Signpost - Ellingham and Kirby Cane


Public houses


For more than 130 years there were three public housesin our villages: The White Horse and The Bird in Hand (now The Olive Tree restaurant) in Ellingham, and The Swan in Kirby Cane.

NOTE - Several historical records show The Locks as being in Ellingham. Quite understandable, because the lane that leads to it forms the boundary between Ellingham and Geldeston, so customers often stagger unknowingly across the borders! The Locks now falls in the parish of Geldeston so is not described further here. 

More pictures are available in the photograph archive.

19th century map overlaid on modern one, showing pubs

The 19th century map (above) has been overlaid with a current one to show the locations of public houses.

The Bird in Hand, Ellingham (now The Olive Tree)

The first record of the Bird in Hand was in 1758 when a carrier collected parcels on Tuesdays. There was no Post Office then: that didn't start until 1840.

There were no meeting rooms either until the late 19th century, so the local inns were the focal points of the community. Jo Gooderham's A chronology of Ellingham & Kirby Cane notes that on the 25th March 1805 "the surveyors staked out the allotments and held a meeting in the Bird in Hand".

very old photo of The Bird in Hand

The Bird in Hand (photograph courtesy of Joe Pye)

The land was more open than now (see map), with no housing estates (see map) so the pub played host to events and sports of various types on fields nearby, including a game called Camping (1810) - a type of football, sometimes quite rough - and other rustic sports.

Map showing Bird in Hand location

In 1833 there was a dispute in the pub between Laurence Girling and William Pitchers. It led to a fight, refereed by the landlord and Laurence's father. William won after four rounds with Laurence collapsing with pain in his stomache. He died soon after. William was trialled for manslaughter, fined one shilling and released.

Bird in Hand corner

The Bird in Hand used to be on the main road (A143), convenient for passing custom but difficult for traffic and pedestrians. District Council minutes of 1933 (then we came under Loddon and Clavering) record that Mr Crisp suggested that the word “slow” should be painted on the road at the Bird in Hand corner. The bypass built in 2002 improved safety considerably.

Photograph courtesy of Gloria Powley

A focal point for the villages, it entertained locals with darts teams, cribbage, whist drives and even had a tug-of-war team!


"Last orders!", was called for the final time in1999, but it was not over. Rafe and Gail relaunched it as the Olive Tree restaurant the same year, and it has continued to delight customers and thrive ever since.



1789 - 1794      James Laws

1858 - 1876      James Ward

1858 - 1876      William Brown

1877 - 1883      Mrs Mary Brown

1888 - 1892      John Calthorpe

1896 - 1914      James Pumfrey

1915 - 1948      Reginald Pumfrey

1949 - 1956      Thomas & Gladys Reynolds

1958 - 1978      Fred Powley

1978 - 1984      Mick & Daphne Harrison

1984                 John & Janet Smith

            1999     John & Carol Buck

1999 -               Rafe & Gail Giorgio (now The Olive Tree Restaurant)

The Olive tree restaurant

The Swan, Kirby Cane (closed)

First record 1750.

In 1866 William Ward and James Woods were found guilty of being riotous and disorderly. Ward was fined 10/- and Woods 5/-, plus 8/- costs each.
They were fined a further 5/-, with 13/- costs each, for assaulting the wife of landlord Benjamin Hinsley.

The Swan closed as a public house in 1962 and was demolished in 1988 to make way for the new bypass.

Map showing The Swan location
The Swan PH

The Swan (photograph courtesy of Gwennie Moore


           1750      Mrs Ayres

1750 - 1789?   John Charity

1789 - 1794      ?

1794 - 1836?    Robert Barnes

1836 - 1851      Edward Snowling

1854 - 1856      Charles Mitchell

1858 - 1861      Thomas Kemp

1861 - 1863      Thomas Pitcher

1863 - 1865      William Goodwin

1866 - 1869      Benjamin Hinsley

1871 - 1875      Edward Gibbs

1877 - 1885      Simon Manning

1888 - 1925      Jarvis Crickmore

1929 - 1933      Richard Maw

1937 - 1955      Alex (George) Wright (see photograph, right)

1956 - 1962      Mabel Aldous

Alex George Wright

The White Horse, Ellingham (closed)

First record 1836.

There used to be a wheelwrights next door.

The pub closed in 1969.

Map showing The White Horse location

The White Horse (photograph courtesy of Alma Harvey.


           1836      David Olly

           1841      Daniel Norman

1843 - 1865      James High

1867 - 1871      Edward Chaplin

           1875      Henry Wright

1877 - 1888      John Manthorpe

1890 - 1925      Harry Culley

1929 - 1937      William Boswell

           1962      Briggs

1969 Closed.