IN years gone by, village life revolved around pubs and churches.

Great Clacton was no different and the two watering holes were the Ship Inn and The Queen's Head.

Auctions, dances and even trials were held in these historic venues.

It was nearly 350 years ago that The Queen’s Head opened.

Although it served its last customers a few years ago, the building has been renovated, keeping several of the old pub signs.

It is now called ‘Queens’s Head Chambers’ and used by several small businesses with flats upstairs.

In the 1800s, when there was a threat of French invasion, hundreds of soldiers camped nearby.

John Bawtree, the landlord, enlarged The Queen's Head, adding the attractive bay window.

Upstairs was the ballroom, where the officers and their ladies danced the evenings away and opposite was a bowling green and summerhouse.

Mr Bawtree had a shock one morning when he looked out of the ballroom window to see a pub sign creaking in the breeze.

All very normal... except it was the Blacksmith’s Arms sign.

A group of soldiers, armed with ladders, had been around the district changing around 12 or so inn signs!

It must have taken a while for the signs to be returned to the correct pubs.

To cope with the heavy-drinking soldiers, the Queen's Head built a small brewery behind it, situated where The Plough is nowadays.

In 1830, the local farmworkers were demanding 2/3d a day.

They marched around the village and outlying farms, smashing threshing machines and setting barns alight.

One hundred and 50 angry labourers met outside the Queen's Head and a parish constable was knocked off his horse.

When help arrived from Colchester, there were many arrests and three local men were transported to Australia for seven years.

Over 120 years ago, William Pigg was the landlord of The Queen's Head and he was also a blacksmith, with his forge next door.

The horses knew him and if he shouted ‘get your leg up’ they would calmly oblige for the horseshoes to be fitted.

He made the large ‘globe’ lamp hanging above one of the doors facing the street and it’s still there nowadays.

William’s grandmother had been superintendent of the laundry on the Isle of St Helena while Napoleon Bonaparte had been banished there in 1815.

On her return, she delighted in telling villagers tales of the French leader’s dirty washing.

The Plough opened as a beer house in the 1850s, using part of the brewery building.

By 1910, Mrs Partridge, the landlady, was selling two barrels of beer a week.

She used to let locals who had drunk too much sleep there.

She charged 1d to sleep on the floor, ½d to sleep on the stairs and ¼d in the backyard. What an enterprising lady!

The Ship Inn is over 400 years old and became an inn in 1709 when Thomas Joy bought the house for £45.

In 1788, John Cobbold was the landlord and Cobbolds Brewery owned it for 200 years.

Taster Bagley was one of the landlords of The Ship and he was said to have enjoyed a spot of smuggling with one of his regulars named John Bantoft, who was known as The Great Clacton Giant.

He was 7ft 4ins tall and had to sleep with his feet sticking out of the window of his cottage.

Bantoft was very strong and is meant to have hidden most of the smuggled silk and tobacco under gravestones in St John’s churchyard in the village.

However, when he died suddenly in 1807, none of his fellow smugglers knew where Bantoft had hidden the goods.