As Blues venues go the Retreat in Bocking, Essex, is a well kept secret, but one that’s slowly leaking out. The pub looks the typical eighteenth century Inn with exposed beams, horse brasses and roaring fires. It serves good ale, great food, Traditional British Food, and excellent Sunday Lunches either in the bar or in the recently opened Retreat Garden Restaurant, in short not much to get the blues about.
However a quick glance at the walls shows that instead of the expected prints of hunting scenes there are gold discs, signed photos of music legends and a selection of backstage passes that give pretty good clues to the fact that this is a serious music venue.
The retreat staging regular music events, has attracted such acts as:
As well as talented UK bands, they all come back attracted by an intimate atmosphere which is a change from their normal larger venues.
- THE YARDBIRDS
- CONNIE LUSH AND BLUES SHOUTER
- THE HAMSTERS
- JACK BRUCE
The appreciative audience has to number eighty or under. Gregg Wright over from L.A. awed his audience with his fender playing, staying afterward to enthral a small crowd with tales of life on the road.
A house band looks a probability.
If you like good music, this is a warm and friendly venue. If you like good beer and good company so much the better.
The newly emergent political correctness pub put paid to this inn’s ancient title in 1984, before that date it had been the BLACK BOY or, as it was colloquially known, the DIRTY INFANT. In my youth the sign showed a fine negro lad but in 1976, somewhat as a halfway measure this changed to a portrait of King Charles II whose reputation earned him the sobriquet Black Boy – not to mention that he kept a young coloured servant.
The building was originally six cottages, three remain, the others were demolished to make way for the car park in 1960. The inn was open in 1745, the front altered in the 1920’s and closed around 1981 before re-opening as the Retreat in 1984. Beard & Bright had it in 1879 followed by Ind Coope from 1902 until closure, it is now a freehouse whose name simply signifies a safe and homely place.
A detached building behind the pub has an interesting history. It is semi-basement nature and today acts as the pub’s cellar. From 1786 to 1819 it was used by the freemasons as a meeting place, temporarily vacated by them in 1789 in favour of the Bull while the upper floor was installed. During the Second Word War Dean Rogers, the much loved Dean of Bocking, an academic who nevertheless knew everybody in his parish irrespective of creed, would be seen after the 11 o’clock service entering the Black Boy with a jug to collect his Sunday lunch accompaniment!