The Dinton Hermit Inn, in the hamlet of Ford, dates back to the 16th century and is on the ancient turnpike leading from Aylesbury to Thame.
This pub and hotel takes its name from a local legend surrounding the execution of King Charles I. The story goes that a man called Simon Mayne (Jnr), who was a prominent member of the Parliamentary Party during the Civil War, and Oliver Cromwell came to stay with him at his home, the nearby Dinton Hall. Mayne later sat as a Judge of the High Commission Court which tried King Charles and he was one of those who signed the King's death warrant.
Later, after trial and conviction at the Old Bailey, Mayne died in the Tower of London in 1661 and his body was brought back to Dinton for burial.
Mayne's clerk, a man called John Bigg, became a recluse in the years following the Restoration and took to living in a cave near to Dinton Hall. He thus became known as the Dinton Hermit.
He was apparently fed by the local people and renewed his clothing by patching them with leather and cloth, to the extent that he ended up with literally hundreds of patches on his clothes. One of his boots, made from patches of leather, is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is rumored that the other boot is still in Dinton Hall.
It is also rumored Bigg was Charles's executioner – hence the reason for hiding himself away as a recluse. It is said that "… he kept 3 bottles that hung to his girdle, for strong and small beer, and milk …".
Bigg died in 1696 at about the age of 67.
The Dinton Hermit Inn takes its name from this story surrounding John Bigg. It is a listed building of much historical significance. The Barn is famously built mostly of 'witchert' – a local building method. From a base made of several layers of local stone to prevent damp, a mixture of local clay, which contains limestone, and straw and water is applied in layers and allowed to set hard before the next layer is built.
Most of the village of Dinton and the nearby hamlet of Ford is in a Conservation Area, is incredibly peaceful and the pub enjoys extensive views across open countryside. There are sweeping views of the Chiltern Hills from the garden.
The local church has Saxon origins on this site, which was then demolished and rebuilding began in 1140. Much of the existing Church is Norman including the very beautiful South doorway. The final part was the tower was built in about 1340.
Of the various memorials, brasses and plates inside the church there is a tablet dedicated to Simon Mayne who died in 1617, leaving Dinton Hall (next door) to his son of the same name.
The Dinton Hermit's history lives on to this day – a cul de sac running from the center of Dinton village towards Dinton Hall is called Biggs Lane and the Dinton Hermit pub in the nearby hamlet of Ford.
Dinton Hall has recently been comprehensively renovated by the current, private owners in Tudor style making it, with the adjoining Church, a landmark for many miles around.
There were many joys in discovering the hospitality of the Dinton Hermit Inn. Firstly, the bedrooms have recently been refurbished (early 2009) and offer facilities, design and comfort as good, if not better, than the majority of major hotels. And when you couple this with it being small and friendly, it offers a great standard of hospitality.
The food was also a good discovery. Talking to the chef, I discovered a lot more going on than meets the eye. In the summer they are self sufficient from the pub garden in cucumbers, courgettes and many herbs including basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, sage, lemon verbena. You can't really get fewer food miles than that.
They also grow numerous varieties of Chilli and Pepper plants which will become jams and marmalade.
They had a good tomato crop coming and later in the year, the dwarf pear trees look laden and the apple tree in the beer garden looks promising too and is planned that the crop will to be turned into crumbles, tarts, chutneys and probably just as bits of fruit in the fruit bowl for breakfast.
The chef was even making his own pickled onions and chutneys for the plowsmans and cheese board. The meat is also locally sourced from a free range farm at nearby Wendover and all eggs used are Free Range from Haddenham, 3 miles away.
All in all, a great escape for a couple of days, to immerse yourself in some local history, but also enjoy a comfortable stay, with good food, and only a short trip outside of London.