The Inn at the Crossroad – PART TWO – Nine – The Competition
The following are historical sketches of Crewkerne’s other older inns, both those still in existence, and the ones that are no more. Since I first undertook these researches Crewkerne, like the rest of the country, has seen some dramatic attrition affecting the town’s inns. When I last revised the list there were ten establishments that were at least 100 years old. Now there are six. Gone are the Antelope, Crown, Nag’s Head and Railway Tavern. The accounts of these have been moved to the concluding Chapter Ten, R.I.P.
The starting point for these accounts is W.G. Willis Watson’s series of articles, “Crewkerne – Its Ancient Ale Houses”, which first appeared in Pulman’s Weekly News during the winter of 1934-’35, and which has since been the most valuable primary source available to all enquirers into the subject.
Willis Watson was born in Crewkerne – which he called “The Plucky Little Town” – and he attended Crewkerne Grammar School, for pupils of which he subsequently sponsored an essay prize. In later life he resided at Pinhoe, Devon. A journalist and Manager/Secretary of the Devon & Exeter Constitutional Newspaper Company, for many years he conducted the “Notes & Queries” column of the Somerset County Herald. Both a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a member of the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society, Willis Watson received an honorary M.A in recognition of his exhaustive work in the fields of Somerset local history, customs and folklore. He died, aged 74, in 1938.
Willis Watson’s specific interest in Crewkerne’s inns and public houses appears to have arisen c.1922, when his old friend, Mr. Frederick Stoodley, gave him a body of miscellaneous material that he had collected on the subject, asking if Willis Watson could “…lick my notes into shape.” As previously noted, Mr. Stoodly – a Registrar and High Court Bailiff of the County Court – was attached to the old Crewkerne law firm of Sparks & Blake, and his interest in inns was sufficient for him to have become a shareholder in Crewkerne United Breweries, owners of a number of the town’s public houses. In addition to Mr. Stoodley’s notes, Willis Watson also had access to the parish records of St. Bartholomew’s church, which had lately been augmented by the discovery of a long-lost churchwarden’s account book for the years 1625-1700.
At the time Willis Watson wrote Crewkerne had sixteen licensed houses – down from a mid-eighteenth century high of 37 – and he included what information he had on both existing and defunct houses. His articles are informative and entertaining, but they have, when studied at this distance of time, the salient drawback of an extremely limited range of research sources. Willis Watson relied almost exclusively on Mr. Stoodley’s notes and the parochial archives, and does not appear to looked at much else. He also gives very little evidence of any personal acquaintance with the licensed houses of his native town – even the more respectable of them, such as the George and Red Lion.
In this respect at least I was, during my time in the town, able to augment my other sources with a degree of on-sight research. Despite this the following sketches were not, and are not, much concerned with the various existing establishments in their recent incarnations. When I lived in Crewkerne I was familiar with all the houses then operating, used some regularly and others not so often. These will always be matters of individual convenience, taste and temperament. Suffice it to say that they were and are, to differing degrees, like all public houses: places where, in addition to eating and drinking, a surprising amount of business gets discussed and done; the dissolute dissolve; the young conduct their mating and bonding rituals; the more mature recreate themselves after their labours; and older men and women put the world to rights and seek in the companionship they offer a refuge from the isolation and loneliness that often afflict the elderly.
Immediately following are short histories of the six Crewkerne drinking houses – other than the George – which are at least a century old and are still trading.
THE KING’S ARMS – Market Square
The King’s Arms is a common and self-explanatory pub name. Until 1999 the humorous, cartoon-like sign of Crewkerne’s King’s Arms was thought sufficiently distinctive to be included in the list of “Best in Britain” appended to Paul Corballis’s book, Pub Signs (Lennard, 1988). Its current replacement features the tradition Arms with lion and unicorn.
The King’s Arms in Market Square (formerly called Market Place) is one of the few Crewkerne inns that can be dated with precision. The house was said to be “newly built” in 1782, and it has always been an inn. Both the date and the location are significant. The year falls in the middle of the period during which the town was witnessing dramatic growth and development as its traditional agriculture-based economy expanded with increasingly industrialized manufactures – notably textiles – many using agricultural produce such as flax and wool as raw materials. By this time Crewkerne’s weekly flax markets and fortnightly “great” flax markets were among the most important in the region, and the need of visitors to those markets for refreshment and accommodation assured the prosperity of existing inns in and around the market place, and gave rise to the demand for new ones, of which the King’s Arms was prototypical. For many years the Red Lion Inn (qv) had been located next door to the King’s Arms site – in a Tudor building erected on Norman foundations, still extant and presently the premises of Oscar’s Wine Bar. Late in the eighteenth or early in the nineteenth century the Red Lion was relocated to its later site in what was then Sheepmarket Street, and it is reasonable to guess that the new King’s Arms was intended as a modernizing rival for the older inn.
The property on which the inn was built – like most of that to the west of the present-day Market Square and Street – had been part of the St. Bartholomew’s Rectory Estate, although at the time of the King’s Arms construction the freeholder seems to have been Henry Chichester, whose name at this period figures in the deeds of a number of Crewkerne properties. Willis Watson reported that the first ratepayer in respect of the inn was William Gray, named in parochial accounts of 1783. It is unclear if he leased the property from Henry Chichester initially, although he certainly obtained the freehold at some point. As we have seen earlier, Major Gray (to give him his later title) was an example of the social movement produced by the town’s growing prosperity. Named in 1784 as a “grocer & draper”, by 1794 he had become a “gentleman & banker”. By the turn of the century, in addition to being a principal of the Hoskins, Gray, Hoskins Bank, he was also a partner in the Ashlands brewery with John Slade and Robert Perham. In 1811 Major Gray (or the bank) was sufficiently prosperous to acquire Crewkerne’s Fair & Market rights from Earl Poulett for £3,716. Ownership of the King’s Arms would remain in the Gray family until 1890, and that of the Fair & Markets rights until 1898.
The first named landlord of the King’s Arms was Mr. Woods, listed in 1794. Between 1803 and 1807 William Marsh the elder appears to have been tenant, as he is recorded in the brewery’s malt supply ledger as receiving regular deliveries of malt and hops at the inn. If this is so it raises the possibility that William Marsh the younger – born in 1803 and long-time landlord of the George – may first have seen the light of day in the King’s Arms. In which case, it would mean that he was born in one Crewkerne inn, presided over another for 30-plus years, and died in a third, the Swan.
The supposition that the King’s Arms was intrinsic to the management of Crewkerne’s markets is strengthened by the fact that Charles Male – named as ratepayer and landlord in 1822 – was also rated £3.2.6 for markets & fairs. He was still landlord in 1830, as well as being listed as an auctioneer, appraiser and cabinet-maker. He appears again as a cabinet-maker of East Street in 1842. After retirement from his other occupations, Mr. Male found another position during the 1850s as Crewkerne’s town crier. In 1840 William Marsh the younger was landlord of the King’s Arms for a brief period before moving across to the George, whereupon the long tenure of the Taylor family began.
Thomas Taylor, also a plasterer and tiler, is listed as landlord from 1842 through 1866. From 1872 through 1889 the splendidly named Mrs. Philadelphia Taylor was landlady, and plastering is still mentioned in connection with the inn. Other members of the family prominent in Crewkerne included George Taylor, who carried on trade as a plasterer and mason successively in West Street (1875); Gas Lane (now Middle Path, 1889); and finally, Church Street (1894-’97). From 1875 through 1902 James Taylor was landlord of the Grapes public house (qv) at 14 Church Street.
Following the listing of Miss Jane Taylor as landlady in 1894, by 1897 the landlord of the King’s Arms was another Thomas Taylor. Again underlining the connection of the inn with the market, Willis Watson writes that for many years members of the Taylor family were Collectors of Tolls for Crewkerne Market.
In 1902 the King’s Arms landlord was Clifford Butter, who had been host at the neighbouring Nag’s Head (qv) in 1894-’97. He was followed during 1906-’10 by Frederick Hooker. The landlord during the Great War was Herbert Gaylord, followed during 1923-’31 by Frank Rayson and Ernest James Axe in 1935.
The most prominent post-War landlord of the King’s Arms was Frank Russell. Born in Wales, Mr. Russell for many years after his death was still remembered affectionately by those who knew him. He succeeded his father in the tenancy and the pub – known simply during his tenure as Frankie Russell’s, or, more informally, as Filthy Frank’s – was an unashamedly rough-and-ready, spit-and-sawdust scrumpy house and, especially after the demise of the George Tap, was a favoured resort for working men who wished to be made welcome despite the muck on their boots.
Following William Gray’s death in 1817 ownership of the King’s Arms passed to his great-nephew, John Gray Draper – also a partner in the Ashlands brewery – eventually being inherited by his son, William Gray Draper, who lived at Clifton, Bristol, and later at Reigate.
The inn was leased from Mr. Draper by Crewkerne United Breweries from its formation in 1880, as probably had been by Jolliffe, Norman & Templeman previously; the Taylor family being sub-lessees. some renovation was carried out at the King’s Arms in 1890, and in the same year William Gray Draper sold the inn to the Yeovil brewing firm of Brutton & Co., also owners of the Nag’s Head and, after 1919, of the George. In 1937 Brutton & Co. were subsumed in the amalgamated Brutton, Mitchell, Tom Ltd., which also owned the Chard Brewery. This company was taken over in 1960 by Bass Charrington. Following Frank Russell’s death in 1977, the King’s Arms was closed for eighteen months. In 1979 the inn reverted to free house status when it was sold by Bass Charrington to Messrs N.F. Charles and M. Sharp, both of whom had formerly served at Yeovilton Naval Air Station. During their proprietorship the interior arrangements of the inn were modified, reflecting the then-prevailing preference for houses to no longer be divided into different bars catering for various classes of trade.
Over the next sixteen years ownership of the King’s Arms changed hands a number of times, and saw several proprietorships; some of which had rather more genteel pretensions than had obtained in Frank Russell’s day.
In 1995 the King’s Arms freehold was acquired from the Stroud & Swindon building society by Sensible MBI Ltd. One comparatively recent licensee, Christine Greenfield, was a popular and experienced landlady, having presided at the Swan for ten years up to 1988. She reported no personal experience of a house ghost, although others say they have heard the stairs creak mysteriously, and some claim to have seen Frank Russell on his way up and down.
The King’s Arms has most recently been acquired by Richard Hall, also proprietor of the nearby Oscar’s Wine Bar.
In my time of Crewkerne residency there was a fine old wooden spindle-back armchair near a corner window of the King’s Arms in which it was pleasant to sit with a reflective pint, looking out on the site of Crewkerne’s old market place, imagining what the scene might have been like on a Saturday Market Day 150 or so years before: trying to picture Mr. Male and the various Taylors, moving among the beaver hats, surtouts and smock frocks of the country buyers and sellers and their beasts and produce; collecting market tolls, gossiping and immersed in the life of Crewkerne as it was and is no more.
THE KING WILLIAM – Barn Street
Of England’s four King Williams – the Conqueror; his son, William Rufus; William of Orange; and William IV, the Sailor King – it is the latter two who feature most often on inn signs. In any case, the name is comparatively uncommon. Willis Watson stated that he could trace no history of the King William prior to 1829, and it is almost certain that the inn did not come into existence until after the liberalizing Beerhouses Act of 1830. In my Crewkerne days the sign of the King William – painted by Patrick Gribble in 1986 – reproduced a well-known equestrian portrait of William III, purportedly at the Battle of the Boyne. The sign was notable in the contrast between its two sides: the north-facing side being bright and clear in its colours, while the south-facing, or weather side, was so faded as to be almost indecipherable. Despite the sign it is probable that the inn is named for William IV, during or shortly after whose reign (1830-’37) it came into being. The present sign is new and features William IV with a nautical background in keeping with his sobriquet.
For the first century of its existence the history of the King William was inextricably bound up with the Leach family and the trade of coopering, which at least five generations of Leaches carried on in Crewkerne. The Universal British Directory for 1794, and Pigot & Co.’s Directory for 1822-’23 both list a Robert Leach as cooper of Market Place (now Square). In the latter years Simon Leach is named as cooper of Town’s End (East Street). In 1830 Robert and Simon Leach are both listed as coopers of East Street, Simon being still recorded as carrying on his trade in East Street in 1842.
Extant deeds record that in 1826 Robert Leach Jr., together with Catherine Lawrence, took a loan of £55 from Stephen Goddin – described as an “innholder” – putting up as security a “new built” cottage or dwellinghouse in Parsonage-Barn Street. Stephen Goddin (or Godden) was at the time landlord of the Swan in Church Street. The premises in Parsonage-Barn Street appears to have been built by Mr. Leach both as a dwelling and for the purpose of carrying on his trade of coopering. In 1828 Mr. Leach and Catherine Lawrence were married. As they had previously shared both an address and a business it may be assumed that their relationship and establishment were for a period what would at the time have been termed “irregular”. Documents also suggest that Mrs. Leach was illiterate as she signed with a rough cross surrounded by the legal clerk’s note “Catherine Leach – her mark”.
In 1829, although up-to-date with the interest on their loan from Mr. Goddin, the Leaches were unable to pay the principal. In the event they took a further loan of £70 from Mr. and Mrs Rousell of Merriot, giving the cottage as security, and repaid Mr. Goddin. In 1836 the scenario was repeated when the Leaches, unable to repay the Rowsells (now so spelt), borrowed £100 from Ann Wood, and repaid the 1829 loan. Interestingly, this indenture was witnessed by William Marsh Jr., then a legal clerk, also with connections to the Ashlands brewery of Draper, Slade & Co., and before embarking on his career as publican.
The first recorded instance of the coopering family combining their trade with innkeeping occurs in 1842 when Robert Leach is listed as both retailer of beer and cooper of Parsonage-Barn Street. Robert Leach is further named in 1848-’50 as cooper of Tower Hill but appears as beer retailer and cooper of Parsonage-Barn Street in 1852. In 1855, following the death of Ann Wood, the inn – now definitely known as the King William – was left to her heir, John James Tidcombe. Mr. and Mrs. Leach retained possession through a remortgaging of the inn with Mr. Tidcombe, and the original debt to Ann Wood was waived in consideration of two shares in the West of England Permanent Benefit Building Society being made over to the mortgagee.
By 1860 the Leaches had entered into another mortgage/security arrangement with Roger Parker (the elder) of Merriot. Mr. Leach’s directory listing for 1861 says simply Barn Street, the old usage apparently having been shortened. In 1865 possession of the inn and cooperage passed to John Leach, title still being held by Roger Parker as security for a loan of £250. During the mid-nineteenth century period the Leaches acquired several other properties in the immediate vicinity, some of which during my Crewkerne residency, were still owned by surviving members of the family. Eventually the King William freehold was also obtained by the Leach family.
Although the 1866 directory mentions only coopering, in 1872 John Leach appears again as a beer retailer and cooper of Barn Street. John Leach died in 1874 and left his property to his wife and children; Mrs. Elizabeth Leach being recorded as carrying on both occupations at the same address in 1875 and 1883. In a codicil to his will made shortly before his death, John Leach stipulated that the property not be sold until his youngest daughter, Ophelia, reached the age of 21. Mrs. Leach died in 1886 and in 1891 Ophelia, having both attained her majority and become Mrs. Stagg, together with other of the surviving children sold their interest in the inn to their brother, William Wood Leach for £750. Mr. Leach’s middle name suggests that the connection with Ann Wood may not have been purely financial. By 1889 William Leach was listed as beer retailer and cooper of Barn street, indicating that he had been in charge even before acquiring full ownership. He remained proprietor for over 50 years, with the listing from 1914 through 1923 being cooper only. From 1927 the address is given as 21 Barn Street, definitely placing both inn and cooperage at the site of the present King William.
William Leach died intestate in 1943. The following year, after a series of rather obscure financial convenience transactions, the inn became the property of the Hambridge Brewery based at Cury Rivel, ceasing after more than a century, to be a free house in possession of the Leach family. Documents connected with the sale of the inn appear to stipulate that the proceeds from the sale of William Leach’s property be divided equally between his five children, however there may be some doubt that this was what the deceased intended. Ophelia Leach had married Samuel John Stagg – for 45 years landlord of the Cross Keys (qv) – by whom she had fourteen children. According to her grandson Mr. Peter Male of Chard, Mrs. Stagg was convinced that she had been cheated out of her fair share of the estate by her relations; a circumstance that led to a life-long estrangement within the family.
A number of tenants served in the King William during the decades following the long tenure of the Leach family, the most notable being Mr. and Mrs. Len Coombes who presided over the house for more than 30 years from the early ’50s until the mid-’80s.
The buildings comprising the King William make the whole rather an architectural nonesuch. The main body of the inn, facing on Barn Street and containing the public rooms, is made up of the house almost certainly built by Robert Leach in or about 1826, together with a slightly smaller cottage abutting it to the south. the rear part, now used as a cellar, was obviously at one time a separate, free-standing structure – possibly older than the inn – and may have housed the cooperage and/or the cooper’s shop. these front and rear building were at some time knitted together by a brick annex connecting the two, and which has been used as living accommodation by the various proprietors. There is no hard evidence but it is reasonable to guess that the connecting building dates from the early 1890s, when brick buildings became fashionable (example Belle Vue Terrace); the traditional stone of the region being regarded as “common” in those hyper-respectable late-Victorian times. This vogue was encouraged by the Pouletts whose interests included a brick works near Maiden Beech.
The interior of the inn – universally referred to by locals as the King Willy – has been radically refurbished by successive proprietors, including those being now undertaken by the present owner, Sylvia Chown. Older Crewkerne people remember a plainer house with stone flooring, no bar, and round-topped tables, all kept scrupulously cleaned and polished.
Two inter-related mysteries regarding the King William initially puzzled the present researcher: firstly, in its free house period under the Leach family proprietorships, who supplied the inn’s beer and other beverages; and secondly, who were the main customers for the coopering Leaches’ barrels? Mr. John Leach, a grandson of William Wood Leach, supplied the answer. For many years Crewkerne United Breweries were both suppliers to the inn and buyers of the Leaches’ barrels.
THE OLD STAGECOACH (QUEEN’S HOTEL) – Station Road
Both the old and new names of this inn near Crewkerne Station are unremarkable and self-explanatory. It should be said that Old Stagecoach is a singularly inappropriate appellation as by the time the house was built stagecoaches had been obsolete for over 20 years. Mr. Rene Van Der Ende, proprietor of the house until 1996, and responsible for altering the name, said in explaining the rationale behind the change, “I just wanted to improve my lunchtime trade.”
Under either name the house can be considered the newest of Crewkerne’s older inns; although it is not, strictly speaking, in Crewkerne at all as its western wall marks the parish boundary, placing the inn itself in Misterton.
Mr. Ralph Hunter, Mr. Van Der Ende’s predecessor as landlord, reports that a deed relating to the property dated 1854, appears to indicate the presence on the site of an inn of some sort. No such establishment on the 1840 tithe map for Misterton parish; and no inn on the site appears in the Magistrates’ Licensing Ledgers prior to 1882. Thus the exact date and nature of the older building is unclear. The present building dates from c.1882 and was clearly purpose-built to accommodate those using the railway station.
But for the builders’ patriotic homage to Queen Victoria the inn might more properly have been called the Station, the Railway Hotel – except that that name had already been taken by another tavern nearer the town.
The land on which the Queen’s Hotel was built – like most surrounding it – was the property of Bradford & Sons, the long-established Somerset firm founded as coal merchants in 1770, and which continues to the present day as suppliers of building materials and related services. The first names to occur in connection with the newly-built hotel are George Rugg and John Slade. These gentlemen were officials of a Bradford & Sons subsidiary company known as Somerset Trading Ltd.. They were also involved in myriad other enterprises, and were probably related by marriage.
In addition to his duties as manager of Somerset Trading Ltd., George Rugg is named as both co-owner and first licensee of the Queen’s Hotel. The 1882 licensing memorandum lists no rateable value for the property, indicating that building was newly completed. George Rugg was, from 1879, licensee of the Red Lion – which was then owned by John Slade – and, as has been noted previously, was subsequently listed as landlord of both the Swan and the George. John Slade was an accountant by profession, and was the Son of John Slade & Son, the firm of carriers which had been founded by his father, a one-time landlord of the Nag’s Head. In addition to his other enterprises, the younger John Slade was also agent for the South West Railway company, and had his offices in or near the Red Lion in Sheepmarket Street. both Mr. Rugg and Mr. Slade appear to have been gentlemen (in the old Dublin expression) of considerable capernosity and function.
Several month after taking possession of the Queen’s Hotel Messrs Rugg and Slade assigned the title to a Mr. Legg, who, the evidence suggests, was connected with the Bridport Brewery later known as Palmers & Co., and also seems to have had local connections with Crewkerne and/or Misterton. The 1883 town directory lists Mr. Rugg as landlord of the Queen’s Hotel, although the licensing record names J. Legg/Bridport Brewers as owners and Walter Miller as licensee. These arrangements continued into the 1890s with, in 1894, the owners being named as the Executors of J. Legg, and the licensee as Emily Rather. Mrs. Rather continued as landlady through at least 1897 when the owners were named as Palmers Brewery of Bridport. By 1902 Charles Johnson (previously landlord of the Swan) had become licensee. He was followed by Richard Venner, named in 1906; and Jown Newbery, listed in 1910. In the same year a Henry Newbery was named as a dairyman and cattle dealer of South Street. The name Newbery survives in both Crewkerne and Misterton.
A landlord of longer standing was Frederick Vile who apparently became licensee in 1911 and continued until at least 1931. I have been told that Mr. Vile was related to the Legg family but am unclear as to exactly how. The name Vile is quite common around mid-Somerset – particularly in and near Wellington and Taunton – but less so further south. Also unclear is the precise relationship between the Legg family and Palmers Brewery. Palmers appear to have remained owners of the Queen’s Arms until the early 1980s, although the name Legg also continues to be connected with the inn.
In the bar of the present Old Stagecoach there is a photograph of the Queen’s Hotel, taken certainly before the Great War – probably c.1905-’10. It shows a scene similar to that which takes place in Crewkerne’s Market Square every Boxing Day; with a hunt about to set out. Among the throng is a pretty young girl of about eleven or twelve, in a knee-length coat and a wide-awake bonnet. She is set a little apart from the rest of the crowd and is staring intently at the camera. She was apparently one of the Legg children.
Following Mr. Vile, by 1935 the landlord of the Queen’s Hotel was Bertram Edwin Fowler Samways, whose tenure continued until well after World War II. Other post-War licensees included a Mr. Young and Mr. and Mrs. Harvey.
In about 1981 Palmers Brewery put the Queen’s Hotel up for auction. At a first sale the property failed to make its reserve, but at a second suction the inn was acquired by Mr. Don Slade, who had for the previous five years been landlord of the Travellers’ Rest at Roundham. Mr. Slade, a native of Somerton, was not, in so far as he was aware, related to Slades previously connected with Queen’s Hotel, nor with the other Crewkerne inn-and-brewery-involved Slades. During my time in Crewkerne Mr. Slade owned and operated the West Point Tavern at West Bay, near Bridport. Between 1988 and 1991 Mr. Ralph Hunter was landlord and the owner/licensees were the firm of Bonnett & Armstrong. The inn was then acquired by Mr. Mrs. Van Der Ende, from whom Mr. and Mrs David Low bought it in 1996.
Architecturally speaking the, the Old Stagecoach can best be described as functional. The 1880s were not a period producing buildings of any great aesthetic attraction, although the late Victorians did run to generous proportions – both internal and external – in their houses. While (as has been pointed out) the name Old Stagecoach is a rather bogus piece of marketing strategy, the house is not without equine connections. The Queen’s Hotel was never a coaching inn. The term coaching inn is often abused and misused. Crewkerne has only ever had but one proper coaching inn – that is to say a house where regularly scheduled stage- and mail coaches called – and that was the George. The Queen’s Hotel, however, in common with several other local inns, was a posting house. This term means that horses were kept for hire in cooperation with similar establishments along main roads. Horses were also kept available to augment coach and wagon teams in negotiating the hills surrounding towns like Crewkerne, which developed in vales offering shelter from wind and weather. In my time in Crewkerne the Old Stagecoach no longer used the internal rooms originally meant for hotel accommodation for that purpose. Guest were now housed in external chalets; some of which were converted stables, and others being part of an annex dating from the 1920s. It is said that during the Great War the then-landlord, Frederick Vile, secreted his horses in upstairs rooms to keep them from being commandeered for military use. There are also evidences of an old well in the grounds of the inn.
I’ve heard no reports of a resident ghost, although the little girl in the photograph is rather haunting.
THE ROYAL OAK – Hermitage Street
The tale of Charles II hiding in an oak tree at Bascobel after the Battle of Worcester is well known. When I frequented the pub the sign of Crewkerne’s Royal Oak was a new one. The board had been prepared by Tony Mason of Preston Frames, and the painting executed by his wife, Julie. It showed Charles, stretched out at his ease on a limb of the tree, enjoying an insouciant pot of ale while the hapless roundhead below looks every which way but up.
Willis Watson stated that he could find no mention of a Royal Oak in Crewkerne’s parish records up to 1829, and it is unlikely that the pub came into existence until the 1840s. The exact date is rather a mystery; one of several attaching to the house.
It is certain that the main building of the Royal Oak is much older than its use an inn. The house holds a Grade II listing, and the original Listing Report dates it to the early eighteenth century, although parts of the building are probably rather older. Other notable features of the house are several evidences that it was a workplace as well as a dwellinghouse. The section to the right as one looks at the building shows definite signs of having been a maltings at one time. The area to left of this was certainly a stable, of which original features remain. Between this and the inn proper is another working space used as a cellar. In common with many Crewkerne buildings the Royal Oak does not have a subterranean basement. The house’s immediate neighbour at 54 Hermitage Street – in my time occupied by Cruikshank Trailers – was a farrier/blacksmith’s by 1830, and continued as a forge until at least 1902. In addition, the large first floor room – used for skittles and various functions – has features that suggest that it may at one time have been a storage area. The outside stone steps leading to this room are a later addition to the building and a close examination of them reveals that the centre portions of the higher steps have been deeply worn down and subsequently re-squared with cement. As the steps below what would have been wagon-bed height are markedly less worn, it is possible that barrels and other articles for portage would have been rolled or bounced down to loading level from the upper storage room. that is guess-work, of course.
The late Mr. Rick Allen, for many years landlord of the inn – while conscious of the age and character of the building – would point out rather wryly that the one practical effect for him was the expense incurred when the Listed Building people informed him – prior to his having the house re-roofed – that he would have to exactly replicate the very irregular and wavy lines and contours of the original. This effect could be observed the the Royal Oak’s spacious back garden.
The second – and related – mystery concerning the Royal Oak is: what, it any, was the pub’s working relationship with the Hermitage Brewery of Budge, Stanfield & Co.? This firm (as previously stated) dated from the late 1830s, and was housed in buildings which had comprised Crewkerne’s workhouse. By 1872 ownership of the Royal Oak was in the name of Sarah Budge, effectively tying it to the Hermitage Brewery. This is unsurprising as the Royal Oak was the pub in closest geographical proximity to the brewery. It has been impossible, however, to date exactly when Budge, Stanfield & Co. acquired the property; or whether – with its old maltings, stables and storage areas – the inn was used as an annex or adjunct of the main brewery, or as its brewery tap. The most that can be said with certainty is that the brewery and the beerhouse were near neighbours, and that both came into existence at about the same time.
The earliest evidence of an inn at the present Royal Oak is the town directory listing in 1848 of John Hurtnole as beerseller of Hermitage Street. The same listing occurs in 1850. In 1852-’53 John Hillier is named, also as beerseller of Hermitage Street. The same gentleman continues in directories through 1866. From 1861 the inn is specifically named as the Royal Oak. The fact that 1860 marked the bicentenary of the Restoration of Charles II may give a clue as why the house took that particular name.
The Magistrates’ Licensing Ledgers for 1875 and ’77 continue to list Sarah Budge as owner of the inn, with John Diment as licensee in 1872-’75. He was followed in 1877 by Kitty Diment, presumably his widow. Following the 1879 fire which destroyed the Hermitage Brewery and precipitated the creation of Crewkerne United Breweries, the new company inherited title in the Royal Oak. In 1887 C.U.B. had the property converted into a fee simple. The former Hermitage Brewery site was subsequently utilized for many by the Parret & Axe Vales Dairy Company, which later became English Dairies Ltd. – thus the present day name of Dairy Court.
Kitty Diment remained as landlady through at least 1889. By 1894 William Henry Burt had assumed the tenancy. Mr. Burt had his ups and downs as a landlord. In 1898 he managed to have his rent assessment reduced from £38 to £30 per annum. In the same year a fire broke out in the pub’s kitchen. Damage was not extensive but the subsequent insurance payout probably had a negative effect on C.U.B.’s premiums. In any case, the brewery decided shortly afterwards that Mr. Burt’s arrears had become too much to countenance and he was shown the door.
Mr. Burt’s successor was Robert Worner, who also had mixed fortunes. In February 1899 – shortly after having taken the tenancy – Mr. Worner was summonsed for permitting disturbances on his premises. Despite this inauspicious beginning, he remained until 1903, when he was replaced by Henry Cooper. Mr. Cooper departed to the Railway Tavern in 1906, and the new landlord was Dan Pearce. 1909 saw the beginning of Charles Henry Fone’s thirty-year tenure as landlord. In 1939, the year following C.U.B.’s take-over by Arnold & Hancock, C.H. Fone was succeeded by Victor Charles Dening. Mr. Dening and his elder brother, James William, had previously been partners in a butchers’ shop situated at 6 Court Barton. According to J.W. Dening’s son – retired Crewkerne solicitor, Mr. John Dening – the partnership ended amicably, with his uncle taking the Royal Oak, and his father shortly afterwards going off to the War, in which he served with distinction.
In 1946 Victor Dening was followed as licensee of the Royal Oak by Percy Trott. The Trott, Fone and Dening families are all inter-related, and several have had connections with the licensed trade in Crewkerne. Thomas Fone was for many years landlord of the Five Bells (qv) in Church Path, and his son, Walter, kept the Castle in West Street for over 20 years beginning in 1935.
Mr. Trott’s tenure as landlord continued until 1956, and he was licensee when the inn duly received its visit from A.S. following Usher’s acquisition of Arnold & Hancock and its pub estate. Even by his standards A.S.’s report of the Royal Oak is laconic: “License: Full. Landlord: P. Trott (unseen). Volume to (31/9/’54) 92 barrels. Lavs (?). 1 public & independent saloon. Skittle alley.”
The unremarkable local that A.S. assessed during his fleeting visit seems to have continued as such through the ensuing years, presided over by various licensees. Mr. Reg Lichfield followed Mr. Trott on 11th August 1956, and subsequent landlords included Ozzie Newman, Don Dickins, Len Robinson and Bill Fullick.
During this period ownership of the Royal Oak freehold followed the corporate relationship between the Ushers, Grand Metropolitan and Courage companies. Finally, in 1988, the property was acquired from Grand Met by the late Rick and Jenny Allen. The Allens had moved to the West Country from Kent in 1986, spending a three month sojourn as tenants of the Muddled Man at West Chinnock prior to taking over the Royal Oak. Under the Allen proprietorship a salient theme of the pub was its various sporting activities. In addition to the usual pub pursuits of darts, skittles (both alley and table), cribbage, cards and participation in Crewkerne’s pub quiz league, the house also was also headquarters of a deep sea angling club, a horse racing club, and sponsored a football team that participated in the Yeovil Sunday League. It was also instrumental in developing the regional popularity of the French bowls game of petanque.
The present proprietor is Mr. R.L. Bolton.
THE SWAN – Church Street
The Swan is among the most common of all inn signs, being particularly popular as a name for riverside hostelries. The emblem of the swan – often used in ancient times as a symbol of innocence – was prominent in the parade of chivalry, being incorporated into many royal and other armorial badges; notably those of Edward II, Henrys IV and V, and that of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Apart from those connections – and with liquid generally – the birds – at least when on the water – possess a regal grace that is attractive in itself.
In my time in the town the sign hanging above the Church Street doorway of Crewkerne’s Swan was a new one executed to the design of the then-landlord, Maurice McCarthy, showing one bird aloft and another rising from the water.
Crewkerne’s Swan may originally have been called the White Swan, and it is certainly one of the town’s oldest inns. Only the George and the White Hart have longer continuously traceable histories. Willis Watson reported finding references to the Swan in parochial records dating back to 1635.
Always an important inn, it is thought that the Swan was at one time rather larger, probably extending to the corner of Church Street and Market Place. Although parts of the building are older, the present Church Street frontage dates from 1774, when it was said to be “newly built”. A notable feature is the Tuscan-style porch with columns and blocking course. The stables and other outbuildings ringing the inner courtyard are of various periods; the function room being of mid-nineteenth century vintage.
Earliest records indicate that the entirety of the Swan – in common with most of the land west of Market Street and Square – formed part of the property belonging to the St. Bartholomew’s Rectory Estate, which, from c.1574, was in the beneficial ownership of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral. Parts of the Estate, including the Swan, were let for lives by the Dean and Chapter.
By 1758 the leasehold of the Swan was in the name of the Budd family, where it remained for several generations during which the Budds carried on trade in Crewkerne as maltsters. Between 1783 and ’92 Mary Elizabeth (Betsy) Budd was rated in respect of the Swan. In 1794, while the property remained in the name of John Budd, the landlord is listed as Mr. Lawrence, almost certainly a sub-lessee.
In 1801 William Hussy – M.P. for Salisbury, and owner of extensive property in and near Crewkerne – made a gift of £80 per annum in perpetuity to the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral; the money to be given to the Permanent Curate of St. Bartholomew’s for the upkeep of the chancel. In return, Mr. Hussy (d.1809) was given the freehold of the Swan. The terms of the transfer of title would later give rise to complications when Mr. Hussy’s successors and others attempted further conveyance of the inn.
John Budd, as leaseholder, continued to sub-let the inn to successive licensees. These included Stephen Godden (sometimes Goddin), named in 1822; William Webb, 1830; and Emmanuel Hodges, 1840. Mr. Hodges’s father – also Emmanuel – had leased the White Hart from the Crewkerne Grammar School Estate for several years before his death in 1837.
In 1840, in addition to his listing as landlord of the Swan, the younger Mr. Hodges appears in the town directory as both baker and brewer. The explanation for the latter listing lies in the lease between John Budd and Richard Corner, who succeeded Mr. Hodges as sub-lessee of the Swan. This seven-year agreement, dated 19th January 1842, refers to “..that messuage, dwellinghouse, cellars, brewhouse, stables, outhouses, curtilage & buildings &c. (known as the Swan Inn) and land near Carter Street.” The Budd family’s maltings business was located in Carter (now Abbey) Street, later moving to Hermatige Street. In addition to his £40 per annum rent, Mr. Corner – in a variation of the tied-house system – was required to buy his malt and hops from the Budd maltings, giving rise to the supposition that the Swan at this period brewed its own beer on the premises, presumably in the aforementioned brewhouse. Mr. Budd, in turn, guaranteed that the materials supplied were to be of the highest quality.
In 1851 Richard Corner received notice to quit the Swan, although no particular reason is given. It is possible that Mr. Corner then repaired to the West Street inn known as the Star or Masons’ Arms (qv), where the landlady at this time was Mrs. Hannah Corner (nee Daniel).
In 1861 the landlord of the Swan was Charles William Blake, who also appears in the town directory as a veterinary surgeon. There are (or were) still traces on the outside wall showing where the wood-and-brass plate announcing Mr. Blake’s extra-publican profession was once secured.
1860 had marked the coming of the railway to Crewkerne, and it is notable that during the 40-odd years prior this event the Swan was regularly listed as a departure point for several goods carriers, including John Tapscott; Reeves; Gould, Ford & Co.; and John Slade & Son – all firms plying at various times to London, Exeter, Bristol, Dorchester and Weymouth. For a time the Swan also accommodated the local Customs & Excise Office.
In 1863 the freehold of the Swan was acquired at auction from Thomas Hussy by Sarah Budge; Thomas Hussy being the son and heir of William Hussy’s great-nephew, John; while Sarah Budge – whom we have encountered previously – was principal shareholder in the Hermitage Brewery of Budge, Stanfield & Co.. In the course of the sale the matter of William Hussy’s gift to the Rectory Estate arose: the purchaser (whatever the degree of her personal piety) being loath to pay £80 per annum to the Permanent Curate of St. Bartholomew’s. In the event, it was adjudged that the gift had fallen into desuetude, and that the new owner was not liable for the sum in question. Members of the Hussy family continued to live and hold property in Crewkerne (including at one time the Old Parsonage in Barn Street) until only a few years ago.
The 1866 town directory contains no listing whatever for the Swan, although a Daniel Newman is named as a wine & spirit merchant of Church Street.
The Magistrates’ Licensing Ledgers and directories indicate that from 1872 through ’75 Sarah Budge continued as owner, while the licensee was Thomas Whebby.
In 1876 the licensees are listed as Hickman Lang and, poignantly, Mrs. Susannah Marsh. After their 30-plus years at the George, the Marshes had moved to the Swan earlier in that year, and William Marsh died at the inn in November. Mrs. Marsh subsequently moved to Bath where, as previously noted, her eldest son was a partner in the long-established chemists’ firm of Steele & Marsh. It is to be assumed that Mr. Lang succeeded Mrs. Marsh. In any case, he remained licensee until 1883.
Following the destruction of the Hermitage Brewery in 1879 and the formation of Crewkerne United Breweries in 1880, Sarah Budge in the same year sold the Swan – which she apparently owned in her own right, rather than being part of the Budge, Stanfield &Co. estate – to Thomas M.K. Baker, who secured a mortgage of £1,500 for the purpose.
I have already given an account in Chapter Six of the curious transaction whereby the Bakers sold the Swan to George Hilborne Jolliffe – then managing director of C.U.B. – whereupon Mr. Baker, previously landlord of the George, took up occupancy of the Swan, While George Rugg, tenant of the Swan, became licensee of the George. Following this to-ing and fro-ing across Sheepmarket Street, by 1889 the landlord of the Swan was John Spettigue Parsons. He was followed in 1894 by Miss Bessie Coombes, whose successor in 1897 was Charles Johnson. In the same year George Hilborne Jolliffe – now retired from active management of C.U.B., and living at Weymouth – sold the Swan to the Weymouth brewing firm of J.A. Devenish & Co.. The sale again raised questions: both concerning the old business of William Hussy’s gift to the Rectory Estate, and also the portion of the previous purchase price provided by Clara Jolliffe – now possibly estranged from her husband. In consequence, G.H. Jolliffe was constrained to provide an indemnity guaranteeing that the new owners would not be liable to any payments of an ecclesiastical nature; and a further statement that despite the fact that his wife had provided a substantial portion of the original purchase price, he – and he only – held full title to the property.
The sale eventually went through and the freehold of the inn would remain with Devenish for more than ninety years. At the time of the sale the lessees, Palmer & Co., were give notice to quit, following which Charles Johnson became landlord of the Queen’s Hotel, which was owned by the Bridport brewing firm.
Between 1902 and 1906 the licensee of the Swan was Francis Thynne Wetham. In 1910 the tenancy was assumed by Joseph Walter Rose, who remained until 1935, being succeeded by his son who held the license until 1962.
Following the long tenure of the Rose family, tenancy of the Swan was taken by R. Morley Ryall. Among those following Mr. Ryall were members of the Skinner family, including long-time Crewkerne resident, June Webb. Between 1978 and ’88 Christine Greenfield (later landlady of the King’s Arms) was involved in the management of the Swan. During this period the Devenish brewery and its licensed house estate was acquired by the property speculator and developer, Michael Cannon.
The last notable licensee under the Devenish/Cannon banner was Joseph Morano. A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA. Mr. Morano, in addition to his activities as publican, held occasional boxing clinics in one of the inn’s outbuildings. He had been a Golden Gloves and US Air Force amateur champion, and his recognized pugilistic prowess helped him to keep order in a house traditionally popular with some of the town’s more unruly and obstreperous elements.
In 1993 the Swan freehold was acquired from Michael Cannon by Greenhalls Inns, and the tenancy was assumed by Maurice “Mo” McCarthy and Heather Smith. In 1998 Greenhalls were themselves subsumed into a subsidiary of the Japanese banking conglomerate Nomura. This was illustrative as an example of the changing pattern of pub ownership in modern Britain: Nomura being an organization that, on the face of it, would have appeared to have little in common with the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral.
The Swan freehold is presently held by Punch Taverns. The licensee is Mr. Steve Fenton.
THE WHITE HART – East Street
The sign of the White Hart has roots in deep antiquity. Aristotle recounts that Diomedes consecrated a white hart for Diana, goddess of hunting, and placed a gold collar around its neck. The same legend has been repeated with Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and Henry the Lion as central figures. The symbol became popular in England as the badge of Richard II. The sign of Crewkerne’s White Hart that I recall was, like that of the Royal Oak, a product of Preston Frames: the board having been prepared by Tony Mason and the painting executed by his wife, Julie, being a copy of a well-known treatment of the subject.
The building that houses the White Hart dates from the mid-late-fifteenth century and is probably the oldest secular structure in the town. In 1921 the building received an official visit from the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society, members being particularly interested in the four hamstone mullion windows which front the inn; its fine oak ceiling beams; and the huge decorated chimney breast in the main bar, all of which survive to the present day. The inn was declared a Grade II Listed Building in 1950.
The earliest history of the house is rather hazy; the confusion being heightened by the fact that it seems at various times to have had at least three names. However, as we have seen at the outset of this account, the present White Hart was almost certainly the home of the original George Inn. The evidence of official records, its architecture, and local legend cited by Willis Watson making it possible to date the in as far back as 1499, and possibly further. Apart from the names of the George and White Hart, the inn has also been known as the Gun. One document cited – without giving any details – by Willis Watson, naming the Gun, dates from 1653; and thus predates the indenture of 1674 which refers to house “…heretofore called or known as the George Inn but now called or known as the White Hart.” Despite the apparent inconsistency of dates, it must be assumed that the history of the White Hart and the George are one and the same until the late seventeenth century. The first detailed reference to a Gun Inn, after the establishment of the George on its present site, is contained in a lease between the feofees of the Crewkerne Grammar School Estate and Mrs. Mary Cossins, widow of John Cossins. The fact that the first-named of the feofees was a Roger Cossins may explain the remarkably low annual rent of £8. The inn is located as being in East Street “…between the houses of Richard Caswell to the west and Christopher Hody to the east.” Another document dated 1748 refers to “…the Gun Inn or alehouse” in connection with a parcel of land at Blacknell, which, being part of the inn property, would thus have also belonged to the Grammar School Estate.
A further lease, dated 1783, between the feofees and Francis Smithor, a miller, gives him the inn at a rent of £160. The lease, which describes the inn “…known as the Gun Inn or White Hart” states that the house was at present in the possession of John Grover. Willis Watson reports that parish records for 1783 name Mary Bishop as ratepayer in respect of the inn. The name Bishop recurs in connection with several Crewkerne inns and it is probable that Mary Bishop was a sub-lessee and landlady of the inn. In 1794 a John Bishop is listed as a vintner of Crewkerne, but no house is specified. He may well have been landlord of the White Hart, however, the name, again, was quite common in the town’s licensed trade.
In 1805 an indenture was executed between John Edgar, grandson of Francis Smithor; James Reader and John French, executors of John Edgar’s parents; and Edward Murley, a Crewkerne solicitor. The document demised to Murley from Edgar the remaining 70 years of a lease for the White Hart. In 1822 the remainder of this lease was further demised through John French, executor, from Edward Murley to John Holman, a carpenter. By the terms of the agreement Holman was to pay the feeofees of the Grammar School £250, plus seven shillings per annum. Both the indenture and Pigot’s Directory for 1822-’23 name Joseph Cossins as landlord of the White Hart, and Willis Watson reports parish records as naming William Webb as ratepayer for the inn. In 1830 William Webb was similarly named in respect of the Swan. Also in 1830, Henry Bishop is listed as landlord and John Holman as owner (in fact, leaseholder). Henry Bishop subsequently kept the Angel Inn (qv), also in East Street.
In 1834, The Grammar School feofees leased the White Hart to Emmanuel Hodges for a payment of £60, plus seven shillings per annum. In 1837, another Crewkerne solicitor, John Marsh Templeman, as executor to the late Emmanuel Hodges, assigned the remainder of the lease to a second Emmanuel Hodges, presumably the son (or possibly nephew) of the deceased. The licensee of the inn at the time was Bartholomew Long. It is to be assumed that the younger Emmanuel Hodges is the same gentleman who featured in the previous sketch of the Swan. The solicitor John Marsh Templeman’s name recurs in connection with several other Crewkerne inns and, according to the evidence of Mrs. Marsh’s 1864 letter to her niece, he shot himself to death c.1859.
In 1840, Emmanuel Hodges – having taken the tenancy of the Swan – assigned the remainder of the White Hart lease to Edward Budge, founder of the Hermitage Brewery; the current licensee being Albert Allen. He was followed in 1842 by Charles Stembridge, who remained until at least 1853. At some time between 1844 and ’47 the Grammar School feofees negotiated a new lease in respect of the White Hart with Budge, Stanfield & Co., who remained lessees until the Hermitage Brewery burned down in 1879 and the company merged into Crewkerne United Breweries.
Licensees during the intervening period included Benjamin Mitchell, who was landlord in 1861; and Mrs. Martha Mitchell, listed in 1866. A Crewkerne Friendly Society, founded in 1815 and apparently based at the White Hart, was dissolved in 1862.
From 1822 until the coming of the railway in 1860 the White Hart was regularly listed as a departure point for goods carriers including Perry & Dix; Whitmarsh & Co.; and Cocker, plying to and from London and Bristol.
The years 1872-’83 see John Beament as landlord, and in 1889 Mrs.Martha Beament named as landlady. In 1880, during the Beament tenure, the White Hart leasehold was conveyed through John Sparks, of the legal firm of Sparks & Blake, and acting as executor of Edward Budge’s widow, Sarah, to John Budge. John Budge forthwith sold his leasehold interest to C.U.B.
Between 1894 and 1906 the White Hart was kept by John Norris. The years 1910-’14 were included in the tenure of George Marjoram, who had previously been landlord of the Antelope. Thomas Dodge became tenant in 1915 and remained until at least 1923.
In 1925 C.U.B. commissioned six surveys and estimates for repairs to the serious dilapidation of the inn which had been noted during the 1921 visit by members of the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society. The estimates (some undertaken by firms still extant during my time in the town) ranged from £159,13.10 down to £91.0.0 [plus ca change…?] Having considered the estimates C.U.B. gave the Grammar School £100 to have the work done.
By this time the Grammar School – having suffered grave financial difficulties in the early 1900s – had ceased to be completely independent. In 1926, after more than 400 years as part of the Grammar School Estate, the freehold of the White Hart passed to Joseph Henry Swaffield, who was listed in 1927 as both owner and licensee of the inn. He was also proprietor of the motor agency at 8 East Street. Mr. Swaffield apparently acquired the White Hart as a short-term investment for on 21st May 1927, he sold the inn to the Dorchester brewing firm of Eldridge, Pope & Co.. The purchase price was £1,500. Two days later Mr. Swaffield leased from Eldridge, Pope & Co. the stables and outbuildings at the rear of the inn. Swaffield Motors continues to trade in East Street up to the present time. Some involvement of the White Hart with Eldridge, Pope & Co. probably predated the 1927 sale as there is record of a Trust Deed in respect of the inn made in 1897 by the company in favour of the Trustees of the First Mortgage Debenture Stockholders. Details of this deed are not known, but the use of arcane financial instruments in the deposition of public house ownership has always been quite common.
It is a minor coincidence that the next named landlord of the White Hart (c.1931) was George Thomas S. Hardy, as Albert Pope – a partner in the Dorchester brewery which now owned the inn – had been a contemporary and friend of the great Wessex author and poet, Thomas Hardy; the two sharing a strong interest in local history. As a young man Hardy is said to have been romantically involved with his cousins, the sisters Rebecca, Martha and Tryphena Sparks, who, in turn were related to the family who had founded both the law firm of Sparks & Blake, and the Viney Bridge girth-webbing factory of Sparks & Gidley. The solicitors’ offices, built in 1861 to the design of Crewkerne architect James Mountfor Allen, were at 6 East Street (the present Ayres House) immediately next door to the White Hart.
In 1935 William Henry Toomer was landlord of the inn, and his tenure continued through World War II. During the War the inn’s function room was requisitioned for use as a Quartermaster Sergeant’s distribution point for troops billeted in the town.
The White Hart had a number of licensees in the decades following the War, while continuing in the Eldridge, Pope & Co. ownership; the brewery having a policy of retaining at least one tied house in every town of any size in the region. People who remember the White Hart during this period are fairly unanimous in recalling that the tone and atmosphere of the inn were plain – not to say rough – and that the house had no airs and few graces.
In 1988 freehold of the White Hart passed from Eldridge, Pope & Co. to Mr. Clyde Pape, together with his wife and son. Following a period as bar manager of the George Hotel during Mr. Gary Gilmore’s proprietorship, Mr. Adrian Evans acquired the White Hart from the Pape family in 1995 and remained as owner through the end of my time in Crewkerne and beyond. Mr. Pape, a native of South Africa, passed away early in 1998.
During these latter proprietorships many internal and external improvements were made in both the inn’s fabric and facilities. One favourable little fact: early in Mr. Evans’s tenure the White Hart – probably the town’s oldest surviving house, public or private – became the first Crewkerne inn to organize its own dedicated Internet homepage at www.whitehart1.demon.co.uk. I imagine that John De Coombe, founder of the Crewkerne Grammar School (owners of the inn’s freehold for much of its life), and a great innovator in his day – would have approved.
In recent years ownership of the White Hart has been re-acquired by the Swaffield family and earlier this year the license of the White Hart was taken by Mr. Keiron Robinson.