The Hatton Arms is believed to be the second oldest pub in Northamptonshire. The building would originally have been one of the first dwellings reached on the outskirts of the village on the original road from Rockingham to Gretton and would probably have acted as a gatehouse to nearby Kirby Hall. The oldest part of the building is thought to date back to the early 14th Century. A beam in the bar room bears the three crowns mark and is reputed to date from 1100. During the Second World War airmen from nearby bases would leave a coin in the cracks of the beams over the bar before flying off on a mission, sadly most of these coins were removed during re-decorations in the 1980’s but a few were missed and have been relocated.
There is also a story about the beam which lies over the inglenook in the bar. A previous landlord is understood to have broken his neck on it one night when standing up too quickly to tend the fire, possibly after drinking too much of the local brew!
The building was extended in the 15th Century, to include what is now the lounge bar. In the 18th Century a further extension was built to the rear. The pub has been extensively re-furbished in 2004, including building a new entrance way, toilet block and The Hatton restaurant to the rear.
The pub may have been the first in England to have a black landlord. Back in the 1600’s James Chappel was a Negro servant to Elizabeth I’s Lord Chamberlain, Sir Christopher Hatton, of nearby Kirby Hall ( also lord of the manor of Gretton). Chappel is known to have rescued his master’s family from an explosion whilst they were staying in Guernsey. As a show of gratitude Sir Christopher granted James a healthy pension and reputably made him landlord of the Hatton Arms, then known as The Lord’s Arms.
For many years The Hatton Arms provided the venue for the Manor Court, which dealt mainly with minor offences, property and rent issues within the parish boundaries. The court met and dealt with matters on a regular basis in an upstairs room at the inn, last meeting in the 1920’s. There is still a local ‘Felons Society’ made up of descendents of the original members of the court, local business men and landowners. This group still hosts an annual dinner at the pub.
The function room at the pub is still known as the Old Band Room, this is after the Gretton Silver Band who used it from the 1800’s up to the 1950’s for band practice.
There are some interesting old photos at the pub, including one of the Hatton Arms Sick club – from the early 1900’s - before the welfare state, when men would pay into a club or fund to help them through times of ill health.