Close to the village green of Walberswick and just a
stones throw away from the harbour, stands the venerable
Bell Inn, built sometime during the 15th century.
Inside it is easy to imagine that in the past, this was
a favourite place of Suffolk smugglers, with its open
fires, beamed ceilings, hidden alcoves and floors worn
down over the years by the tramping of many feet.
Turning the clock forward to the 20th century, to the
year 1914 to be precise, I am able to give a name to one
of the inns visitors, though I hasten to say that he was
not a smuggler, but a 'spy', well for at least a week!
He was the architect, designer and water colourist Mr.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As his surname suggests,
Mackintosh was born in Glasgow Scotland in the year
1868. He originally studied to be an architect, but also
attended evening classes in art. Over time Mackintosh
developed his own unique style and his designs are still
used to this day. In the early 1900s Mackintosh decided
to set up his own architect practice but unfortunately
the venture failed. He became disillusioned with
Scotland and decided to leave, it was the year 1914.
Mackintosh and his wife Margaret, rented a house from
their friend Philip Wilson Steer, who owned a place in
Walberswick by the name of Valley Farm, which was right
next to the Bell Inn.
In a recent book written by the actor and writer John
Cairney, entitled 'The Quest for Charles Rennie
Mackintosh', it is said that his time spent in
Walberswick was not an altogether happy one.
Mackintosh's slightly eccentric habits had the locals
believing that he was a German spy. To the extent that
he spent a week in prison, that is until his innocence
was proven by his wife when she returned from a trip
some several days later.
Mackintosh had been observed taking walks in the evening
along the seashore carrying a lantern, the locals began
to believe that he was in fact signaling to German ships
out at sea. He was probably seeking inspiration for his
work. But the people of Walberswick thought otherwise
and informed the local army, they turned up at Valley
Farm to question Charles Rennie Mackintosh one evening
after one of his walks.
Finding his home full of soldiers, Mackintosh is said to
have raved at them in Scottish and with his strong
Glaswegian accent the soldiers mistook him for a
German. So they arrested him there and then and
threw him into jail.
Unfortunately after this spell in prison, Macintosh
decided he had had enough of Suffolk, so he and his wife
moved to London in 1915. Despite his adventures in
Walberswick, Macintosh managed to paint some exquisite
water colours such as the “Faded Rose” and “Grey Iris”.