History & Information
Hodnet is a small, pleasant village situated between the towns of Market Drayton, Telford, Newport and Whitchurch. Formerly a market town mentioned in the Domesday Book as Odenett, the name derives from the ancient Welsh phrase for 'pleasant valley', hawdd meaning pleasant and nant meaning valley.
During the construction of the Hodnet by-pass in 2002 an early bronze age burial site was found close to Espley Farm with at least 17 cremation pits being identified, whilst it has been suggested that the mound on which St. Luke's Church is built may be the site of a pre-historic fort. There are 52 listed buildings in the parish of Hodnet. St Lukes Church and Hodnet Hall are considered exceptional architectural interest and are therefore considered Grade I. The rest are classified under Grade II, being of special interest.
The Bear at Hodnet is said to date back at least 500 years and is said to still contain the passages used to hide the monks as they came from the church. These tunnels, ending in what is now called
the bear pit, may also have been used to transport ale underground in order to avoid tax levied on ale transported over land. Todays modern bear pit was created by an enterprising publican in the 1970's and contained two young bears until common sense allowed their release. It is believed, however, that during the 16th century the Inn may have had its own bear pit in what is now the car park. The owner allegedly kept the bears in a pit below the bar. It is said that that regulars fed the bears food and drink and some of the bears are said to have died from alcohol poisoning. Apparently bears are infamous for their love of beer but cannot process it to quite the same effect as some of our regulars. The modern bear pit is now contained in an area known as 'Jaspers' named after the ghost of Jasper Neilsen, a Scandinavian merchant, who died of hypothermia in around 1590 after becoming intoxicated and having an argument with the landlord.
The church in Hodnet is the church of St Luke. It is the only church in Shropshire to have an octagonal tower. The window at the church has become famous with the story of the Holy Grail of King Arthur legends and brought to current public interest through the book and film "The Da Vinci Code". The sponsor of the window was Thomas Wright and from a story written by the ancestor of his wife, Robert Vernon- a knight of Hodnet, he created a modern day mystery of great interest.
Modern day historian 'Graham Philips', followed what he believed to be clues in the stain glass window of St Luke's church, to nearby Hawkstone Park, there he discovered a small stone vessel in one of the bases of a statue which was immediately taken to the British Museum. No matter what you believe it definitely makes an interesting read. Graham Philips Story.
Hodnet Hall still sits as the seat of the Heber-Percy family, whose ancestors can be traced directly back to the Baldwins via the families of the de Hodenets, Ludlow, Vernon, and Heber's to the current family of Heber-Percy. Hodnet is, therefore, one of only a handful of English estates which have passed in unbroken succession from the time of the Norman Conquest to the present day.
Worth the visit!
The new owners are welcoming and friendly and the place has a different feel about it! We visited three times over three days! On each occasion we were warmly welcomed! The meal we had was fantastic and of a quality that surprised considering the food presented years ago!
I sense great things for the Bear! It has awoken!- Michael F