History of Christchurch

Recording the history of the village of Christchurch (originally Brimstone Hill) in Cambridgeshire


The Dun Cow is currently the only surviving pub out of the four that once operated in the village. It is known to have been in place since 1776, originally as the Surveyor’s Arms.

“Lying at the heart of Christchurch, The Dun Cow has acted as a focus for much of village life. First recorded in May 1776, the Dun Cow used to lie on the main road between Tip’s End and Welney. Previously known as the Surveyors Arms (presumably after the Surveyors of the Fens), the Tenants can be traced back continuously to 1871 (when the rent was £12 and the Pub was valued at £506) when the current owners (Elgoods) acquired the property.”

From the Christchurch Village Appraisal report of 1999

As a major focal point of any local community, the local pubs provide not only a source of refreshments and rest from the busy working day: they provide a service foe social gatherings, meetings with friends or family. At your “local”, you can often offload your troubles to a friendly face behind the bar who in most cases will not pass judgment or condemn, but will fall back on the many skills they have to just listen or when required offer their opinion or referee in the most heated of debates.

It is known that the previous name of the pub was the “Surveyors Arms”, although there seems no official record of this at the moment. The first official record is dated 13th May 1766 and described (in difficult to distinguish old English) the property as “All those two roads of land(more or less) with a cottage thereon being parcel of the waste of the said manor and situate in Upwell next the cottage of Adam Dols”. A further extract from the title of one Thomas Tombleson read” being admitted tenant to the same accordingly” where the rent payable amounted to 6d.

Although there is no mention of the “use” of the building at this time, it suggests that it could have been a public house of some description, bearing in mind its previous name. Certainly the name Surveyors Arms would suggest a link to the draining of the local area or other major engineering operation.

On 2nd August 1816 the title was passed to Thomas Tombleson Berry the grandson of Thomas Tombleson. Over the next 40 years or so, it changed ownership a number of occasions; on 12th April 1828 it was sold to Benjamin Ward(Brewer of Upwell)and admitted tenant for the price of £800. On the 20th October 1829 it was sold to William Ollard (Surgeon of Upwell) for £600 and then on 16th July 18?? It was sold to Henry Ollard for £320, who became the admitted tenant on 24th November 1837.

At this point, the first referral to the property in name is made. ”To the said premises by the description of all those two raods of land more or less, with a cottage thereon known by the name or sign of the Dun Cow (late the Surveyors Arms) being parcel of waste of the said manor situate in Upwell in the isle of Ely next the cottage thereof Adam Dols , but then of Samuel Berry and holder of the said manor by the yearly rent of 6d.

It was after this point that ownership of the pub passed to Wisbech. On 20th may 1859 title passed to John Phillips of the North Brink Brewery, who in turn was brought by the present company Elgoods in 1878. At this time the tenant was believed to be Roger Lavender, and whilst it is unclear who held the tenancy between 1859 and 1871, it is believed he continued until 1891.

Notes by Dave Jelly (former licensee)

Elgoods Brewery in Wisbech took ownership in 1871. [1]

In 1976 the Fenland Aviation Preservation Society (FAPS) was formed by a group of aviation enthusiasts at the Dun Cow. [2]

Elgoods Licensees

1891-1898 William Mitchel
1898 – 1917 John Turner
1917 – 1932 Herbert Lavender
1832 – 1933 W.G.Bishop
1933 – 1936 J.W Rolfe
1936 – 1952 J.N Cowlan
1952 – 1959 T.H. Hoston
1959 – 1977 George Bingham
1977 – 1980 Graham Brooks
1980 – 1981 Michael English
1981 – 1982 Linda English
1982 – 1983Mel Harnwell
1983 – 1985J.Pratt
1985 – 1996Phillip Ward
1996 – 2006Dave & Sue Jelly
2006 – 2007Mandy Sydel & Duncan Adams
2007 – 2009Sharon Lillo
2009 – 2011Robert Robinson & Jane Moon
2011 – 2012 Gary Neilson
2012 – 2013Mark & Deborah Andrews
2013 – 2019Phil (Monty) Mountfield
2019 – 2022Paul & Sue Simpson
2022 –


  1. http://welney.org.uk/pubs/pubs-of-welney.htm#dun-cow
  2. https://www.fenlandaviationmuseum.org.uk/about-us
  3. https://freepages.rootsweb.com/~cawthorn/genealogy/Christchurch/Pubs.html