One of Brading’s most famous residents was Little Jane, an eighteenth century villager who featured in the wildly successful religious pamphlet “Annals of the Poor”, by the then curate of Brading, the Rev. Legh Richmond. Rather in the manner of a catholic saints’ shrine, the site of Little Jane’s Cottage and her little gravestone in the churchyard became one of the Island’s must-see locations for early tourists.
It must have been a little galling for the town of Brading, therefore, when another character in Rev. Richmond’s tales became even more famous – not someone from Brading, but a resident over the down in Arreton. The colourful life of Elizabeth Wallbridge was featured in another epistle called “The Dairyman’s Daughter“. Like all good religious heroines of her day, Miss Wallbridge dutifully died in dramatic circumstances. She was buried at Arreton where a gravestone can still be seen today, complete with pious and pitiful verse. This grave became an even more popular tourist destination, so much so that Queen Victoria herself reportedly visited it on more than one occasion. By the most ironic of twists, her epithet is now synonymous not with the sober and pious life that Rev. Richmond celebrated – but rather with a local drinking-house.
A regular stop for coach tours in the day time, when it trades as a tearoom (see note below); after hours Arreton Barns is perhaps better appreciated as the home of the Dairyman’s Daughter pub, a splendid drinking and eating parlour, full of character, with good beer, good food and live music most nights. If you are lucky enough to get a seat by the real fire in the winter, or in one of the snug ‘alcove’ seats, you really will be settled in for a splendid evening.
Matt and Cat enjoy a quiet drink down the Dairyman’s now and again, occasionally combining it with the enjoyable quiz night, hosted by the highly entertaining ‘Rodney Stardust’. Despite the fact that it is a tourist Mecca, part of a (local) chain of pubs, and able to cater for several coach loads of old dears at once, the place still feels like a comfortable village pub – no mean achievement. It is a welcoming atmosphere, and if you feel peckish, a bite to eat is also worth the trouble.
Good basic pub fare is available from the comprehensive menu. Steaks, salads, sandwiches, burgers and other favourites are all dished up with enthusiasm, plenty of chips and salad. The kids section is also particularly diverse. The food is fresh, well presented, generous in size and delivered fairly promptly. The place is also set out to cater for a multitude, so even at busy times if you can get a seat, you will probably get served soon enough.
Addendum: Matt and Cat and some friends paid a visit to the Dairyman’s on a Bank Holiday afternoon to try the cream teas. Sitting in the charming courtyard in the shade of an olive tree, they found this pub to be a delightful spot. A cream tea with an extra pot of tea was ordered, and proved to be generous enough for two. As much tea as Matt and Cat could drink combined was supplied, in pots, with milk in a jug, and yes, hot water in another pot. Exactly right. Two large fresh scones made up the cream tea, with a big dollop of clotted cream, not in a little plastic pot but on a china plate. Jam of two types – red and yellow – also occupied a china plate of its own. The actual flavours of the jam were hard to determine as there wasn’t a huge amount of fruit in it; but for the cost (£5) this was not a bad cream tea. The only fly in the ointment was the insistent piped music: indoors, you can just accept it as a price you have to pay, but outdoors? Please, no more.
The Dairyman’s Daughter, Arreton Barns