The Inn at the Crossroad – Four – The Consolidator
Anyone enquiring deeply into the history of the George – and of Crewkerne generally – will be presented with a plethora of John Slades. It is possible to number at least six (three of whom were at some point contemporaneous with one another) who may with some justice be considered to have a connection – however tenuous – with the George. The John Slade who most concerns us here was born in London in 1754, and christened at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Crewkerne, in the same year. His father, also John Slade – although sometimes known as John Lock or Locks – married Margaret Jolliffe at St. Ethelburga’s Church, London in 1752. Mark the name Jolliffe: it will appear often in the following pages.
The early life of John Slade coincided with a period of intense economic change and development in Crewkerne. Following particularly the easing of duties at the end of the Seven Years War in 1762, the movement of Crewkerne’s economy from being predominantly agricultural to one mixed with increasingly mechanized manufactures accelerated dramatically; many industries – notably textiles – being based on the use of agricultural raw materials such as flax and wool. A measure of the social results of this economic growth may be seen in the entries for the town’s directories for 1784 and circa 1794. Several individuals are shown to have markedly improved their fortunes and social status in the intervening decade. The Crewkerne entry in the British Universal Directory for 1794 lists the firm of Perham & Slade, butter-factors. From this modest-sounding base the new century would find John Slade variously described as a brewer, maltster and banker. In or about 1802 John Slade, together with his brother-in-law, Robert Perham, and William Gray, founded what was Crewkerne’s first commercial or ‘common’ brewery. Robert Perham, with another partner, continued in the butter-factoring way, and also founded the banking firm of Perham & Phelps. William Gray, listed in 1784 as “grocer & draper”, had by 1794 become “gentleman & banker”. As Major Gray, he would raise the Crewkerne Volunteers; a local defence force active during the Napoleonic Wars. Originally known as Slade & Co., the brewery and maltings were located at Ashlands, on the site of a long-established water grist mill previously belonging to the Marsh family. The mill, adjacent to a brook which still trickles through Ashlands, a stone’s throw west of North Street, was known as Marsh’s Mill in 1770, when it was held by Henry Marsh.
A copy of the original architect’s drawings for the ground plan of the brewery survives. At the time it was shown to me it was in the possession of Mr. Gerald Isaacs of Crewkerne. Both Mr. Isaacs’s father and grandfather were senior management figures in Slade & Co.’s ultimate successors, Crewkerne United Breweries; a connection going back to 1885. It is possible to compare these drawings – and others dating from a modernization following the creation of C.U.B. in 1880 – with parts of the derelict brewery which remains intact today. The building which housed the brewery’s old maltings survived of late as part of the Lubborn cheese factory.
1802 seems to have been a busy year for Mr. Slade: in addition to his new brewing enterprise, that year also saw the initial moves which would eventually reunite title in the George after its years of being divided between the various heirs of Caleb King. In that year Mr. Slade first acquired the share belonging to the descendents of John Genest. Also in 1802, John Slade paid £250 to the children of Christina Corfield for their share of the George. Two years later what is described in the indenture as “…two undivided third-parts of two fourth and two equal parts…” were conveyed to Mr. Slade, also for £250, from Nathaniel Dalton, his wife and their daughter – also named Mary Slade Dalton, and at that time unmarried. It has not been possible to ascertain to what degree title in the George was simplified or further complicated in the years following the 1779 transaction between Hugh Yeatman and Peter Genest, and before the dealings of 1802-’04; but, in any case, following his various acquisitions, John Slade had consolidated control of the George in a single ownership for the first time since Caleb King’s death 45 years previously. Nathaniel Dalton continued to be named in parochial records as ratepayer in respect of the George through 1810, indicating that the family may have retained a minority share in the inn.
Simultaneous with this acquisition of the George was its separation from the Manor of Easthams, which was purchased from these same descendents of Caleb King by William Hoskins of North Perrott, a principal in the Crewkerne banking firm of Hoskins, Gray, Hoskins. In 1816, following an embezzlement scandal involving a sticky-fingered clerk, the Hoskins, Gray, Hoskins bank was subsumed into the firm of Perham & Phelps. As John Slade had business dealings with all the principals involved with these banks, and was himself described as a banker, it is reasonable to assume that he was officially connected with either or both of them. In 1814 the George was placed in trust with John Perham (one-quarter share) and James Templer (three-quarter share); an arrangement renewed in 1827. The brewery, meanwhile, continued to flourish during these years, being variously known as Slade & Co.; Gray, Slade & Perham; Draper, Slade & Perham (1816); and Draper, Slade & Co. (1822-’30): the name Draper indicating the involvement of John Gray Draper, William Gray’s great-nephew who inherited Major Gray’s property following his death in 1817.
There is a large brass tablet near the South Aisle of St. Bartholomew’s Church, “In Memory of Members of the Jolliffe family Who are interred in this Churchyard.” The plaque also commemorates John Slade and his wife, Mary; describing him as “…a banker of this town.” Despite the recurrence of the name, I do not know what – if any – was the relationship of John Slade to the King/Yeatman family: whether he was relation of Mary Slade Yeatman’s father, Christopher; of a John Slade (b. 1772) who was a farmer at Blackmoor; or of the Anthony Slade of Yeovil, who was pioneering mass carrier in the West Country. The name is so common in the region that the kinships tend to disappear into a vague mist of cousinhood.
In addition to being his mother’s maiden name, Jolliffes were and continued to be familiar to Slade. There had been Jolliffes in Crewkerne since at least the mid-eighteenth century: a William Jolliffe is listed in the 1784 Bailey’s Directory as a “grocer” of the town. In 1794 Samuel Jolliffe is named as printer, and he continued to trade as such in Sheepmarket Street, as well as being a bookseller, druggist and lottery agent well into the next century. It was he who sold to John Patch two of the five cottages which were demolished to make way for the 1824 Abbey (Carter) Street development mentioned earlier.
Another branch of the Jolliffe family had come from Poole in Dorset to live at Kingsdon, near Ilchester. A prominent Kingsdon family were the Hilbornes, resident in the village for several generations dating back to the early sixteenth century. There was a sequence of three George Hilbornes, the eldest of whom was born in 1627. His son, who died in 1733, had a daughter, Dorothy, who married James Hare of Bristol in 1740. Their daughter, also Dorothy, married Christopher Jolliffe in 1768. Interestingly, the will of the elder George Hilborne (d.1707) gives his widow “…£20 yearly during her life, to be paid by my executor out of the estate I now enjoy called Slade’s tenement.” The family of Christopher Jolliffe occupied Kingsdon Manor – lately a school – and following his death in 1799 (there is a memorial to him in Kingsdon parish church) his widow and children moved to Crewkerne, those Jolliffes already settled in the town possibly being relations. In 1809 John and Mary Slade’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Christopher Jolliffe’s youngest son, George Hilborne Jolliffe (b.1779), a surgeon. John Slade built the couple a new house next door to his George Inn. It came to be called Kingsdon House; two generations of Jolliffes lived in it, and the building survives as the present Lloyd’s Bank.
It is appropriate that John Slade be remembered in St. Bartholomew’s. Between his christening in the church and burial in its churchyard, he was active in parochial life, and may have been a Churchwarden. In 1809 Messrs Slade, Gray and Perham contributed thirteen guineas to the church toward the installation of new galleries. A grateful Rectory Estate in return reserved Pew No. 62 for the three gentlemen’s use in perpetuity. There is also a case cited by a correspondent writing in response to W.G. Willis Watson’s 1934-’35 Pulman’s Weekly series on the old inns of Crewkerne. The letter quotes a then-112 year-old newspaper report as follows: “I, Joseph Palmer, landlord of the Five Bells Inn, Crewkerne, beg pardon of Rev. Plumpton Wilson, clergyman of Crewkerne, for having twice, in disobedience to his order, kept my house open at irregular hours; and I engage for the future to close my house at the time appointed, on his promise to take no further notice of my past offence. – Joseph Palmer. Witness, John Slade, Churchwarden, Crewkerne, 2nd March 1825.” The correspondent, signing him- or herself “C.R.” goes on to ask if it was the custom in those days for the parson to decide when inns could or could not open. The answer in this instance seems to be that the Five Bells, located in Church Path, was on land belonging to the church. It may be noted that by 1828 the Five Bells had been acquired by the Draper, Slade, & Co. brewery, and that Joseph Palmer (also a coach-builder and –painter) subsequently kept the New Inn, South Street, where he was presumably less troubled by Nosy-Parkering clergymen.
It is possible that the John Slade cited here was one of the others of that name in the town, but the butter-factoring/brewing/banking gentleman with close church associations seems as likely a candidate as any, even at the age of 70. A final ecclesiastical connection may be made in noting that in 1822 the George was bespoke to supply St. Bartholomew’s with Communion wine.
Following the long tenure of the Budden family as tenants and licensees of the George, other landlords of the inn during this period include James Meech, who is mentioned in parish records from 1797 to 1802. Another relic of the old brewery long in the possession of Mr. Gerald Isaacs is a malt supply ledger for the period 1803-’07. During those years a Mr. Wilce is designated as receiving supplies at the George. Wilce is a name that recurs in connection with other Crewkerne inns during the nineteenth century, notably the Nag’s Head. By 1814 the landlord was John Pearce. He was a son of Joseph Pearce, a wheelwright – whose business appears to have been adjacent to the Nag’s Head – and, according to the Crewkerne’s Scientific Lodge records followed his father in that trade while also being named as innkeeper of the George and was listed as such in 1822. The following year Mr. Pearce died after being thrown from his horse. The last tenant of the inn to be recorded during John Slade’s lifetime was Mr. Pearce’s widow, named as landlady in 1829-’30. She subsequntly remarried and it may be assumed that she was the tenant during the refronting of the inn mentioned below, Although a Charles Waight is named as tenant in the late 1830s prioir to the long tenure of William Marsh.
The period must have been a hectic one, with extensive building and rebuilding going on in Crewkerne; developments reflecting the consolidation of the prosperity generated by the town’s blossoming industrial life. The George itself received its new frontage at about this time, and it would be intriguing to know to what degree John Slade, in his final years, interested himself in the project. Among the Jolliffe family portraits which once hung in the dining room of Kingsdon House was one of John Slade in what looks to be vigorous late-middle-age. He is marked by a strong prominent nose, a brief, stern mouth and large, heavy-browed eyes which were inherited by his daughter and her off-spring. In general his appearance certainly seems to corroborate the other evidence that he was a gentleman who got things done.
At all events, in 1832 – the year of John Slade’s death; the refurbishment of his inn; and of the first Reform Act – the George and the town, like much of the rest of the country, would have found itself in the midst of a period of unprecedented social, political and economic upheaval: the 25 year post-Waterloo epoch which saw the final eclipse of Olde Englande – however Merrie it may have been – and the emergence of a recognizable modern Britain.
END CHAPTER FOUR
TO FOLLOW: CHAPTER FIVE – MRS. MARSH’S PUNCH