Sort file:- Maidstone, December, 2023.

Page Updated Maidstone:- Tuesday, 12 December, 2023.


Earliest 1538-


Latest 1867-

(Name to)

Gabriel's Hill / 14 (26) Week Street



Known as the "Bell" the name obviously changed to the "Ye Ancient Bell" at some time during its existence, due to its age. Further research tells me that this "Bell" on Gabriel's Hill closed some time at the beginning of the 18th century and the "Bell" at Week Street was renamed "Ye Ancient Bell."

This was situated at John Leland's (English local historian) visit in 1538 on Gabriel's Hill, and also exists in the song, "The Maidstone Landlords" in 1798. The premises apparently moved to 14 Week Street around 1711 where it was a Posting house.

The "Bell Tap" was situated next door.

The Post Office Directory of 1867 described this as a Commercial Hotel at 26 Week Street.


Kentish Gazette 2 December 1769.


A Pair of well-matched, handsome, brown docks Geldings, full of hard Meat, steady in their Paces, and make a genteel Appearance in their Harness.

Also a neat, substantial, well-built Carriage, serving either for Chariot or Post-chaise.

Together with a sound, strong, sightly, bay Gelding, fit for the Road, or for an Officer.

Enquire further of Mr. Kent, at the "Bell Inn," Maidstone.


Kentish Gazette, 10 May, 1780.

George Hopkins, "Bell Inn, Maidstone, Returns his most sincere thanks to his friends in general for their favours; and takes this method to acquaint the public, that he has Neat Genteel Post chaise at 9 pence per mile, with good horses and careful drivers.

A new Hearse and Morning Coaches to let.


From the Kentish Gazette, Friday 12 October 1798.

Bell Inn and Tavern, Maidstone.

John Friday, (late of the "Bell Inn," Sandwich), most respectively informs the Nobility, Gentry, &c, frequenting Maidstone, that he has taken the above house, and is determined to spare neither pains or expense to render it agreeable. Those who shall please to honour the house with their favours may be assured of a larder well stored with everything in season, and beds perfectly clean and well aired. Friday solicits a continuous of the favours of gentlemen travellers, and returns his sincere thanks to his friends while at sandwich.

N. B. Post Chaises, Coach, and Hearse.


Kentish Gazette 4 December 1801.

Lately on Thursday night, or early on Friday morning, the house of Mr. Friday at the "Bell Inn," in Maidstone, was feloniously entered, and considerable property stolen therefrom.


Kentish Gazette, 18 April, 1806.

JAMES HACKER returns grateful acknowledgments to his friends and the public for the liberal favours with which he has been honoured during his residence at the "King’s Head Inn," Canterbury, and begs to recommend a continuance of those favours to his successor, Mr. John Friday, who, from his long experience in the business of an innkeeper, he doubts not will give every satisfaction.

King's Head Inn and Tavern, Canterbury.

JOHN FRIDAY. Late of the "Bell Inn," Maidstone, having taken the above house, begs leave to inform the Nobility and Public frequenting Canterbury, that no pains shall be spared to render the late improvements which have been made in the house and premises as comfortable and convenient at possibly, and that every attention shall be paid in having good horses and chaises.

April 14, 1806.


Kentish Gazette, Friday 22 September 1815.


Dilnot Wildish begs leave to return his most grateful thanks to the Nobility, Gentry, and the Public in general, for the liberal support he has received at the above Inn, and embraces this opportunity to returning them that he has taken and will in a few days enter upon the "Kings Head Inn," Canterbury, and earnestly solicits a continuance of their recommended support, and assures them that no exertion on him shall be wanting to merit their favours. He further begs to inform them that he will be succeeded in the "Bell Inn," Maidstone, by his brother Valentine Wildish, of the "Red Lion Inn," Ospringe, whom he takes the liberty of recommending to their support, being assured that in his study to deserve their patronage and encouragement.

Maidstone, Sept, 1815.


Kentish Gazette, Friday 22 September 1815.


Valentine Wildish, successor to D. Wildish, respectfully informs the Nobility, gentry and Public, that he has removed from the "Red Lion," and taken and entered the "Bell Tavern," Maidstone, where he earnestly solicits their patronage and in which it will be his most anxious endeavour to deliver an unremitting and uniform attention to the continuous accommodation, and economy of those who honour with their favours.

Old wines of the best vintage.

The Posting will, as usual, be carried on with respectable care and the most able and active horses. A handsome chaise for the convenience of private families.


From the Kentish Gazette, 28 June 1842.


HAZING made arrangements to CONTINUE the occupation of the above INN, begs to inform his Friends and the Public in general, that his Apartments have been Fitted up in a superior style of accommodation; and, in returning his grateful thanks for the favours he has hitherto received, he begs respectfully to solicit future support.

Refreshments of every description of a superior quality.

Maidstone, June, 1843.


From the Kentish Gazette, 15 February 1848.


IS authorised by Mr. V. Wildish, the respected Proprietor of the "BELL INN," MAIDSTONE, who has for the last 44 years ably conducted this well known and well supported Establishment,


The Hotel has long and almost exclusively enjoyed the patronage of the County Noblemen. Sheriffs, and Magistrates attendant at the Sessions and Assizes, also of many clubs, public companies, and private societies; and a most extensive Tavern and Posting Business, as well as a good town trade, are attached to the Inn. The house is well arranged; it has seven sitting rooms and 19 bed rooms, all requisite offices, stabling and coach houses, yards and garden, all in good repair. A valuable Tap appertains.

The trade is entirely free. The age of the present Proprietor, and the recent decease of Mrs. Wildish, induce him to retire from the business.

The fullest particulars will be given on application to Mr. Tootell, land surveyor, Maidstone, of whom only cards to view the premises can be obtained.


From the South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 29 August, 1848.



Begs to return his sincere thanks to the Nobility, Clergy, and Gentry of Maidstone, and the county generally, for the favours conferred on him for the many years he has carried on the business of the above hotel, and to inform them he has relinquished the Hotel and Tavern department in favour of Mr. S. B. Swiffen, who he can with confidence recommend to their future patronage.

V.W. also begs to state that he still continues the Posting and Fly department, and solicits a continuance of those favours so liberally bestowed upon him, assuring them it will at all times be his study to supply them with good horses and neat carriages at reasonable charges.

Hearse and Mourning Coaches on terms of economy.

N.B. - Orders will be received at the Bar, or Mr. Wildish's residence, Mr. Hulburd's, Week Street. August 28th, 1848.


In succeeding Mr. Wildish in the Hotel business of the "Bell Inn," begs to assure those who may favour him with their support, that it shall be his constant endeavour to unite the best accommodation with the most assiduous attention to his guests; and he trusts to secure, by these means, a continuance of the patronage which this old-established house has so long retained.

S. B. Swinfen's Ale and Porter business is continued as usual, at his store, in Week Street.


Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser, Tuesday 28 August 1849.

Notice to creditors.

The creditors of Mr. Valentine Wildish, late of the "Bell Inn," Maidstone, who have not already sent in their accounts, are requested to send the particulars in their respective claims forthwith, to my office in Week Street, Maidstone, in order that they may participate in the payment of the dividend which the Trusties of Mr. Wildish's estate are about to make.

Week Street, Maidstone, Richard Hart, 20th August, 1819. Solicitor to the Trustees.


Kentish Gazette, 17 February 1852.


On Saturday afternoon week a protracted and somewhat serious investigation took place before F. F. Dally, Esq., borough coroner, at the "Bell Hotel," Week street, on the body of a new-born male child, found in a cess-pool connected with the house of a respectable tradesman in this town, situate in a yard at the back of High-street. Great interest was excited in the case; circumstances which we shall presently state forming a strong ground of suspicion against a young woman 21 years of age, named Mary Reader, servant at the house referred to, and the supposed mother of the unfortunate infant. A most respectable jury, of whom Mr. H. Jury was foreman, having been sworn, witnesses were examined, from whose evidence the following facts were elicited:-

The girl, who went to her place on the 26th ult., had formerly been a year in the service of Mrs. Holder, at Yalding, from whom she obtained a most excellent character. On the preceding Tuesday morning, at about eight o'clock, she went into her mistress's room, who, seeing that she looked pale, asked her if she was not well, to which she replied in the affirmative. Afterwards her mistress went into the young woman's room, and noticed something in the state of the bed clothes, but, not having any suspicion aroused, did not sufficiently examine them to form any opinion of its cause. After breakfast, Reader went up stairs to do her usual work, when her mistress went up into her bed-room, and gave her half a tumbler of gin and water to drink. She afterwards continued doing her work during the day. Between eight and nine o'clock she went to bed, having previously put her feet into hot water and taken some more gin and water which her mistress gave her, telling her that should she be ill during the night to call her. Next morning she got up, and during the day went on with her regular work, seeming only slightly poorly. She retired to bed that night about her usual time. On Thursday morning some further appearances induced her mistress to direct a charwoman, who had the day previously been at work for her, to make a search, and shortly afterwards, from information received from that person, she went to the cesspool with a candle, and there perceived, as she thought, the back part of a child. Information was given to Mr. Fancett, the superintendent, by whose orders about two hours afterwards inspector Fancett, with constable Richard Sunnucks, went and searched, and discovered the body of a child, together with an under garment and another piece of cloth now produced, all of which came up together. The body appeared to have slipped from the linen coverings in going or being thrown down the hole. On the article above-mentioned were the initial letters "M.R." The linen found in Reader's box had on it the same mark. The body, together with all that was found with it, was immediately taken to the station-house, where in the evening it was seen by Mr. Ottley, surgeon, who previously in the afternoon had examined Mary Header, and from what he then saw had come to the conclusion that she had recently been delivered of a child. On Friday he made a post mortem examination of the body at the station-house. He could not form any correct opinion of the length of time it had been born, but according to his belief it had been four or five days previously. From the appearance of the lungs, he expressed his opinion, deduced from the tests he had applied, and which he stated to the jury, that the child had breathed, but could not state whether during or after birth. He also stated that if the child had been born alive, it might have died soon after birth if proper attention had not been paid to it. He could not state positively whether the child was born dead or alive; the appearances which presented themselves in the body being such as would have been visible in either instance. It was possible the child might have been born in the closet accidentally, but not probable. The body was that of a full grown mature child. The coroner briefly summed up the case, leaving it for the jury to determine whether, in their opinion, the child had been born alive or was "still born." The room was then cleared for upwards of a quarter of an hour, during which time the jury were considering their verdict, which ultimately was stated by the foreman to be that the child was "still born."


Kentish Gazette, 16 March 1852.


Mary Render, 21, pleaded guilty to a charge of concealing the birth of her male child at Maidstone. We recently gave the particulars of this case.

Four months' hard labour.


Kentish Gazette, 23 March 1852.

Sheriff's Courts.

On Saturday, a court of inquiry was held at the "Bell Inn," before Thos. France, Esq., Deputy Sheriff, to ascertain if Messrs. Thomas and John Hollingworth, paper manufacturers, were indebted to the Crown for duties to the amount of 1850, and if there were sufficient property to meet it.

Evidence having been adduced, a verdict in accordance was returned for the Crown.


Southeastern Gazette, 6 September 1853.

Friday. (Before C. Ellis, Esq., in the chair, H. W. Joy, Esq., (Mayor), J. Whichcord, J. Mercer, W. Hills, A. Randall, H. Argles, and T. Hyde, Esqrs.)

This being the annual licensing day, the Bench were occupied some considerable time in renewing the licenses of the various public houses in the town, and hearing applications for fresh licenses.

In renewing the license of the "Bell Hotel," kept by Mr. S. B. Swinfen, the Chairman said complaints had been made to the magistrates of the manner in which the "Bell Tap" was conducted, that it was kept open to a very late and improper hour in the morning, to the annoyance of the inhabitants. They of course held him responsible for the proper management of the tap, and hoped if anything improper had occurred he would take measures to prevent a repetition of it.

Mr. Swinfen promised to inquire into the matter.


From the Maidstone Telegraph, Rochester and Chatham Gazette, 24 August 1861.

A Desperate Squabble.

William James v. Charles Epps.

The defendant was charged with having on the 15th inst. assorted the complainants and threatened to shoot him, to which he pleaded not guilty. The court was very much crowded.

The complainant (who is the occupier of the "Bell Inn," Week Street, Maidstone), said that on the evening of the 15th inst., my wife came to me, as I was sitting in another room, and said she had been most grossly insulted by my brother, and wished I will go and speak to him. I went out and found him at the bar in a state of intoxication. He made use of most vial and abusive language. He rushed at me and tried to strike me, and I put up my arm to ward off the blow, when he threw a glass at me and then a water bottle, which broke after injuring my head severely. I requested him to leave the house, but he continued to stop, and abuse me until a policeman was called into and removed him. Next morning, about 7 o'clock he again came to the house and said he would shoot the b------, before I should leave the place, and these threats were several times repeated, and his conduct was so bad that I was obliged to move my wife quietly from the house. It is very painful to me to come here and make this complaint, but since that day when I have met him he is shaking his fist at me. I was coming over the bridge the other day when he shook his fist in my face, and I was obliged to tell the policeman. I can say I am in fear of my life, and I wish my brother to be bound over to keep the peace.

By defendant:- I did not first swear at you and strike you.

Ellen Sales, chambermaid at the "Bell Inn," recollected the morning of the 16th inst., when she heard the defendant use threatening language towards his brother, for complainant. It was at about half past 7 o'clock. The defendant said the old b------ shall come out of his house for a while, or I'll give him something for himself. On the evening before the defendant said his brother was an old thief, and old rogue, and an old b------. He was at the bar on the previous evening, and said he would shoot Mrs. Epps if he had a pistol with him. She did not hear him threat to shoot Mrs. Epps more than once. She did not see him throw a bottle at complainant's head.

By defendant:- I did not see your brother strike you. I was not in the bar when Mrs. Epps insulted you. I heard you say you would shoot your brother's wife. I did not hear Mrs. Epps say it was your father and yourself or your brother that brought the complainant to ruin.

Elizabeth Nelson, barmaid at the "Bell," said she heard the defendant call complainant and rogue and a thief and use threatening language. A glass was thrown by defendant, and she afterwards saw a broken water bottle, she did not see it thrown. Defendant said complainant had taken his father from his living. She did not hear any threatening language.

Complainant:- Not that he would injure me?

Witness:- No. On the following morning I heard him say you should not come out of the house or he would do for you.

Witness to defendant:- I did not see him hit you, but I heard you say he had done so. Mrs. Epps seemed to object to your taking the sandwich without asking. You enquired what they were, and she told you to ask the barmaid, and afterwards she told him to leave the bar. I did not see your brother strike you.

Complainant:- What state was my brother in when he was at the bar?

Witness:- He was very much intoxicated.

This was complainants case, and the defendant in defence said, on the evening of the 15th I went round the town of Maidstone with a sergeant-major of the 8th Hussars, who had to pay for billets of the men who had come into the town that day.

We went to the "Bell" to have a parting glass of ale. We had not drunk at other places. They happened to be three sandwiches on a plate which I took, and for which I had intended to pay.

Mrs. Epps said "it's like you're impudence to take the sandwiches."

"Well, madam," I said, "I am going to pay for them. What are they?"

She replied, "I shan't tell you, ask the barmaid."

I asked the barmaid and paid for them. Mrs. Epps told me to go away for she would not be insulted by me.

I said, "but madam, it is you who have insulted me." She then said it was owing to myself and my other brother, that her husband was brought to a state of ruin.

I said, "no Madame, it is owing to your drunkenness and his pride and roguery that has brought him to ruin."

My brother came out and was in such as passion, he struck me on the nose. It made my nose bleed. I had some ale in a glass in my hand, and I threw it at him. I then took up the water bottle, and intended to throw it at him, but the neck of it broke into in two, and it did not hit him. I only told him he was a thief and a rogue, and so he is, gentleman, I was not drunk.

The defendant then called Thomas Paine (who was a little deaf).

He said he saw the row. The defendant took up the sandwiches from a plate, when Mrs. Epps said she hoped he would not make so free. The defendant said they were there for sale and he should pay for them. He asked the price and Mrs. Epps referred him to the barmaid, and the defendant paid her the money. Mrs. Epps again told the defendant she wished he would not make himself so free, and defending said it was not her house, she was merely there to take care of it. She said it was her house but for him and his family her husband would not have been ruined. After a few sharp words passed, the complainant came into the bar in such a fashion, I don't believe she knew what he said. He said "you b------ scoundrel you can't come here to insult my wife," and hit the defendant on the nose and it bled. Defending either had a glass in his hand, or he snatched one from the bar, and "pitched" it at complainant, but it did not hit him. Defendant then took up a water bottle, but it broke at the neck, and it did not hit him, the water might have touched him. Complainants struck defendant immediately he spoke, he was in a great range.

To defendant:- You said we had called and several places to take the billet money, but we did not have anything to drink. We had only two or three classes of ale together. I went with the Sergeant Major as one of my old friends. You were sober at the time.

John Carter, said, I saw the complainant strike the defendant. I was in the bar at the time. The defendant did not use any threatening language. I heard the complainant come out to the bar and say, you b------, what did you want to insult my wife for, and then struck the defendant. I did not hear any threats at all.

Mr. Case, the Magistrates' Clerk:- The threatening language is charged to have been made on the following morning.

The defendant:- The information states that on the 15th I assaulted and beat him and threatened to shoot him.

The Clerk:- That is so, but it is unimportant as to date of threats.

The Magistrates then consulted, and after a short time the Mayor said they had taken the evidence as it stood and had come to the conclusion with regard to the transactions of the evening that both parties were very much to blame; then came the question of threatening language. Defendant had the whole night to cool down, but looking at his conduct on the following morning, and in taking the evidence of the servants, who seemed to be respectable persons, he, labouring no doubt under some excitement, made use of very improper language, threatening his brother. The bench therefore thought it right that he should give sureties to keep the peace towards his brother for 6 months.

Defendant:- I did not break the peace. He struck me, and let him be bound over as well as me.

The Mayor:- You will be bound in your own recognizance of 20 and two sureties of 10 each, which were forthwith procured, and the part is left the court.


From the Maidstone Telegraph, Rochester and Chatham Gazette, 21 December 1861.

Bell Hotel, Week Street, Maidstone.

Edward Muruss, Proprietor.

Visitors to Maidstone will find every accommodation at the "Bell Hotel," with moderate charges.

Bed and breakfast, 2s. 6d.



WATSON John 1650+

KENT Mr 1769+

HOPKINS George 1780+

Last pub licensee had FRIDAY John 1798-Apr/1806 Next pub licensee had

WILDISH Dilnot 1811+

WILDISH Valentine 1824-Aug/48 (age 58 in 1841Census)

Last pub licensee had NYE Robert 1851+ (age 46 in 1851Census)

SWINFEN Spencer Bow 1853-55+

MURUSS Edward 1861+ Maidstone Telegraph

ISAAC John Shelton to May/1861 Maidstone Telegraph

EPPS William John May/1861+ Maidstone Telegraph

MARTIN Henry 1867+ Post Office Directory 1867

MARTIN Elizabeth 1871+ (age 36 in 1891Census)


Pigot's Directory 1828-29From the Pigot's Directory 1828-29

Pigot's Directory 1832-34From the Pigot's Directory 1832-33-34

Kentish GazetteKentish Gazette

Maidstone TelegraphMaidstone Telegraph


Post Office Directory 1867From the Post Office Directory 1867


If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-