Refurbished to a very high standard in 2016, The Bulls Head is directly opposite the parish church of St Mary’s. The earliest known reference of the building was in 1438 when it may have been a church house, used for meetings, dining and use of the inn accommodation for visitors to the church.
English Heritage listed the building in 1968 and considered that it was early eighteenth century, albeit remodelled and extended to the rear. The first recorded landlord to hold a licence for the sale of ale was a Samuel Winter who retired 1748.
For pub historians the Bulls Head sign, hanging to the front of the pub, could be a reference to the arms of King Henry VIII (1558) and associated with the church opposite. It may also be associated with the livestock farming in the area.
The interior of the pub is constructed of granite block with latticed windows. The exterior is also granite with some slate facing and then painted in the familiar Cornish cream colours like many other buildings and houses in the area. There are oak beams and large stone fireplaces in the rear lounge area to complement the traditional atmosphere of the pub. There is also a large courtyard
to the rear of the building, accessed through an archway, which would have been used for limited stabling and goods carriers. In later times it was used to garage motor vehicle carriers and a courier service. The area is used today for a sitting out area and with a marquee erected for various functions.
There has been a succession of landlords over the years but in 1949 the licence was transferred to Sidney Ghey and his wife Vera. Following the death of Sidney, Vera remained as the landlady until her death albeit that she had moved into residential care at the age of 100 and the pub continued to be run by her business partner, Gerry Foster. Vera ran the Bull’s Head for 60 years and held the licence until the age of 103. Is this likely to be a record? She passed away in December 2012 and is buried in the garden of remembrance located in Callington cemetery in Liskeard road. There are memorials, on the wall by the fireplace at the rear of the bar, to Vera Ghey and Gerry Foster.
Vera was outstanding for her piano playing. Her fame was legendary in East Cornwall, as was her propensity for customised Jaguar cars and her love of regal colour of purple. Born in a Catford pub belonging to her parents it was inevitable that Vera should follow in the trade. Apart from her piano playing she was an accomplished singer and musician and she starred in the Vera Ghey Dance Band in hotels and halls before moving to Cornwall.
The Bulls Head remained in the family under the ownership of Kay Chandler and her husband Paul, until July 2018 when the current Landlord and Lady Tony and Carmen Bellini bought the pub.
The pub has recently undergone a major refurbishment to the bar and dining area, and there is a great selection of real ales as well as good quality pub grub and Sunday roasts. At weekends there is music and entertainment.
The improvements to the Bulls Head have not detracted from the character and traditional features for a pub that remains the centre of life in the Callington community.
The history of Callington.
Callington (Cornish derivation “Kelliwik”) is a rural town of some 4,700 people (census 2011). Mining for tin, copper, wolfram (tungsten), some silver, and other minerals was a major source of employment in the 19th century, (watch your TV for Poldark to get the flavour of the industry and the mining community). The economy now remains mainly on agriculture, farming, food production, and other local industries. Quarrying for aggregates also provides further employment. Many of the residents travel to Plymouth and other towns in the area for their work.
There were 8 public houses/inns recorded in Callington in 1911 but only two now remain. (I have traced the others and some were demolished or change of use) The Temperance Movement swept through the West Country in the nineteenth century. This had a profound effect on the way of life in the villages and towns of Cornwall and the number of public houses that were closed. The small market town of Callington was not excluded albeit that the miners were well known for their drinking!
It is of note that the population of Callington town in 1911 (with those 8 pubs) was some 1,700 and by today (now only 2 pubs) the population has increased to some 4,700 – an inverse position in relation to the pubs available.