500-year-old north Essex pub undergoes major refurbishment

The Marlborough Head Inn in Dedham, Essex. Inset, owner Tom West.

The Marlborough Head Inn in Dedham, Essex, has been refurbished. Inset, owner Tom West. - Credit: Jolly Good Pubs

A 500-year-old north Essex pub where "the ceilings were falling down" has been given some much needed refurbishment. 

The Marlborough Head, in Dedham, was in dire need of attention when it was acquired by new owners Tom West and Josie Merrick in December 2017. 

While the pub was closed during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, the pair set about refurbishing the pub's guest rooms and the kitchen.

“The rooms upstairs were our initial priority as they hadn’t been touched for years,” Mr West said.  

“The ceilings were falling down, and the carpets hadn’t been replaced in 30 or 40 years.

“We started with three rooms, and we now have five – but in terms of major work, we only moved one wall.

“What we needed help with up there was drainage issues, working out how we could replace macerator toilets with proper ones, and creating an en-suite for each room, as well as improving sound insulation and fire-proofing.

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“We now have five beautiful king-sized double bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, and we are delighted with the results.”

One of the newly-renovated bedrooms at the Marlborough Head Inn, in Dedham, Essex

One of the newly-renovated bedrooms at the Marlborough Head Inn - Credit: Jolly Good Pubs

More work, including refurbishing the pub's welcome area, is set to take place in the next two years.

Mr West said: “We have designed the Marlborough Head to have all the things a good pub should – seating areas that feel part of the action, intimate spaces for private conversations.

“It’s important to us to reuse or find old materials to work with, as that has a big effect on the character of a space.

“The layout needs to work, and to flow in a way that makes sense for our team who work there, and for our customers to enjoy."

One of the newly-renovated bathrooms at the Marlborough Head Inn, in Dedham, Essex

One of the newly-renovated bathrooms at the Marlborough Head Inn - Credit: Jolly Good Pubs

However, working on such an old pub has its difficulties. 

Mr West said: “Being a Grade II* listed building meant we needed the team’s knowledge to help us go through all the regulations, to explore what materials we could, or couldn’t use."

Stephen Jeffrey, who worked on the project with NJ Architects, said refurbishing buildings such as the Marlborough Head presented unique challenges balancing listed buildings regulations and the demands of a modern hospitality space.

He said: “The works were designed to preserve the building’s special character and appearance and provide considerable improvement and enhancement to other more modern parts of the building that were vacant or underused.”

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