Fordham, near Colchester, Essex


(as it once was)


The earliest mention of this pub seems to be in 1867, when Kelly's Directory lists Oliver Bull of 'The Three Horseshoes' - also as a blacksmith and miller. The earliest reference to an Oliver Bull is shown in the 1845 Kelly's, described as being a blacksmith. The 1871 census shows Oliver Bull, aged 53 as a blacksmith but, at the same address, his son Oliver, aged 20, described as a brewer. Mystery therefore presents itself as to which of the Olivers had the pub listed in 1867. Perhaps it was a joint effort, at a time when a living was hard to make and more than one occupation necessary to feed a large family. Oliver and Susannah had six children at least.


Map from 1897 showing 'The Shoes', the smithy next door, the church, Fordham Hall, and the few dwellings in the vicinity. Of course, there are many more houses nowadays.

The choice of name was typical. Whenever a pub takes the name of the Three Horseshoes, it is an indicator that a blacksmith or farrier was not far away. Why three shoes and not four? Because the horse would stand on three when he was being shod.

The West Bergholt brewers Daniells owned the pub by 1911, as it was then shown in the licensing records as an alehouse, meaning it had a full licence. It was probably originally only a humble beerhouse, ie. only allowed to sell beer, and no spirits, Daniells having the necessary reputation in the courts to be able to persuade the magistrates. The big breweries in the area gradually bought up the free houses, of which this was, probably, one in Oliver Bull's time. That way they could guarantee an outlet for their beer and freeze out the small brewers.

By the mid 1960s, the pub was expanded when the adjacent privately owned cottage was bought and converted by Trumans, who had, by then, acquired the Daniells brewery business. The pub had, until recently, its Trumans sign, although that company too, is no longer in business. Extensive work was done throughout the building, including the refurbishment of the fine inglenook fireplace that is such a welcoming sight on a cold night, when the landlord used to gets the log burning.

The experts tell us that the oldest part of the pub is where the lounge bar was is (straight ahead as you enter.) It dates from at least the 1520s there being evidence of contemporary diamond barred window. The original pub, at the north end of the present pub, is of the 17th century. Both of the original buildings were of timber framed construction, with thatched roofs. By the late 19th century, weatherboarding and brick was added, and the thatch replaced by a tiled roof, as we see today.

1845 Directory - no pub mentioned but Oliver Bull is shown as a Blacksmith

1855 Directory - Oliver Bull, Beer Retailer and Blacksmith

1861 Census - Oliver Bull, aged 43, Blacksmith and Susannah Bull, aged 42

1867 Directory - Oliver Bull, 3 Horseshoes and Blacksmith and Miller

1871 Census - Church End - Oliver Bull, head, married, aged 53, Blacksmith and Susannah Bull, wife, married, aged 52 and Oliver Bull, son, unmarried, aged 20, Brewer


Oliver and Susannah Bull's gravestone in the graveyard, next door to the pub.


A few landlords.


1878 Directory - Oliver Bull, 3 Horseshoes and Blacksmith

1886 Directory - George Collins, 3 Horseshoes PH, Brewer and Blacksmith

1891 William E Sparkes, a 43 year old Publican, his wife Miranda aged 35, son Edgar E. aged 6, daughter Clara E. aged 5 and son Evelyn C. aged 1. Like his father, and some of the previous publicans, William Ezra Sparkes was also a Blacksmith, and by the time of the 1901 census had reverted to that trade. Prior to the marriage to his wife Miranda in 1883 he had been a Blacksmith in Stoke-by-Clare. Miranda was the daughter of Josiah Mitson, the landlord of the "George Public House" in Stoke-by-Clare. (William was my great-grandfather, who died in 1920. Peter Sparkes, 2007.)

1902 Directory - George William Brinckley, 3 Horseshoes

Alehouse 1911 - 1922 Daniell (Horseshoes)

Alehouse 1923 - 1961 Daniell (Three Horseshoes)

2001 - Pete and Hazel McAteer

2005 - Trudi and Damian Tuckwell

2006 - Tina and Andrew Percival. Tina and Andrew gave up the pub in 2011 and the new tenants closed the pub and carry out extensive refurbishment.

The 'Shoes' in 2006


2011 - Tara and Jayne opened their doors to their thirsty and eager customers on 19th November 2011.



 A few years later, Tara and Jayne moved on, and the pub suffered mixed fortunes.



Anything that you can add to the history of the Three Horseshoes would be greatly received.

 Created January 2016.

Archived but re-instated 20th October 2023.


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