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About the White Horse Inn and it’s History

Nicki and the team welcome you to the White Horse Inn, the Oldest Pub on the Isle of Wight, and which is said to be be the oldest in England too!
White horse inn hanging baskets
Built in
1454

The Oldest Pub in England?

According to a timeline featured on the Isle of Wight History website, the first White Horse Inn was built in 1454, making it the oldest pub on the Isle of Wight and one of the very oldest in the country. In fact, many pubs that claim to be the oldest pub in England have slightly dubious histories and did not start out as public houses, so are often not able to back-up the claim. However, Island local history is quite clear; the White Horse was recorded as a pub in the mid-15th Century and has remained so to this day.

Even the White Horse name itself is ancient and one of the earliest that was given to public houses. According to the History of Whitbread Pub Signs: ‘the white horse was a fertility cult of the Belgae, a tribe who occupied much of south east England between 50 BC and 50 AD’. The name also refers to the standard of the Saxons that was also adopted by the kings of Wessex.

You can find out more about the History of Whitwell on the Whitwell History website.

Beautiful Beer Garden

The pub is an independently-owned freehouse that sits in the heart of the village and for many years had a distinctive thatched roof like many other older buildings in Whitwell. However, after a spate of fires it was eventually changed for a slate roof in the 1990s. You can still see photographs of these fires framed in the main bar area. In fact, the pub has some fascinating vintage photos from around Whitwell to enjoy. They illustrate the village in bygone days.

There is a beautiful and very well kept beer garden with plenty of seating and shady parasols for sunny days. Younger visitors will enjoy the children’s play area. The large car park means that there is never a problem dropping-by for a meal or a drink and it’s also a popular pit stop for walkers and cyclists. Booking a table is always recommended to avoid disappointment.

Even the White Horse name itself is ancient and one of the earliest that was given to public houses. According to the History of Whitbread Pub Signs: ‘the white horse was a fertility cult of the Belgae, a tribe who occupied much of south east England between 50 BC and 50 AD’. The name also refers to the standard of the Saxons that was also adopted by the kings of Wessex.

Unique Pub Sports

In a traditional pub, you’d expect to find a darts board and pool table and more unusually a rings board. Rings is only played in a few parts of England, but this includes a well supported Ventnor league. 

The game itself is quite recognisable, the aim is to score the highest number you can by throwing three rings on to the hooks on the board, the same idea as darts.  You also need to finish on an exact score and it’s a lot harder than it looks! 

Dog at Pool Table White Horse Inn

Whitwell or Whittle?

You might hear locals referring to Whitwell as ‘Whittle’ and its name is thought to have originally been corruption of ‘White Well’, where white is an old English word meaning pure or clean. The original white well was much venerated in days gone by and visited during medieval times on pilgrimages. The well is located to the south of the village and is ‘dressed’ every year in the summer. The need for fresh water also explains the presence of the distinctive red water hydrants that are dotted all around the village. These were installed with the assistance of a local philanthropist in the late 1800s. 

White Horse, The kicker or 'Dane Chute'

The White Horse is often locally called The Kicker and older villagers might just refer to it as ‘dane chute’. There’s more charming nostalgia about the pub in an article written for Wight Life magazine in the 1970s by AWR Caws, here’s an extract:

“It would seem to have started life as an alehouse, the beer being brewed in a small room at the rear of the premises, now part of the public bar. At that time it was called, no one (knows why, ‘Chiddles Cottage’. It can, according to the landlord, claim to be the oldest pub still in existence on the Island and had connections with King Charles 1 who whilst imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle had officers hidden in various parts of the Island. Two of these gentlemen were, it is believed, living secretly at this inn while ways and means were sought to effect the King’s escape.” 

Drawn and written by A W R Caws

Ask anyone in ‘Whittle’ the way to The Kicker’ and you will almost certainly, be directed to ‘The White Horse Inn’. It is by this name that the pub is affectionately known in the locality.

This unique inn is situated in the village of Whitwell right in the heart of rural Wight somewhere between Ventnor and Godshill. It has been standing here for a long, long time, in fact, if my information is correct, since 1460.

White Horse Inn - Drawn by C W R Caws

White Horse Inn – Drawn by C W R Caws

The Inn with its white stone walls and thatched roof presents a pleasing sight as one approaches it through the village. It was taken over by the brewery in 1702 and it has been run for the last five years by Mr and Mrs Geoff Pike.

During this time it has become a popular meeting place for a lot of local characters, musical evenings are frequently held with both local and outside talent performing, and the almost extinct game of ‘Rings’, which appears to be still popular in this district, has been played here during the winter months.

There are at present two bars both of which are quite small but Mr Pike tells me that the brewers are having to make some extensions in the near future and it is hoped that the present character of the place will not, as has happened with other Island pubs, be ruined in the process.

On entering the inn do not be surprised to be offered ‘A sninch of puff’ as snuff is on sale at the bar and seems quite popular with some of the regulars. You may also be entertained by mine host with numerous anecdotes some of which have led to his being known to some of his customers as ‘Geoff— how-this-is-true-Pike’.

White Horse Inn - Drawn by C W R Caws
White Horse Inn – Drawn by C W R Caws

Drawing of the White Horse bar, Whitwell
Under the present management ‘The Kicker’ has built up a reputation, unusual in village locals, for its stock of wines, many of which are sold by the glass. In addition appetising snacks prepared by Mrs Pike are available. Geoff is a staunch Isle of Wighter and believes that anyone describing himself as an Islander cannot be the authentic article but is most likely a half-naturalised ‘ovener’. He comes from a family of photographers and tells me his grandmother or perhaps it was his great-grandmother was one of the first women professional photographers in Hampshire.

He is a proficient operator of the camera and several examples of his work are on view in the bars. In addition to some good shots of the inn, there is one of a local character standing in the doorway of the pub with this curious caption — ‘His Majesty Maurice King of Whitwell, Emperor of Roud, Baron of Kingsgates, Chancellor of the Duchy of Stockbridge, Archduke of Nettlescombe’. As I mentioned earlier ‘The Kicker’ attracts a lot of characters and I look forward to spending some more entertaining evenings in their company soon.

Extract from the Wootton Bridge IOW website, written by A W R Caws

Polite Customer Notice

Everyone who attends the public house (White Horse Inn) is responsible for their own safety and well-being. We will not be held accountable for any incidents or accidents that may occur on the premises, whether it is internally or externally. We have a large car park but we cannot be held responsible for any loss or damages. The car park is privately owned by The White Horse Inn and is to be used by patrons, staff and those with prior consent by the landlady only. During events or any time of public interest, we may video livestream to social media, and/or take photographs and publish them online. Those choosing to use the bouncy castle or playground are under the parent’s supervision and we will not be held accountable for any injury. Please read safety notices before entering the play area. Dogs are welcome on a lead. Dogs are the responsibility of their owners and not the White Horse Inn. 

Festive Opening Hours

The White Horse Inn’s Festive Opening Hours 2023.

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BOXING DAY
12:00 until 15:00
Drinks only

27TH & 28TH DECEMBER
12:00 until close
Kitchen last orders 20:15

29TH & 30TH DECEMBER
09:00 until close
Kitchen last orders 20:45

NEW YEAR’S EVE
09:00 until 17:00
Kitchen last orders 15:00
Then our Ticketed New Year’s Eve Party
19:00 until close

NEW YEAR’S DAY
12:00 until 17:00
Drinks only

Then back to normal opening hours on the 2nd January.

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We wish you a verry Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the White Horse Inn team. We hope to see you all at some point over the festive period.