Patrick Carroll | The Inn at the Crossroad – Ten – Requiescant In Pace
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The Inn at the Crossroad – Ten – Requiescant In Pace

The following will be a survey of those hostelries recorded at one time or another as existing in Crewkerne, and which are now no more.  Some have been gone for many years, or even centuries; but others are recent enough to be well-remembered by current Crewkerne residents and, indeed, five of the older houses were operating during my own time in the town but are now gone.  The accounts of those houses will, naturally, be rather longer and fuller than those of the ones I didn’t know.

According to contemporary records, in 1696 Crewkerne’s inns offered 54 beds, and stabling for 130 horses.  In 1735 there were 22 licensed victuallers in the parish, 25 by 1740; and 35 (possibly 37) in 1751. this, be it remembered, when the population of the town was barely 2,000.  Following a Royal Proclamation of 1783, which significantly tightened the regulation of inns and taverns, the number of licensed houses diminished during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, saw an upward turn following the Beerhouses Act of 1830, and remained fairly steady at about 20 for the hundred years up to 1957.

A valuable research source for this addendum on the town’s past inns has been Betty Burbage’s booklet, Ancient and Modern Pubs of Crewkerne, which, like the present work, while necessarily containing a modicum of guess-work and supposition, amplified and supplemented the earlier researches of Willis Watson and Frederick Stoodley.

 

The Anchor: Unmentioned by Willis Watson, although a deed of 1721 cited an Anchor Inn in Fore Street, now the south side of Market Square.

 

The Angel: There appears to have been two houses with this name.  Willis Watson mentions one occurring in the parochial accounts between 1660 and 1675.  He found no further record and deduced that it must have been a very old inn, and that it had ceased to exist before the end of the seventeenth century.  Considering the name there is at least a possibility that this Angel may have been a successor of Crewkerne’s original pilgrims’ rest inn, thought to have been in present day Market Square on the site of the original Red Lion, now occupied by Oscar’s Wine Bar.  In 1840 another Angel Inn appears in the town directory; located in East Street, and with Henry Bishop (formerly of the White Hart) as landlord. Although I have found no further reference to an Angel Inn after this date, the names Henry Bishop, William Bishop and Henry William Bishop recur as East Street licensees.

 

The Antelope:  The sign of the Antelope is heraldic in origin and is a feature of various Lancastrian coats of arms.  Crewkerne’s Antelope Inn – closed relatively recently, the building being converted into residential use – lost its sign to a passing lorry some years ago and it was never replaced.

The inn was comparatively undocumented for one of its age, and due to the vagaries of banking bureaucracy, its old deeds were not readily available to the researcher; a circumstance the present enquirer has encountered more than once.

The exact date of its establishment is uncertain but papers concerning the nearby Volunteer (qv) show that in 1738 a free-standing barn occupied the later Antelope site in North Street.  Willis Watson’s earliest recorded mention of the inn is found in parochial accounts of 1783, which name Hugh Yeatman as ratepayer.  As with the George, this may indicate that the Antelope was also at one time owned by Yeatman’s father-in-law, Caleb King, as part of the property appertaining to the Manor of Easthams. From 1785 through 1790 Nathaniel Dalton, the husband of Yeatman’s niece, born Mary Slade Yeatman, was ratepayer.  Thereafter the property appears to have changed hands; Willis Watson recording Richard Morton and Philip Munford as joint-ratepayers, and speculating that a business additional to innkeeping may have been carried on.  As a Richard Mor(e)ton, horse-dealer, and P. Munford, hatter, are recorded in the Universal British Directory of c.1794 this is plausible.  In 1794 and ’95 Mor(e)ton and James Bishop were responsible for the rates, with Munford being named again from 1796 until 1803.  Bishop, as has and will be seen is a name that recurs often in connection with Crewkerne inns. 

Joseph Gillingham was also associated with the Antelope in 1802-’03.  As he is recorded as a vintner in the 1804 directory, it seems likely that Gillingham was the tenant and the others the owners. Following this, William Randall is recorded as ratepayer from 1804 through 1813.  The Antelope appears again in Pigot’s Directory for 1822-’23, with Jesse Guppy as proprietor, and Willis Watson finds Justina Guppy named in parish records as ratepayer through 1825-’26.

Pigot’s for 1830 has no listing for the Antelope.  However, a William Crocker is named as landlord of the Cooper’s Arms, North Street.  In all of Willis Watson’s and Frederick Stoodley’s lists of defunct Crewkerne inns there is no mention of a Cooper’s Arms, and the name never recurs.  As the same directory and the previous one list William Crocker as a cooper of North Street, it is at least possible that he was carrying on a dual-purpose tradition at the Antelope,and that the inn changed its name temporarily.  It has also been said that the inn was once called the Horse & Jockey, but I have been unable to determine when.  The surviving directories for the rest of the nineteenth century see the reappearance and continuity of the Antelope with Samuel Osborn as landlord in 1840; William Spark, 1842; John Gusney, 1850; John Gosney (the same name surely), 1852-’53; Joseph Delamont, 1861; Charles Symonds, 1866; Mrs. Sarah Symonds, 1875; Edward Featherstone, 1883; and Robert Clark – also a wheelwright – 1886-’97.  The new century saw George Marjoram as landlord in 1902; and Alfred Paull from 1914 through 1916.  Following the Great War, Walter Pattimore (so spelt in Kelly’s Directory for 1919), after an abortive attempt to emigrate to America, took over as licensee.  The spelling becomes Pattemore in 1923, and the directory also informs us that Mr. Pattemore operated a motor haulage and motorized taxi business from the Antelope.  Mr. Pattemore remained at the inn until well after World War II, and was succeeded by his son-in-law.  I assume there is a connection here with the Pattemore transport firm still operating in the region.

It is unclear whether ownership of the Antelope freehold during the early- and middle-nineteenth century lay with its successive licensees, or, rather more likely, they were merely tenants.  In any case, by 1872 title was held by Rev. G.W.B. Wills, of Warwick Gardens, Kensington.  The London-based clergyman retained ownership until 1877, when title passed to Marian Emma Merrick, wife of Rev. Robert Merrick, and most probably Rev. Wills’s daughter.  In 1891 the Antelope was acquired from Mrs. Merrick by Crewkerne United Breweries.  Ownership of the inn, like that of a number of Crewkerne houses, then followed the fortunes of C.U.B. and its successors.  In 1938 C.U.B. was taken over by the Arnold & Hancock Brewery of Wiveliscombe. In 1955 Arnold & Hancock were in turn taken over by the Ushers Wiltshire Brewery of Trowbridge, and the outlets making up the brewery’s public house estate continued as Ushers houses – later under the umbrella of Watney Mann/Chef & Brewer – until the ultimate owners, Grand Metropolitan, began selling then off during the 1970s and ’80s.  {See account of the Royal Oak and others qv.]

At the time of the Ushers take-over of Arnold & Hancock in 1955 the brewery deputed a gentleman with the initials A.S. to visit and report on each of the 262 outlets making up the A&H pub estate.  I was told by the late Mr. Gerald Isaacs that he believed the initials belonged to a Mr. Seaward, then active in Ushers’ commercial management.  His assessments, in the form of two loose-leaf albums, are held by the Somerset Record Office and they make for interesting reading.  A.S.’s comments – obviously meant for the eyes of his employers only – are quite pithy and utterly candid.  The report for the Antelope is headed (like those of the other houses) with a contemporary postcard-sized photograph, and reads: “Licensee: Mr. Smith (a brewery drayman).  Services: Mains.  Volume: 37 barrels. Comments: No ladies.  Very poor urinal & gents’ W.C..  A rabbit warren.  3 small rooms and no space at all.  Alterations embracing lavs badly needed. Good alley.  A good house here would remove need for Volunteer.”

It is apparent from this  – the formula is followed in all of A.S.’s reports – that the inn had fallen on thin times, reflecting both the post-War austerity, and, it is to be suspected, continued neglect of its houses by both C.U.B. and Arnold & Hancock.

The licensee’s outside occupation is by no means untypical.  As will be seen in other cases, many of Crewkerne’s licensed houses carried on – as the Antelope seems to have done through much of history – other trades and/or businesses within or adjacent to the pub premises.  Also, the prevalence of full-time pub licensees, especially in more modest rural houses, was a comparatively recent phenomenon, becoming more common the 1960s and ’70s.

Although its interior in my Crewkerne day was rather higgledy-piggledy, no one familiar with the Antelope in its latter years would have confused it with A.S.’ “rabbit warren”.  Architecturally the erstwhile Antelope building was entirely typical of Crewkerne.  The frontage probably dated from the mid-nineteenth century, although sections of the building were certainly older.  The pre-conversion three-storey, four-square building showed a facade of site-dressed local stone, with eight windows and an arched double-doored carriageway entrance.  This was large enough to accommodated horse-drawn vehicles, although its size suggests trade rather than stagecoach use, further hinting at the inn’s dual-purpose tradition.

Following further tenancies by names including Whitfield, Fox and Clifford, the Antelope reverted to free house status when it was acquired by Christopher and Sandra Webb.  

Some years into the Webb ownership an article appeared in the News of the World concerned mainly with the inn’s resident ghost.  The Webbs reported no personal experience of this presence, but said that their son-in-law – a level-headed Yeovil businessman, not given to alcoholic excess or hallucinations – would never again sleep in one particular room after unaccountably waking up one night, not in bed but crouched and shaking in a corner.  There are no clues as to the identity of the Antelope’s individual shade but, as with the George and several other local inns, it is not Crewkerne’s only pub ghost.  Indeed, sometimes they seem to outnumber the living customers.

 

The Bell: Willis Watson definitely places this inn in the building at 8 East Street, for many years part of the premises of Swaffield’s garage.  Apart from the aspect of the building itself, which is suggestive of an inn, I have found no corroborating evidence of such a house.  However, among the Donne/Donisthorpe/Merefield papers there is a mention of a Bell Inn located in Market Place in the years between 1692 and 1746.  Further reference is made in deeds connected with the Grammar School Estate dated 1709, 1740 and 1789, by which time the Bell Inn was gone.  In 1840 another Bell Inn appears in Church Street with John Croker listed as landlord.  In 1842 the licensee is named as John Crocker [same person presumably), after which the name disappears, although the house may have become the Grapes (qv).

 

The Boot & Shoe: This house was apparently in South Street, said by Willis Watson to be “…just below Haslock’s factory“, near the Linen Yard.  During the nineteenth century South Street was a centre of Crewkerne’s shoemaking industries.  William Webber, a cordwainer who was the original landlord of the Crown, later kept the Sawyers’ Arms near Viney Bridge but, considering his trade, he may have stopped at the Boot & Shoe on his way east.  Mrs. Burbage noted the possible existence of a previous Boot Inn in East Street.

 

The Brewers’Arms:  Willis Watson locates this pub in Gould’s (now Court) Barton, next to the site now occupied by Shelle House, but does not indicate on which side it stood.  The landlord was Henry Parker who was listed from 1840 through 1853 when the address is given as Gould’s Square.

 

The Castle(s): Willis Watson writing of the Castle Inn in West Street, quotes G.S. Pulman as associating “…the Crewkerne Castle with Curriott Hill at the foot of which it now stands.  If the Curriott was the Caer or stronghold of the local Britons, it may have contained a place of defence in after times of which tradition would retain a memory in the Castle.  But this must be taken at its worth.”  Indeed it must.. The problem with the theory, as Willis Watson points out, being that the West Street Castle is the third Crewkerne inn of that name, the others having been in East and South Streets.  The late(st) Castle was remarkable for being the last surviving public house in a street where licensed premises once jostled each other like punters on Derby Day; there having been at one time or another as many as eight inns along the quarter-mile between the corner of Hermitage Street and the beginning of the Chard Road. The Castle stands at the south-east point of the Gould’s Barton triangle; site during the Middle Ages of Crewkerne’s ancient manor house and farm.  In 1837 – when much of the area was still open ground – William Scriven, a cordwainer, purchased for £155 a “…barn, cart house and plot” at Gould’s Orchard. The vendors were Edward Budge and John Marsh Templeman.  Shortly after obtaining the property Mr. Scriven gave it trust to John Hill in return for a loan of £150.  The 1840 Pigot’s Directory lists William Scriven as landlord of the Castle Inn.  These dates – the houses at this end of West Street were built around this time – its comparative modesty, and apparent multi-purpose use, lead to the theory that the Castle was one of the pubs that sprang up in the wake of the 1830 Beerhouses Act.  The directories continue to name William Scriven as landlord through 1853.  He is also listed as keeping the nearby White Horse (qv) in 1861.  It is possible that he was licensee for both houses as he seems to have been an energetic and enterprising character.  As well as being a beerseller he also operated a shoe- and bootmaking business and a grocery and general merchandise shop, all in West Street.  In 1843 ownership of the property was acquired for £300 by James Thomas Hellyar, £185.18.0 going to John Hill.  The inn is not mentioned by name in the deed but there is a schedule listing the following goods and chattels: “4 store casks containing 6 hogsheads each, 3 casks containing 1 hogshead each, 3 half-hogshead casks, 3 small casks, 2 backs, 1 cooler, 3 small tubs, 1 copper furnace & grate, 2 grates and cupboards in dwelling house.” – an obvious clue as to the nature of the house.  On 1st November 1864 James Hellyar sold the property to Mr. Scriven at a mortgage of £200, and the next day bought it back for £300.  It is impossible to to say what financial hocus-pocus lay behind these transactions, but Hellyar’s name figures in similar deals concerning other public houses, notably the Crown.  William Scriven died in 1878, his estate being left in equal portions to his six granddaughters, and in the following year the mortgage of the Castle was transferred through the heirs of James Hellyar (d.1868) to Mrs. Ellen Clark.  During this period the tenants of the inn were Richard Slade, listed in 1866, and Mrs. Eliza Slade, recorded in 1875.  These, it seems, were William Scriven’s daughter and son-in-law.  It is said that a late-nineteenth century landlord of the Castle was killed in an affray outside the inn, and the evidence suggests that this was Richard Slade.  William Scriven’s son, Joseph, was also a bootmaker and, later, a butcher, and he lived in the house at 19 West Street which had once been the Trotting Horse pub (qv).  In 1889, acting as trustee and executor of his father’s estate, he put the inn up for sale.  At an auction held in the George Hotel, the Castle was acquired by Crewkerne United Breweries for £1,500. After the mortgage held by Mrs. Clark was paid off the remainder was divided “…share and share alike” between William Scriven’s granddaughters.  The eldest of these, Mary Eliza Slade, and her husband, George Robert Mitchell, were tenants of the Castle at this time.  By 1894 the tenancy had passed to Charles Childs who remained until 1935, when he was succeeded by Walter H. Fone.  In 1955 the Castle, as part of the old C.U.B./Arnold & Hancock estate then being taken over by Ushers, received its visit from A.S., whose report reads: “Licensee: W.H. Fone (employed by U.D.C) 20 years. Volume: 120 barrels.  No bathroom. 1 good bar and nice lounge served thru hatch. Skittle alley. Good tenants but outside not too tidy.”  At the time the house sold only beer, cider and wine, and did not receive a full license until 1957.  In 1958 the Castle’s rent was £13 per quarter.  In 1964 Mr. and Mrs Les Randell became licensees of the inn, having previously been in charge of the Five Bells in Church Path, then known locally as “the cheese house”, which was closed by Ushers in 1957.  The Randells continued to sell cheese at the Castle.  One life-long Crewkerne resident remembers being sent by his Nan to buy a pound of chedder at the pub.  He would come in clutching some money and one or another of the pub’s customers would give him a clip about the ear just for the good of his soul, and he would then be bought a half of cider shandy and told to be sure and “get ‘ee cheese home safe now.”  

The last landlady was Maggie Salt, who continued the tradition at Sunday lunchtimes, regularly putting out the best free cheese in town.  The Castle Inn closed in January 1999 and the property is now residential.

The other Castle Inns previously mention were one cited as extant in East street in 1782, and another at what was 17 South Street.  this was later the premises of Cooper’s Hairdressers, demolished in the 1970s to make way for the entrance to Henhayes car park.  

 

The Cock: Thought to be another name for the Green Dragon and/or Antelope.

 

The Coopers’ Arms: This inn does not appear in the Willis Watson/F. Stoodley list of defunct inns, but I believe it to have for a short time another name for the Antelope.  A license for a Coopers’ Arms existed in 1824, and in 1830 William Crocker is named as a cooper of North Street and – while there is no listing for the Antelope – a Coopers’ Arms also appears in North Street with William Crocker as landlord.

 

The Cross Keys: This inn sign originates from the Papal Arms which typify St. Peter, the accredited bearer of the keys of the Kingdom of God.  The Crewkerne Cross Keys Inn dated back to at least 1822 and was in a house still standing on the Chard Road above Lyewater.  Prior to 1837 the inn was entered from Lyewater, but after the realignment of the Chard Road the entrance moved up a level to open on the new thoroughfare.  Landlords included: Thomas Dibsdale, 1822-’30; Thomas Taylor, 1840; James Pavey, 1842; Henry Davis, 1850; Joseph Hughes, 1852-’53; Richard Slade, 1859-’61; Abel Marsh, 1866-’83; William Leech, 1883-’89; Robert Leech, 1889 (fined 50 shillings plus costs for allowing drunkenness on his premises); Samuel John Stagg, 1889-1934; and John Parker, 1935-’39.  By 1872 the freehold of the Cross Keys was held by Jolliffe & Norman, and the title passed through the C.U.B./Arnold & Hancock/Ushers sequence until the latter shut the pub in 1957.  The last landlord was Mr. Peter Male, grandson of S.J. Stagg, and his wife, the former Ophelia Leach, whose coopering family has been outlined in connection with the King William. The inconsistency of the surname spelling is assumed to be a case of editorial sloppiness as the Barn Street and Lyewater Leeches and Leaches are one and the same.

 

The Crown: The Crown, either alone or in combination with other symbols, is the most common of all inn signs. The name may originally have indicated houses that were on Crown Property but has traditionally symbolized loyalty.  Willis Watson could find no mention of any kind for the Crown in St. Bartholomew’s parish records and inferred, probably correctly, that it did not come into existence until after 1829.  Consecutive late-1990s-to early 21st century editions of the Good Beer Guide stated that the Crown was originally a seventeenth century coaching inn.  I don’t know the origin of this notion but it is a complete tarradiddle.  It is probable that it is another one of the houses to evolve after the 1830 Beerhouses Act, which greatly liberalized licensing criteria for the sale of alcohol.  It is reasonable to guess that its naming may have marked either the accession of William IV in 1830, or that of Victoria in 1837.

Although not mentioned by name in the town directories until 1861, the inn is known to have been operating as the Crown by 1839, when it was the scene of a dramatic incident involving a notorious local desperado named John Stembridge.  Having been found in possession of fifteen pounds of pork stolen from William Harding of Cudworth, Stembridge was  taken – “hands bolted” – by Constables Thomas Fone and John Lowman to the Crown in South Street.  There they took away the prisoner’s clothes and locked him in an upper bedroom.  During the night Stembridge – presumably in the nude – jumped or otherwise lowered himself the 26 feet from bedroom window to courtyard and escaped, not to be recaptured for five months.  Stembridge, variously described as “…an abandoned and desperate character…” and  “…a scoffer almost to the point of being a blasphemer…”, was an incorrigible recidivist who remained a criminal until his death.  He was such a scourge that in 1854 31 of Crewkerne’s leading worthies – including George Slade Jolliffe and William Marsh of the George – signed a petition to the Home Secretary pleading that Stembridge stop being given tickets-of-leave as “…if…allowed to go at large, he will assuredly return to his former habits and vices“.

The landlord of the Crown at the time of the Stembridge episode was William Webber – also a cordwainer – who had occupied the house as a private dwelling, and probably also as a workplace, from 1827.  In 1836 title to the house was given in trust to James Hellyar in consideration of a loan of £120, which was augmented in 1839 with the advance of a further £80.  Mr. Hellyar seems to have specialized in the financing of public houses as his name appears in documents appertaining to other inns, notably the Castle in West Street.  It is probable that Mr. Webber defaulted on his debt as Mr. Hellyar was in a position to sell the house in 1860.  The buyers were Budge, Stanfield & Co., proprietors of the Hermitage Brewery.  Mr. Hellyar appears to have been bound to pay William Webber any money received for the house over and above the £200 owed, plus interest and costs of sale, but as the indenture between Mr. Hellyar and Budge, Stanfield & Co. refers to “…considerable arrears of interest” it is doubtful that Mr. Webber – who had meanwhile moved his business further east toward Viney Bridge – received much from the sale.

In the interim Robert Young, named as beerseller of South street, c.1850-’53, was probably tenant of the Crown.  The first directory listing of the inn by name records Samuel Brooks as landlord.  He is also named in the sale document of 1860, and remained until 1875.  Mrs. Rebecca Brooks was licensee from 1876 until at least 1883.  Subsequent tenants included John Swaffield Loveless, c.1889-c.1906, who also carried on trade as a butcher; John Hockey, c.1914; William Sprague, c.1916; and Charles Light who took the house c.1918 and remained until 1935.  In 1931 Mr. Light was also listed as a greengrocer.  He was followed by F. Woodrow.

Ownership of the inn remained with Budge, Stanfield & Co., being in the name of Sarah Budge, until 1880.  Ownership then passed to Crewkerne United Breweries following the merger-by-contract that came in the wake of the Hermitage Street Brewery’s destruction in 1879.  When, after following the fate of C.U.B.’s other houses, the Crown was visited by A.S., consequent on Usher’s take over of Arnold & Hancock in 1955, he made this report: “Landlord F. Woodrow. Tenure: 21 years. Volume:111 barrels. Nice house but bar alterations to service lounge (to which living room should be added) badly needed. 4 letting bedrooms. Everything beautifully kept. Good man. Bad wife. Skittle alley needs roof attention badly.  Ivy from next door property is damaging main roof of house. Brewery also owns next door cottage and two shops. Bad damp from adjoining property, ground being too high.”

People old enough to remember were asked what it was in Mrs. Woodrow comportment or disposition which might have led to A.S.’s poor opinion, but beyond the fact that she seems to have been a strong-minded and forthright woman, evidence is vague.

The Crown continued as an Ushers house (under the later umbrella of Watney Mann/Chef & Brewer) with several landlords – notably Walter Jeffrey, formerly of the Volunteer – until it was sold in 1980 to Mr. and Mrs. Dunbavin of Teignmouth, and reverted to free house status.

Derek and Betty Fuller, proprietors of the inn prior to its acquisition by its last owners, have reported the Crown as having a resident ghost.  On several occasions they have seen a woman in a dark, ankle-length skirt and cream blouse performing various domestic tasks, back always to the observer.  Being unaware of any tragedy in the inn’s history that would account for the ghostly woman’s presence, they have speculated that she have been John Stembridge’s unfortunate wife, awaiting her errant husband’s return.  The name Stembridge recurs in South Street, and the Crown may have been John’s local.

When I knew the Crown before its closure as an inn and conversion to private residential use, several of its architectural features and those of its outbuildings attested to a multi-purpose history.  A series of large carcass-hooks ran along the heavy beam fixed to the roof of the carriageway entrance, recalling the Loveless butcher’s shop period.  The barn at the rear of the courtyard was probably an abattoir at one time.  There was a small sealed well under the adjacent skittle alley.  The most intriguing architectural feature of the inn itself was its cellar.  The nature of the roof timbers, which were original and in remarkably good condition, indicated that the main building of the Crown probably dated from the early-to-mid eighteenth century, and certainly had at one time a thatched roof.  However, beneath the building there was a body of formidable arched stonework and massive semi-buttressing, obviously designed to support a much larger structure than the present one.  The arches ran front-to-back of the inn rather than side-to-side,and their corners had been worn into smooth curves as if by running water. The evidence is inconclusive, but, considering the confluence of waterways which still run beneath South Street, there is a possibility that there may once have been a mill of some kind on the site of the present building.

Early in the proprietorship the last owners, Trevor and Angela Roberts, the Crown could have been said to have come full circle.  Having begun as a privately-owned ale house, quite possibly brewing its own stock-in-trade, the Crown for a period developed a micro-brewery in the aforementioned barn at the rear of the courtyard.  Crewkerne Brewery produced in its time several excellent ales, one of which was named Best Beer at CAMRA’s 1998 Somerset Beer Festival.  This accolade seemed a good omen for the return of commercial brewing in Crewkerne after a lapse of over 50 years.  However, brewing at the Crown was suspended in 2000 and after a further period the inn closed.

 

The Dolphin: This inn was in West Street, on the approximate site of what in my Crewkerne time was Odd-Me-Dods.  In 1840 the landlord was Thomas Hallett.  Willis Watson gives the licensee as Harry Gale, although I have not encountered this name elsewhere.  The premises were later used as a saddler’s shop.

 

The Dove: This inn appears in the 1840 Hunt’s Directory, and is located in Gould’s Barton, with John Higgins as landlord.  No other mention of the house has been found.

 

The Dragon: This inn occurs in parish records by 1653 with Henry Hodges named as ratepayer from that date until 1671.  (See also the Green Dragon.)

 

The Duke William: The existence of this inn is suppositious, although there is some evidence that a house did once stand near the West Street end of Oxen Lane.  Willis Watson quotes G.S. Pulman as saying that Gould’s Barton had at one time been called Duke William’s Barton: the name deriving from William, Duke of Cumberland, brother of George III, who was also known as Butcher Cumberland, victorious commander at the Battle of Culloden.

 

The Eagle: This inn was situated in West Street in what later became Hurle House.  It seems to have become an inn after 1830 – first evidence dates from 1848 – and does not appear in any directory by name, although it is known that one landlord was James Collard, who appears as a beerseller of West Street in 1850.  Mr. Collard was also a wheelwright and blacksmith and would have carried on his trades in the mews behind the inn, near what in my Crewkerne period was the electrical goods firm of Venn & Co..  By 1859 Mr. Collard had moved his business to Church Street where he – or another James Collard is listed as shopkeeper through the 1870s.  Hurle House was at one time occupied by Frederick Stoodley the younger, son of Willis Watson’s friend and informant on the town’s old inns.  Close examination will reveal to the observer a surviving legend painted on the arch above the mews entrance indicating that forge work was carried on at the site into the last century. 

 

The Five Bells: This inn was located at 16 Church Path – the name of the present cottage recalling the pub – and dated back to the eighteenth century at least.  Willis Watson’s supposition that it was a haunt of the St. Bartholomew’s bell-ringers seems entirely reasonable.  The house had other parochial connections; the “pay table” being located in one of its rooms.  This was the place where the poor of the parish came in order to petition the relieving officer for their dole.  The earliest landlady found by Willis Watson was Esther Bryant, 1783; followed by George Bull in 1788.  Joseph Palmer, also a coach-builder and -painter, was landlord from 1822 through 1829.  His run-in with the church authorities is recounted on Chapter Four.  Subsequent licensees included: John Jeffrey, 1840; Mary Jeffries [sic], 1842; John Brooks, 1850-’66; John Lacey, 1872-’86 (one of these last two gentlemen was apparently known as “Huntsman Jack”); Ann Lacey, 1887; Walter Lacey, 1888-’94; Thomas Spearing, 1895-1902; John Brice, 1903-’04; Eli Watts, 1905-’10; William Sprague, 1914; Frederick J. Porter, 1919; Thomas Fone, 1929-’39-plus.  By 1829 the house was in the ownership of Draper, Slade & Co., and the title passed through their various successors until the inn – then known as “the cheese house”, presided over by Mr. and Mrs. Les Rendell – was closed by Ushers in 1957.

 

The Grapes: This house was at 14 Church Street.  It first occurs in 1859 with Thomas Bicknell named as landlord.  He was followed in 1861 by Edward London, and in 1872 by William W. Webber.  James Taylor, landlord from 1875, was also a carpenter, and probably a relation of the various Taylors who were tradespeople in the town for several generations, and some of whom kept the King’s Arms.  By 1872 and until 1897 the inn was owned by James Kite of Sherborne.  It was acquired by C.U.B. in 1898.  The inn was closed in 1907 by statutory compulsory order with compensation paid.  The last landlady was Ann Osborn, who had followed Mrs. Mary Taylor.

 

The Green Dragon: The age and situation of this old inn is rather unclear.  It is mentioned in various deeds going back to 1671, and during the mid-eighteenth century was connected with both the Manor of Easthams – owned by Caleb King and his heirs – and also with the Crewkerne Grammar School Estate. Willis Watson locates the inn on the south side of Market Square – formerly called Fore Street – on the site of the present Queen Anne’s Buildings.  Against this, references occur to “the Green Dragon or Antelope.”  The moving about of Crewkerne pub names and locations (obvious examples: the George and White Hart) is not unprecedented, but the sequence here is cloudy.

 

The Greyhound: This inn apparently stood on the site of the present post office in East Street.  The landlord in 1840 was John Hardiman, followed in 1842 by William Bishop.  As mentioned before, various Bishops recur as licensees in East Street with no house specified. 

 

The Haberdashers’ Arms: According to information unearthed by Mrs. Burbage – to which I have been unable to add – trade tokens for this inn were issued in 1670, the landlord and/or owner being Edward Cussins.  The more usual spelling of the name is Cossins, often, as noted, encountered in connection with the Crewkerne Grammar School Estate.  Rather curiously, Willis Watson reports no mention of this inn in the contemporary parish records.

 

The Horseshoe: Mrs. Burbage reports the existence of a mortgage dating from 1763-’65 which refers to this inn.  I am unaware of any other further mention.

 

The Horse & Jockey: Said to be another name for the Antelope.

 

The Labour in Vain: This inn occurs in the parish accounts of 1792, the ratepayer being named as William Budden.  As the rate was only 2d, Willis Watson reasoned that it must have been a small house. A William Budden and, later, Mrs. Mary Budden were tenants of the George through much of the mid-to-late eighteenth century; suggesting either that this William Budden was a son, or in some way a relation of the Buddens of the George, or that the Labour in Vain was a small annex of the George, perhaps akin to the later George Tap.  This inn sign, understandably no longer prevalent, often showed a woman trying to scrub the colour off the skin of a black child.

The Lamb: This inn is said to have been in (Sheep-) Market Street on the site of the building later known as Old House, and was occupied in Willis Watson’s time by Mr. E.J. Blake.

The London Inn: This West Street house is not mentioned in the Willis Watson/Stoodley list.  It only occurs in the 1840 Hunt’s Directory, with John Brooks as landlord, and it may have been a temporary name for one of the several inns which crowded West Street in the nineteenth century.

The Masons’ Arms: Also unmentioned anywhere other than the 1840 Hunt’s, where John Corner is named as landlord. It was also in West Street and, considering Masonic symbolism, may have been another name for the Star, where the name Corner recurs.

The Nag’s Head: Nag’s Head is said to be a corruption of Horseshed or Horsehead, which were old pub names.  Some Nag’s Head inns feature humorous signs portraying a horse’s head on one side and a scolding woman of the other.  The sign of Crewkerne’s Nag’s Head in my later time in the town was a comparatively new one hung as part of recent refurbishment and was a solidly traditional one; both sides picturing a rather soulful-looking white horse gazing out over a stable door.  The present sign is indicative of the inn’s conversion in recent years to an Indian restaurant. The old name was appropriate to the inn, there being evidence that its prime function in earlier times was the accommodation of horses and the refreshment of those charged with looking after them. 

Although it is probably somewhat older – one reference exists to a music club that apparently met at the inn in 1784 – Willis Watson stated that the earliest record of the in that he could trace dated from 1792, when the parochial accounts listed John Gray as owner and ratepayer.  The land on which the inn and present restaurant stand – in common with most of the west side of Market Square – was anciently part of the St. Bartholomew’s Rectory Estate, and the parish records note that the land tax was redeemed in 1801.

Considering the nature of the land and buildings which historically took up the ground roughly to the rear of both the former Nag’s Head and the neighbouring Swan, it is reasonable to guess that these late eighteenth century dates indicate the culmination of a period during which the house evolved from being livery stables – possibly attached to one of the larger nearby inns – into a hostelry in its own right.  A photograph said to date from c.1860 shows the building which the present one replaced.  There is an inn sign hanging between its second floor windows, but it is in shadow and indecipherable.  The only prominent words on the frontage read: “Good Stables”.  In the same photograph the building to the left of the Nag’s Head – also since rebuilt – carries the name “Pearce” on its facade.  It is recorded that a John Pearce and family were coach-builders in Market Place during the early-mid-nineteenth century.  It appears that John Pearce was a son of Joseph Pearce, recorded as a wheelwright. John Pearce is also named as landlord of the George Inn from at least 1814 until his death in 1823.   One theory would be that with the expansion and growing importance of Crewkerne’s flax, wool and general markets, those having trading and other business in the town would have been accommodated in the older, larger inns such as the George, Swan and the newly-built King’s Arms, while waggoners, drovers, grooms, farriers, ostlers and other of the horse-economy working class frequented the more humble Nag’s Head. 

By the early nineteenth century the landlord of the Nag’s Head was a Mr. Coombes, whose name appears frequently in the malt supply ledgers of the Ashlands brewers and maltsters, John Slade & Co.. In 1816 the ratepayer for the Nag’s Head was our friend Major William Gray, who was surely related to the John Gray mentioned in 1792.  In 1822 William Coombes is named as ratepayer and landlord, although it is unclear whether this is this is the same Mr. Coombes who had the house fifteen years earlier, or (quite possibly) a relation.

In 1827, ’28 and ’30 John Furzer was ratepayer and landlord, and Willis Watson states that John Draper and others are mentioned as owners.  This would appear to indicate that the Ashlands brewery – at this period called Draper, Slade & Co. – were the freeholders, although it is impossible to state this with certainty.  Several old Crewkerne inns – notably the George, King’s Arms and, later, the Swan – were owned, wholly or in part, in their own names by individual partners in the brewery, or their relatives.

By 1840 another John Slade had become landlord.  Not to be confused with the founder of the brewery – that gentleman having died in 1832 – this is the John Slade born in 1808 whose father – also John Slade – lived at Blackmoor Farm.  As well as keeping the Nag’s Head  this John Slade also became an important carrier in the region, the inn during his time being a depot for regularly scheduled goods wagons.

Through at least the years 1848 to 1872 the landlord of the Nag’s Head was William Wilce It would be consistent with the pattern of Crewkerne inn proprietorships if this were the son of the Mr. Wilce listed in previously cited malt supply ledgers in connection with the George.  The town directory for 1861 – during Mr. Wilce’s time as landlord – contains a misprint, referring to a King’s Head in Market Place, obviously conflating the Nag’s Head and the King’s Arms.

An event held at the Nag’s Head on the 1st June 1871 indicates that good neighbourly relations obtained around Market Place.  The occasion marked the resignation of George Slade Jolliffe – then owner of the George – as surgeon to the Prince of Wales Friendly Society, and his replacement by Mr. Cox.  The party were provided with “…a good dinner from Mr. Wilce”.  It is interesting to note that in all Willis Watson’s writings about Crewkerne’s old inns, Mr. Wilce is the only landlord of whom he cites a personal recollection; mentioning that he remembered Mr. Wilce as keeping the Nag’s Head during his own childhood in the 1870s.  To further add to the coincidence (it that is what is was) Mr. Wilce’s successors as landlords of the Nag’s Head were G.S. Willis – named in 1874 and ’77 – and William Watson – listed as licensee in 1875. 

During the 1870s – either late in Mr. Wilce’s time, or early in that of Mr. Willis and/or Mr. Watson – the Nag’s Head pictured in the old photograph was demolished and a new one erected.  The elevation of the older house was some ten or a dozen feet lower than the new one and, although the roof is of old slate in the photo, it was almost certainly thatched at one time.  The present building is a rather handsome three-storey structure in the high-Victorian neo-Gothic style.  The front doorway and large trisectional ground floor window – both utilizing good quality quarry-dressed hamstone – are especially notable.  Mr. Watson’s 1875 directory listing reads: “Inn and Posting House”, indicating that horses were still kept available for hire at that time.

Following Messrs Willis and/or Watson, the inn was kept between 1883-’89 by John Quick.  His successor was Clifford Butter, who by 1902 was landlord of the King’s Arms, in which year there is no directory listing for the Nag’s Head.

By 1906 the 30-plus year tenure of the Holman family had begun.  The surname Holman goes back for more than two centuries in the annals of Crewkerne life, and people of that name have carried on a variety of trades and businesses in the town.  Eli Holman appears as landlord of the Nag’s Head through 1910.  Frank and James Holman were joint-landlords from 1914 through 1929; and Frank Holman is listed from 1931 through 1939.  During and after World War II the landlord was a Mr. Satchell, also at one time a town councillor.  It has been said that Mr. Satchell’s business methods were sufficiently elastic as to include the practice of passing off to U.S. military personnel billeted in the town during the war of Vimto – admittedly richer in those days than it is now – as port.

The Nag’s Head was one of Crewkerne’s least documented inns.  Most of its old deeds have disappeared and, apart from some Magistrates’ Licensing Ledgers and a planning application for alterations dating from 1965, the Somerset Record Office holds little material appertaining to the house.  In the face of this difficulty, it is possible for me to say that by 1872 the owner of the inn was Henry Strawson – who presumably acquired it from either the Draper family, or the Old Brewery.  In 1885 the owner is listed as James Chard, and in the following year the owners were Sumner, Toms & Co..  There is a photograph – probably taken from a first floor window of the George, and dating from about 1902 – that shows the Nag’s Head to have been a Mitchell, Toms & Co. Chard Brewery house.  As mentioned the King’s Arms sketch, in 1937 the Chard Brewery merged with the Yeovil brewing firm of Brutton & Co., and the resulting company of Brutton, Mitchell, Toms & Co. was taken over by Bass Charrington in 1960.  Post-war licensees, both before and after the acquisition by Bass Charrington, include a Mr. Palmer, the Lane family, who kept the house between 1956 and 1964, and Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Rogers, who presided during the mid-’70s and early-’80s.  The Nag’s Head freehold remained with Bass Charrington until the early 1990s whereupon ownership became rather a case of pass-the-parcel.  During the first four years of Mr. Phil Martin’s 1990s tenancy title of the inn changed hands three times.  The last owners during my time in Crewkerne were Enterprise Inns of Solihull.

In contrast with several other of Crewkerne’s older inns the Nag’s Head has no tradition of a resident ghost.  At least not a human one.  Mr. Chris Lane, a resident of the town and in my time still a customer of the inn, once recalled to me that when he was a child during his parents’ time as hosts, he awoke in the early hours one morning and, looking out his bedroom window, saw by moonlight a wild, spectral-looking white horse plunging and careering around the stable yard.  Convinced that the steed was not of this world, the young Chris hid shivering beneath the bedclothes until dawn.  Daylight brought a more prosaic explanation: a white horse belonging to Dr. Weir – then resident in Kincora House at 3 Church Street – had broken out of its stall and, whether seeking company or exercise, crossed the road into the alley leading to the rear of the Nag’s Head.

Considering this apposite episode, the inn’s name, and the apparently antique equine traditions attaching to the Nag’s Head, only one thing seemed to me to be missing.  On the other hand, the traffic warden might have had something to say about placing a hitching post in modern Market Square.

The New Inn: Contrary to Willis Watson’s notion, this inn did not replace an older one.  It was on the site now occupied by 10-12 South Street.  The present buildings date from c. early-1870s and were erected in place of a very old house which had burned down.  Deeds appertaining to the house (oddly enough included in a bundle of documents relating to the nearby Crown) refer to leases going back to 1686.  In view of this, the house was quite possibly a timber-frame structure.  As an inn it does not have a history prior to 1830.  The landlord through most of its life was the coach-builder and -painter, Joseph Palmer, formerly of the Five Bells.  The fire appears to have seen the end of the inn, as its name had disappeared by 1872.

The Railway Tavern: The Railway as an inn name is common and self-explanatory.  Prior to its closure as a pub and conversion to residential use, the sign of Crewkerne’s Railway Tavern was a distinctive one.  It had been executed by a West Coker artist, Peter Hudson, known as Pete The Painter.  Copied from a print showing the Jubilee Class 5XP No. 5593 locomotive engine “Kolhpur”, belonging to the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, and was both vigorously coloured and boldly drawn with a dramatic use of perspective.

It is mildly ironic that the Railway Tavern was not, and never had been, the inn nearest to the town’s railway station.  Although it is older than the Queen’s Hotel-cum-Old Stagecoach, it was predated as a South Street/Viney Bridge inn by the Sawyers’ Arms (qv) lying some hundred yards to the east of the Railway Tavern.  However, the inn’s evolution from a set of dwelling and working cottages, also containing a grocer’s, into a public house seems to have coincided with the arrival of the railway in 1860. Willis Watson was convinced that the house owed its existence as a tavern to the trade generated by traffic to and from the station, and the name – whether bestowed by the proprietor or customers – seems natural enough.  It is also said that the originally-planned route of the London-Exeter railway line would have passed nearer the town and thus the pub.

Further, in 1907 a company was formed for the purpose of building a light railway line between Crewkerne, South Petherton and Martock, which would have run through Cropmead Meadow, immediately to the rear of the pub.  This project, however, never came to fruition and the company was wound up in 1909.

The initial documented appearance of the Railway Tavern under that name occurs in the Magistrates’ Licensing Ledgers for 1872; both owner and licensee being named as Sarah Holman.  Mrs. Holman was the widow of Henry Holman, who forms a nexus between the inn and Crewkerne’s traditional textile industries.

The webbing factory at Viney Bridge was originally built by Samuel Sparks and Benjamin Gidley in the early 1790s.  These gentlemen also founded a bank in the town.  Mr. Gidley died in either 1812 or 1813, and Mr. Sparks in 1827.  In 1829 the bank operated by their successors over-extended its speculative positions in sailcloth and lace, and ceased payment.  In 1830 Henry Holman took over the factory at Viney Bridge.  These dates would indicate that the two occurrences were not coincidental.

As has been noted previously, Holmans have for centuries carried on various trades and businesses in and near Crewkerne.  There is some evidence that Henry Holman may himself have been a master weaver and that – owing to the failure of the Sparks & Gidley Bank – he was able to obtain control of the Viney Bridge operation at a knock-down price; perhaps in something like what would now be termed a management buy-out.

Mr. Holman continued to be described in the town directories as a manufacturer of sailcloth and girth-webbing until 1852, by which time he was also listed as a grocer.  He may simply have been versatile, but this appears to argue that Mr. Holman – either through his own comparative inadequacies as a businessman, or as a result of trade conditions – did not make a roaring success of his textile enterprises.

He was at one point sufficiently prosperous, however, to have had fourteen cottages “new built” in south Street near Viney Bridge, presumably for the use of people working in and/or for the webbing factory.

There is an indenture, dated 1895, at one time in the possession of the Railway Tavern’s then-ownership, which contains an abstract reciting the succession of the inn’s title up to that time.  In 1834 Henry Holman acquired the cottages that were to make up the Railway Tavern.  As security for a loan of £100 from one John Woodcock, Mr. Holman, by way of a mortgage, assigned to Mr. Woodcock the remainder of a 1,500-year lease which had commenced in 1806, when the cottages were built.  The name Woodcock also recurs in connection with Crewkerne’s textile industries at this period.

On 25th March 1858 Mr. Holman was advanced a further £736 by John Sparks in return for the demise to him of 390 years of what remained of the 1,500-year lease of 1806.  It is unclear whether Mr. Sparks – a solicitor – was acting in his private capacity, or as a member of the old Crewkerne law firm of Sparks & Blake, in which he was a partner.

Conditions of the loan involved payment of principal, interest and a peppercorn rent. It also stated that the agreement in no way prejudiced the previous security of John Woodcock.  Further, it was stipulated that Mr. Holman was to repay the loan within six months, in default of which Mr. Sparks would obtain the right to sell the property.

Mr. Holman died in September 1858, only weeks before the six months had elapsed.  There is no knowing if the loan had been arranged in the knowledge of Mr. Holman’s impending death, but it seems possible.

In 1886, following the death of John Woodcock and Sarah Holman, John Sparks advanced further monies to surviving members of the Holman family sufficient to pay the executors of Mr. Woodcock’s estate what was owing by virtue of the 1834 agreement.

Some years previously control of the Viney Bridge webbing factory had passed, first to Thomas Matthews & Son, and in 1883 to Arthur Hart.

In 1894 John Sparks, by Deed Poll, had the properties rendered into a fee simple.  On 27th September 1894 and auction was held at the George Hotel under the auspices of J. Wheatley & Co..  On offer were five properties then owned or occupied by the children or grandchildren of Henry and Sarah Holman, including the Railway Tavern, which was bought by Crewkerne United Breweries for the round sum of £1,000.  It was remarked that the interior condition of at least one of the cottages was poor to the point of squalor.

Mrs. Holman had, from the time of her husband’s death, been listed in town directories as a shopkeeper of South Street, and it would appear likely that during the succeeding few years what had been a dwelling and grocer’s took advantage of the liberalizing provisions of the 1830 Beerhouses Act and extended its business into the licensed trade.  Mrs. Holman’s listing alters by 1875 to beerseller.

There is some evidence that the tone of Mrs. Holman’s public house was not elevated.  The Licensing Ledger notes that in 1873 the owner was fined £3, plus costs, for the offence of refusing to allow a constable on the premises.  In considering this it should be remembered that in rural areas especially at that time – although town and borough constables were familiar enough – the phenomenon a full-time professional police force was still a comparative novelty.  A period would have been well within Mrs. Holman’s memory when the police – as per the regulations governing the original 1829 Metropolitan Police – were absolutely forbidden to enter any premises, public or private, save at the express invitation of the householder.  That said, subsequent events tend to support the idea that the Railway Tavern of the 1870s and ’80s was less than sedate and genteel.

Mrs. Holman continued to be listed as both owner and licensee until 1879, and as owner until her death, c.1885.  Licensees in the interim were: Thomas Farrant, 1880; Job Loveless, 1881-’82; Ambrose Payne, 1883; and Thomas Lye, 1883-’85.  Mr. Lye seems to have followed Mrs. Holman’s example in one respect: he was fined in consecutive years – £3, plus costs; £2, plus costs; and again, £2, plus costs; the license being endorsed on each occasion.  No offences were specified.

During 1885 someone appears to have decided that enough was sufficient, and Mr. Lye was replaced – possibly at the behest of C.U.B., who had assumed tenancy of the inn during the mid’80s – by Charles Stoodley, who apparently kept the inn in a manner sufficiently orderly to escape the censure of the magistrates.  It is interesting to note that at the same auction which saw C.U.B. acquire the Railway Tavern, an adjoining cottage was bought by Mr. Frederick Stoodley, then attached to the office of Sparks & Blake, and early historian of the town’s inns.  It seems plausible that the two Mr. Stoodleys were related.

The cottage acquired by Frederick Stoodley had been occupied by Eli Holman, a grandson of Henry and Sarah Holman, and later landlord of the Nag’s Head.  In another transaction the Holman heirs sold a plot of land near the inn for £80 to James Taylor, landlord of the Grapes in Church Street.

In 1889 the licensee was George Dix Dyer, who seems to have had his difficulties.  In 1889, citing poor trade, he pleaded with the directors of C.U.B. that his rent be reduced to £18 per annum.  The directors agreed to a figure of £20 on condition that Mr. Dyer reduce his account by £2 per month.  Mr. Dyer was dubious but said he would try.  On 10th November 1900 Mr. Dyer was called in by the directors to discuss his arrears.  He agreed to an ultimatum that he clear his account by Christmas.  Despite these problems the publican remained until 1906 when he was replaced by Henry Cooper, previously of the Royal Oak.  Mr. Cooper was succeeded in 1915 by Joseph Diment.  Two years later Mr. Diment asked to be relieved of the tenancy, citing poor trade due to the War.  Despite this he remained as landlord through at least 1935.  In 1939 the tenancy was taken over by Arthur Mullins, who had previously kept a grocer’s shop at 16 South Street.  He remained landlord until 1962.

Ownership of the Railway Tavern remained with Crewkerne United Breweries and its successors, ensuring that the house received one of Mr. A.S.’s scouting visits for Ushers in 1955.  His report reads: “ License: Beer & Wine [the inn received a full license in 1957]; Licensee: A. Mullins (unseen); Trade (to 30/9/’54) 81 barrels.  A dreary little house. 2 unserviced bars. Skittle alley.”

This may seem unduly harsh.  In these days of blaring jukeboxes, ubiquitous large screen televisions, incessant fruit machines, and even (ultimate abomination) karaoke, a dreary little house seems just what would appeal to many of us – the grown-ups at least.  And against A.S.’s assessment there is considerable photographic and other evidence suggesting that Mr. Mullins presided over a jolly – if modest – local pub whose clientele were notably loyal to the house.

Railway Tavern licensees following Mr. Mullins included Bill Sparks; Tony Duckett; Mike Allen; John Kelly; Paul Edson; June Benson and Maggie Salt, subsequently last landlady of the Castle.  Ownership of the freehold followed Ushers when it became part of the Courage group.  In 1996 Rose Vaughan acquired the freehold from Courage.  Sadly, Rose Vaughan passed under the wire in 2004 but in my experience her little house could scarcely have been called “dreary”.

The Red Lion: There have been two Crewkerne inns of this name.  The original one was at 13-15 Market Square, now occupied by Oscar’s Wine Bar.  The Tudor building, said to date from the early-mid-sixteenth century, has a cellar and foundations  that are much older; almost certainly Norman.  The standard and style of the pillars and vaulting in the cellar argue that it was built by and for the connections of the church.  Various features indicate that it may have seen use by monks as a refectory-kitchen-larder and brewhouse.  This suggests that Crewkerne’s original pilgrims’ inn – possibly under the sign of the Angel – may have been located on this site.  The town’s position as an important crossroad on the way to and from places of religious pilgrimage surely guarantees that some such hostelry would have existed.  As has been noted, some evidence points to the possibility that as well as the Angel, a Bell Inn may have occupied the site.  However, by 1783 – and almost certainly earlier – the house had become known as the Red Lion (or Lyon), and the ratepayer was Richard Toby.  He remained until 1788 and was followed by William Hall, who is listed as both ratepayer and landlord until 1812-’13.  At some time during Mr. Hall’s tenure it seems that the inn ceased both to be part of the St. Bartholomew’s Rectory Estate, and to have moved to its later site in (Sheep-) Market Street.  The new inn complex contained evidence of a previously-existing maltings and stables.  By 1822 the house was in the possession of Elias Donell.  Mr. Donell (or Dunell) continued to be listed as landlord through 1830, although Willis Watson names Richard Knight as ratepayer in 1827.  Subsequent licensees include: Pricilla Clark, 1840-’42; William Sprake, 1850-’59; William Huish, 1861-’74; Matilda Huish, 1875-’76; Emily Caroline Huish, 1877-’78; George Rugg, 1879-’85; Henry Judd, 1886-’89; and William Charles Sparrow, 1890-1939-plus. By 1872 ownership of the Red Lion had passed to John Slade, the accountant/carrier/et al., partner and brother-in-law of George Rugg.  Mr. Slade died c.1889, and his executors eventually sold the inn to the Oakhill Brewery.  In 1897, William C. Sparrow, who had been licensee since 1890, bought the freehold from Oakhills.  During his long tenure Mr. Sparrow developed a reputation for sturdy independence, not to say downright surliness.  He advertised his inn as having, among other attractions, “…New modern stables, perfect system of sanitation, loose boxes & lock-up coach house“.  After World War II the inn continued as a free house in the hands of Mrs. Sparrow, who was followed by Mr. and Mrs. S. Pimley. The Red Lion closed rather abruptly in 1990, and following a protracted dispute between the freeholder and South Somerset District Council, the premises were converted into flats and shops-space which, in various forms, exist today.

The Sawyers’ Arms: This inn was situated at 219 South Street.  It almost certainly dated from post-1830, and William Webber, cordwainer and first landlord of the Crown, was owner and licensee until the mid-nineteenth century.  He was succeeded by Hannah Webber, who remained owner until 1882.  The freehold passed to C.U.B in 1884.  Other licensees included: Frederick Cooper, 1872-’89; John Cooper, 1890-’93; Walter Collins, 1894-’97; John Mills, 1898-1903; Frederick Perry, 1904-’08-plus.  In 1921 the Sawyers’ Arms was closed by statutory compulsory order with compensation paid.  The last landlord was George Meecham, who subsequently transformed the premises into G.W. Meecham & Son, General Stores, which closed finally in late 1998.  The site is now residential.

The Ship: There was apparently a house of this name but no record of it seems to exist.

The Shoulder of Mutton: This was apparently an important inn during much of the later eighteenth century.  Located on the Bincombe Lane corner of Market Square, its name appears to refer the inn’s proximity to Crewkerne’s market and shambles.  The inn was in existence by the 1760s, and a collection of old bills and receipts unearthed by Betty Burbage give a picture of the house: “…it had its own brewhouse… was built of hamstone, limewashed, with a roof part thatched and part shingled.  It also had casement windows with leaded glass.  In 1783 there were repairs done to the ‘siller dore’ and the thatcher, James Chard, received 18/6d for work done by him and ‘the boy’ on the roof.  The year before, for some other work done in August, a boy’s wages were 3/4d for 4 1/2 days.  At this date a Mrs. Thom seems to have been tenant and the owner a Mr. Frankling, who lived in Taunton.”  In another who-moved-the-pub, Mrs. Burbage also noted a 1782 mention of “The Shoulder of Mutton or Duke William” near Oxen Lane.  Willis Watson records that Samuel Wills was rated in respect of the Shoulder of Mutton in 1822 and 1825.  The inn makes no further appearance after this date, arguing that even a town as bibulous as Crewkerne had a limit to the number of drinking houses it could support in the immediate vicinity of its market place.

The Star: This house is said to have been located opposite The Eagle (Hurle House), and Willis Watson names the landlady as Hannah Corner (nee Daniel).  The name Corner, and the nature of Masonic symbolism lead me to believe that this inn may also have been known as the Masons’ Arms.  In Willis Watson’s own time the premises were occupied by George Holman, fruiterer; and were subsequently a antique shop operated by local artist, Tom McArthur.

The Three Cups: According to Willis Watson this inn was kept by Taylor Swaffield and stood at the south-west corner of Christ Church graveyard in South Street.  I have encountered no other mention of the inn or of its landlord.

The Three Cornish Choughs: This inn occurs only in an indenture of 1716 by which the house – located in Court Barton – along with a stable and garden, were leased by Jane Pullam, widow, for “£2.5/0d per annum to Richard Patten, clothier of West Chinnock, and John Robard Esq. of Merriott.

The Trotting Horse: This inn was located at 19 West Street, since demolished to make way for the entrance to the present carpark.  The landlord was Samuel Osborne, who also kept the Antelope at one time.  Willis Watson describes Mr. Osborne’s son as “…a well-known personage in the town and district 50 years ago [e.g. 1870s] – Sojer Jobey.”  The house was also for many years the residence of Joseph Scriven, bootmaker-cum-butcher son of William Scriven of the Castle and White Horse inns.

The Valiant Soldier: This inn was said by Willis Watson to have been located in Oxen Lane, and to have been kept by John Holman, known as “Slippery Jack”.  I have encountered no other mention of the house, although I suspect from the name that there may have been a connection with the Duke William.

The Volunteer: This inn was located at what is now 62 North Street.  Willis Watson’s guess that the house took its name from the men of Crewkerne who formed a defence force at the time of the Napoleonic Wars was more accurate than he thought.  The Volunteer was the inn closest in proximity to the Old Brewery at Ashlands and – established at about the same time – may be regarded as having been the brewery tap.  As previously noted, the founders of the brewery were John Slade, Robert Perham and William Gray.  The Crewkerne Volunteers were raised by Major Gray, and his second-in-command was Robert Perham.  John Slade owned the Volunteer himself and following his death in 1832 it passed to his son-in-law, George Hilborne Jolliffe.  With G.H. Jolliffe’s death in 1861 title passed to his nephew, Crewkerne solicitor James Hare Jolliffe.  When J.H. Jolliffe died the inn became the property of his nephew, the second George Hilborne Jolliffe, and eventually became part of the C.U.B. estate.  Licensees of the Volunteer included: Charles Brook, 1822-’23; Robert Spake, 1840; Joseph Genge, 1842; Charles Pitcher, 1850; George Higgins, 1852-’61; Charles Mitchell, 1866; James Morton, 1872-’80; Isiah Trask, 1880; John Bunstone, 1883-’84; William Slade, 1885-’87; William Cook, 1887; Thomas Garland, 1889-’95; Joseph Brown, 1895-1910; George Prince, 1914; William Collins, 1919; George Brewer, 1923; Mrs. Nora Brewer, 1927; William George Rendell, 1931-’35; Gilbert Lacey, 1939-plus.  Following the take-over of the C.U.B./Arnold & Hancock estate by Ushers, the Volunteer closed in 1957, the last landlord being Walter Jeffreys, later licensee of the Crown.

The White Horse: This inn stood at the corer of West Street and Gould’s Brook Terrace.  The landlord in 184 was Thomas Diment, followed in the 1850s until 1861 by William Scriven, also licensee of the nearby Castle.  The premises – now a private residence – later contained the greengrocery of Edward Holman.

The White Lion: Now the White Lion Carvery in Hermitage Street, the house was an inn by 1783.  The proprietors were the Bishop family, who were connected with various other Crewkerne inns.  Willis Watson names Francis Bruford as ratepayer in 1808, after which the house disappears from parochial records.  The Bishop connection continued with Benjamin Bishop named in directories as landlord from 1822 through 1842.  He was followed by Joseph Delamont, 1850-’53; Henry Fowler, 1859-’61; Mrs. Mary Palmer, 1866; Joseph Delamont [whether the same or a relation], 1872-’75; James Slade, 1880-’91; Albert Slade, 1891-’96; George Taylor, 1897-1900; Charles Rather, 1901-’07; William Chubb, 1907-’14; John England, 1919-’35; and John Seely, 1939-plus.  As well as being landlord, Henry Fowler seems also to have owned the freehold, which was acquired from his executors by C.U.B. in 1883.  In 1955 the White Lion  duly received its visit from Mr. A.S. of Ushers.  His report reads: Tenant: Mrs. Bartlett, 3 1/2 years. Volume: 179 barrels. Good public bar & small private bar.  Good lounge. – separate.  No skittle alley.  Very good house, well-kept.”  Despite this encomium the inn was closed as a pub in 1973, and entered its present incarnation as a restaurant in the 1980s.

The Wind Blows Fair: According to Willis Watson this “…was the corner house leading to the barton at the end of Row’s Lane, (now Hayward’s factory).”  Note that Willis Watson gives what is now Rose Lane its proper traditional name.  The publican was John Stagg, a native of Beer, Devon, who had fished the Newfoundland Banks as a young man, and who continued to sell fish in tandem with innkeeping. The name of his inn, which combined the nautical and the poetic, indicates that Mr. Stagg was man of some sensibility.  His son, Samuel John Stagg, was landlord of the Cross Keys for 45 years.  As noted, the younger Mr. Stagg’s wife was born Ophelia Leach, of the coopering family who for several generations owned the King William. As also previously related, following the sale of the King William in 1943 to the Hambridge Brewery, Mrs. Stagg felt she had been cheated out of her fair share of the proceeds by her relations; a circumstance leading to a life-long family rift.  It is, of course, impossible at this distance of time for an outsider to comment on the rights and wrongs of this family feud, but it does illustrate an instance of the whole raison d’etre underlying this study of the George and all the other old Crewkerne inns, both extant and “gone on”.  And that is: if one knows something of the history of a community’s inns and taverns, and that of those connected with them, one knows that much more about the social history of the community itself. 

Acknowledgments

It is now – 2015 – some 20-odd years since I first undertook the researches that have gone into the above studies.  There have been, unsurprisingly, many changes to both the physical and demographic features of the town.  In the original draft of these acknowledgments I said that for reasons of space, and in some cases, the avoidance of embarrassment, I would forebear to enumerate and name the various natives and other residents of Crewkerne and environs unmentioned by name in the text, but whose personal knowledge, casual recollections and anecdotes helped me to build up a picture of the George and the town’s other old inns, but they all have had my past and present gratitude.  Similarly, in addition to Frank Joyce of the George, and Adrian Evans, late of the White Hart – the George’s original home – the licensees of the various other houses during my time in the town were uniformly helpful and cooperative in aiding my researches insofar as it was in their power to do so.  However, several individuals should be mentioned without whose help and cooperation I could not have begun to render even such justice as has been done to the subject here.  Firstly, I was indebted to Mr. Gary Gilmore, previous proprietor of the George, whose encouragement decided me to pursue the project in the first instance.  Without the cooperation of the late Mr. Gerald Isaacs, and the access he provided for me both to his unrivaled personal knowledge and unique collection of documents, brewing implements and ephemera, I would have been unable to delineate the history of commercial brewing in Crewkerne, and the various personalities involved in both brewing and inn ownership.  I was also grateful to Dr. Diana Jolliffe for allowing me access to family documents and to reproductions of the portraits that once hung in the dining room of the Jolliffe’s Kingsdon House, next door to the George and now Lloyd’s Bank.  Access to Mr. Bertram Marsh’s genealogical knowledge and researches into the history of the Marsh family were invaluable to this project.  I was particularly grateful for his passing on to me a copy of Mrs. Marsh’s 1864 letter to her niece.  I was also greatly assisted by the late Mr. Simon Andrews’s knowledge of Crewkerne architectural history; and to the insights given me by my friend and life-long Crewkerne resident, Mr. D.K. “Bill” Browne, into practical architectural phenomena and traditional and vernacular building methods.  I was also greatly aided by the staffs of Crewkerne and Yeovil libraries, and, particularly, by those at the Somerset Studies Library at Taunton.  I was also grateful to the staffs of the Somerset Record Office, Taunton, and the Post Office Library at Mount Pleasant, London, and to Mr. Ken Thomas, Courage Company Archivist, then at Bristol for their knowledge and courteous help.

 

Portions of this work originally appeared in both the Somerset Magazine and the Crewkerne & District Advertiser.

 

Patrick Carroll,

Helston, Cornwall 

November 2015.

 

 

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