"Figurehead takes a restorative trip"
Braintree and Witham Times - July 9 1987
 
 

Figurehead takes a restorative trip
Braintree and Witham Times - July 9 1987


A HISTORIC carved figure that was once the figurehead of an Essex pub is to be restored to its former glory.
The mysterious 5 ft. 3in. tall figure of "Old Harkilees" stood proud outside the Six Bells Inn in Bocking, near Braintree, for many years.
The former pub in Bradford Street has since been bought by Braintree District Council and converted to four flats.

Now the 17th Century wooden figure, covered with around 23 coats of paint, is to undergo a 3,000 restoration.
Braintree council believes the figure, thought to be of oak and worth more than 10,000, is one of the finest wood carvings in the country. It will be restored at Harlow Museum.
The identity of "Old Harkilees" is uncertain, with some historians suggesting it represents Charles I. The figure has long flowing hair and a moustache, and is crowned with a garland of flowers and fruits.
It has been associated with Dr. John Gauden, a former Dean of Bocking who became Bishop of Worcester and whose connections with Charles I are well known.
Originally the figure is believed to have formed a side ornament to an Elizabethan fireplace. It was probably named after one of two well-known Bocking clothiers, Hercules Stevens or Hercules Arthur, either of whom could have been its original owner.
Elderly residents remember the figure stood at the corner of the inn 50 years ago, and was later raised to the upper floor as a sort of gargoyle.
Bocking children were told that "Old Harkilees" would descend from his perch when church bells struck midnight and walk to the river.


"Old Harkilees", the 17th century oak woodcarving which once stood outside the Six Bells Inn at Bocking, is carried by Mr Steve Mason, left, and Mr S. C. Cruddas of Braintree council.