The Inn at the Crossroad – Six – Interregnum
During his period in the 1990s as proprietor of the George, Mr. Gary Gilmore acquired a two-gallon glazed pottery spirit jug. It is a fairly common object but its curiosity value to Mr. Gilmore lay in its being imprinted “George Hotel, Crewkerne, C.F. Flowerdew, Prop.” Little else, beyond the occurrence of his name in various deeds and directories, remains of Mr. Flowerdew’s tenure at the George. By 1883 the tenancy had passed to Thomas Baker.
At this time the ownership of the George remained with George Slade Jolliffe, who also retained a principal share in the brewery at Ashlands. In 1879 the Hermitage Brewery of Budge, Standfield & Co. was destroyed by fire. In 1880, under an order of the Court of Chancery, a merger-by-contract took place and the name, remaining estate and good will of the Hermitage Brewery, and all the existing estate of Jolliffe, Norman & Templeman – or Crewkerne Old Brewery – were sold to the newly-formed company of Crewkerne United Breweries. The director of the new company was the second George Hilborne Jolliffe. Of the original G.H. Jolliffe’s three sons two – the surgeon and owner of the George, George Slade Jolliffe, and his brother, James Hare Jolliffe, a Crewkerne solicitor – never married. The third son, John Jolliffe – also a surgeon – had married and moved to London. George Hilborne Jolliffe, born in 1850, was his second son. The first-born, also John Jolliffe, died in 1871, aged 22. There were also three daughters, all of whom eventually emigrated to the United States.
In 1886, when Thomas Baker still appeared as landlord of the George, a curious transaction took place. Title in the neighbouring Swan Inn – where William Marsh had died in 1876 – was then in the name of Mary Ann Baker; she, with Thomas M.K. Baker, having acquired the Swan in1879 from Sarah Budge, widow of Edward Budge, founder of the Hermitage Brewery; the inn being her own property rather than part of the Budge, Standfield & Co. brewery estate. (The apparently formidable Mrs. Budge lived on until 1907, and died lacking only a few months of her 100th birthday.) In 1885 Mrs. Baker – described as a widow – entered into a lease in respect of the Swan with George Rugg; the agreement including an option to buy the inn. The following year George Hilborne Jolliffe purchased the Swan for £2,250; whereupon a Thomas Baker moved across Sheepmarket Street and became tenant of the Swan, while Mr. Rugg made the reverse journey and became landlord of the George. It is unclear if this Thomas Baker is the same T.M.K. Baker, party to the 1879 purchase from Mrs. Budge, or a son, nephew, or other relation of Mary Ann. A further complication lies in the fact that, in a letter to solicitors acting for the Weymouth brewing firm of J. Devenish & Co., and dated 10th June 1897, when Devenish were negotiating to buy the Swan, George Hilborne Jolliffe states that Mary Ann Baker is his wife’s mother. The point at issue here was whether the fact that Mr. Jolliffe’s wife had provided £1,500 of the 1886 purchase monies in any way prejudiced G.H. Jolliffe’s title in the property, and thus his right to sell. In a further twist, according to information contained in the Jolliffe family tree, G.H. Jolliffe’s wife’s maiden name was Clara Morrell, not Clara Baker. This game of musical inns does not become any less confusing with the knowledge that George Rugg had previously been landlord of both the Red Lion and the then-newly-built Queen’s Hotel near Crewkerne railway station. One wonders if the ubiquitous Mr. Rugg played dominoes with himself for the station omnibus franchise.
In 1887 George Slade Jolliffe conveyed the George Hotel to his nephew, G.H. Jolliffe. The transaction required reference back to the 1827 renewal of the trust agreement between John Slade, John Perham and James Templer; the calling in of £400 mortgage on the property held by North London Estates Co. Ltd.; and a stipulation securing George Slade Jolliffe’s right of way between the inn courtyard and the rear of his residence in Kingsdon House next door to the hotel. In the same year extensive alteration and renovation was done at the George, and it is plausible that Mr. Rugg’s arrival either precipitated the work, or that he had been brought in by George Hilborne Jolliffe particularly to oversee it. Much of the building toward the rear-left of George Yard, including that lately occupied by McKinlay’s estate agents, dates from this period. Mr. Rugg had other business interests, several in connection with yet another John Slade. This one – an accountant by profession – was a son of the John Slade (b.1808) who had been landlord of the Nag’s Head, and founder of the firm of Crewkerne carriers bearing his name, and grandson of John Slade (b.1772) of Blackmoor Farm. He had acquired the Red Lion Inn circa 1870, was a partner in Somerset Trading – an associate company of the coal merchants Bradford & Son – and acted as agent for the London & Southwest Railway Company. It may be that one of Mr. Rugg’s functions was that of the late-Victorian equivalent of the modern “pub doctor” occasionally brought in by breweries, receivers and others to turn around the fortunes of ailing hostelries. It should be said, however, that while Crewkerne’s absolute zenith period of nineteenth century prosperity had passed by this time, there is no concrete evidence that the enterprise was failing. On the other hand, there had been a general economic depression in Britain during the mid-1870s. It may also be observed that George Slade Jolliffe, when he made over the George to his nephew, was 76 years old; and it is often the case that such establishments suffer a period of uncertainty in the wake of a long tenure under a particular management, especially one as singularly popular as the Marshes’ seems to have been.
One is thrown back on conjecture when considering the relationship between George Slade Jolliffe and his nephew. A surviving photograph of George Hilborne Jolliffe at the age of about 30 portrays him as handsome in a self-satisfied sort of way; dapper, and with a pair of rather gallant moustaches. His marriage to Clara Morrell (or Baker) produced two sons but seems to have had its ups and downs, possibly including a separation. By the turn of the century G.H. Jolliffe, while still a member of the Crewkerne United Breweries board, was no longer in charge of the company, and indirect evidence – particularly his private business involvements with the rival breweries of J. Devenish & Co. and Palmers & Co. of Bridport, suggest the possibility that his relationship with the C.U.B. management may have become strained.
According to the Kelly’s Directories and Magistrates’ Licensing Ledgers, tenants of the George during the 1890s were Charles Roads, a Mr. Watling and Maslin Smith. Like Mr. Rugg before them, each was advertised as presiding over “The George Family, commercial & Posting Hotel.” A contemporary newspaper report of 1898 tells us that Mr. Smith was so unlucky as to have his horse die suddenly while on a trip to Yeovil. His misfortunes continued the following year when he was declared bankrupt.
Over the years George Slade Jolliffe had acquired a good deal of property in Crewkerne. At one time he owned, in addition to Kingsdon House and the George, all of the other frontage on the south side of Market Square between the hotel and Market Street. In 1892 he was involved in correspondence with the relevant authorities concerning a tithe exemption in respect of those lands adjacent to the George that had been acquired from the Donne-Donisthorpe family in 1863. It appears that Mr. Jolliffe carried his point and gained the exemption. In the following year George Slade Jolliffe died, aged 82. He left a substantial estate, and his will, dated 3rd October 1890, included bequests to a number of his nieces and nephews (not including G.H. Jolliffe), servants and friends. Among the latter two were Martha Churchill, his servant for many years, to whom he left £500 free of duty; and Frederick Stoodley the elder – who had begun his legal career as clerk to James Hare Jolliffe – left £20, also free of duty.
On the central pediment above the terrace of houses at 14-20 West Street, between Oxen Road and Court Barton, there is a stone tablet which reads:
Erected in the year of
The Diamond Jubilee
Of Her Majesty
Out of a portion of
By the late
George Slade Jolliffe
END CHAPTER SIX
TO FOLLOW: CHAPTER SEVEN –THE NEW CENTURY