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The Rich History of Our Pub

The Boat public house at Erbistock is grade II listed, and was originally two separate structures, converted into a single use building at some point in the 19th century. Constructed in the 17th century, the buildings have evolved from domestic use to a public use, and are associated with the windlass crossing of the river Dee. The listing dates the building as 17th century in origin, and the evolution of the building as comprising two cottages which were later converted to a public house, associated with the ferry crossing. The windlass for the ferry is still extant, although it is of later date.

The building is of historical interest for its association with the ferry across the river Dee and as part of the collection of buildings which together form the Erbistock conservation area. Its construction in the 17th century illustrates the growth of the area from the late mediaeval period. Its later history revolves around the growing importance of the ferry as an attraction for visitors, and the merging of the buildings into a single unit associated with the ferry is evidence of the development of tourism and the appreciation of the ‘picturesque’. The number of images and postcards dating from the 18th and 19th centuries featuring the building, the ferry and the church of St Hilary is evidence of the burgeoning interest in ‘rural’ scenes as part of the picturesque and romantic movements.

The Erbistock conservation area has seen little change from its existing 19th-century character, due to its relative isolation, and with little development pressure. The modern settlement of Erbistock is located in a loop of the River Dee on its northern bank, less than 2km west of Overton. The village is reached by a minor lane road leading south of the A539 that links Whitchurch with Llangollen and terminates at the river, and onward travel from that point would have been via the ferry at the Boat Inn.

Erbistock is derived from Old English terms meaning ‘Erp’s place’, though the element stock can also carry the more specific meaning of a dairy farm or even a secondary or outlying settlement. It was first recorded in Domesday Book in 1086 as Erpestoch, and by 1291 was referred to as Erbystok, very similar to the modern form. Very little is known of the early history of Erbistock, although the location of the ferry crossing and the proximity to good agricultural land could both be cited as reasons for the establishment of the settlement. A third reason is the location of the church, which was formerly dedicated to St Erbin, and was referenced in the Valor Ecclesiasticus in 1535. The parish was carved out of a larger landholding belonging to the church at Bangor-on-Dee, and Erbistock will originally have been a chapel dependent on the mother church, a situation more likely to have occurred in the pre-Conquest era. Firmer evidence of a mediaeval date for the settlement is provided with the 19th-century tithe maps.

Open field strips suggest the presence of individual farmers whose lands were interspersed with those of their neighbours, and the proximity of the fields to the church suggests that their dwellings were close by.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the large residences at Manley Hall and Erbistock Hall were founded by wealthy families moving into the area. The church, dedicated to St Hilary, was entirely rebuilt in the standard Gothic style in 1860, the only survivals from an earlier age being the Romanesque font, a chandelier that is likely to be 18th-century, and several wall memorials. The dates of its predecessors have not been established, but there was a church here in 1692 which was at least partially constructed in timber.

The building and it’s vernacular character, with random rubble walls, well- proportioned fenestration and series of cellular rooms with open fires, are all part of its aesthetic appeal. Despite the fact that many of the timbers are re-used within the building, the combination of dark timber, the slate floor and the chimneypieces all contribute to a rural idyll that is attractive to many visitors.