advent calendar day 25

The Old King's Head

Kirton's Tudor coaching inn, The Old King's Head is a rare example of the Fenland Artisan Mannerist style, a building technique which reveals a unique history of the ebb and flow of Britain's people. The Old King's Head tells us about the forgotten importance of the road from London to Boston, once a hub for those who traded, travelled and warred by sea.

Kirton, now a small village was once a hectic town, the third largest settlement in the county. The history of the Old King's Head and its custodians reflect the cultural heritage of the local area, prosperous landlords, vigorous rivalries, between the church, barmen and even their own clientele!

Ritual magic at the Old King's Head?


Credit: Brian Hoggard

Tipped off by a previous resident, staff and consultants surveying the roof structure came across 3 broken bottles hanging from a beam. Covered in dust and cobwebs the hanging bottles make a spooky sight and thoughts turn to why they were put there and why they were broken. Could they be some form of ritual magic?

In August we invited Brian Hoggard to visit the Old King’s Head. Brian is an expert on Apotropaic (Greek for 'turns away evil') symbols and came to talk to staff about what symbols or items could be present and where we would be likely to find them.

During his visit, Brian explained that in the past people used to protect their buildings (and themselves) from evil spirits and witches using marks and protective items. Containers known as ‘witch bottles’ were thought to trap evil spells sent by witches and symbols were scratched into timbers around fireplaces, windows and doors to ward off bad spirits. Shoes and sometimes cats were put into voids and chimneys to protect buildings.

Due to the age of Old King’s Head, it is likely that we may find these on further investigation. A full survey will be carried out to investigate all the marks that look like they have been deliberately made around the building. A brief look by Brian found some lines and initials carved into the beam above the fireplace and he advised the best way of looking for symbols that can often be quite faint.

Since Brian’s visit we have learnt that the bottles were probably part of a game that coachmen used to play when the building was an inn. Passing the time when staying overnight, bottles were hung from beams and stones thrown at them. Points were given when a bottle was smashed and the person with the most points won. Although it is likely that the bottles are not part of any ritual magic, it is possible that we will find other items and marks as we explore the building further so watch this space!
If you’d like to make a donation in support of our campaign to save the old King’s Head then please visit our fundraising page.

So What's Next for the Old King's Head?

Now the Old King's Head, still standing proud, is vulnerable to irreparable damage. Through grants, we have so far raised enough to purchase and carry out two rounds of emergency works. But we need your help to make sure that the work we do is complete and this incredible building is restored to its rightful position at the heart of the village of Kirton. Your donations do not have to be huge, our aim is that through uniting many voices we can show that people care about seeing remarkable buildings being put to good use! Have your say: donate to our campaign.

To learn more about our work to save the Old King's Head, check out our blog.

To help us save the Old King's Head, choose your gift from below, follow the instructions and donate.



You just want to go ahead and donate! None of this gift nonsense for you! Donate whatever amount you want, because you just want to see the Old King's Head back on it's feet!

Saving the structure will cost over 2.1 million, so that's around £13 per brick. Your contribution is vital.



Look snazzy with this custom made tote bag with artwork created by our own designer Sue Unsworth.

The design on this bag was produced to match the inn's history of being on a bustling route. It reflects old railway posters, a sense of going somewhere. Our campaign to save the Old King's Head means that the journey of this fantastic historic building is not over yet!






Emma Knight, a talented jewellery designer was inspired by our project and has designed these two pieces especially for you.


Brooch £20


Up-and-Away Necklace £25






Thanks to your contribution we will be able to carry out extensive works not only on the structure of the Old King's Head, but also improve its outbuildings and accessibility. We are really grateful to everyone who agrees with us that this project is important and to thank you, your name will become a part of the Old King's Head.


In our courtyard our beautiful mural will celebrate your contribution to our campaign.

Through this donation you will be making a significant contribution to this campaign, breathing new life into the heart of this rural community.





Be among the first to spend a night in the exquisite and newly decorated Old King's Head. Your support is vital to our work to save this building. Thanks to your donation we will come one step closer to our goal.

We would like to thank you for your contribution by inviting you to our champagne ceremony and the opportunity to spend a night at the sublime Old King's Head B&B.