THE BCH ARCHIVE

LOCAL HISTORY FOR

BIRTSMORTON

CASTLEMORTON

HOLLYBUSH

And The Surrounding District

Public Houses

The Vaults : Hollybush

On the A438, just by the old Hollybush Quarry entrance, is a dwelling called Vault House. Opposite is a partner dwelling Berrow House.

In the 19th century this formed part of the turnpike from Tewkesbury to Ledbury. It was a tavern / cider house resting place. A gate crossed the road with the gatekeeper living in Berrow House.

The Vaults, served both the Hollybush villagers and surrounding area but it’s primary trade was to refresh the drovers carting and hauling goods up and down the hill. Hollybush Hill has always been a significant pass and route across the hills.

In  basement there still retains a brick tunnel-like structure going back 30 yards into the hill. These are the Vaults  after which it was named. There is still the original well which supplied water to the tavern and to the nearby Manor House and cottages.

Beer, cider, game and perishable goods stored in the Vaults , ice collected in the winter used to keep the store cold. Cider was brewed in the shed at Old Post office where there was a cider press and storage.

The vault, is entered through the smaller cellar on the ground floor with a door to road as well as having access to the house via steps down from the inside to the kitchen.

From records dating back to the 1820s, the tavern accommodated about 10 people, some living in the attic. Travellers may have hitched their horses at the timber yard across the road. Hilda Howells remembers the rough cast road with chickens running freely across the yard. Draft horses would have been hired either from the Duke of York / Rye Cross Farm or on the other side The Somers Arms.

As part of the turnpike improvements a water trough was installed nearby. (now missing) taking advantage of the spring that emerged by the Quarry.

The Tithe Maps indicate that in 1837 it was owned by John Somers (Eastnor Castle), Occupied by a Mr Davies 1837 -1841.

The 1851 Census records record The Vault House as (Hollybush Turnpike) With Richard Taylor (61) and his Wife Mary (50) as Toll collector. Richard was a pensioner from the 16th Light Dragoons.

In 1871 It was occupied by Emily Cocks Widow (53) the Toll Collector.

The Turnpike only lasted for a few decades (citation needed?)

By the 1901 Census the Vaults was occupied by The Howells family, this was to continue as generations of Howells lived at the Vaults till it was redeveloped and sold in the 1980s.


1901 census records William Howells (83),retired foreman of the Stone Quarry, his wife Emily (71) a Baker?.

Williams daughter Elizabeth Howells (29)

His son John S Howells (35), (29) the manager of the stone quarry, also a farmer and a dealer, His Wife Minnie (25), John’s children Muriel (2) Emily (14).

Williams grandson also lived there James (22), he was a shepherd.

The property eventually passed on to his great, great grandson,William Howells, he married Hilda (Dalley) in 1957. William (Billy) was as a the explosive expert blasting at the Quarry.

William (Billy), born in The Vaults lived there all his life. He was significant part of Hollybush cultural life, the life and soul of any party with his accordion and a wicked sense of humour.  Billy was a member of the BALDWIN BAND.

Bill and Hilda  brought up their son Shane at the Vaults,  he still lives at Eastnor and has business in Ledbury.

Many might still remember the painted tyre, tied on to the front fence. Painted as a fender for HMS Opportune. This was Billy’s ship when he was in the Navy. Every year Father Christmas could be seen peeping out of the top window. Sometimes accomanied by an inflatable naked lady. The small front room was painted as the prow of HMS Opportune a mural painted by Bill and his friend.

Hollybush Quarry closed in 1976/7. The property was damp and deemed unfit, Bill and Hilda eventually moved to Colwall. The Vaults was put up for auction by the Eastnor Estate  Co in 2002.

Bought by a local builder, he gutted the building,  carried out a significant- renovation programme yet retained many of the original features such as oak beams, inglenook fireplaces and timbered walls. The main room on the ground floor is intact and complete, the new lined walls prevent the damp penetrating.


The present owners, Dan and Tracey Marsh, bought Vault House, they have unearthed several old glass bottles and flagons in the garden. The well worn steps from the old kitchen to the vaults have now been skimmed and straightened. Water still flows through the vaults and there are still bats clinging to the ceiling.