|The Vale of the White Horse Inn at Minety was built in the early 1800s. There have been various architectural surveys in recent times to try and establish the original purpose for which the building was constructed. The mystery starts with the fact that the building partly incorporates two cottages from a much earlier period, which were effectively buried in the North East Corner of the original building. The ground floor level of these cottages appears to be well below the current level of the existing building and the first floor level of one of these cottages was exposed in the Lakeside Bar during restoration works in 2004.
The building was constructed before the bridge. The lake was created by the excavation of material to form the embankments leading up to the bridge on either side. Although the building now appears to be three storeys, it is in fact four storeys with the basement cellars below the car park now disused and blocked off.
The existence of these cellars was discovered during restoration works in 2004. While working on an area adjacent to the western fireplaces in the Garden Room on the lower ground floor level, a chimney coming up from below was found. Subsequent checks revealed that there were in fact four chimneys coming up from this level, all of which were still open at the top.
While reopening one of the carriage arches on the south side of the building a void was discovered under the floor into which a substantial amount of rubble had disappeared. Further exploration works were not undertaken because these basements are now well below the level on the lake and are therefore almost certainly flooded.
The structure of the building is unusual in that the two lower floors are three parallel tunnels side-by-side. the structure of the upper two floors above is also reliant on brick arches and again appears to be very similar to the structure of a railway viaduct. the result is that the building is extraordinarily sturdy and over engineered for its purpose.
Although the building became the Station hotel when the railway subsequently opened, it is doubtful that it was built for the purpose. there is speculation that it was constructed by the railway construction team to act as some kind of local headquarters for Brunel and his team. Certainly it is known that Brunel was personally involved in resolving some of the more challenging local engineering problems, most notably the unique Mud Springs at Templars Firs, which were hindering the construction of the railway.
When the railway opened, the building served as a bridgehead terminal, offering hotel accommodation and transport services with carriages and horses occupying the lower ground floor.
By the time of 1881 national Census the building had become the Vale of the White Horse Inn and it recorded twenty five people as being resident in the building although it is dubious that this number included various labourers who lived in the cellars. Local legend has it that the cellar dwellers brewed lethal scrumpy to which all manner of strange supplements were added. This appears to have contributed to the early demise of many of them.
During the 20th Century the Inn continued to be the centre of much economic and social activity and features in many accounts of local history and events. In the 1990s the inn suffered a decline and passed through a number of hands before eventually closing in 1999.
The property then became the centre of a much-publicized protracted dispute between a property developer and the local planning authority with the residents of the village energetically lobbying not to allow a "change of use" and to have it reopened. Their wishes were granted when London restauranteur and local resident Jamie Denman acquired the property in 2002.