Along an isolated Roman Road in the hamlet of Coleman Green, just 1½ miles south-east of Wheathampstead, is the John Bunyan, a pub popular with motorists, ramblers, dog-walkers, horse-riders and loyal regulars. No fewer than five footpaths and bridleways converge on the pub and remnants of the Devil’s Dyke are just a 15-minute walk to the north-west.
Pub history prior to 1898 is sketchy but probability says it opened in the mid-19th century, as a beer house, particularly serving the local community of agricultural labourers. It was then known as the Prince of Wales. By 1898 Hertford brewers, McMullens, were spreading their wings – very settled in Hertford and East Herts and now buying pubs further afield. They acquired the pub for £500 and ‘legend’ says that the 7th Earl of Cowper and his successors owed the pub four shillings for their use of it but that since the Earl personally died childless in 1905 the pub has been left permanently out of pocket. Such is life. Nevertheless, the pub prospered but was renamed in the 1950s to mark the life of John Bunyan, the noted Puritan preacher and writer who in 1678 composed “The Pilgrim’s Progress” a Christian allegory considered by some to be the first novel written in English.
He is also credited with the associated hymn “He Who Would Valiant Be”. Bunyan spent a 12-year spell in prison for his refusal to stop preaching and after his release devotedly and doggedly carried this on. Born in Bedfordshire he preached at villages and hamlets all over central Herts and is said to have stayed occasionally at a cottage in Coleman Green. This was largely demolished in 1877 but the chimney stack remains, is Grade II listed and can be found 75 yards from the pub – before or after a pint!
The John Bunyan pub abuts to other terraced property and has a cosy lived-in atmosphere – nicely understated yet comfortable with an open fire and displays of over 700 plates and jugs. Good to see pub games are alive and well here – darts and shove ha’penny. Outside there is a grassed garden and a marquee has been added to cater for all weather.
Real ales are from the McMullen stable – AK Original and Country Bitter plus a monthly seasonal Mac’s or Rivertown beer – currently Summer Solstice. Cask-conditioned beers were served using top pressure until the early 1980’s when handpumps were installed and in 1989 the pub won the CAMRA South Hertfordshire Branch Pub of the Year competition. For the hungry there is good honest home-cooked pub fayre with a daily special and there are vegan and gluten-free dishes. Children are welcome but note those under 14 are not allowed inside the pub (except to use wc facilities).
The pub has for 20 years been run by the De Noronha family – first Chris and Sally and now son and daughter-in-law, Anthony and Faith. Anthony says “We are a proper old-fashioned welcoming country pub with some modern twists – we have a stone-bake pizza oven and you can charge your mobile phone in all corners of the pub”. A Celebration Day takes place on Sunday 12 September – to allow people to celebrate all those occasions forbidden under the pandemic lockdown. There will be an outside bar, music and food. For vintage car lovers there are meets every third Thursday lunchtime of the month. The Lotus Car Club meets on the first Wednesday of the month.
In the summer the John Bunyan is open 11.30 – 2.30 (closes 3pm on Fridays) weekdays and from 6 – 11.30pm (closes Mon evenings). Open all day at weekends from 12 noon (closes 7pm on Sun). In the winter it closes during Saturday afternoons. Buses can set you down at either end of the narrow Coleman Green Lane but it will be safer to alight at Wheathampstead and take a 1½ mile footpath walk to the pub – use Explorer Map 182. The 304 service from St.Albans to Wheathampstead, the 366 from Welwyn Garden City to Wheathampstead or the 610 from Hatfield to Wheathampstead (all Mon-Sat) may best suit. For motorists, Coleman Green Lane is off the B653 east of Wheathampstead or the B651 south of it.