From the outside, the 12th century Rose & Crown pub in the East Sussex village of Fletching looks traditional, ancient and quaint.

But inside it is anything but traditional.

Glowing with jewel-bright colour, the bar’s dark blue walls are offset by touches of deep pink while the flickering flames of an open fire are reflected in the polished wood.

Set into the beamed ceiling are a pair of pear-shaped metal and glass lights, designed to evoke an earlier era in its long history.

But perhaps the gem of the Grade II listed Rose & Crown is the Red Room, a secret room not seen for at least 50 years and rediscovered during recent renovations.

Underneath layers and layers of more recent flooring was an original brick floor around 500 or 600 years old, and what was once a storage area has been transformed into a stunning private dining room, its decor reflecting the richness of Tudor times.

There is a huge stone fireplace, which is hundreds of years old, where local mole-catchers would meet and sharpen their knives.

Uniquely, the Red Room caters for private dining where customers can create their own three-course menu with the chef.

The opulent and stylish interior is the collaborative work of the artistic Wilkinson family, who bought the Rose & Crown after it was put on the market by Enterprise Inns last year and reopened it last September after three months of refurbishment.

Very much a family affair, aviation insurance broker Giles Wilkinson, and property renovator and interior designer wife Isobel, own the pub, with Isobel the licensee and the pub now a freehouse.

Their student son Rufus, 19, a model who has featured in Tatler magazine and was the face of the Sundown Festival in 2013, is the manager and has drawn up plans to landscape the garden outside, and daughter Polly, who runs cult fashion and interior design company Draw In Light, designed the interior, which features many of her evocative fabrics.

The Wilkinsons’ other daughters Phoebe, 25, and art student Hermione, 19, have also contributed.

Isobel says she has aimed to “bring the stylishness of Brighton and London to this rural gem” with a “confluence of the pub’s innate old world charm with a cosmopolitan but unpretentious vibe”.

She said: “We had not run anything like this before and so we have done everything step by step.

“Originally Polly and I wanted to run a shop with a restaurant and rooms using her fabrics for interior design but several properties fell through and so we decided to buy the pub instead.

“I’ve tried to think of it as a shop with drinks – and it has been a baptism of fire. Everything we started to do kept changing – and we opened the bar to start with, which has been a great success and we have lots of regulars now.”

On the bar walls are paintings of the pub salvaged during the refurbishment depicting locals from 50-60 years ago.

It was during the refurbishment that the old storage room was emptied out.

“The room had not been opened for between 50 and100 years,” said Isobel.

“When we got to the floor, there was 6-8 inches of layers to get up, and underneath was an old floor at least 500-600 years old.

“It was my idea to create the Red Room because I wanted to have the richness and feel of the Tudor age.”

When the pub was put up for sale last year, the villagers successfully lobbied Wealden District Council to make the pub an Asset of Community Value, and the Wilkinsons, who live in Danehill, are determined to put the Rose & Crown at the heart of Fletching village life, introducing regular bridge evenings, pop-up restaurants with different chefs and visits by Duff’s Diner, a mobile diner housed in a vintage Airstream trailer.

Next to the bar is a light and airy room, where mums on the school runs can sit down for coffee and cakes each morning.

And with the pub now a freehouse, Isobel’s “serious devotion to top-notch spirits and craft beers” has put new emphasis on “age-old spirits and cocktails”.

Spirits have been sourced with the help of Isobel’s brother-in-law Mark Ridgwell, a celebrated name in the world of spirits and the author of ‘Spirits Distilled’.

With the bar staff, including Rufus and assistant manager Oliver Streeter, trained by cocktail consultancy The Soul Shakers, the pub’s selection of cocktails – each named after a regular – has been described as “the biggest range of happy hour cocktails outside the West End”.

The bar features Sussex brands including Chilgrove Gin, Blackdown Spirits, Bedlam Brewery, Langham Brewery, Black Pig and the Bluebell Vineyard, while Isobel has “gone down the artisan route” to source ingredients from local suppliers including the Flint Bakery in Lewes and the Flourpot Bakery in Brighton, as well as Fletching Glasshouses for organic fruit and vegetables.


  • The Rose & Crown can trace its history back to c1150, when East Sussex was part of King Stephen’s heartland.
  • A century later, Henry III was on the throne and facing rebellion from the barons of the north. The Rose & Crown was probably open when Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, travelled through on his way to the Battle of Lewes in 1264, his victory over Henry making him the “uncrowned king of England”. A crown was a powerful visual symbol of allegiance.
  • Most of the building dates to the 17th century – but in the 1930s a Norman-era wattle-and-daub wall at the back of the pub, which had survived for around 800 years, was discovered.
  • The Rose & Crown was run by the Weston family for most of the 19th century. John Weston, who ran the pub with his wife Mary Moon, brewed beer on site. Their children, Noah, Abednego and Faith, helped run the pub. Faith was listed as “Beer House keeper” in the 1911 census, but the only description of Abednego is not flattering: “a funny, nearly square man with hardly any hair”.