The Retreat

In 1738 “John Dent had encroached part of the Lord’s waste on Thorney Green by erecting here a blacksmith’s shop with a traverse adjoining thereto” It was agreed that this blacksmiths shop should remain, and that Dent pay 5 shillings a year. There remained a blacksmith’s here until at least 1839 when it appears on the tithe map. A successor to John Dent added a beerhouse, no doubt customers took refreshment here while waiting for their horse to be shod. The beerhouse became known as The Retreat. (NL). According to a note in the archives of Ena Carter in 1908 the ‘Retreat’ was still called the beerhouse.

Shown here is rethatching of the Retreat building

A memory told by a family member of Charles Rist who was  parish clerk in the 1830s says that Charles Rist lived in a cottage that became the ‘Old Retreat’, but he had a workshop next to a windmill that stood near Oak Farm, on the corner of the Green. 

The Retreat

The first account in newspapers found of the beerhouse by this name is in 1854 when Stevens & Co trading as the Stowmarket Brewery from their brewery in Station Road owned The Retreat. Stevens sold out to Phillips Brothers (still trading as the Stowmarket Brewery) in 1865 for £240, this included two tenements. Furthermore in 1874 the pub including a cottage was sold to the then landlord Edward Palmer for £530 (from 1867 Stow Union Rate Book: owner John Phillips, occupier Edward Palmer). In 1882 Edward Greene of Bury St Edmunds purchased the property, eventually merging to become Greene King in 1887.

After a succession of landlords the old Retreat closed it’s doors in February 1969. The newly purpose built Retreat opened on February 14th 1969, and Rowland and Marjorie James moved from the old Retreat building in to the new pub.

1960’s sketch of the new Retreat
photo of horse in a pub
1967 a horse was served a pint at the bar

According to the caption in October 1967  a pony, called Judy, was served a pint by pub land lady Marj James as an interesting story about newly introduced drink driving laws.

In October 1970 Ron and Marg James with their helper Dan Denny were joined by the Rev G Whitefield and the Rt Rev David Maddock (Bishop of Dunwich) for a harvest festival service in the pub. (newspaper report 30/10/1970).

Pub harvest services took place within the Retreat for several years. A further report of a service on 22/10/73 was also conducted by Rev Whitefield this time with Rev George Read ( retired rector of Barking) as preacher. Mr. James said in an interview that the idea had been suggesting by his gardening customers as ‘country people like celebrating but do not always want to go to church.

Retreat Landlords: (compiled by Neil Langridge, 2023)

The Old Retreat:

1854 – 1855 ; Henry (Harry) Raffe

1858 – 1862 : John Miller,  a fowl dealer

1862 – : Mrs Powell

1863 – 1866 :Robert Wilden

1869 – 1881: Edward Palmer, a fowl dealer

1881 – 1883 : Thomas Stebbings

1883 – 1888: Henry Soames

1888 to 1924: George Frederick Wilden was licensee, but also a poulterer.

1924 to 1966: Leigh Wilden was publican (A full licence was granted in 1960 )

1966 – 1969: Rowland A.G. James (Ron).

Leigh Wilden, Retreat publican from 1924 to 1966

New Retreat Landlords:

1969 -1983 : Rowland A.G. James – also worked at Suffolk lawnmowers.

1983-  Marjorie I P James

1984 – Michael W Hawkins.



Read some more detailed histories;

Submitted by SAW to Telstar summer 2020 : A History of The Retreat (August 2020),