Stanstead Abbotts Local History Society


THE GRIFFIN INN, ROYDON ROAD

                                                                                                                            

The griffin (or gryphon) is a legendary creature with the forelegs, body and tail of a lion, the wings of an eagle and talons on its back legs. It is a mixed-up creature, unsure of what it is, but its image and the belief in its existence stretch back to Ancient Egypt. It was believed to be the most powerful and majestic of animals, the real king of animals and there was a belief that it guarded treasure and all valuable possessions. Much used in heraldry and school crests (three gryphons is the crest of Trinity College, Oxford) it  was also very popular for pub names in the late 18th century and although our local Griffin has long gone, many 18th century pubs of this name survive.

     Stuart Moye has drawn the location of the Griffin Inn on a map in his excellent report, Village Pubs, Past and Present, elsewhere on this website, although he admits the pub name  cannot be proved. There is a watercolour executed by Thomas Frederick Luppino (1748/9-1845), a Hertford theatrical scene-painter and artist, showing what appears to be the Griffin pub at the corner of Roydon Road, next to the Clock House or Grammar School as it was in the early 1800s. Although he sketched and painted many local buildings, this is the only one in Stanstead Abbotts and, as far as I know, represents the earliest known illustration existing of our village. Unfortunately the Red Lion and the Clock House are practically the same view today and the painting was done from Roydon Road, facing the Red Lion.  The picture I found in a book about the life of the artist, The Artist and the Organist, published by David Perman’s Rockingham Press (see online catalogue) for Ware and Hertford Local History Society. Unfortunately I cannot reproduce the image due to copyright restrictions.  There is no date on this particular picture, but the author, Derek Forbes, states that most of the local views were executed from about 1826 to 1834 when the artist was semi-retired and living back in Hertford.

     The public house in Roydon Road is opposite the Pied Bull, which dates from the late 17th century according to English Heritage. The mystery pub is next to the Clock House and is a tall building with what appears to be a painted pub sign protruding, high up on its walls. There is an image on the sign which is indistinct, but it could be an upright griffin. I have a record of another ‘lost’ pub near the entrance to the Corn Mill called The Swan, but this image is more like a griffin than a swan. I have had to use a torch and powerful magnifying glass on this project, and my eyes are very poor with cataract problems, so I cannot be certain, but Stuart seems to be satisfied and that is good enough for me.  The pub occupies the site later occupied by Mill House (S. Moye) and was probably built in the late 18th century as were many others of the same name. Cheers.