It’s good to know our ancestors had their priorities right. Amongst the first buildings to be erected in the village, when the valley floor was first settled in the sixteenth century, was a public house – then referred to as an ale house. It was built at the same time as the two cottages across the stream, and still to this day occupies a central position in Dalham.Most of Dalham’s buildings came later in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many have been altered, and the pub was no exception being extensively added to at the rear, although its ‘Street face’ has remained largely unchanged.
The pub’s name is derived from one of the last member of the Affleck family to own the estate, namely Lieutenant General Sir James Affleck (1759 – 1833), who was Colonel of the 16th Dragoons. Sir James was the son of a parson uncle and is buried in the church grounds and his monument can be seen to the left of the church’s entrance.
The last Affleck to own the Dalham estate was Sir Robert, 7th baronet, who inherited it from his father in 1882. Sir Robert married Julia Georgina Prince in 1886. This lady was remembered both for her eccentricity and her extravagance. She was an actress and apparently squandered money on high-living, sumptuous carriages and clothes. Surprisingly she was nevertheless teetotal and was responsible, as the Affleck was on estate land, for closing it – albeit temporarily. Her reason was to be found in the Times newspaper of the late 1880’s which had run an article about Dalham, stating that it was then full of roughnecks and drunks and alleged it was possibly the worst village in the country. Not only were drunken brawls an everyday occurrence, but the vicar used to give all the children of the village boxing lessons, which he believed was essential to their survival in Dalham!
Luckily, for some, another ale house was quickly opened on non-estate land, further along the village towards Lidgate (reputed to be on the site of the present Robin Hill). The Affleck Arms had certainly been reinstated as a public house by the end of the nineteenth century, for it appears as such in the estate sale catalogue of December 1901, wherein it was described as being ‘fully licensed for seven days’ and as containing:
“Two Large Attic Bedrooms, Three Best Bedrooms, Sitting Room, Bar (Newly Fitted) in Three Divisions, Smoking Room, Tap Room, Kitchen and Cellars, Bakehouse, Club-house, 21 by 18 feet and room over, also stabling for six horses, Coachhouse, and a piece of meadowland adjoining.”
At that time the stores, the Affleck and the Blacksmiths together provided the estate with a rental of £80.00 per annum.
Some time during the early part of the last century the estate sold the Affleck. Initially it was part of the Greene King estate but, since 2000, it has been a free house. Though the 1901 ‘Meadowland’ has been converted into a car park this charming thatched pub has retained most of its rooms and much of its character. Speaking of characters, the ‘Gray lady’ is still reputed to haunt the premises to this day. But it has been observed there is a remarkable correlation between her appearance and the specific gravity of several excellent guest beers the current landlord has been stocking!