombe'. As I mentioned earlier 'The Kicker' attracts a lot of characters and I look forward to spending some more entertaining evenings in their company soon.