Bury St Edmunds historian Martyn Taylor ‘visits’ the town’s long-closed Elephant & Castle pub – known as the ‘Trunk’
To many Bury people this hostelry will always be remembered with fondness as the ‘Trunk’.
Joe and Ellen Bruton were the publicans here from 1901. After her husband died in 1940, Ellen continued as landlady until 1963, her longevity making her Greene King’s and possibly the country’s oldest serving licensee. This matriarchal figure was well into her nineties when she passed away.
Some of the pub’s patrons were great characters, such as Les Freeman, the town’s last rag & bone man, Jimmy Dodd and ‘Ebbler’ Green.
A recollection told-to me was of its regulars gathered around the public bar’s open fire on a cold winter’s day, logs put on the fire end-on, occasionally getting a kick from a boot as they burnt down. These not-so-young regulars filled out betting slips for the Harold Beeson betting shop over the road (previously ‘Darkie Doubles’) on Hellfire Corner, their wagers getting more obscure as they slowly but surely got well-oiled. Not that they were any trouble - if there was, it was their singing!
On one particular cold day, ‘Ebbler’ was sent over to the shop to put the bets on and he accidentally leaned against a one-bar electric fire that sat on a bench. His greasy overcoat unfortunately caught alight and he had to be thrown bodily out of the door and stamped on to put the fire out. His return to the Trunk in his charred coat was met by hoots of derision!
A memory of Roger Bruton, Ellen’s grandson, came from when he was about 16 and he used to open up the Trunk’s back door early so some of the regulars could get a bottle of beer which they drank in the cart lodge. They worked at places like Boby’s, the brewery and the hand laundry; obviously some had to have a drink to get them going!
Roger said: “Father used to go up to the market a few weeks before Christmas to buy turkeys and some geese to fatten them up for the table. They were kept in our yard at the back. The trouble was they wouldn’t let anyone into the yard with all their hissing and that!
“Father had a pet tortoise called Billy; it was an ancient creature with his name painted on its shell. If it wandered up St Andrew’s Street somebody would always bring it back as it never got very far. One winter it was very mild in February and Billy woke up from hibernation, the trouble was a cold snap soon followed and the poor old thing must have frozen to death. Father was very upset about it.”
As was common with many pubs in the town, so-called modernisation took place at the Trunk and the Jug & Bottle (off-sales) was lost forever. Due to austerity cuts the Elephant & Castle closed in 2012, a complete re-configuration of its interior led to the opening of Meredith Greengrass Funeral Services here. The ‘Trunks’ Royal Doulton Greene King Plaque now gone, a filled-in scar in the brickwork a mere trace of where it once was.
-- Martyn Taylor will be signing copies of his latest books, Bury St Edmunds Through Time Revisited, Going Underground Bury St Edmunds and Abbey 1000 at 11am on Saturday, November 4, at the Cathedral Tourist Information Point, and at 11am on Saturday, November 25 at Waterstones, Buttermarket, Bury St Edmunds.