Title: The Old Inns of Old England, Volume 2 (of 2)
Author: Charles G. Harper
Release date: October 2, 2013 [eBook #43866]
Credits: Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive.)
WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Portsmouth Road, and its Tributaries: To-day and in Days of Old.
The Dover Road: Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.
The Bath Road: History, Fashion, and Frivolity on an Old Highway.
The Exeter Road: The Story of the West of England Highway.
The Great North Road: The Old Mail Road to Scotland. Two Vols.
The Norwich Road: An East Anglian Highway.
The Holyhead Road: The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin. Two Vols.
The Cambridge, Ely, and King’s Lynn Road: The Great Fenland Highway.
The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford, and Cromer Road: Sport and History on an East Anglian Turnpike.
The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven Road: The Ready Way to South Wales. Two Vols.
The Brighton Road: Speed, Sport, and History on the Classic Highway.
The Hastings Road and the “Happy Springs of Tunbridge.”
Cycle Rides Round London.
A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern Methods of Reproduction.
Stage-Coach and Mail in Days of Yore. Two Vols.
The Ingoldsby Country: Literary Landmarks of “The Ingoldsby Legends.”
The Hardy Country: Literary Landmarks of the Wessex Novels.
The Dorset Coast.
The South Devon Coast. [In the Press.
A MUG OF CIDER: THE “WHITE HART” INN, CASTLE COMBE.
Photo by Graystone Bird.
THE OLD INNS
OF OLD ENGLAND
A PICTURESQUE ACCOUNT OF THE
ANCIENT AND STORIED HOSTELRIES
OF OUR OWN COUNTRY
By CHARLES G. HARPER
Illustrated chiefly by the Author, and from Prints
CHAPMAN & HALL, Limited
All rights reserved
PRINTED AND BOUND BY
HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
LONDON AND AYLESBURY.
|I.||A Posy of Old Inns||1|
|II.||The Old Inns of Cheshire||58|
|III.||Inns Retired from Business||79|
|IV.||Inns with Relics and Curiosities||109|
|V.||Tavern Rhymes and Inscriptions||130|
|VI.||The Highest Inns in England||144|
|VIII.||Signs Painted by Artists||161|
|IX.||Queer Signs in Quaint Places||184|
|XI.||The Evolution of a Country Inn||235|
|XIV.||Inns with Odd Privileges||255|
|XV.||Inns in Literature||261|
|A Mug of Cider: the “White Hart” Inn, Castle Combe. (Photo by Graystone Bird)||Frontispiece|
|The Cromwell Room, “Lygon Arms”||8|
|The Dining-room at “The Feathers,” Ludlow||22|
|Courtyard of the “Maid’s Head,” Norwich, showing the Jacobean Bar||42|
|The “Bell,” Barnby Moor: Meet of Lord Galway’s Hounds||56|
|The “Four Swans,” Waltham Cross||152|
|Sign of the “Pack Horse and Talbot,” Turnham Green||194|
|The “Running Footman,” Hay Hill||194|
|Interior of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”||196|
|“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Bluepitts, near Rochdale||196|
|The “Talbot,” Ripley. (Photo by R. W. Thomas)||212|
|The “Anchor,” Ripley, in the Days of the Dibbles and the Cycling Boom. (Photo by R. W. Thomas)||214|
|The “Swan,” Sandleford||216|
|The “Swan,” near Newbury||216|
|The Ingle-nook, “White Horse” Inn, Shere||240|
|[Pg viii]Ingle-nook at the “Swan,” Haslemere||242|
|The Ingle-nook, “Crown” Inn, Chiddingfold||244|
|Ingle-nook, “Lygon Arms,” Broadway||246|
|The “Vine Tavern,” Mile End Road||258|
|Yard of the “White Horse,” Maiden Newton||288|
|The “White Horse,” Maiden Newton||288|
|ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT|
|Vignette, Toby Fillpot||Title-page|
|List of Illustrations, The “Malt-shovel,” Sandwich||vii|
|The Old Inns of Old England||1|
|Doorway, the “Lygon Arms”||3|
|The “Lygon Arms”||5|
|The “Bear,” Devizes||11|
|Yard of the “Bear,” Devizes||15|
|The “George,” Andover||17|
|The “Feathers,” Ludlow||19|
|Decorative Device in Moulded Plaster, from Ceiling of Dining-room, the “Feathers,” Ludlow||25|
|The “Peacock,” Rowsley||27|
|The “White Hart,” Godstone||31|
|The Old Window, “Luttrell Arms”||39|
|Doorway, “The Cock,” Stony Stratford||43|
|Yard of “The George,” Huntingdon||45|
|The “Bell,” Stilton||49|
|The “Red Lion,” Egham||53|
|The “Old Hall” Inn, Sandbach||59|
|Dog-gates at Head of Staircase, “Old Hall” Inn, Sandbach||61|
|The “Bear’s Head,” Brereton||63|
|The “Lion and Swan,” Congleton||67|
|The “Cock,” Great Budworth||71|
|[Pg ix]The “Pickering Arms,” Thelwall||73|
|The “King Edgar” and “Bear and Billet,” Chester||75|
|A Deserted Inn: The “Swan,” at Ferrybridge||83|
|The Old “Raven,” Hook||86|
|The “Hearts of Oak,” near Bridport||88|
|The “Bell” Inn, Dale Abbey||90|
|The “Windmill,” North Cheriton||91|
|The “Castle” Inn, Marlborough||95|
|Garden Front, “Castle” Inn, Marlborough||99|
|“Chapel House” Inn||103|
|“White Hart” Yard||107|
|A “Fenny Popper”||111|
|The “Bell,” Woodbridge||112|
|The “Red Lion,” Martlesham||113|
|“Dean Swift’s Chair,” Towcester||115|
|Boots at the “Bear,” Esher||117|
|The “George and Dragon,” Dragon’s Green||119|
|The “White Bull,” Ribchester||120|
|Boots of the “Unicorn,” Ripon||121|
|The “Red Lion,” Chiswick||123|
|The Old Whetstone||125|
|Hot Cross Buns at the “Widow’s Son”||127|
|The “Gate” Inn, Dunkirk||132|
|The “Gate Hangs Well,” Nottingham||133|
|Tablet at the “George,” Wanstead||141|
|“Tan Hill” Inn||145|
|The “Cat and Fiddle,” near Buxton||147|
|The “Traveller’s Rest,” Kirkstone Pass||149|
|The “Greyhound,” Sutton||151|
|The “Fox and Hounds,” Barley||154|
|The “George,” Stamford||155|
|The “Swan,” Fittleworth||158|
|[Pg x]The “Red Lion,” Hampton-on-Thames||159|
|The “Man Loaded with Mischief”||163|
|Sign of the “Royal Oak,” Bettws-y-Coed||173|
|Sign of the “George and Dragon,” Wargrave-on-Thames. (Painted by G. D. Leslie, R.A.)||176|
|Sign of the “George and Dragon,” Wargrave-on-Thames. (Painted by J. E. Hodgson, R.A.)||177|
|The “Row Barge,” Wallingford. (Painted by G. D. Leslie, R.A.)||178|
|The “Swan,” Preston Crowmarsh||178|
|The “Windmill,” Tabley||179|
|The “Smoker” Inn, Plumbley||179|
|The “Ferry” Inn, Rosneath||180|
|The “Ferry” Inn, Rosneath||180|
|The “Fox and Pelican,” Grayshott||181|
|The “Cat and Fiddle,” near Christchurch||182|
|The “Cat and Fiddle,” near Christchurch||182|
|The “Swan,” Charing||189|
|Sign of the “Leather Bottle,” Leather Lane. (Removed 1896)||191|
|Sign of the “Beehive,” Grantham||193|
|Sign of the “Lion and Fiddle,” Hilperton||195|
|The “Sugar Loaves,” Sible Hedingham||195|
|Sign of the “Old Rock House” Inn, Barton||197|
|The “Three Horseshoes,” Great Mongeham||198|
|Sign of the “Red Lion,” Great Missenden||198|
|Sign of the “Labour in Vain”||199|
|The “Eight Bells,” Twickenham||201|
|Sign of the “Stocks” Inn, Clapgate, near Wimborne||202|
|The “Shears” Inn, Wantage||202|
|Sign of the “White Bear,” Fickles Hole||203|
|The “Crow-on-Gate” Inn, Crowborough||205|
|[Pg xi]The “First and Last” Inn, Sennen||206|
|The “First and Last,” Land’s End||207|
|The “Eagle and Child,” Nether Alderley||209|
|The “White Horse,” Woolstone||211|
|The “Halfway House,” Rickmansworth||215|
|The “Rose and Crown,” Mill End, Rickmansworth||216|
|The “Jolly Farmer,” Farnham||217|
|The “Boar’s Head,” Middleton||218|
|The “Old House at Home,” Havant||219|
|Yard of the “George and Dragon,” West Wycombe||223|
|The Yard of the “Sun,” Dedham||225|
|The “Old Ship,” Worksop||226|
|The “Old Swan,” Atherstone||227|
|The “King’s Arms,” Sandwich||229|
|The “Keigwin Arms,” Mousehole||230|
|The “Swan,” Knowle||231|
|Sign of the “Swan,” Knowle||232|
|The “Running Horse,” Merrow||233|
|Ingle-nook at the “Talbot,” Towcester||243|
|Tipper’s Epitaph, Newhaven||251|
|Preston’s Epitaph, St. Magnus-the-Martyr||253|
|House where the Duke of Buckingham died, Kirkby Moorside||265|
|The “Black Swan,” Kirkby Moorside||267|
|Washington Irving’s “Throne” and “Sceptre”||270|
|Yard of the “Old Angel,” Basingstoke||279|
|The “White Hart,” Whitchurch||281|
|The “Bell,” Tewkesbury||285|
|The “Wheatsheaf,” Tewkesbury||287|
|Henley-in-Arden, and the “White Swan”||301|
THE OLD INNS OF OLD ENGLAND
A POSY OF OLD INNS
“Shall I not take mine ease at mine inn?”
In dealing with the Old Inns of England, one is first met with the great difficulty of classification, and lastly with the greater of coming to a conclusion. There are—let us be thankful for it—so many fine old inns. Some of the finest lend themselves to no ready method of classifying. Although they have existed through historic times, they are not historic, and they have no literary associations: they are simply beautiful and comfortable in the old-world way, which is a way a great deal more keenly appreciated than may commonly be supposed in these times. Let those who will flock to Metropoles and other barracks whose very names are evidence of their exotic[Pg 2] style; but give me the old inns with such signs as the “Lygon Arms,” the “Feathers,” the “Peacock,” and the like, which you still find—not in the crowded resorts of the seaside, or in great cities, but in the old English country towns and districts frequented by the appreciative few.
I shall not attempt the unthankful office of determining which is the finest among these grand old English inns whose title to notice rests upon no adventitious aid of history, but upon their antique beauty, combined with modern comfort, alone, but will take them as they occur to me.
Let us, then, imagine ourselves at Broadway, in Worcestershire, and at the “Lygon Arms” there. The village, still somewhat remote from railways, was once an important place on the London and Worcester Road, and its long, three-quarter-mile street is really as broad as its name implies; but since the disappearance of the coaches it has ceased to be the busy stage it once was, and has became, in the familiar ironic way of fortune, a haven of rest and quiet for those who are weary of the busy world; a home of artists amid the apple-orchards of the Vale of Evesham; a slumberous place of old gabled houses, with mullioned and transomed windows and old-time vanities of architectural enrichment; for this is a district of fine building-stone, and the old craftsmen were not slow to take advantage of their material, in the artistic sort.
DOORWAY, THE “LYGON ARMS.”
Many enraptured people declare Broadway to be the prettiest village in England, and the existence of its artist-colony perhaps lends some aid to their contention; but it is not quite that, and although the long single street of the place is beautiful in detail, it does not compose a picture as a whole. One of the finest—if not indeed the finest—of those detailed beauties is the grand old[Pg 4] stone front of the “Lygon Arms,” built, as the “White Hart” inn, so long ago as 1540, and bearing that name until the early part of the last century, when the property was purchased by the Lygon family, whose head is now Earl Beauchamp, a title that, although it looks so mediæval, was created in 1815. In more recent times the house was purchased by the great unwieldy brewing firm of Allsopp, but in 1903 was sold again to the present resident proprietor, Mr. S. B. Russell, and so has achieved its freedom and independence once more. The “Lygon Arms,” however, it still remains, its armorial sign-board displaying the heraldic coat of that family, with their motto, Ex Fide Fortis.
The great four-gabled stone front of the “Lygon Arms” gives it the air of some ancient manor-house, an effect enhanced by the fine Renaissance enriched stone doorway added by John Trevis, an old-time innkeeper, who flourished in the reigns of James the First and Charles the First, and whose name, together with that of his wife, Ursula, and the date, 1620, can still be plainly seen. John Trevis (or “Treavis,” as the name was sometimes spelled) ended his hostelling in 1641, as appears by a rubbing from his memorial brass from Broadway old church, prominently displayed in the hall of the house.
THE “LYGON ARMS.”
The house has during the last few years been gradually brought back to its ancient state, and the neglect that befell on the withdrawal of the road-traffic repaired. But not merely neglect had [Pg 7]injured it. The ancient features had suffered greatly in the prosperous times at the opening of the nineteenth century, when the stone mullions of nearly all the windows were removed and modern glass and wooden sashes inserted. The thing seems so wanton and so useless that it is difficult to understand, in these days of reversion to type. A gas-lamp and bracket had at the same time been fixed to the doorway, defacing the stonework, and where alterations of this kind had not taken place, injury of another sort arose from the greater part of the inn being unoccupied and the rest degraded to little above the condition of an ale-house.
All the ancient features have been reinstated, and a general restoration effected, under the advice of experts, and in the “Lygon Arms” of to-day you see a house typical of an old English inn of the seventeenth century.
There is the Cromwell Room, so named from a tradition that the Protector slept in it the night before the Battle of Worcester. It is now a sitting-room. A great carved stone fireplace is the chief feature of that apartment, whose beautiful plaster ceiling is also worthy of notice. There is even a tradition that Charles the First visited the inn on two or three occasions; but no details of either his, or Cromwell’s, visits, survive.
Quaint, unexpected corners, lobbies and staircases abound here, and ancient fittings are found, even in the domestic kitchen portion of the house. In the entrance-hall is some very old carved oak[Pg 8] from Chipping Campden church, with an inscription no man can read; while, to keep company with the undoubtedly indigenous old oak panelling of the so-called “Panelled Room,” and others, elaborate ancient firebacks and open grates have been introduced—the spoil of curiosity shops. Noticeable among these are the ornate fireback in the Cromwell Room and the very fine specimen of a wrought-iron chimney-crane in the ingle-nook of a cosy corner by the entrance.
While it would be perhaps too much to say that Broadway and the “Lygon Arms” are better known to and appreciated by touring Americans than by our own people, they are certainly visited very largely by travellers from the United States during the summer months; the fame of Broadway having spread over-sea very largely on account of the resident American artist-colony and Madame de Navarro, who as Mary Anderson—“our Mary”—figured prominently on the stage, some years since.
Those travellers who in the fine, romantic, dangerous old days travelled by coach, or the more expensive, exclusive, and aristocratic post-chaise, to Bath, and selected the Devizes route, came at that town to one of the finest inns on that road of exceptionally fine hostelries. The “Bear” at Devizes was never so large or so stately as the “Castle” at Marlborough, but it was no bad second, and it remains to-day an old-fashioned and dignified inn, the first in the town; looking with something of a county-family aloofness upon the [Pg 9]wide Market-place and that extraordinary Gothic cross erected in the middle of it, to the memory of one Ruth Pierce, of Potterne, a market-woman, who on January 25th, 1753, calling God to witness the truth of a lie she was telling, was struck dead on the instant.
THE CROMWELL ROOM, “LYGON ARMS.”
The “Bear,” indeed, is of two entirely separate and distinct periods, as you clearly perceive from the strikingly different character of the front buildings. The one is a haughty structure in dark stone, designed in that fine architectural style practised in the middle of the eighteenth century by the brothers Adam; the other has a plastered and painted frontage, fine in its way, but bespeaking rather the Commercial Hotel. In the older building, to which you enter up flights of steps, you picture the great ones of the earth, resting on their way to or from “the Bath,” in a setting of Chippendale, Sheraton or Hepplewhite furniture; and in the other the imagination sees the dignified, prosperous “commercial gentlemen” of two or three generations ago—was there ever, anywhere, another order of being so supremely dignified as they were?—dining, with much roast beef and port, in a framing of mahogany sideboards and monumentally heavy chairs stuffed with horse-hair—each treating the others with a lofty and punctilious ceremonial courtesy, more punctilious and much loftier than anything ever observed in the House of Peers.
The “Bear” figures in the letters of Fanny Burney, who with her friend Mrs. Thrale was[Pg 10] travelling to Bath in 1780. They took four days about that business, halting the first night at Maidenhead, the second at the “Castle,” Speen Hill, and the third here. In the evening they played cards, the lively Miss Burney declaring to her correspondent that the doing so made her feel “old-cattish”: whist having ever been the resort of dowagers. Engaged upon this engrossing occupation, the strains of music gradually dawned upon their attention, coming from an adjoining room. Did they, as many would have done, thump upon the intervening wall, by way of signifying their disapproval? Not at all. The player was rendering the overture to the Buono Figliuola—whatever that may have been—and playing it well. Mrs. Thrale went and tapped at the door whence these sweet sounds came, in order to compliment the unknown musician; whereupon a handsome girl whose dark hair clustered finely upon a noble forehead, opened the door, and another invited Mrs. Thrale and Miss Burney to chairs. These pretty creatures were the daughters of the innkeeper. They were well enough, to be sure, but the wonder of the family was away from home. “This was their brother, a most lovely boy of ten years of age, who seems to be not merely the wonder of their family, but of the times, for his astonishing skill at drawing. They protest he has never had any instruction, yet showed us some of his productions that were really beautiful.”
THE “BEAR,” DEVIZES.
[Pg 13]This marvel was none other than Thomas Lawrence, the future painter of innumerable portraits of the wealthy and the noble, who rose to be P.R.A. and to knighthood at the hands of George the Fourth. His father, at this time landlord of the “Bear,” seems to have been a singularly close parallel to Mr. Micawber in fiction, and to Mr. John Dickens in real life. The son of a Presbyterian minister, and articled to a solicitor, he turned aside from writs and affidavits and practical things of that kind, to the making of verses; and the verse-making, by a sort of natural declension, presently led him to fall in love, and to run away with the pretty daughter of the vicar of Tenbury, in Worcestershire. He tried life as an actor, and that failed; as a surveyor of excise, with little better result; and then became landlord of the “White Lion” at Bristol, the house in which his son Thomas, the future P.R.A., was born, in 1769. In 1772 he removed to Devizes, and took the “Bear”: not an inconsiderable speculation, as the description of the house, already given, would lead one to suspect. Some unduly confiding person must have lent the shiftless, but engaging and gentlemanly, fellow the capital, and it is to be feared he lost by it, for although in the pages of Columella, a curious work of fiction published at that time, Lawrence is styled “the only man upon the road for warm rooms, soft beds, and—Oh, prodigious!—for reading Milton,” his innkeeping was a failure.
Notwithstanding those “warm rooms and soft[Pg 14] beds,” which rather remind you of Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s lines in The Mountebanks—
Good beds and warm sheeting,
That never want Keating,
Afford a good greeting
To people who stop at my inn—
Lawrence had to relinquish the “Bear.” He was known as a “public-spirited landlord, who erected at his own expense signal-posts twelve feet high, painted white, to guide travellers by night over Salisbury Plain”; but, although he was greatly commended for that public spirit, no profit accrued from it. Public spirit in a public-house—even though it be that higher order of public-house styled an hotel—is out of place.
At the early age of five the innkeeper’s son Thomas became distinctly an asset. He was as many-sided as a politician who cannot find place in his own party and so, scenting opportunities, seeks preferment with former enemies. Young Lawrence it would, however, be far prettier to compare with a many-faceted diamond. He shone with accomplishments. A beautiful boy, his manners, too, were pleasing. He was kissed and petted by the ladies, and to the gentlemen he recited. He painted the portraits, in curiously frank and artless profile, of all guests who would sport half a guinea for the purpose, and between whiles would be found in the yard, punching the heads of the stable-boys, for he was alike born painter and pugilist!
[Pg 15]A less beautiful nature than his would early have been spoiled by so much notice, but to the end of his long and phenomenally successful career Lawrence retained a courtly, but natural and frank, personality. As a boy he was introduced to the guests of the “Bear” by his fond father in this wise: “Gentlemen, here’s my son; will you have him recite from the poets, or take your portraits?” and in this way he held forth in such great presences as those of Dr. Johnson, Garrick, Foote, Burke, Sheridan, and Mrs. Siddons.
YARD OF THE “BEAR,” DEVIZES.
[Pg 16]But the business of the “Bear” languished under the proprietorship of the elder Lawrence. Probably many of the guests resented what was rightly styled “the obtrusive pertinacity” of the fond father, and being interrupted in their talk, or disturbed at the engrossing occupation of winning and losing money at cards, by the appearance of this wunderkind. By the time the genius was eleven years of age the family had left Devizes, and were being entirely supported by his growing skill in the painting of pleasing likenesses!
If the front of the house, with its odd effigy of a black bear eating a bunch of grapes, is fine, much finer, in the picturesque way, is the back, where, from the stable-yard, you see a noble range of Ionic columns, rather lost in that position, and surmounted as they are with gables of a Gothic feeling, looking as though the projector of some ambitious classic extension had begun a great work without counting the cost of its completion, and so had ingloriously to decline upon a humble ending.
The “George” at Andover, whatever importance it once possessed, now displays the merest slip of frontage. It is, in essentials, a very old house, with a good deal of stout timber framing in odd corners: all more or less overlaid with the fittings of a modern market inn. The “George” figures in what remains probably the most extraordinary solicitor’s bill on record: the account rendered to Sir Francis Blake Delaval,[Pg 17] M.P., by his attorney, for work done during one of the Andover elections. It is a document famous in the history of Parliamentary contests, and it was the subject of an action in the King’s Bench. The most outstanding item of it was: “To being thrown out of the window of the ‘George’ inn, Andover.—To my leg being thereby broken.—To Surgeon’s bill and loss of time and business.—All in the service of Sir Francis B. Delaval——£500.”
THE “GEORGE,” ANDOVER.
[Pg 18]It seems that this unfortunate attorney owed his flight through the window to his having played a practical joke upon the officers of a regiment stationed at Andover, to whom he sent invitations for a banquet at the “George” on the King’s birthday, purporting to come from the Mayor and corporation, and similar invitations to the Mayor and corporation, supposed to come from the officers. The two parties met and dined, but, preparing to depart, and each thanking the others for the hospitality, the trick was disclosed, and the author of it, who had been rash enough to attend, to see for himself the success of his joke, was seized and flung out of the window by the enraged diners.
Turn we now to Shropshire, to that sweet and gracious old town of Ludlow, where—albeit ruined—the great Castle of the Lords Presidents of the Council of the Marches of Wales yet stands, and where many an ancient house belonging to history fronts on to the quiet streets: some whose antique interiors are altogether unsuspected of the passer-by, by reason of the Georgian red-brick fronts or Early Victorian plaster faces that have masked the older and sturdier construction of oaken beams. I love the old town of Ludlow, as needs I must do, for it is the home of my forbears, who, certainly since the days of Elizabeth, when the registers of the Cathedral-like church of St. Lawrence begin, lived there and worked there in what was their almost invariable handicraft of joining and cabinet-making, until quite recent years.
THE “FEATHERS,” LUDLOW.
[Pg 21]The finest old timber-fronted, black-and-white house in Ludlow is the “Feathers” inn, in Corve Street. There are many ancient and picturesque hostelries in England, but none finer than the “Feathers,” and it is additionally remarkable for being as exquisite within as without. You see its nodding gables and peaked roofs among the earliest of the beautiful things of Ludlow, as you come from the railway-station and ascend the steep Corve Street, that leads out of the town, into Corve Dale.
Very little is known of the history of the “Feathers.” The earliest deed relating to the property is dated August 2nd, 1609, when it appears to have been leased from a member of the Council of the Marches, one Edward Waties of Burway, by Rees Jones and Isabel, his wife. Ten years later, March 10th, 1618-9, Rees Jones purchased the fee-simple of the house from Edward Waties and his wife, Martha: other parties to the transaction being Sir Charles Foxe, of Bromfield, and his son Francis, respectively father and brother of Martha Waties. The purchase price of the freehold was £225. In neither of those transactions is the house called the “Feathers,” or even referred to as an inn; nor do we know whether Rees Jones purchased the existing house, or an older one, on this site. It seems probable, however, that this is the[Pg 22] original mansion of some personage connected with the ancient government of the Welsh marches, or perhaps the “town house” of the Foxes of Bromfield in those times when every Shropshire squire of wealth and standing repaired for a season every year with his family from his country seat to Shrewsbury or Ludlow; the two resorts of Society in those days when London, in the toils, dangers, and expenses of travelling, was so far removed that it was a place to be seen but once or twice in a lifetime.
Rees Jones seems to have remodelled the mansion as an inn, and there is every likelihood that he named it the “Feathers” in honour of Henry, Prince of Wales, elder brother of Charles the First, who died in 1612; or perhaps in celebration of Prince Charles being, in his stead, created Prince of Wales, in 1616, when there were great rejoicings in Ludlow, and masques in “The Love of Wales to their Sovereign Prince.” How more loyal could one be—and how more certain to secure custom at such a juncture—than to name one’s inn after the triply feathered badge of a popular Prince?
The door of the “Feathers” appears to be the original entrance of Rees Jones’ day. No prospect of unwelcome visitors bursting through that substantial oak, reinforced by the three hundred and fifty or so iron studs that rather grimly spangle the surface of it, in defensive constellation. Even the original hinges remain, terminated decoratively by wrought-iron fleurs-de-lys. The initials of [Pg 23]Rees Jones himself—R.I.—are cut in the lock-plate.
THE DINING-ROOM AT “THE FEATHERS,” LUDLOW.
The “Feathers” was the local “Grand Hotel” or “Metropole” of that day, and was the resort of the best, as may be perceived by the ancient fittings and decorations, carried out in all the perfection possible to that time. From the oak-panelled hall you proceed upstairs to the principal room, the Large Dining-Room, looking out, through lozenge-paned windows, upon the ancient carved-oak balcony overhanging the street.
It is a handsome room, with elaborately decorated ceiling. In the centre is a device, in raised plaster, of the Royal Arms of the reign of James the First, surrounded by a star-like design of grapes and vines, decoratively treated; showing, together with the free repetition of grapes and vine-tendrils over other portions of the ceiling, that this symbolic decorative work was executed especially for the inn, and not for the house in any former existence as a private residence.
The carved oak overmantel, in three compartments, with a boldly rendered representation of the Royal arms and supporters of Lion and Unicorn, is contemporary with the ceiling, and there is no reason to doubt it having been made for the place it occupies, in spite of the tradition that tells of its coming from the Castle when that historic fortress and palace was shamefully dismantled in the reign of George the Third. The room is panelled throughout.
Everything else is in keeping, but it should[Pg 24] not—and could not—be supposed that the Jacobean-style and Chippendale furniture is of any old local association. Indeed, there are many in Ludlow who remember the time when the “Feathers” was furnished, neither comfortably nor artistically, with Early Victorian horse-hair stuffed chairs and sofas of the most atrocious type. It has been reserved for later days to be more appreciative of the value and desirability of having all things, as far as possible, in keeping with the age of the house.
Thus, we are not to think the fireback in this dining-room an old belonging of the inn. It is, indeed, ancient, and bears the perfectly genuine Lion and Dragon supporters and the arms of Queen Elizabeth, but it was purchased at the Condover Hall sale, in 1897.
The Small Dining-room is panelled with oak, dark with age, to the ceiling, and the Jacobean carved work enriching the fireplace is only less elaborate than that of the larger dining-room. The old grate and Flemish fireback, although also genuine antiques, were acquired in London, in 1898; but an old carved panel over the door, bearing the arms of Foxe and Hacluit, two Shropshire families prominent in the seventeenth century, is in its original place. The impaled arms are interesting examples of “canting,” or punning, heraldry: three foxes’ heads indicating the one family, and “three hatchets proper” that of Hacluit, or “Hackeluit,” as it was sometimes written. The shield of arms is flanked[Pg 25] on either side by a representation of a “water-bouget.”
Further upstairs, the bedroom floors slope at distinct angles, in sympathy with the bending gables without.
DECORATIVE DEVICE IN MOULDED PLASTER, FROM CEILING OF DINING-ROOM, THE “FEATHERS,” LUDLOW.
There are numerous instances of old manor-houses turned to commercial account as hostelries: among them the “Peacock” inn at Rowsley, near Chatsworth. As may be seen from the illustration, it is a building of fine[Pg 26] architectural character, and was, in fact, built in 1652, at a time when the Renaissance was most vigorous and inspired. The precise date of the building is carved, plain for all men to see, on the semicircular stone tympanum over the entrance-doorway, where it appears, with the old owner’s name, in this curious fashion:
But ordinary type does not suffice to render the quaintness of this inscription; for in the original the diagonal limbs of the N’s are placed the wrong way round.
John Stevenson, who built the house, was one of an old Derbyshire family who, in the reign of Elizabeth, were lords of the neighbouring manor of Elton. From them it passed by marriage, and was for many generations occupied as a farmhouse by a succession of gentlemen farmers, finally, in 1828, becoming an inn.
The “Peacock” sign, carved in stone over the battlemented front, is in allusion to the well-known peacock crest of the Manners family, Dukes of Rutland, whose ancestral seat of Haddon Hall is less than two miles distant.
THE “PEACOCK,” ROWSLEY.
[Pg 29]Up to the period of its conversion into an inn the house was fronted by a garden. A roadway, very dusty in summer, now takes its place, but there is still left at the side and rear of the old house one of the most delightful of old-world gardens, leading down to the Derwent: a garden of shady trees, emerald lawns, and lovely flower-beds that loses nothing of its beauty—and perhaps, indeed, gains an additional charm—from the railway and Rowsley station adjoining. The garden of the “Peacock,” and the cool, shady hall and the quiet panelled rooms of the “Peacock,” are in fact welcome sanctuaries of rest for the weariful sightseer at Rowsley and the neighbouring Chatsworth: a desirable refuge in a district always absurdly overrated, and nowadays absolutely destroyed in the touring months of summer by the thronged brakes and wagonettes from Matlock and Bakewell, and infinitely more by the hulking, stinking motor-cars that maintain a continuous haze of dust, a deafening clatter, and an offensive smell in these once sweetly rural roads.
In the days before the great George, successively Prince of Wales, Prince Regent, and last monarch of the Four Georges, had reared his glittering marine palace at Brighton, the only route to that sometime fisher-village lay by Caterham, Godstone, East Grinstead and Lewes. It was, indeed, not precisely the road to Brighton, but to that old-world county town of Sussex, Lewes itself. There were always people wanting to go to Lewes, and many others who went very much against their inclination; for it was then the centre of county business, and there were generally misdemeanants in plenty to be prosecuted or hanged in that grim castle on the hillside. Up to about 1750, therefore, you travelled in style to Lewes, and if you were so eccentric as to wish to[Pg 30] proceed to “Brighthelmstone” (which was then the lengthy way of it) you relied of necessity for those last eight or ten miles upon the most worthless shandrydan that the “Star” inn could produce; for mine host was not likely to risk his best conveyance upon the rough track that then stretched between Lewes and the sea.
This primitive condition of affairs gave place shortly afterwards to roads skilfully and especially engineered, directly towards Brighton itself. The riotous world of youthful fashion raced along those newer roads, and the staid, immemorial highway to Lewes was left to its own old respectable routine. And so it remains to-day. You may reach Brighton by the shortest route from London in 51½ miles, but by way of Lewes it is some fifty-nine. Need it be said that the shortest route, here as elsewhere, is the favourite?
But for picturesqueness, and for quaint old inns, the road by Lewes should, without doubt, be selected.
THE “WHITE HART” GODSTONE.
[Pg 33]The first of these is the famous “White Hart” at Godstone. I say “famous”; but, after all, is it nowadays famous among many classes? Among cyclists, yes, for it is well within twenty miles from London, and the pretty little hamlet of Godstone Green, with its half-dozen old inns, among them the “Hare and Hounds,” the “Bell,” and the “Rose and Crown,” nearly all sketchable, has ever been a kind of southern Ripley among clubmen. In coaching days, however, and in days long before coaching, when you got upon your horse and bumped in the saddle to your journey’s end, the “White Hart” was truly famous among all men. The old house, according to a painted wall-sign inscribed in the choicest Wardour Street English, was established in “ye reigne of Kynge Richard ye 2nd” and enlarged in that of Queen Elizabeth; and if there be indeed little of King Richard’s time to point to, there are many Elizabethan and Queen Annean and Early Georgian features which make up in pictorial quality what they lack in antiquity. The “White Hart” sign itself is in some sort evidence of the age claimed for the original house, for it was of course the well-known badge of King Richard. At the present day the couchant White Hart himself is displayed on one side of the swinging sign, and on the other the many-quartered shield of the local landowners, the Clayton family, and the house has become known in these latter days indifferently by the old title, or as the “Clayton Arms.”
The old-world gabled front of the inn would be strikingly beautiful in any situation, but the peculiarly appropriate old English rural setting renders it a subject for a painting or a theatrical scene. It is especially beautiful in spring, when the young foliage still keeps its freshness and the great horse-chestnut trees opposite are in bloom.
The old “White Hart” is a world too large for these days of easy and speedy travel. True, Godstone station is incredibly far away, but[Pg 34] conceive anyone save the sentimentalist staying the night, when within twenty miles of London and home! Hence those echoing corridors, those empty bedrooms, the tarnished mirrors and utter stillness of the outlying parts of mine host’s extensive domain. Snug comfort, however, resides in and near what some terrible lover of the sham-antique has styled, in modern paint upon the ancient woodwork, “Ye Barre.”
Ye Goddes! the old house does not want that, nor any others of the many such inscriptions, the work, doubtless, of the defunct Smith, who was at once cook, gardener, artist of sorts, entertainment-organiser and musician (also of sorts), and ran riot, the matter of a decade or so since, over the house with pots of Aspinall’s facile enamels and a paintbrush, with what results we see to this day.
One would by no means like to convey the impression that the “White Hart” is deserted. Let those who judge by its every-day rustic quiet visit it on the Saturdays and Sundays of summer and glance at the great oak-raftered dining-room, crowded with cyclists. Indeed, this fine old hostelry requires a leisured inspection and a more intimate knowledge than merely that of a passing visit. Then only shall you peer into the odd nooks of the long stable-yard, or, adventuring perchance by accident into the wash-house, see with astonishment and delight the old-world garden beyond.
If it be a wet day, and the traveller stormbound, why then some compensation for the[Pg 35] villainies of the weather may be found in a voyage of discovery through the echoing rooms, and from the billiard-room that was the old kitchen you may turn, wearying of billiards, to the long, dusty and darkling loft, under the roof, to see in what manner of place our ancestors of Queen Elizabeth’s, and even of Queen Anne’s, days held revel. For here it was that the players played interludes, and probably were funnier than they intended, when their heads came into violent collision with the sloping rafters and made the unfeeling among the audience laugh. If the essence of humour lie indeed in the unexpected, as some contend, how humorous those happenings!
In a later age, when the mummers had departed, the loft was used as Assembly Rooms, for dances and other social occasions; but now it is solitary, and filled only with memories and cobwebs.
From Godstone, the old road to Brighthelmstone goes by Blindley Heath and New Chapel, and thence comes into Sussex at East Grinstead, in which thriving little market-town the “Dorset Arms” is conspicuous, with its sedately beautiful frontage, brave show of flowers in window-boxes, and row of dormer windows in the roof. There is a delightful old-world garden in the rear, sloping down to a rustic valley, and commanding lovely views. The “Dorset Arms” still displays the heraldic coat of the Dukes of Dorset, although the last Duke has been dead nearly a hundred years, and though the memories of their lavishness, their[Pg 36] magnificence, and their impatience as they posted to and from their seat at Buckhurst Park, eight miles distant, have locally faded away.
But the inn has one arresting modern curiosity. In days before Mr. Alfred Austin was made Poet Laureate, and became instantly the cockshy and Aunt Sally of every sucking critic, the landlord of the “Dorset Arms” placed in gilded letters over his doorway a quotation from the poet’s Fortunatus the Pessimist, telling us that—
There is no office in this needful world
But dignifies the doer, if well done.
And there it still remains; but precisely what it is intended, in that situation, to convey remains unexplained. Whether the landlord is the “doer,” or the waiter, or the boots, or if they are all, comprehensively, to be regarded as dignified doers, is a mystery.
There was no lack of accommodation on this old road. The traveller had jogged it on but seven miles more when he came at Nutley to a very small village with a very large hostelry which, disdaining any mere ordinary sign, proclaimed itself the “Nutley Inn.” It does so still, but although it is a fine, handsome, four-square mansion-like building, it looks a little saddened by changed times and at being under the necessity of announcing, in those weird and wonderful words, “Petrol” and “Garage,” a dependence upon motor-cars.
Another five miles, and at the little town of[Pg 37] Uckfield, we have the “Maiden’s Head,” an early eighteenth-century inn with Assembly-room attached and a wonderful music gallery, rather larger than the “elevated den” at the “Bull,” Rochester. The interior of the “Maiden’s Head” at Uckfield is a good deal more comfortable than would be suspected from its brick front, with the semicircular bays painted in a compromise between white and a dull lead colour. At Lewes the traveller came to the “Star” inn, a worthy climax to this constellation, with the fine old staircase brought from Slaugham Place, as its chief feature: but the “Star” has of late been demolished.
One of the finest in this posy of old inns is the “Luttrell Arms,” away down in Somersetshire, in the picturesque village of Dunster, on the shores of the Severn Sea. Dunster is noted for its ancient castle, for its curious old Yarn Market in the middle of the broad street, and no less for the “Luttrell Arms.” A fine uncertainty clings about the origin and the history of this beautiful house. Because of the Gothic timbered roof of the “oak room,” with hammer-beams and general construction somewhat resembling the design of the roof of Westminster Hall, and because of the very ecclesiastical-looking windows giving upon the courtyard, a vague tradition still lingers in the neighbourhood that the house was once a monastery. Nothing has survived to tell us who built this fine fifteenth-century structure, or for what purpose; but, while facts are wanting, the[Pg 38] most likely theory remains that it was provided as a town residence for the Abbots of Cleeve, the Abbey whose ruins may still be found, in a rural situation, three miles away. In the governance and politics of such an Abbey, an Abbot’s residence in a centre such as Dunster was would be a highly desirable thing. There, almost under the shadow of the great feudal castle of the Mohuns, purchased in 1376 by the Luttrells, who still own the property, the Abbots were in touch with the great world, and able to intrigue and manage for the interests of the Church in general and of the Abbey in particular, much better than would have been possible in the cloistered shades of Cleeve. The Luttrells no doubt gave the land, and possibly even built the house for the Abbots; and when the Reformation came and conventual properties were confiscated, they simply received back what their ancestors had given away.
The front of the “Luttrell Arms” has been very greatly modernised, with the exception of the ancient projecting stone porch, which still keeps on either side the cross-slits in the masonry, commanding the length of the street, whence two stout marksmen with cross-bows could easily defend the house. Above, the shield of arms of the Luttrells, carved in stone, displays their black martlets on a gold ground, and serves the inn for a sign.
The beautiful carved oak windows in the courtyard somewhat resemble the great window of the “Old King’s Head” at Aylesbury. Here the[Pg 39] view extends beautifully across the gardens of the inn, over the sea, to Blue Anchor.
THE OLD WINDOW, “LUTTRELL ARMS.”
A curious seventeenth-century plaster fireplace overmantel, moulded in high relief, is a grotesque ornament to one of the bedrooms. It displays a half-length of a man with a singular likeness to Shakespeare, and dressed like a page-boy, in “buttons,” presiding over the representation of a very thin and meagre Actæon being torn to pieces by his dogs, which, in proportion to Actæon himself, seem to be about the size of moderately[Pg 40] large cows. Two figures of women, with faces like potatoes, dressed in Elizabethan or Jacobean costume, flank this device, in the manner of caryatides. A number of somewhat similar plaster chimney-pieces are to be found in North Somerset and North Devon, notably a fine one at the “Trevelyan Arms,” Barnstaple: obviously all the handiwork of one man.
At Norwich, a city of ancient inns that are, in general, more delightful to sketch and to look at than to stay in, we have the “Maid’s Head,” an exceptionally fine survival of an Elizabethan, or slightly earlier, house. It is an “hotel” now, and sanitated and electrically lighted up to twentieth-century requirements; and has, moreover, an “Elizabethan” extension, built in late Victorian times. But, in spite of all those modern frills and flounces, the central portion of the “Maid’s Head” still wears its genuine old-world air.
That there was an inn on this site so early as 1287 we learn from the records of the Norwich Corporation, which tell how “Robert the fowler” was brought to book in that year on suspicion of stealing the goods of one John de Ingham, then staying at a tavern in the Cook Row, a street identified with Tombland, the site of the “Maid’s Head.” The reasoning that presumed the guilt of Robert the fowler seems to the modern mind rather loose, and the presentment itself is worded with unconscious humour. By this it seems that he was suspect “because he spends much and has nothing to spend from, and roves about by[Pg 41] night, and he is ill thought of.” Ergo, as the old wording proceeds, “it must have been he that stole John de Ingham’s goods at his tavern in the Cook Rowe.”
Relics of a building of the Norman period, thought to be remains of a former Bishop’s Palace, are still visible in the cellars of the “Maid’s Head.”
The ancient good repute of the inn is vouched for by a passage in the well-known Paston Letters, painted boldly in white lettering on the great oaken entrance-door of the house. It is from a note written by John Paston in 1472 to “Mestresse Margret Paston,” in which he advises her of a visitor, and says, “I praye yow make hym goode cheer, and iff it be so that he tarye, I most remembre hys costes; thereffore iff I shall be sent for, and he tery at Norwich there whylys, it were best to sette hys horse at the Maydes Hedde, and I shalbe content for ther expences.”
The ancient name of the house was the “Molde Fish,” or “Murtel Fish”; but precisely what species of fish that was, no one has ever discovered. It was long an article of belief in Norwich that this now inexplicable sign was changed to the present one as a compliment to Queen Elizabeth on her first visit to Norwich, in 1578; but, as we see by the Paston Letters, it was the “Maid’s Head” certainly as far back as 1472. A portion of the carved work on the chimney-piece of the present smoking-room represents a dubious kind of a fish, said to be intended for the[Pg 42] skate, or ray, once known familiarly in Norwich as “old maid”; but the connection between it and the old sign (if any) seems remote.
Probably the most interesting item at the “Maid’s Head” is the Jacobean bar, an exceptionally fine example of seventeenth-century woodwork, of marked architectonic character, and, as a bar, unique. Now that the courtyard to which it opened is roofed in, its preservation is assured, at the expense of the genuine old open-air feature, for which the modern lounge is a poor exchange.
Journeying from Norwich to the sea at Yarmouth, we find there, among the numerous hotels of that populous place, that highly interesting house, the “Star,” facing the river at Hall Quay. The “Star” is older than a first glance would lead the casual visitor to suspect; and a more prolonged examination reveals a frontage built of black flints elaborately, and with the greatest nicety, chipped into cubes: one of the most painstaking kinds of labour it is possible to conceive. The house, built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, has been an inn only since about 1780. It has an interesting history, having been erected as the combined business premises and place of residence of one William Crowe, a very considerable merchant in his day, and High Bailiff of Yarmouth in 1606. The lower part of the premises was at that time the business portion, while the upper was that worshipful merchant’s residence; traders, both by retail and by wholesale, within the kingdom and overseas [Pg 43]alike, not then having arrived at being ashamed of their business. How honestly proud William Crowe was of his position as a merchant we may still see, in the great and beautiful oak-panelled room on the first floor of his old house, the fine apartment now known as the “Nelson Room”; for there, prominently carved over the generous fireplace, you see the arms of the Merchant Adventurers of England, a company of traders of which he was a member. The oak-panelling here, reaching from floor to ceiling, itself beautifully decorated, is most elaborately designed in the Renaissance way, with fluted Corinthian pilasters, supporting grotesque male and female terminal figures. This noble room is now the Coffee-room of the hotel.
COURTYARD OF THE “MAID’S HEAD,” NORWICH SHOWING THE JACOBEAN BAR.
DOORWAY, “THE COCK,” STONY STRATFORD.
It should be said that the name of “Nelson” is purely arbitrary in this connection, for the[Pg 44] “Star” has no historic associations with the Admiral. The name was given the room merely from the fact that a portrait of Nelson hangs on its walls.
In this posy of old inns, whose sweet savour reconciles the traveller to many hateful modern portents, mention must be made of the “George” at Odiham. At an inn styled the “George” you do expect, more than at any other sign, to find old-fashioned comfort; and here, at that little forgotten townlet of Odiham, lying secluded away back from the Exeter Road, with its one extravagantly broad and singularly empty street, and no historic memories much later than the reign of King John, you have a typical cheery hostelry whose white frontage looks coaching age incarnated, and whose interior surprises you—as often these old houses do—with oaken beams and Elizabethan panelled coffee-room and Jacobean overmantel. The fuel-cupboard, with finely wrought hinges, at the side of the fireplace, is as celebrated in its way, among connoisseurs of these things, as the Queen Anne angle-cupboard at the “New Inn,” New Romney. Not least among the attractions of the “George” is the beautiful old-fashioned garden at the back, looking out towards the meads and the trout-streams, that make Odiham (whose name, by the way, originally “Woodyham,” is pronounced locally like “Odium”) a noted place among anglers.
YARD OF “THE GEORGE,” HUNTINGDON.
[Pg 47]Interesting in a less rural—and indeed a very urban way—is the “Cock” inn, at Stony Stratford, on the Holyhead Road, with its fine red brick frontage to the busy high road, its imposing wrought-iron sign, and, in especial, its noble late seventeenth-century ornately carved and highly enriched oak doorway, brought, it would appear, from the neighbouring mansion of Battlesden Park. As may be gathered from the illustration, this exquisite work of art very closely resembles, in general character, the carved interior doorways of Wren’s City of London churches, often ascribed to Grinling Gibbons.
In this posy of old hostelries we must at least mention that fine old anglers’ inn, the “Three Cocks” in Breconshire, which, like the “Craven Arms,” between Ludlow and Church Stretton, and those more familiar and vulgar examples in London, the “Bricklayers’ Arms” and the “Elephant and Castle,” has conferred its name upon a railway-station. And mention must be made of the cosy, white-faced “Wellington,” at Broadstairs, occupying a kind of midway place between the old coaching inn and the modern huge barrack hotel, and, with its lawn looking upon the sea and the beach, select and quiet in the very midst of the summer crowds of that miniature holiday resort.
In any competition as to which old inn had the ugliest frontage, the “Red Horse” at Stratford-on-Avon, and the “George” at Huntingdon would probably tie for first place; but the courtyard of the “George” makes amends,[Pg 48] and is one of the finest anywhere in existence, as the illustration serves to show.
A fine old house, with a still finer old sign, is that old coaching hostelry, the “Bell,” at Stilton, formerly one of the largest and most important of the many great and indispensable inns that once ministered to the needs of travellers along the Great North Road. The “Bell” was the original inn of Stilton, and the “Angel,” opposite, is a mere modern upstart of Queen Anne’s time. Queen Anne is a monarch of yesterday when you think of the old “Bell”; which is, indeed, older than it looks, for, prying closely into the architecture of its golden, yellow-brown structure of sandstone, it will be seen that the house is really a Late Gothic building distressingly modernised. Modernised, that is to say, in a very necessary reservation, considerably over a century ago. That is the last note of modernity at the “Bell.” The windows, it will be noticed, were once all stone-mullioned, and portions of the ancient stonework not cut away to receive commonplace Georgian wooden sashes, are still distinctly visible. Looking at the competitive “Angel” opposite, now and for long since, like the “Bell” itself, sadly reduced in circumstances since that era of mail- and stage-coaching and expensive posting in chaise and four, you perceive at once the reason for that alteration in the “Bell.” It was an effort to become, as an auctioneer might say, “replete with every modern convenience.”
THE “BELL,” STILTON.
[Pg 51]Now the glory of Stilton, in particular, and of the road in general, is departed, and the rival inns are alike reduced to wayside ale-houses. At the “Bell”—the once hospitable—they look at you with astonishment when you want to stay the night, and turn you away. Doubtless they do so also at the “Angel,” whose greater part is now a private residence.
The great feature of the “Bell” is its sign, which, with the mazy and intricate curls and twists and quirks of its wrought-iron supports, projects far into the road. The sign itself is painted on copper, for sake of lightness, but it has long been necessary to support it with a crutch in the shape of a stout post, just as you prop up the overweighted branch of an apple-tree. The sign-board itself—if we may term that a “board” which is made of metal—was in the old days a certain source of income to the coachmen and guards who wagered, whenever possible, with their passengers, on the size of it. Foolish were those who betted with them, for, like the cunning bride who took a bottle of the famous water of the Well of St. Keyne to church, they were prepared; and although bets on certainties are, contrary to the spirit, and all the laws, of sport, they were sufficiently unprincipled to receive the winnings that were inevitable, since they had early taken the measure of it.
The sign, in fact, measures 6 ft. 2¾ inches in height.
The “Bell” is, or should be, famous as the inn where “Stilton” cheese was first introduced to[Pg 52] an appreciative and unduly confiding world. It was an old-time landlord, the sporting Cooper Thornhill, who flourished, and rode horseback in record time to London and back to Stilton again, about 1740, to whom the world was thus originally indebted. He obtained his cheese from a Mrs. Paulet of Wymondham, who at first supplied him with this product of her dairy for the use of coach-passengers dining at his table. Her cheeses at once appealed to connoisseurs, and Thornhill presently began to supply them to travellers eager to take this new-found delicacy away with them. He was too business-like a man to disclose the secret of their origin, and it was long supposed they came from a dairy at Stilton belonging to him. He did so well for himself, charging half-a-crown a pound, that others entered the lucrative trade, and you could no more journey through Stilton without having a Stilton cheese (metaphorically) thrown at your head than you can halt to-day at Banbury station without hearing the musical cry of “Ba-anbury Ca-a-akes!”
Then Miss Worthington, landlady of the “Angel” opposite, began also to supply Stilton cheeses. Rosy, plump, and benevolent-looking—apparently one in whom there was no guile—she would ask passengers if they would not like to take away with them a “real Stilton cheese.” All went well for a while, and Stilton cheeses tasted none the worse because they were not made there. And then the terrible secret was disclosed.
THE “RED LION,” EGHAM.
[Pg 54]“Pray, sir, would you like a nice Stilton cheese to take away with you?” asked the unsuspecting landlady one day, as a coach drew up.
“Do you say they are made at Stilton?” asked the passenger.
“Oh yes,” said she.
Then came the crushing rejoinder: “Why, Miss Worthington, you know perfectly well that no Stilton cheese was ever made at Stilton: they’re all made in Leicestershire; and as you say your cheeses are made at Stilton, they cannot be good, and I won’t have one.”
It is the merest commonplace to say that time works wonders. We know it does: wonders not infrequently of the most unpleasant kind. When we find time bringing about marvels of the pleasant and desirable sort I think we should account ourselves fortunate.
There are marvels nowadays being wrought on the Great North Road in particular, and others in general, in that entirely felicitous manner. I do not here make allusion to the electric tramways that monopolise the best part of the roadways out of London for some ten miles or so of the old romantic highways. Not at all; in fact, far otherwise. The particular miracles I am contemplating are the works undertaken by the Road Club of the British Isles, in the re-opening of ancient hostelries long ago retired into private life, and in bringing back to the survivors a second term of their old-time prosperity. The Road Club, largely consisting of motorists, encourages touring, and has set out upon a programme of interesting[Pg 55] all lovers of the countryside in country quarters. The Great North Road is dotted here and there with the inns it has revived: the “Red Lion” at Hatfield, the “George” at Grantham, and so forth, and it has entirely purchased and taken over the management of the “Royal County Hotel” at Durham and the “Bell” at Barnby Moor.
I am in this place not so greatly concerned to hold forth upon the others, but the case of the “Bell” is remarkable. Some years since, in writing the picturesque story of the Great North Road, I discoursed at length upon the history of that remarkably fine old hostelry, which was then, and for close upon sixty years had been, a private country residence. Railways had been too much for it, and the licence had been surrendered, and postboys and the whole staff dispersed.
And now? Why now the “Bell,” or “Ye Olde Bell,” as I perceive the Road Club prefers to style it, is an inn once more. I forget how many thousands of pounds have been expended in alterations, and in re-installing the establishment; but it has become in three equal parts, as it were, inn, club-house and farm-house, fully licensed, with golf-links handy. Here come the motor tourists, and here meet Lord Galway’s hounds, and, in short, the ancient glories of the “Bell” are, with a modern gloss, revived. If the spirits of the jolly old landlords can know these things, surely they are pleased.
Among the old coaching-inns sadly fallen from[Pg 56] their former estate, and now surviving only in greatly altered circumstances, in a mere corner of the great buildings they once occupied, is the “Red Lion,” Egham; once one of the largest and finest inns on the Exeter Road.
The “Red Lion” may, for purposes of comparison, be divided into three parts. There is the old gabled original portion of the inn, probably of late seventeenth-century date, now used as a medical dispensary, forming two sides of a courtyard, recessed from the road, and screened from it by an old wrought-iron railing; and added to it, perhaps eighty years later, an imposing range of eighteenth-century red-brick buildings, partly in use as offices for the local Urban District Council and in part a “Literary Institute,” and a world too large for both. This great building is even more imposing within; its immense cellarage, large ball-, or assembly-room, noble staircases, and finely panelled walls, the now neglected witnesses of a bygone prosperity. Traditions still survive of how George the Fourth used to entertain his Windsor huntsmen here. In the rear was stabling for some two hundred horses. Most of it has been cleared away, but the old postboys’ cottages still remain in the spacious yard. The remaining part of the “Red Lion,” still carried on as an inn, presents a white-stuccoed, Early Victorian front to the high road.
THE “BELL,” BARNBY MOOR: MEET OF LORD GALWAY’S HOUNDS.
Not many inns are built upon crypts. Examples have already been referred to in these volumes, but another may be mentioned, in the case [Pg 57]of the “Lamb” inn at Eastbourne; while the “Angel” at Guildford is a well-known instance. No one, looking at the modern-fronted “Angel,” one of the foremost hotels of Guildford, would be likely to accuse it of owning an Early English crypt, but it has, in fact, an exceptionally fine one of three bays, supported by two stone pillars. The ancient history of this undercroft is unknown, and merely a matter for conjecture.
At the “Angel” itself antiquity and modernity meet, for while fully equipped for twentieth century convenience, it has good oak panelling of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the fine hall and elsewhere.
THE OLD INNS OF CHESHIRE
Cheshire, that great fertile plain devoted almost exclusively to dairy-farming, is without doubt the county richest in old inns: inns for the most part built in the traditional Cheshire style—of timber and plaster: the style variously called “half-timbered,” “magpie,” or “black and white.” Of these the “Old Hall” at Sandbach is the finest and most important, having been built originally as the manor-house, about the time of Queen Elizabeth, the inscription, “16 T.B. 56” on a portion of the long frontage, probably marking repairs, or an extension of the building, at that period.
Sandbach is a place famous among antiquaries for its remarkable ninth-century sculptured monolith crosses, and thus the traveller comes to it with a mental picture, evolved entirely out of his own inner consciousness, of some sweet and quiet old country town, left long ago outside the range of modern things. But Sandbach is not in the least like that. It is a huddled-together little town, very busy, very roughly paved with stone setts, rather dirty and untidy, and apparently possessed with an ambition for new buildings, both [Pg 59]public and private, which shall be as much as possible unlike the old Cheshire style. These are surprises for the pilgrim, whose life-long illusions are finally squelched when he is told, gently but firmly, and with a kind of pity for his ignorance, that the place-name is not pronounced “Sandback,” with a “k,” but “Sandbach,” with an “h,”—“as it is spelt,” the inhabitants crushingly add.
THE “OLD HALL” INN, SANDBACH.
[Pg 60]The poor old crosses stand in the market-place. They have suffered many an injury in their time, and now are islanded amid a sea of market-litter, and are black and grimy. Close by them stands the “Black Bear” inn, a nodding old half-timbered and thatched “Free” house, with the inscription, “16 R K 34.” The lower part is merely brick, but this has been painted white with black stripes, in a more or less laudable attempt to imitate the genuine timber and plaster of the upper storey.
Just off this market-place, opposite the church, stands the “Old Hall” inn, facing the road in a long range of imposing panelled and gabled building, partly fronted by a beautiful lawn. No changes have spoiled the “Old Hall,” which, save for the fact that it has long been an inn, remains very much as it was built. It is the property of the Earl of Crewe.
Stout oaken floors and dark oak panelling furnish the old house throughout. You enter the capacious bar through a Jacobean screen and drink mellow home-brewed in the appropriately[Pg 61] mellow light that comes between oaken Elizabethan mullions and through leaded casements. It is not by any fanciful figure of speech that the traveller quenches his thirst here at the “Old Hall” in a tankard of home-brewed. The house, in fact, brews its own ale, and supplies it largely to the farm-houses of the neighbourhood; and a very pretty tipple it is, too.
DOG-GATES AT HEAD OF STAIRCASE, “OLD HALL” INN, SANDBACH.
There are at least three very fine carved oak Jacobean fire-places and overmantels in the house, the finest that in the public parlour; and at the head of the broad staircase remains a curious relic of old times—the “dog-gates” that formerly shut out the domestic pets of the[Pg 62] establishment from the bedrooms—and in fact do so still.
Not so large, but in some respects finer even than the “Old Hall,” the “Bear’s Head” at Brereton, five miles from Sandbach, shows most of its beauty on the outside. It was built in 1615, as the date carved on the lovely old timbered porch declares, and in days when the Breretons of Brereton Hall still ruled; as their bear’s-head crest, their shield of arms, and the initials “W. M. B.,” prove. Their old home, Brereton Hall, close by, is traditionally the original of Washington Irving’s “Bracebridge Hall.”
Brereton village is among the smallest of places, and the inn, itself as noble as many an old manor-house, is neighboured only by a few scattered cottages. But, however insignificant the village, the inn was once, and long continued to be, a very busy posting-house on a frequented route between London and Liverpool, as the eighteenth-century additions to the house bear witness. The additional wing, built at that period, is by no means an attractive feature, and fortunately does not obtrude itself in general views of the inn from the best points of view; but the magnificent range of stables added at the same date, on the opposite side of the road, although, of course, not in keeping with the black-and-white timbering of the original building, compose well, artistically, with it, and form in themselves a very fine specimen of the design and the brickwork of that time.
THE “BEAR’S HEAD,” BRERETON.
[Pg 65]The “Lion and Swan” at Congleton is one of the best and most picturesque features of that old-time manufacturing town, more remarkable for its huge old factory buildings, and its narrow, sett-paved streets in which the clogs of the work-folk continually clatter, than for its beauty. The “Lion and Swan,” therefore, is a distinct asset in the picturesque way, with its beautiful black-and-white gables and strongly emphasised entrance-porch. Within it is all timbered passages and raftered rooms, pleasantly irregular.
One of the most striking of the natural features of Cheshire is the isolated hill rising abruptly from the great plain near Alderley, and known as Alderley Edge. So strange an object could hardly fail to impress old-time imaginations, or be without its correspondingly strange legends, and the Edge is, in fact, the subject of a legend well known as the “Wizard of Alderley,” which in its turn has given its title to the “Wizard” inn.
According to this mystical tale, which is of the same order as the marvellous legends of King Arthur and the wise Merlin, a farmer, “long years ago,” was going to Macclesfield Fair to sell a fine milk-white horse, when, on passing the hill, a “mysterious stranger” suddenly appeared before him and demanded the horse. Not even in those times of “long years ago,” when all manner of odd things happened, did farmers give up valuable animals on demand, and (although the story does not report it) he probably said some extremely rude and caustic things to the stranger;[Pg 66] who, at any rate, told him that the horse would not be sold at the fair. He added that when the farmer returned in the evening, he would meet him on the same spot, and would receive the horse.
The Wizard, for it was none other, had spoken truly. Many people at the fair admired the milk-white steed, but none offered to buy, and the farmer wended his way home again. In most cases, with the prospect of such a meeting, a farmer—or any one else—would have gone home some other way; but, in that case, there would have been no legend; so we are to imagine him come back at eventime, under the shadow of the Edge, with the Wizard duly awaiting him.
Not a word was spoken, but horse and farmer were led to the hillside, where, with a sound like that of distant thunder, two iron gates opened, and a magic cave appeared, wherein he saw many milk-white steeds, each with an armed man sleeping by its side. He was told, as a metrical version of the legend has it:
These are the caverned troops, by Fate
Foredoomed the guardians of our State.
England’s good genius here detains
These armed defenders of our plains,
Doomed to remain till that fell day
When foemen marshalled in array
And feuds internecine, shall combine
To seal the ruin of our line!
Thrice lost shall England be, thrice won,
’Twixt dawn of day and setting sun.
Then we, the wondrous caverned band,
These mailèd martyrs for the land,
Shall rush resistless on the foe.
THE “LION AND SWAN,” CONGLETON.
[Pg 69]From the crystal cave where these wonders were seen, the farmer was conducted to a cave of gold, filled with every imaginable kind of wealth, and there, in the shape of “as much treasure as he could carry,” he received better payment for his horse than he would ever have obtained at Macclesfield, or any other, fair. We may imagine him (although the legend says nothing on that head) at this point asking the Wizard how many more milk-white steeds he could do with, at the same price; but at this juncture he was conducted back to the entrance, and the gates were slammed to behind him. Strange to say, the “treasure,” according to the story, seems to have been genuine treasure, and did not, next morning, resolve itself into the usual currency of dried sticks and yellow leaves in which wizards and questionable old-time characters of that nature usually settled their accounts.
There are caves and crannies to this day in the wonderful hill, but the real genuine magic cave has never been re-discovered.
That odd early eighteenth-century character, “Drunken Barnaby,” is mentioned elsewhere in these pages. One of his boozy journeys took him out of Lancashire into Cheshire, by way of Warrington and Great Budworth:
Thence to the Cock at Budworth, where I
Drank strong ale as brown as berry:
Till at last with deep healths felled,
To my bed I was compelled:
I for state was bravely sorted,
By two porters well supported.
[Pg 70]The traveller will still find the “Cock” at Budworth, and will notice, with some amusement, that the landlord’s name is Drinkwater. The house is looking much the same as in Barnaby’s day, and has a painting, hanging in the bar, picturing a very drunken Barnaby indeed being carried up to bed. A sundial, bearing the date, 1851, and the inscription, “Sol motu gallus cantu moneat,” has been added, together with a well-executed picture-sign of a gamecock: both placed by the late squire of Arley, Rowland Eyles Egerton Warburton, who seems to have occupied most of his leisure in writing verses for sign-posts and house-inscriptions all over this part of Cheshire. The gamecock himself, it will be noted, has an oddly Gladstonian glance.
From Budworth, by dint of much searching and diligent inquiry, the pilgrim on the borders of Cheshire and Lancashire at length discovers the hamlet of Thelwall, a place situated in an odd byway between Warrington, Lymm, and Manchester, in that curious half-picturesque and half-grimly commercial district traversed by the Bridgewater and the Manchester Ship Canals.
Thelwall, according to authorities in things incredibly ancient, was once a city, but the most diligent antiquary grubbing in its stony lanes and crooked roads, will fail to discover any evidences in brick or stone of that vanished importance, and is fain to rest his faith upon county historians and on the lengthy inscription in iron lettering in modern times fixed upon the wooden[Pg 71] beams of the old “Pickering Arms” inn that stands in midst of the decayed “city.” By this he learns that, “In the year 920, King Edward the Elder founded a cyty here and called it Thelwall.” And that is all there is to tell. It might have been a Manchester or a Salford, had the situation been well chosen; but as it is, it teaches the lesson that though a king may “found” a city, not all the kingship, or Right Divine of crowned heads, will make it prosper, if it be not placed to advantage.
THE “COCK,” GREAT BUDWORTH.
Chester itself is, of course, exceptionally rich in old inns, but Chester has so long been a show-place of antiquities and has so mauled its reverend relics with so-called “restorations” that much of[Pg 72] their interest is gone. The bloom has been brushed off the peach.
One of the oldest inns of Chester is the little house at the corner of Shipgate Street and Lower Bridge Street, known as the “King Edgar”; the monarch who gives his name to the sign being that Anglo-Saxon “Edgar the Peaceable” who reduced the England of his day to an unwonted condition of law and order, and therefore fully deserves the measure of fame thus given him.
We are told by Roger of Wendover and other ancient chroniclers how, in the year 962, King Edgar, coming to Chester in the course of one of his annual progresses through the country he ruled, was rowed in a state barge upon the river Dee by eight tributary kings; and one is a little puzzled to know whence all these kings could have come, until the old monkish accounts are fully read, when it appears that they were only kings in a comparatively small way of business. According to Roger of Wendover, they were Rinoth, King of Scots, Malcolm, King of the Cumbrians, Maco, King of Mona and numerous islands, and five others: Dusnal of Demetia, Siferth and Huwal of Wales, James, King of Galwallia, and Jukil, King of Westmoreland.
The sign of the inn, a very old and faded and much-varnished painting, displays that historic incident, and, gazing earnestly at it, you may dimly discern the shadowy forms of eight oarsmen, robed in red and white, and with golden crowns on their heads, rowing an ornate but clumsy craft,[Pg 73] while King Edgar stands in the stern sheets. Another figure in the bow supports a banner with the sign of the Cross. The whole thing looks not a little like a giant black-beetle crawling over a kitchen-table.
THE “PICKERING ARMS,” THELWALL.
Until quite recently the “King Edgar” inn was the most picturesquely tumble-down building in Chester, a perfect marvel of dilapidation that no artist could exaggerate, or any one, for that matter, care to house in. But it has now not only been made habitable, but so “restored” that only the outlines of the building, and that faded old sign, remain recognisably the “King Edgar.” It is now rather a smart little inn, displaying[Pg 74] notices of “Accomodation for Cyclists”—spelled with one “m”—and thus, so renovated and youthful-looking, as incongruously indecent as one’s grandmother would be, were she to let her hair down and take to short frocks again.
Separated from it by only one house, and that as commonplace a building as possible, suppressed so far as may be in the accompanying illustration, by the adventitious aid of “artistic licence,” is the “Bear and Billet” inn, at this time, although repaired, in the most satisfactorily conservative condition of any old inn at Chester. Its front is a mass of beautifully enriched woodwork, under one huge, all-comprising gable. The “Bear and Billet” was not always an inn. It has, in fact, declined from private mansion to public, having originally been the town mansion of the Earls of Shrewsbury, and remaining their property until 1867. Adjoining is the Bridge Gate of the city, associated with the “Bear and Billet” by reason of the fact that the Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury, were hereditary Sergeants of the Gate. Long after they had ceased to occupy the house as a residence, they continued to reserve a suite of rooms in it, for use on those state occasions when they resorted to Chester to act their hereditary part.
THE “KING EDGAR” AND “BEAR AND BILLET,” CHESTER.
[Pg 77]The “Falcon” inn, until recent years an unspoiled house whose nodding gables and every time-worn timber were eloquent of the sixteenth century, and the delight of artists—who, however eager they were to sketch it, were not so ready to stay there—has been so extravagantly renovated, in the worst sense of that word, when dealing with things ancient and venerable, that although, during that work of renovation, much earlier stonework and some additional old timbering were revealed and have been preserved, their genuine character might well be questioned by a stranger, so lavish with the scraping and the varnish were those who set about the work. In short, the “Falcon” nowadays wears every aspect of a genuine Victorian imitation of an Elizabethan house, and, while made habitable from the tourist’s point of view, is, artistically, ruined.
In the same street we have the “Old King’s Head” “restored” in like manner, but so long since that it is acquiring again, by sheer lapse of time and a little artistic remissness in the matter of cleaning, a hoary look. Near by, too, is a fine house, now styling itself “Wine and Spirit Stores,” dated 1635.
In Watergate Street is the “Carnarvon Castle,” with one of the famed Chester “rows” running in front of the first floor; while, opposite, the “Custom House” inn, dated 1636 and in its unrestored original state, recalls the far-distant time when Chester was a port. Indeed, at the extremity of this street still stands the old “Yacht” inn, where Dean Swift was accustomed to stay when he chose the Chester and Parkgate route to Ireland.
A catalogue of all the, in some way, odd inns of Chester would of necessity be lengthy; but[Pg 78] mention may here be made of the exquisitely restored little “Boot” inn, dated 1643, in Eastgate Street, with a provision-shop below and a “row” running above, and of the red-brick “Pied Bull” and the adjoining stone-pillared “Old Bell”—“licensed 1494”—at the extreme end of Northgate Street.
INNS RETIRED FROM BUSINESS
That striking feature of the last few years, the voluntary or the compulsory extinction of licences, with its attendant compensation, has created not a little stir among people with short memories, or no knowledge of their country, who cherish the notion, “once an inn, always an inn,” and forget the wholesale ruin that befell inns all over the land upon the introduction of railways, causing hundreds of hostelries to close their doors. The traveller with an eye for such things may still identify these inns retired from business, chiefly by their old archways and entries into stable-yards, but to the expert, even when those features are absent, there is generally some indefinable air about a house once an inn that singles it out from others. Such an one is the immense, four-square, red-brick farm-house midway between Lichfield and Burton-on-Trent, once a coaching- and posting-house famous in all that countryside as the “Flitch of Bacon”; such was the exclusive “Verulam Arms” at St. Albans, where mere plebeian coach-passengers wore not suffered, and only the high and mighty who could afford post-chaises were condescended to. The “Verulam[Pg 80] Arms” had, however, the briefest of careers. Built in 1827, railways ruined it in ten years, and, shorn of its vast stables, on whose site a church has been built, it has ever since been in private occupation. In short, along the whole course of the Holyhead Road the inns retired from business are an especial feature, the village of Little Brickhill being little else than a place of old hostelries and taverns of every class, whose licences have long ago been surrendered, for lack of custom. Thus you may travel through to Anglesey and be continually passing these evidences of the ruin caused by railways, once so distressing to many interests, and a pitiful commentary upon the activity of inventors; but long ago fallen back into that historical perspective in which ruin and wrong become the sign-posts of “progress.” The chief inns that are inns no longer on this north-western road through England are numerous; the minor taverns and ale-houses that have closed their doors innumerable. Among others, we have—speaking merely at a venture—the aristocratic “Bull’s Head,” Meriden, the “Haygate” inn, near Wellington, the “Talbot,” Atcham, “Talbot,” Shrewsbury, and “Prince Llewelyn,” Cernioge—all establishments of the first order; and if we turn to the Great North Road, a very similar state of things is found. On that great highway the famous “Haycock” inn at Wansford bravely kept its doors open until recent years, but could endure no longer and is now a hunting-box belonging to Lord Chesham. The “New Inn” at Allerton is[Pg 81] now a farm-house; the celebrated “Blue Bell” on Barnby Moor became a country seat, and the very moor itself is enclosed and cultivated. The “Swan” and “Angel,” both once great and prosperous coaching-houses at the busy town of Ferrybridge, have ceased their hospitality, and the “Swan” itself, once rather oddly kept by a Dr. Alderson, who combined the profession of a medical man with the business of innkeeping, has been empty for many years past, and stands mournfully, falling into ruin, amid its gardens by the rive Aire.
Quite recently, after surviving for over sixty years the coming of the railway and the disappearance of the coaches from the Brighton Road, the old “Talbot” at Cuckfield has relinquished the vain struggle for existence, and old frequenters who come to it will find the house empty, and the hospitable invitation over the doorway, “You’re welcome, what’s your will?” become, by force of circumstances, a mockery.
There is a peculiar eloquence in the Out-of-Date, the Has Been. Institutions and ancient orders of things that have had their day need not to have been intrinsically romantic in that day to be now regarded with interest. Whether it be a road much-travelled in the days before railways, and now traced only by the farm-labourer between his cottage and his daily toil, or by the sentimental pilgrim; or whether it be the wayside inn or posting-house retired from public life and now either empty or else converted into a farm-house,[Pg 82] there is a feeling of romance attaching to them really kin to the sentiment we cherish for the ruined abbeys and castles of the Middle Ages.
Scouring England on a bicycle to complete the collection of old inns for this book, I came, on the way from Gloucester to Bath, upon such a superseded road, studded with houses that had once been coaching hostelries and posting-houses and are now farmsteads; and others that, although they still carry on their licensed trade, do so in strangely altered and meagre fashion, in dim corners of half-deserted and all-too-roomy buildings. It is thirty-four miles of mostly difficult and lonely road between those two cities: a road of incredible hills and, when you have come past Stroud and Nailsworth, of almost equally incredible solitudes. You climb painfully up the north-westerly abutments of the Cotswolds, to the roof of the world at a place well named Edge, and there in a bird’s-eye view you see Painswick down below, and thenceforward go swashing away steeply, some three miles, down into the crowded cloth-weaving town of Stroud, where most things are prosperous and commonplace, and only the “Royal George Hotel” attracts attention, less for its own sake than by reason of the lion and unicorn over its portico: the lion very golden and very fierce, apparently in the act of coming down to make a meal of some temerarious guest; the unicorn more than usually milk-white and mild-mannered.
A DESERTED INN: THE “SWAN,” AT FERRYBRIDGE.
[Pg 84]Beyond Nailsworth begin the hills again, and the loneliness intensifies after passing the admirably-named Tiltups End. “How well the name figures the gradient!” thinks the cyclist who comes this way and pauses, after walking two miles up hill, to regain his breath. He has here come to the very ideal of what we learned at school to be an “elevated plateau, or table-land”; and a plaguy ill-favoured, inhospitable place it is, too, yet not without a certain grim, hard-featured interest in its starveling acres, its stone-walled, hedgeless fields, and distant spinneys. It is interesting, if only serving to show that to our grandfathers, who perforce fared this way before railways, their faring was not all jam. Nor is it so to the modern tourist who—experto crede—faces a buffeting head-wind in an inclement April, and encounters along these weary miles a succession of snow-blizzards and hail-showers: all in the pursuit of knowledge at first-hand. The way avoids all towns and villages, and all wayfarers who can shift to do so avoid this way; and you who must trace it have but occasional cottages, often empty and ruinous, or a lonely prehistoric sepulchral barrow or so for company—and they are not hilarious companions. Your only society is that rarely failing friend and comforter—your map, and here even the map is lacking in solace, for when it ceases to trace a merely empty road, it does so chiefly to chronicle such depressing names as “Starveall,” an uncomplimentary sidelight on the poor land where neither farmers can live nor beasts graze; or others as mysterious as[Pg 85] “Petty France,” a hamlet with two large houses that once were inns. “Cold Ashton,” too, is a name that excellently figures the circumstances of the route. Even modern portents have a ghastliness all their own, as when, noticing two gigantic, smoke-and-steam-spouting ventilators, you realise that you are passing over the long Sodbury tunnel of the new “South Wales Direct” branch of the Great Western Railway.
Beyond this, in a wooded hollow at the cross-roads respectively to Chipping Sodbury and Chippenham, you come past the wholly deserted “Plough” inn to the half-deserted, rambling old coaching-and posting-inn of “Cross Hands,” where a mysterious sign, unexplainable by the innkeeper, hangs out, exhibiting two hands crossed, with squabby spatulate fingers, and the inscription “Caius Marius Imperator B.C. 102 Concordia Militum.” What it all means apparently passes the wit of man, or at any rate of local man, to discover.
Passing the solitudes of Dodington and Dirham parks, with the forbidding, heavy, mausoleum-like stone lodges the old squires loved to erect as outposts to their demesnes, and encountering a toll-house or so, the road at last, three miles from Bath, dips suddenly down. You see, from this eyrie, the smoke of Bath, the roofs of it and the pinnacles of its Abbey Church, as it were in the bottom of a cup, and, ceasing your labour of pedalling, you spill over the rim, into the very streets, feeling like a pilgrim[Pg 86] not merely from Gloucester, but from all the world.
Notable among the inns retired from business is the little “Raven” at Hook, on the Exeter Road, before you come to Basingstoke. It ceased in 1903 to be an inn, and the building has since been restored and converted into a private residence styled the “Old Raven House.” Built in 1653, of sound oak framing, filled with brick-nogging in herring-bone pattern, it has been suffered to retain all its old-world features of construction, and thus remains an interesting specimen of seventeenth-century builders’ work.
THE OLD “RAVEN,” HOOK.
But it is on quite another count that the “Raven” demands notice here. It was the[Pg 87] wayside inn at which the infamous “Jack the Painter,” the incendiary of Portsmouth Dockyard, stayed on the way to accomplish his evil purpose.
James Hill, a Scotsman, and a painter by trade, went under the assumed names of Hind and John Aitkin. Visiting America, he there acquired a maniacal hatred for England, and returned with the design of setting fire to all our great dockyards, and thus crippling our resources against the foreign foe. On December 7th, 1776, he caused a fire at Portsmouth Dockyard that wrought damage to the extent of £60,000. Arrested at Odiham on February 7th, 1777, he was very speedily brought to trial at Winchester, and executed on March 10th, being afterwards gibbeted, a good deal higher than Haman, at Blockhouse Beach, from the mizzen-mast of the Arethusa, especially set up there for the purpose, 64½ feet high. One of the choicest and most thrilful exhibits at the Naval Exhibition of 1891 at Chelsea was a tobacco-stopper made out of a mummified finger of this infernal rascal.
The derelict inns of the Exeter Road are not so numerous, but a striking example is found at West Allington, outside Bridport, where the old “Hearts of Oak” stands forlorn, a small portion of it in private occupation and a long range of stables and wayside smithy gradually becoming ruinous and overgrown with ivy. The old lamp remains over the door of the inn, and in it, typical of this picture of ruin, the sparrow has built her nest.
[Pg 88]The most singular instance of an inn retired from business must surely be that of the “Bell” at Dale, near Derby, but more singular still is the circumstance of its ever having become a public-house, for the building was once actually the guest-house of Dale Abbey. Since it ceased to be a village ale-house, some seventy-six years ago, it has become a farm.
THE “HEARTS OF OAK,” NEAR BRIDPORT.
The illustration shows the extraordinary features of the place: on the right-hand the farmhouse portion, which seems, by the evidence of some carving on the gable, to have been partly rebuilt in 1651, and on the left the parish church, surmounted by an eccentric belfry, greatly resembling a dovecote. The interior of this extraordinary and exceedingly diminutive church—one of the smallest in England—is a[Pg 89] close-packed mass of timbering and old-fashioned, high, box-like Georgian pews. A little churchyard surrounds church and farmhouse, and in the background are the tree-covered hills that completely enclose this well-named village of “Dale,” an agricultural outpost of Derbyshire, on the very edge of the coal-mining and ironworks districts of Nottinghamshire.
Should the ancient hermit, whose picturesquely situated, but damp, cave on the hillside used to be shown to visitors, be ever suffered in spirit to return to his rheumaticky cell, I think he would find the scenery of Dale much the same as of old, but from his eyrie he would perceive a strange thing: a gigantic cone-shaped mountain in the near neighbourhood, with spouts and tongues of fire flickering at its crest: a thing that fully realises the idea of a volcano. This is the immense slag-heap of the ironworks at Stanton-by-Dale, impressive even to the modern beholder.
Of Dale Abbey itself, few fragments are left: only the tall gable containing the east window standing up gaunt and empty in a meadow, and sundry stone walls of cottages and outhouses, revealing that once proud house.
The “Falcon” at Bidford, near Stratford-on-Avon, associated with Shakespeare, is now a private house, and the once busy rural “Windmill” inn at North Cheriton, on the cross-country coach-road between Blandford and Wincanton, retired from business forty years ago. It is remarkable for having attached to it a tennis-court, originally[Pg 90] designed for the entertainment of customers in general and of coach-passengers in particular. Waiting there for the branch-coach, travellers whiled away the weary hours in playing the old English game of tennis.
THE “BELL” INN, DALE ABBEY.
Perhaps the finest of the inns that are inns no more was the famous “Castle” inn at Marlborough. It was certainly the finest hostelry on the Bath Road, as the inquisitive in such things may yet see by exploring the older building of Marlborough College. For that was the aristocratic “Castle” until 1841, when the Great Western Railway was opened to Bath and Bristol, and so knocked the bottom out of all the coaching and the[Pg 91] licensed-victualling business between London and those places.
THE “WINDMILL,” NORTH CHERITON.
I have termed the “Castle” ‘aristocratic,’ and not without due reason. The site was originally occupied by the great castle of Marlborough, whose origin itself goes back to the remotenesses and vaguenesses of early British times, before history began to be. The great prehistoric mound that (now covered with trees) still darkens the very windows of the modern college buildings was first selected by the savage British as the site of a fortress, and is in fact the “bergh” that figures as “borough” in the second half of the place-name. From the earliest times the Mound was regarded with awe and reverence, and was the[Pg 92] centre of the wild legends that made Marlborough “Merleberg” or “Merlin’s town”: home of the great magician of Arthurian legend. Those legends had never any foundation in fact, and even the otherwise credulous antiquaries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries dismiss them as ridiculous, but the crest surmounting the town arms still represents the Mound, and a Latin motto dedicatory to “the bones of the wise Merlin” accompanies it.
The mediæval castle of Marlborough that arose at the foot of this early stronghold gave place to a splendid mansion built by Francis, Lord Seymour, in time for the reception of Charles the Second, who halted here on one of his progresses to the West. This was partly rebuilt and greatly enlarged in the time of William the Third, and then assumed very much the appearance still worn by the main building of the present College. In or about 1740 the great mansion became the residence of Lady Hertford, under whose rule the grounds were planted with formal groves of limes and set about with yews trimmed into fantastic shapes, and further adorned with terrace-walks and grottoes, intended to be romantic. She converted the spot into a modish Arcadia, after the ideals of her time; and fashionables posed and postured there in the guise of Watteau nymphs or old Chelsea china-ware shepherds and shepherdesses, and imagined they were being rural and living the Simple Life when, in fact, they were being most artificial. The real Wiltshire peasantry,[Pg 93] the true flesh-and-blood shepherds and shepherdesses of the surrounding wind-swept downs, who lived hardly upon rye bread and dressed in russet and homespun woollens, looked with astonishment, as well they might, upon such folk, and were not unnaturally amazed when they saw fine ladies with short skirts, silken stockings and high-heeled shoes, carrying dainty shepherds’ crooks tied with cherry-coloured ribbons, leading pet lambs combed and curled and scented, and decorated with satin rosettes. Those Little Bo-Peeps and their cavaliers, dressed out in equally fine feathers, were visions quite outside their notions of sheep-tending.
Here my lady entertained great literary folk, among them Thomson of The Seasons, and here, in one of the sacred Arcadian grottoes, he and my lord were found drunk, and Thomson thereafter lost favour; was, in fact, thrust forth in haste and with contumely. This, my brethren, it is to love punch too well!
Something of my lady’s artificial pleasance still survives, although greatly changed, in the lawns and the trees, now grown very reverend, upon which the south front of the old mansion looks; but in some eleven years after her time, when the property came to the Dukes of Northumberland, the building was leased to a Mr. Cotterell, an innkeeper, who in 1751 opened what had until then been “Seymour House” as a first-class hostelry, under the style and title of the “Castle” inn. In that year Lady Vere tells how[Pg 94] she lay “at the Castle Inn, opened a fortnight since,” and describing it as a “prodigious large house,” grows indignant at the Duke of Northumberland putting it to such debased uses, and selling many good old pictures to the landlord.
Cotterell apparently left the “Castle” almost as soon as he had entered, for we find another landlord, in the following year, advertising as follows in The Salisbury Journal of August 17th, 1752:
I beg leave to inform the public that I have fitted up the Castle at Marlborough in the most genteel and commodious manner and opened it as an inn where the nobility and gentry may depend on the best accommodation and treatment, the favour of whose company will always be gratefully acknowledged by their most obedient servant George Smith, late of the Artillery Ground. Neat postchaises.
THE “CASTLE” INN, MARLBOROUGH.
“The quality” loved to linger here on their way to or from “the Bath,” for the inn, with its pictures, much of its old furniture, and its splendid cuisine, was more like a private house than a house of public entertainment. Every one who was any one, and could afford the luxury of the gout and the inevitable subsequent cure of “the Bath,” stayed at the “Castle” on the way to or from their cure: and there was scarce an eighteenth-century name of note whose owner did not inscribe it in the Visitors’ Book of this establishment. Horace Walpole, curiously examining the winding walks the Arcadian Lady Hertford had caused to be made spirally up the sides of the poor old Mound; [Pg 97]Chesterfield, meditating polite ways of going to the devil; in short, every great name of that great, but very material, time. Greater than all others was the elder Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and of his greatness and importance he was not only himself adequately aware, but was determined at all costs that others, too, should be fully informed of it. It was in 1762, travelling to London, that he came this way, suffering torments from the gout that all the waters of Bath had failed to cure, and roaring with apprehension whenever a fly buzzed too near his inflamed toes. He was either in no haste to reach home, or else his gout was too severe to prevent him being moved, for he remained for many weeks at the “Castle.” That prolonged stay seems, however, to have been premeditated, for he made it a condition of his staying that the entire staff of the inn should be clothed in his livery, and that he should have the whole place at his own disposal. That was exclusiveness, if you like, and the modern traveller who secures a first-class compartment wholly to himself cuts a very poor, ineffectual figure beside the intolerance of company shown by the great statesman. The proprietor of the “Castle” must have required a large sum, thus to close his house to other custom for so long a time, and to possibly offend more regular patrons. In fact, the fortunes of the “Castle” as an inn ebbed and flowed alarmingly even before the coaching age and coaching inns were threatened with extinction by railways. Early[Pg 98] in the ’20’s, the innkeeper was Thomas Cooper, who found the undertaking of maintaining it too much for him, and so removed to Thatcham, where he became proprietor of the “Cooper Company” coaches. Cooper, however, was not a fortunate man, and coaching eventually landed him in the Bankruptcy Court. He lived his last years as the first station-master at the Richmond station of the London and South-Western Railway.
In 1842, when the road, as an institution, was at an end, the “Castle” was without a tenant, for no one was mad enough to entertain the thought of taking a new lease of it as an inn, and the house was much too large to be easily let for private occupation. At that time a site, and if possible a suitable building also, were being sought by a number of influential persons for the purpose of founding a cheap school for the sons of the clergy: and here was discovered the very place to fit their ideal. The neighbourhood was rural and select, and was so far removed from any disturbing influence that the nearest railway-station was a dozen miles away, at Swindon: the site was extensive and the building large, handsome, and convenient. Here, accordingly, what is now Marlborough College was opened, with two hundred boys, in August, 1843.
Many changes have taken place since then. The original red-brick mansion, designed by Inigo Jones or by his son-in-law, Webb, stands yet, but is neighboured by many new blocks of scholastic[Pg 99] buildings, and the enormously large courtyard which in the old days looked upon the Bath Road, and was a place of evolution for post-chaises and coaches, is planted with an avenue, down whose leafy alley you see the striking pillared entrance of what was successively mansion and inn. Inside they show you what was once the bar, a darkling little cubicle of a place, now used as a masters’ lavatory, and a noble oak staircase of astonishingly substantial proportions, together with a number of fine rooms.
GARDEN FRONT, “CASTLE” INN, MARLBOROUGH.
[Pg 100]It was at the “excellent inn at Chapel House,” on the read to Worcester and Lichfield, that Dr. Johnson, in 1776, was led by the comfort of his surroundings to hold forth to Boswell upon “the felicity of England in its taverns and inns”; triumphing over the French for not having in any perfection the tavern life.
The occasion was one well calculated to arouse enthusiasm for the well-known comforts of the old-time English hostelry. He had come, with the faithful Boswell, by post-chaise from Oxford, on the way to Birmingham; it was the inclement season of spring, the way was long, and the wind, blowing across the bleak Oxfordshire downs, was cold. Welcome, then, the blazing fire of the “Shakespeare’s Head”—for that was the real name of the house—and doubly welcome that dinner for which they had halted. Can we wonder that the worthy Doctor was eloquent? I think not. “There is no private house,” said he, “in which people can enjoy themselves so well as in a capital tavern.... No man but a very impudent dog indeed can as freely command what is in another man’s house as if it were his own; whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome; and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, sir, there is nothing which has yet[Pg 101] been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is provided as by a good tavern or inn.”
The “Chapel House” inn took its name from a wayside chapel formerly standing here, anciently belonging to the neighbouring Priory of Cold Norton. At a later period, when education began to spread and the roads were travelled by scholars and others on their way to and from Oxford, Brasenose College took over the conduct of it, both as an oratory and a guest-house for the succour of wayfarers along these then unenclosed and absolutely lonely downs. A priest was maintained here until 1547. Afterwards the site seems to have been occupied by a mansion built by William Fitzalan, of Over Norton: a house that gave place in its turn to the inn.
Few ever knew “Chapel House” inn by its real name. It doubtless obtained the title from surviving traditions of Shakespeare having partaken of the hospitality of the old guest-house, on his journeys between Stratford-on-Avon and London. It is, indeed, singular how such traditions survive in this neighbourhood, the “Crown” at Oxford being traditionally the successor of the house where Shakespeare usually inned, and an old Elizabethan mansion at Grendon Underwood, formerly an inn, a halting-place when he chose another route and went by that village and Aylesbury to London.
But guests at “Chapel House” no more knew the inn as the “Shakespeare’s Head” than travellers on the Exeter Road would have recognised[Pg 102] “Winterslow Hut” by its proper title of the “Pheasant.” And now the great coaching- and posting-inn has gone the way of all those other inns and taverns where Doctor Johnson—that greatest of Samuels since the patriarch—genuinely dined and supped and drank. Sad it is to think that all the festive shrines frequented by him to whom a tavern chair was “the throne of human felicity” have disappeared, and that only inns that were contemporary with him, and would have Johnsonian associations had he ever entered them, survive to trade on that slender thread of might-have-been.
As usual with the fine old roadside hostelries of this class, the coming of the railway spelled ruin for it. The great house shrank, as it were, into itself; its fires of life burnt low, the outer rooms became empty of furniture, of carpets, of everything save memories. The stable-yards grew silent; grass sprouted between the cobbles, spiders wreathed the windows in webs; the very rats, with tears in their eyes for the vanished days of plenteous corn and offal, were reduced to eating one another, and the last representative died of starvation, with “sorrow’s crown of sorrow”—which we know to be the remembrance of happier days—embittering his last moments.
Why did not some student of social changes record intimately the last lingering days of the “Chapel House” inn: why did no artist make a pictorial record of it for us? It decayed, just as, centuries earlier, the “Chapel” had done from which its name derived, stone by stone and brick by brick, and there was none to record, in literature or in art, the going of it. All we know is that it ceased in 1850 to be an inn, that the remains of the house long stood untenanted; that the dependent buildings became labourers’ cottages, and that the stables have utterly vanished.
“CHAPEL HOUSE” INN.
[Pg 105]What is “Chapel House” to-day? You come along the lonely road, across the ridge of the downs, from Oxford, and find, just short of the cross-roads to Stratford-on-Avon and Birmingham, to Banbury or Cirencester, past where a milestone says “Oxford 18, Stratford-on-Avon 21, and Birmingham 43 miles,” a group of some ten stone-built cottages, five on either side of the road, with the remains of the inn itself on the right, partly screened from observation by modern shrubberies. A porticoed doorway is pointed out as the former entrance to the tap, and the present orchard in the rear is shown as the site of the greater part of the inn, once extending over that ground in an L-shape. The house is now in use as a kind of country boarding-house, where “paying-guests,” who come for the quiet and the keen, bracing air of these heights, are received.
For the quietude of the place! How cynical a reverse of fortune, that the busiest spot on the London, Oxford and Birmingham Road, where sixty coaches rolled by daily, and where innumerable post-chaises changed horses, should sink thus into slumber! The thought of such a change would, seventy years ago, have been[Pg 106] inconceivable; just as unthinkable as that Clapham Junction of to-day should ever become a rural spot for picnics and the plucking of primroses.
A curious feature in the story of “Chapel House” inn is that a small portion of the house has in recent times been rebuilt, for the better accommodation of present visitors. In the course of putting in the foundations some relics of the old chapel were unearthed, in the shape of stone coffins, bones, a silver crucifix, and some beads.
When evening draws in and the last pallid light in the sky glints on the old casements of the wayside cottages of “Chapel House,” or in the dark avenue, the spot wears a solemn air, and seems to exhale Romance.
London inns retired from business are, as may be supposed, comparatively few. A curious example is to be found under the shadow of St. Alban, Holborn, in “White Hart” Yard, between Gray’s Inn Road and Brooke Street. It is the last fragment of an old galleried building, presumably once the “White Hart,” but now partly occupied by a dairyman and a maker of packing-cases. Local history is silent as to the story of the place.
Of all converted inns, there is probably no stranger case than that of the “Edinburgh Castle.” It is not old, nor was it really and truly, in the hearty, hospitable sense, an inn, although the landlord doubtless was included in the all-comprising and often deceptive category of “licensed[Pg 107] victuallers,” who very generally do not victual you. The “Edinburgh Castle” was, in short, a great flaring London gin-palace in Limehouse. It has been described by a journalist addicted above his fellows to superlatives—the equivalent in literature of nips of brandy “neat”—as “one of the flashiest, most flaunting, sin-soaked dens in London,” which is just so much nonsense. It was, however, a public-house on a large scale, and did a big trade. It was ornate, in the vulgar, gilded public-house way, and not what can properly be styled a “den.”
“WHITE HART” YARD.
Those curious in conversions may easily see to-day what the “Edinburgh Castle” was like, for its outward look is unchanged, and many an[Pg 108] old frequenter, come back from foreign climes—or perhaps only from H.M. Prison on Dartmoor—shoulders his way in at the old familiar doors and calls for his “four ’arf,” or his “two o’ brandy,” before he becomes aware of the essential change that has come over the place. No more booze does he get at the “Edinburgh Castle”: only coffee, tea, or the like—which do not come under that head. The “Edinburgh Castle” has indeed been acquired by the Barnardo Homes for the “People’s Mission Church.”
There are excuses for the mistake often made by old patrons, for the idea of the management is to entice them in, in the hope of reforming them. But if those old customers were at all observant they would at once perceive, and make due deductions from, the odd change in the sign that still, as of yore, is upheld on its old-fashioned post by the kerbstone. Instead of proclaiming that So-and-So’s Fine Ales are sold at the “Edinburgh Castle,” it now reads: “No drunkards shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
The sham mediævalism of this castellated house is a mean affair of grey plaster, but the interior of the great building is surprisingly well appointed. Mission services alternate with concerts and entertainments for the people and drill-exercises for the Barnardo boys. The ex-public-house is, in fact, whatever it may look like from without, a centre whence a measure of sweetness and light is dispensed in an intellectually starved purlieu.
INNS WITH RELICS AND CURIOSITIES
Just as most cathedrals, and many ancient churches, are in these days unconsciously looked upon by antiquaries rather as museums than as places of worship, so many ancient inns attract the tourist and the artist less as places for rest and refreshment than subjects for the pencil, the brush, or the camera; or as houses where relics, curious or beautiful, remain, of bygone people, or other times. Happy the traveller, with a warm corner in his heart for such things, who comes at the close of day to a house historic or well stored with such links that connect us with the past.
There are, indeed, even in these days, when many a house has been ransacked of its interesting features, to furnish museums and private collections, still a goodly number of inns containing curious relics, old panelling, and ancient furniture. Still, for example, at the “Green Dragon,” Combe St. Nicholas, two miles from Chard, the fifteenth-century carved oak settle of pronounced ecclesiastical character remains in the tap-room, and beery rustics continue to this day to use it, even as did their remote ancestors, the Colin Clouts of over[Pg 110] four hundred years ago; while at Ipswich, in the “Neptune” inn that was once a private mansion before it entered public life, the fine Tudor dresser, or sideboard, with elaborately carved Renaissance canopy and “linen-fold” panelling, is yet left, despite the persuasions and the long purses of would-be purchasers.
There are two evil fates constantly threatening the artistic work of our forbears: the one the unappreciative neglect that threatens its very existence, and the other the appreciation that, only too appreciative, tears it from its accustomed place, to be the apple of some collector’s jealous eye. To filch from old inn or manor-house, down on its luck, the carved overmantels or panelling built into the place is as mean and despicable a thing as to sneak the coppers out of a blind beggar’s tin mug—nay, almost as sacrilegious as to purloin the contents of the offertory-bag; but it is not commonly so regarded. For example, the “Tankard” tavern at Ipswich, once the town mansion of no less a person than Sir Anthony Wingfield, Captain of the Guard to Henry the Eighth, possessed a grandly panelled room with a highly elaborate chimney-piece representing the Judgment of Paris; but in 1843 the whole was taken down and re-erected at the country house of the Cobbolds.
Still, fortunately, at the “Trevelyan Arms,” Barnstaple, the fine old plaster fireplace remains, together with a good example at the “Three Tuns,” Bideford; while doubtless numerous other[Pg 111] instances will be borne in mind by readers of these pages.
A “FENNY POPPER.”
We deal, however, more largely here with relics of a more easily removable kind, such, for example, as those odd pieces of miniature ordnance, the “Fenny Poppers,” formerly kept at the “Bull,” Fenny Stratford, but now withdrawn within the last year from active service, to be found reclining, in company with the churchyard grass-mower and a gas-meter, in a cupboard within the tower of the church. The “Fenny Poppers,” six in number, closely resemble in size and shape so many old-fashioned jugs or tankards. They are of cast-iron, about ten inches in length, and furnished with handles, and were presented to the town of Fenny Stratford in 1726 by Browne Willis, a once-noted antiquary, who rebuilt the church and dedicated it to St. Martin, in memory of his father, who was born in St. Martin’s Lane and died on St. Martin’s Day. These “cannon” were to be fired annually on that day, and to be followed by morning service in the church and evening festivities at the “Bull”—a custom still duly honoured, with the difference that this ancient park of artillery has recently been replaced by two small cannon, kept at the vicarage.
THE “BELL,” WOODBRIDGE.
How far one of the old-fashioned hay and straw weighing-machines, once common in East Anglia, but now growing scarce, may be reckoned a curiosity must be left to individual taste and fancy; but there can be no difference of opinion as to the picturesque nature of these antique contrivances. The example illustrated here gives an additionally pictorial quality to the “Bell” inn and to the view down the long street at Woodbridge. Cartloads of hay and straw, driven[Pg 113] under these machines, were lifted bodily by means of the chains attached to them, and weighed by means of the lever with the sliding weight, seen projecting over the road. The innate artistry of the old craftsmen in wrought-iron is noticeable even here, in this business-like contrivance; for you see clearly how the man who wrought the projecting arm was not content to fashion it[Pg 114] merely to a commonplace end, but must needs, to satisfy his own æsthetic feeling, finish it off with little quirks and twirls that still, coming boldly as they do against the sky-line, gladden the heart of the illustrator.
THE “RED LION,” MARTLESHAM.
There was, until recent years, a similar machine attached to the “King’s Head” inn, at the entrance to Great Yarmouth, and there still exists one at King’s Lynn and another at Soham.
A rustic East Anglian inn that is alike beautiful in itself and in its tree-enshrouded setting, is the “Red Lion,” Martlesham. It possesses the additional claim to notice of its red lion sign being no less interesting a relic than the figurehead of one of the Hollanders’ ships that took part in the battle of Sole Bay, fought between Dutch and English, March 28th, 1672, off Southwold. He is a lion of a semi-heraldic type supporting a shield, and maintained carefully in a vermilion post-office hue.
That well-known commercial hotel at Burton-on-Trent, styled nowadays the “Queen’s Hotel,” but formerly the “Three Queens,” from an earlier house on the site having been visited at different times by Queen Elizabeth, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Adelaide, still displays in its hall the cloak worn by the Queen of Scots’ coachman, probably during the time of her captivity at Tutbury Castle, near by. Why he should have left it behind is not stated; but as the garment—an Inverness cape of very thin material—is figured all over with the particularly vivid and variegated[Pg 115] Stuart tartan—all scarlet, blue, and green—the conjecture may be hazarded that he was ashamed any longer to wear such a strikingly conspicuous article of attire in a country where it probably attracted the undesirable attentions of rude boys and other people who, most likely, took him for some mountebank, and wanted to know when the performance began.
“DEAN SWIFT’S CHAIR,” TOWCESTER.
The Holyhead Road, rich in memories of Dean Swift travelling to and from Ireland, has, in the “Talbot” inn at Towcester, a house associated with him. The “Talbot,” the property of the Sponne Charity since 1440, was sold about[Pg 116] 1895 to a firm of brewers, and a chair, traditionally said to have been used by the Dean, was at the same time removed to the Town Hall, where, in the offices of the solicitor to the feoffees of the Charity, it remains. It will be observed that the chair was of a considerable age, even in Swift’s time. An ancient fragment of coloured glass, displaying the arms of William Sponne, remains in one of the windows of the “Talbot,” and on a pane of another may be seen scratched the words “Gilbert Gurney,” presumably the handiwork of Theodore Hook.
The “Bear,” at Esher, properly the “Black Bear,” is an old coaching- and posting-house. Still you see, on the parapet, the effigies of two bears, squatting on their rumps and stroking their stomachs in a manner strongly suggestive of repletion or indigestion. Sometimes the pilgrim of the roads finds them painted white, and on other occasions—in defiance of natural history—they have become pink; all according to the taste and fancy of the landlord for the time being. Whoever, that was not suffering from delirium tremens, saw such a thing as a pink bear?
Among other, and less interesting, relics in the entrance-hall of this house, the visitor’s attention is at once struck by a glass case containing a huge and clumsy pair of jack-boots closely resembling the type of foot-gear worn by Marlborough and his troopers in the long ago, at Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet. They are not, however, of so great an age as that, nor[Pg 117] associated with warlike campaigns, for they were worn by the post-boy who, in 1848, drove Louis Philippe, the fugitive King of the French, to his refuge at neighbouring Claremont.
BOOTS AT THE “BEAR,” ESHER.
Certainly unique is the “George and Dragon” inn at Dragon’s Green, between Shipley and Horsham, in Sussex. Dragon’s Green (which doubtless derives its name from the inn-sign) is among the tiniest of hamlets, and few are those wayfarers who find their way to it, unless indeed they have any particular business there. In fact, so out of the world is it that those who inquire for Dragon’s Green, even at Horsham, are like to ask many people before they happen upon any one who has ever heard of the place. But who should have any business, save curiosity, at Dragon’s Green, it is somewhat difficult to conceive. Since 1893, however, it has been the bourne of those curiosity-mongers who have by chance heard of the tombstone erected by the roadside there, in the front garden of the inn. To the stranger who has never heard of this oddity, and comes unexpectedly upon it, the sight of a solemn white marble cross in a place so generally associated with conviviality[Pg 118] is nothing less than startling. The epitaph upon it reads:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
THE “ALBINO” SON OF
ALFRED AND CHARLOTTE BUDD,
born Feby. 12th, 1867, died Feby. 18th, 1893.
May God forgive those who forgot their duty
to him who was just and afflicted.
This Cross was erected on the Grave in
Shipley Churchyard, and Removed by order of
H. Gorham (Vicar).
Two Globe Wreaths placed on the Grave
by Friends, and after being there over
Two Years were Removed by
E. Arkle, Following (Vicar).
It seems, then, that this is to the memory of a son of the innkeeper, who committed suicide by drowning, owing to being worried in some local dispute. The Vicar of Shipley appears to have considered some portion of the epitaph to be a reflection upon himself, and consequently, in that Czar-like spirit of autocracy not infrequent in rural clergymen, ordered its removal. The cross was thereupon re-erected here, and is so conspicuous an object, and is attaining such notoriety, that the vicar has probably long since regretted his not allowing it to remain in its original obscurity. A great many efforts have been made by local magnates of one kind and another to secure its removal from this situation, and the innkeeper’s brewers even have been approached[Pg 119] for this purpose, but as the innkeeper happens to be also the freeholder, and the house consequently not a “tied” one, the requisite leverage is not obtainable.
Although the house looks so modern when viewed from the outside, acquaintance with its quaint parlour reveals the fact that one of the oaken beams is dated 1577, and that the old fireback in the capacious ingle-nook was cast in the year 1622.
THE “GEORGE AND DRAGON,” DRAGON’S GREEN.
The “White Bull” at the little Lancashire “town” of Ribchester, which still clings stoutly to the name of town, although it is properly a village, since its inhabitants number but 1,265, has some ancient relics in the shape of Roman[Pg 120] columns, now used to support the porch and a projecting wing of the building. They are four in number, of a debased Doric character, and between six and seven feet high. They are said to be remains of the temple of Minerva, once standing in the Roman city of Coccium or Bremetennacum that once stood here, and were fished out of the river Ribble that now gives a name to Ribchester.
THE “WHITE BULL,” RIBCHESTER.
The effigy of the White Bull himself, that projects boldly from the front of the house, is a curiosity in its own way, and more nearly resembles the not very meaty breed of cattle[Pg 121] found in toy Noah’s Arks, than anything that grazes in modern meadows.
From Lancashire to Yorkshire, in quest of inns, we come to the cathedral city of Ripon, and the “Unicorn” Hotel.
BOOTS OF THE “UNICORN,” RIPON.
No inn could have possessed a greater curiosity than grotesque Tom Crudd, who for many years was “Boots” at the “Unicorn,” and by his sheer physical peculiarities has achieved a kind of eccentric fame. “Old Boots,” as he was familiarly known by many who never learned his real name, flourished from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards, and lies, now that all his boot-cleaning is done, somewhere in the Minster yard.
This extraordinary person was endowed by nature with a nose and chin so enormously long, and so lovingly tending to embrace one another, that at length he acquired the power of holding a piece of money between them, and so turned his deformity to practical and commercial account.[Pg 122] It was a part of his duty to wait upon travellers arriving at the inn, to assist them in taking off their boots. He usually introduced himself, as in the picture, with a pair of slippers in one hand, and a boot-jack in the other, and we are told that the company were generally so diverted by his appearance that they would frequently give him a piece of money, on condition that he held it between his nose and chin.
Other times, other tastes in amusement, and it is scarce possible that modern travellers would relish such an exhibition, even if provided gratis.
The “Castle Hotel” at Conway has an interesting and historic object, in the shape of an authentic contemporary portrait of Dame Joan Penderel, mother of the Penderel brothers of Boscobel, who secreted Charles the Second in the “Royal Oak.” It came to the hotel as a bequest to the landlord, from a friend who in his turn had received it from a man who had bought it among a number of household odds and ends belonging to two old maiden ladies of Broseley, connections of the Penderel family. It was then, to all appearance, nothing more than a dirty old stretched canvas that had long been used as “blower” to a kitchen fire; but, on being cleaned, was found to be a portrait of a woman wearing an old-fashioned steeple-crowned hat, and holding in her hand a rose. The portrait would never have been identified, but fortunately it was inscribed “Dame Pendrell, 1662.”
THE “RED LION,” CHISWICK.
A curious relic is to be seen to this day, chained securely to the doorway of the “Red Lion” inn at Chiswick. There are, in effect, two Chiswicks: the one the Chiswick of the Chiswick High Road, where the electric tramcars run, and the other the original waterside village in a bend of the river: a village of which all these portents of the main road are merely offshoots. In these latter days the riverside Chiswick is becoming more or less of a foul slum, but still, by the old parish church and the famous Mall—that roadway running alongside the river—there are old and stately houses, and quaint corners. It is here you find the “Red Lion”; not an ancient inn, nor yet precisely a new: a something between waterside tavern and public-house. It has a balcony looking out upon the broad river, and it also displays—as[Pg 124] do many other waterside inns—drags and lifebelts, the rather grim reminders of waterside dangers. At hand is Chiswick Eyot, an island densely covered with osier-beds; and hay- and brick-barges wallow at all angles in the foreshore mud. The relic so jealously chained in the doorway of the “Red Lion” is a huge whetstone, some eighteen inches long, inscribed: “I am the old Whetstone, and have sharpned tools on this spot above 1000 years.” Marvellous!—but not true, and you who look narrowly into it will discover that at some period an additional “0” has been added to the original figure of 100, by some one to whom the antiquity of merely one century was not sufficient. This is readily discoverable by all who will take the trouble to observe that the customary spacing between all the other words is missing between “1000” and “years.”
The whetstone has, however, been here now considerably over a century. It existed on this spot in the time of Hogarth, whose old residence is near at hand; and at that time the inn, of which the present building is a successor, bore the sign of the “White Bear and Whetstone.” The stone then had a further inscription, long since rubbed away, “Whet without, wet within.”
The whetstone is thus obviously in constant use. And who, think you, chiefly use it? The mowers who cut the osiers of Chiswick Eyot. It was for their convenience, in sharpening their scythes—and incidentally to ensure that they “wetted their whistles” here—that the[Pg 125] long-forgotten tapster first placed the whetstone in his doorway.
Among inns with relics the “Widow’s Son” must undoubtedly be included. Unfortunately it is by no means a picturesque inn, and is, in plain, unlovely fact, an extremely commonplace, not to say pitifully mean and ugly, plaster-faced public-house in squalid Devons Road, Bromley-by-Bow.
The history of the “Widow’s Son” is a matter of tradition, rather than of sheer ascertainable fact. According to generally received accounts, the present house, which may, by the look of it, have been built about 1860, was erected upon the site of a cottage occupied by a widow whose only son “went for a sailor.” Not only did he, against her wishes, take up the hazardous trade of seafaring, but he must needs further tempt Fate by sailing on a Friday, and, of all possible Fridays, a Good Friday! Such perversity, in all old sailor-men’s opinions, could only lead to disaster; it would be, in such circles, equivalent to committing suicide.
THE OLD WHETSTONE.
The widow, however, expected the return of her rash son on the anniversary of his departure, and put aside a “hot cross bun” for him. Good Friday passed, and no familiar footstep came to the threshold, and the days, weeks, and months[Pg 126] succeeded one another until at last Easter came round again. Hoping fondly against hope, the widow put aside another bun for the wanderer: in vain. Year by year she maintained the custom; but the son lay drowned somewhere “full fathom deep,” and the mother never again saw him on earth.
In the fulness of time she died, and strangers came and were told the story of that accumulated store of stale buns. And then the cottage was demolished and the present house built, taking its name from this tale. And ever since, with every recurrent Easter, a bun is added to the great store that is by this time accumulated in the wire-netting hanging from the ceiling of the otherwise commonplace bar. Then the story is told anew; not with much apparent interest nor belief in the good faith of it; but sentiment lurks in the heart, even though it refuse to be spoken, and the flippant stranger is apt to find himself unexpectedly discouraged.
On Good Friday, 1906, the sixty-eighth annual bun, stamped with the date, was duly added to the dried, smoke-begrimed and blackened collection.
HOT CROSS BUNS AT THE “WIDOW’S SON.”
We must perhaps include among inns with relics those modern public-houses whose owners, as a bid for custom, have established museums of more or less importance on their premises. Among these the “Edinburgh Castle,” in Mornington Road, Regent’s Park, is prominent, and boasts no fewer than three eggs of the Great Auk,[Pg 127] whose aggregate cost at auction was 620 guineas. They were, of course, all purchased at different times, for Great Auk’s eggs do not come into the country, like the “new-laid” products of the domestic fowls, by the gross. The Great Auk, in fact, is extinct, and the eggs are exceedingly rare, as may be judged by the price they command. “Great,” of course, is a relative term, and in this case a considerable deal of misapprehension as to the size of the eggs originally existed in the minds of many customers of the “Edinburgh Castle.”[Pg 128] In especial, the newspaper reports of how Mr. T. G. Middlebrook, the proprietor, had given 200 guineas for the third egg in his collection, excited the interest of a cabman, who drove all the way from Charing Cross to see the marvel. When he was shown, reposing in a plush-lined case, an egg not much larger than that of a goose, his indignation was pathetic.
“Where is it?” he asked....
“Wot? Thet? ’Corl thet a Great Hork’s Hegg? W’y, from wot they tole me, I thort it was abaht the size of me bloomin’ keb!”
But they have no roc’s eggs, imported from the pages of the Arabian Nights, at the “Edinburgh Castle.”
One of the most cherished items in the collection is what is described as “Fagin’s Kitchen,” the interior of a thieves’ kitchen brought from an old house on Saffron Hill, pulled down some years ago. You are shown “the frying-pan in which Fagin cooked Oliver’s sausages,” and “Fagin’s Chair,” together with an undoubted “jemmy” found under the flooring, and not identified with any Old Master in the art of burglary.
Down in the Vale of Health, on Hampstead Heath, the pilgrim in search of cooling drinks on dry and dusty public holidays may find a public-house museum that cherishes “one of Dick Turpin’s pistols”; a pair of Dr. Nansen’s glasses; a stuffed civet-cat; the helmet of one of the Russian Imperial Guard, brought from the[Pg 129] battlefields of the Crimea; and the skull of a donkey said to have belonged to Nell Gwynne: a fine confused assortment, surely!
More serious, and indeed, of some importance, is the collection of preserved birds, beasts, fishes, and insects, originally founded by the East London Entomological Society, shown at the “Bell and Mackerel” in Mile End Road. The exhibition numbers 20,000 specimens in 500 separate cases.
In the same road may be found the public-house called “The 101,” containing an oil-painting of three quaint-looking persons, inscribed, “These three men dranke in this house 101 pots of porter in one day, for a wager.” The work of art is displayed in the bar, as an inducement to others to follow the example set by those champions; but the age of heroes is past.
TAVERN RHYMES AND INSCRIPTIONS
Beer has inspired many poets, and “jolly good ale and old” is part of a rousing rhyme; but much of the verse associated with inns runs to the hateful burden of “No Trust.” Thus, along one of the backwaters in Norwich city there stands the “Gate House” inn, displaying the following:
The sun shone bright in the glorious sky,
When I found that my barrels were perfectly dry.
They were emptied by Trust; but he’s dead and gone home,
And I’ve used all my chalk to erect him a tomb.
A metrical version, you see, of that dreadful tale, “Poor Trust is dead.”
Another version of the same theme is found at the “Buck and Bell,” Long Itchington, Warwickshire, in the lament:
Customers came and I did trust them,
Lost all my liquor and their custom.
To lose them both it grieved me sore;
Resolved I am to trust no more.
A little public-house poetry goes a very long way. It need not be of great excellence to be highly appreciated, and, when approved, is very largely repeated all over the country. There was once—a matter of twenty years ago—a semi-rural[Pg 131] inn, the “Robin Hood,” at Turnham Green, exhibiting a picture-sign representing Robin Hood and Little John, clad duly in the Lincoln green of the foresters and wearing feathered hats, whose like you see nowadays only on the heads of factory girls holiday-making at Hampstead and such-like places of public resort. This brave picture bore the lines:
If Robin Hood is not at home,
Take a glass with Little John—
a couplet that most excellently illustrates the bluntness of the English ear to that atrocity, a false rhyme.
The experienced traveller in the highways and byways of the land will probably call to mind many repetitions of this sign. There is, for instance, one in Cambridgeshire, in the village—or rather, nowadays, the Cambridge suburb—of Cherry Hinton:
Ye gentlemen and archers good,
Come in and drink with Robin Hood.
If Robin Hood be not at home,
Then stay and sup with Little John.
But, although such examples may be numerous, they cannot rival that very favourite sign, the “Gate,” with its sentiments dear to the heart of the typical Bung, who wants your custom and your coin, rather than your company:
This gate hangs well
And hinders none;
Refresh and pay
And travel on;
[Pg 132]or, as an American might more tersely put it, “Gulp your drink and git!” That, shorn of frills, is really the sentiment. It is not hospitable; it is not kindly; it would be even unwise did those who read as they run proceed to think as well.
THE “GATE” INN, DUNKIRK.
To catalogue the many “Gate” signs would be a lengthy and an unprofitable task. There must be quite a hundred of them. Two widely sundered houses bearing the name, each picturesque in its[Pg 133] own way, are illustrated here: the one, a rustic wayside inn near Dunkirk, on the Dover Road; the other, picturesque rather in its situation than in itself, nestling under the great Castle Rock in the town of Nottingham. The Nottingham inn is a mere tavern: a shabby enough building, and more curious than comfortable. Its cellars, and the kitchen itself, are hewn out of the rock, the kitchen being saved from reeking with damp only by having a roaring fire continually maintained. The shape of the room is not unlike that of a bottle, in which a shaft, pierced through the rock to the upper air, represents the neck. This[Pg 134] extraordinary apartment is said to have formerly been an oubliette dungeon of the Castle. An adjoining inn, similarly situated, has the odd sign of the “Trip to Jerusalem,” with a thirteenth-century date.
THE “GATE HANGS WELL,” NOTTINGHAM.
The exiled Duke of As You Like It, who, in the Forest of Arden, found moral maxims by the way, “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones,” and so forth, would scarcely have gone the length of hostelries; but there are stranger things in the world than even moralising exiles dream of, and among the strangest are the admonitory inscriptions not uncommon upon inns, where one would rather look to find exhortations to drink and be merry while you may. Among these the most curious is a Latin inscription carved, with the date 1636, upon an oak beam outside the older portion of that fine old inn, the “Four Crosses,” at Hatherton, near Cannock:
Fleres si scires unum tua me’sem,
Rides cum non sit forsitan una dies;
Thou would’st weep if thou knewest thy time to be one month: thou laughest when perchance it may be not one day.
A little grim, too, is the jest upon the sign-board of the “Chequer’s” inn at Slapestones, near Osmotherley, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. It reads:
Be not in haste,
Come in and taste.
Ale to-morrow for nothing.
But “to-morrow never comes.”
[Pg 135]The Slapestones inn is not remarkable on account of its architecture. Indeed, with a box of toy bricks, as used in building operations conducted in the nursery, you could readily contrive a likeness of it; but it has a kind of local celebrity, both on account of the cakes baked upon its old-fashioned hearth, and by reason of that fire itself, traditionally said never to have been once quenched during the last 130 years. Moreover, the spot is a favourite meet for the Bilsdale Hounds.
A former landlord of the inn at Croyde, near Ilfracombe, must have been a humourist in his way, and probably had read Pickwick before he composed the following, which, like “Bill Stumps his Mark”—
—is easily to be rendered into English:
Here’s to Pands Pen
Das Oci Al Hourin
Ha! R: M: Les Smir
Fri Ends Hipre:
Ign Be Ju!
Peak of No! ne.
The composition of this could have been no great tax on the tapster’s brain.
[Pg 136]More pleasing is the queerly spelled old notice displayed on the exterior of the “Plough” at Ford, near Stow-on-the-Wold:
Ye weary travelers that pass by,
With dust & scorching sunbeams dry
Or be he numb’d with snow and frost
With having these bleak cotswolds crost
Step in and quaff my nut brown ale
Bright as rubys mild and stale
Twill make your laging trotters dance
As nimble as the suns of france
Then ye will own ye men of sense
That neare was better spent six pence.
The genuine old unstudied quaintness of it must, in the course of the century and a half of its existence, have sent many scorched or half-frozen travellers across Cotswold into the cosy parlour. Recently a new and ornate wing has been added to the solitary wayside house, and the poetic sign, sent up to London to be repaired, has come back, bravely gilded.
Some very hard, gaunt facts are set forth on tavern signs; as on that of the “Soldier’s Fortune,” at Kidderminster, where, beneath a picture of a mutilated warrior, the passer-by may read,
A soldier’s fortune, I will tell you plain,
Is a wooden leg, or a golden chain.
This hero, however, is fully furnished with both.
When Peter Simple travelled down to Portsmouth for the first time, to join his ship, he asked[Pg 137] the coachman which was the best inn there, and received for reply:
The Blue Postesses
Where the midshipmen leave their chestesses,
Call for tea and toastesses,
And sometimes forget to pay for their breakfastes.
The “Blue Posts” inn was burned down in 1870, but many who had known it made a renewed acquaintance with the house in 1891, at the Chelsea Naval Exhibition, where a reproduction attracted much attention. There are still other “Blue Posts,” notably one in Cork Street, in the West End of London, rebuilt a few years since. The sign is the survival of a custom as old as Caxton, and probably much older, by which houses were often distinguished by their colour. Caxton, advertising his books, let it be known that if “any one, spiritual or temporal,” would purchase, he was to “come to Westmonester into the almonestrye at the Reed Pale”; and there was in the neighbouring Peter Street a “Green Pales” in the seventeenth century.
The modern building of the “George and Dragon,” Great Budworth, Cheshire, has this admonitory verse over its doorway, the production of Egerton Warburton, the late squire of Arley Hall:
As St. George, in armed array,
Doth the Fiery Dragon slay,
So may’st thou, with might no less,
Slay that Dragon, Drunkenness,
a moral stanza that has its fellow in a couplet carved upon an old oak beam over the door of[Pg 138] the rebuilt “Thorn” inn at Appleton, in the same county:
You may safely when sober sit under the thorn,
But if drunk overnight, it will prick you next morn.
A similar moral tendency used to be shown by the sign of the “Grenadier” at Whitley, near Reading, in the verse:
This is the Whitley Grenadier,
A noted house of famous beer;
Stop, friend, and if you make a call,
Beware, and get not drunk withal,
Let moderation be your guide,
It answers well where’er ’tis tried,
Then use, and don’t abuse, strong beer,
And don’t forget the Grenadier.
It was probably when the inn became a “tied” house that this exhortation to drink moderately disappeared. It will readily be understood that a brewery company could have no sympathy with such an inducement to reduce their returns.
A frank invitation to enter and take your fill, without any further stipulation, is to be seen outside the picturesquely placed “Bee-hive” inn at Eaumont Bridge, between Penrith and Ullswater; in the words painted round a bee-hive:
Within this hive we’re all alive,
Good liquor makes us funny;
If you be dry, step in and try
The virtue of our honey.
The same sentiment prevails at the “Cheney[Pg 139] Gate” inn, between Macclesfield and Congleton, on whose sign you read:
Stay Traveller, thyself regale,
With spirits, or with nut-brown ale,
Once aground, but now afloat,
Walk in, boys, and wet your throat,
says the sign of the “Ship” at Brixham, South Devon.
The “Cat and Mutton” inn, near the Cat and Mutton Bridge of the Regent’s Canal, and facing London Fields, formerly had a pictorial sign with the inscription on one side, slightly misspelled,
Pray puss, do not tare,
Because the mutton is so rare,
and on the other,
Pray puss, do not claw,
Because the mutton is so raw.
The “Cat and Mutton” is nowadays just a London “public,” and the neighbourhood is truly dreadful. You come to it by way of the Hackney Road and Broadway, over the wide modern bridge that now spans the silvery waters of the Regent’s Canal, just where the great gasometers and factory chimneys of Haggerston rise romantically into the sky and remind the traveller, rather distantly, of Norman keeps and cathedral spires. How beautiful the name of Haggerston, and how admirably the scene fits the name!
[Pg 140]Broadway is a market street, with continuous lines of stalls and uninviting shops, where only the bakers’ shops and the corn-chandlers are pleasing to look upon and to smell. The new and fragrant loaves, and the white-scrubbed counters and brightly polished brass-rails of the bakers look cleanly and smell appetising, and the interesting window-display of the corn-chandlers compels a halt. There you see nothing less than an exhibition of cereals and the like: to this chronicler, at least, wonderfully fascinating. Lentils, tapioca, “bullet” and “flake,” blue starch and white, haricot beans, maize, split peas, and many others. Split peas, the amused stranger may note, are, for the “best,” 1½d. a pint, the “finest”—the most superlatively “bestest”—2½d., while rice is in three categories: “fine,” “superior,” or merely—the cheapest—“good.”
The neighbourhood is dirty, despite the enamelled iron signs displayed by the borough authorities from every lamp-post—“The Public Baths and Wash-houses are now open.” It is, in fact, a purlieu where the public-houses are overcrowded and the baths not places of great resort.
The “Cat and Mutton” appears to do a thriving trade. That it is not beautiful is no matter. On the side of the house facing the open space of “London Fields” the modern sign, in two compartments, is seen, picturing a cat “tearing” a shoulder of mutton lying on the floor, and again “clawing” a suspended joint. The spelling is now orthodox.
[Pg 141]A curious inscription on a stone let into the brick wall of the “George” at Wanstead, hard by Epping Forest, is variously explained. It is well executed, on a slab of brown sandstone, and reads as under:
TABLET AT THE “GEORGE,” WANSTEAD.
The generally received story is that the house was at the time under repair, and that, as a baker was passing by with a cherry-pie in a tray on his head, for the clergyman, one of the workmen, leaning over the scaffolding, lifted it off, unawares. The “half a guiney” represents the cost of the frolic in the subsequent proceedings. Apparently, the men agreed to annually celebrate the day.
The “George” was rebuilt 1903-4, and is no longer of interest. Nor does it appear to be, as an[Pg 142] example of the ornate modern cross between a mere “public-house” and an “hotel,” so popular as before. The observer with a bias in favour of the antique and the picturesque may be excused a certain satisfaction in noting the fact that, in almost every instance of a quaint old inn being ruthlessly demolished to make way for a “palatial” drinking-shop, its trade has suffered the most abysmal—not the most extraordinary—decline. Not extraordinary, because not merely the antiquary or the sentimentalist is outraged: the great bulk of people, who would not ordinarily be suspected of any such feeling for the out-of-date and the ramshackle, are grossly offended, and resent the offence in a very practical way; while the carters, the waggoners, and such-like road-farers, to whom the homely old inns were each, in the well-known phrase, a “good pull-up,” are abashed by the magnificence of polished mahogany and brass, and resentful of saucy barmaids. The rustic suburban inn did a larger trade with the carters and waggoners than might be suspected, and the loss of its withdrawal in such cases is not compensated for by any access of “higher class” business. We regret the old-time suburban inn now it is too late, although we were perhaps not ourselves frequenters of those low-ceilinged interiors, where the floor was of sanded flagstones, and the seats of upturned barrels.
To name some of the many houses thus mistakenly, and disastrously, modernised would be[Pg 143] invidious, but instances of trade thus frightened away are familiar to every one. It should not have been altogether outside any practical scheme restoration, to repair, or even to enlarge, such places of old association without destroying their old-world look and arrangements; and this has in numberless instances been recognised when the mischief has been irrevocably wrought.
THE HIGHEST INNS IN ENGLAND
As there are many inns claiming, each one of them, to be the “oldest,” so there are many others disputing the point which is the highest situated. I must confess the subject—for myself, at least—lacks charm. I know—how can you help knowing it?—that to reach those eyries you must use incredible efforts, scaling preposterous heights and faring over roads that are, as a rule, infernally rough. And when you are come, in summer hot, in winter searched through and through by the bitter blast that—Shakespeare notwithstanding—is by a long chalk more unkind than man’s ingratitude, to these unkindly altitudes, what, oh my brothers, do you see? Without exception some plaguy ill-favoured shebeen, presiding over starve-all fields at the best, but generally president over some aching solitude that the hand of man—man being a reasoning animal—has never sought to bring under cultivation. The best you can say of such spots—and it is bad at the best—is that they usually command fine views of better places, whence, you cannot help thinking, you were a fool to come, and from which, you suspect, the innkeepers removed from misanthropical motives,[Pg 145] rather than from love of bracing air, or for the mere idea of earning a livelihood.
The peculiar honour of being the highest-situated inn appears, after much contention, to belong to the “King’s Pit,” usually called the “Tan Hill” inn, in midst of a ghastly hill-top solitude in the North Riding of Yorkshire, between Reeth and Barras. You get to it—I will not say most easily and conveniently, for convenience and ease in this connection are things unknown, but with less discomfort and fatigue—by way of Richmond, and, when you have got there, will curse the curiosity that brought you to so literally “howling” a wilderness. For there the winds do generally blow, and, when they do, heaven send you have not to face them, for it is a shelterless common where the “Tan Hill” inn stands in loneliness, and not a tree or a hedge is there to break the stinging blast.
“TAN HILL” INN.
Cheerfulness is not a characteristic of those who keep hill-top inns: hence the suspicion that[Pg 146] they are misanthropes who, hating sight or sound of their kind, retire to such unfrequented spots, and, when the stray traveller seeks refreshment, instead of weeping salt tears of joy, or exhibiting any minor sign of emotion, grudgingly attend to his wants, and vouchsafe as little information as they safely can.
The “Tan Hill” inn stands on the summit of Stainmoor, at a height of 1,727 feet above sea-level, and it is one of the most abject, uncompromisingly ugly buildings that ever builder built. The ruins of a toll-house stand near by, silently witnessing that it was once worth the while of somebody to levy and collect tolls on what is now as unfrequented a place as it is possible to conceive; but railways long since knocked the bottom out of that, and for some years, until the autumn of 1903, the licence of the inn itself was allowed to lapse, the house being first established for sake of the likely custom from a coal-pit in a neighbouring valley, now abandoned. The innkeeper lives rent free, with the half of his licence paid on condition of his looking after that now deserted mine.
But there is one day in the whole year when the “Tan Hill” inn wakes to life and business. That is the day of Brough Horse Fair, and the traffic then is considerable: the only vestige of the former business of the road now left to it by the Bowes and Barras Railway.
THE “CAT AND FIDDLE,” NEAR BUXTON.
Between Macclesfield and Buxton—five miles from Buxton and seven from Macclesfield—just, by about 1,500 yards—in Cheshire, although commonly said to be in Derbyshire, stands the next highest inn, the “Cat and Fiddle,” at a height of 1,690 feet. It is only a little less dreary-looking a house than that of “Tan Hill,” and wears a weather-beaten air earned by the fierce storms and snow blizzards to which it is in winter exposed. The wooden porch and the double doors within are necessary outposts against the wind. In the winter the inhabitants are sometimes weatherbound for days at a time, and generally take the precaution of laying in a stock of provisions. One may no more visit Buxton without going a pilgrimage to the “Cat and Fiddle” than it would be reasonable to visit Egypt and not see the Pyramids; and consequently, however lonely the place may be in winter, it is in summer visited by hundreds of trippers brought in waggonettes and[Pg 148] brakes named after advertising generals and other puffed-up bull-frogs of the hour. The manner and the expressions of those trippers form an interesting study. You see, plainly enough, that they are bored and disillusioned, and that they wonder, as they gaze upon the hideous house, or over the wild and forbidding moorland and mountain-peaks, or down into the deep valleys, why the devil they came at all; but they are all slaves of convention, and merely wait patiently until the time for returning happily comes round.
There surely never was so demoniac-looking a cat as that sculptured here. Of the derivation of the sign there are, of course, several versions, the local one being that the sixth Duke of Devonshire was especially fond of this road, and used often to travel it with his favourite cat and a violin!
The “Traveller’s Rest,” at Flash Bar, in Staffordshire, on the Leek to Buxton Road, occupies the third place, at an altitude of 1,535 feet, while in the fourth comes a house called the “Isle of Skye,” at Wessenden Head, in Yorkshire, near Holmfirth, 1,500 feet.
The fifth highest inn is the “Traveller’s Rest,” at the summit of the Kirkstone Pass, in Westmoreland, 1,476 feet above the sea, a very considerably lower elevation; but you may still see on the front of the inn its repeatedly discredited claim to be, not merely the highest inn, but the highest inhabited house, in England—which, as Euclid might say, “is absurd.” But what the situation of the Kirkstone Pass lacks in height, it has in[Pg 149] gloomy grandeur. Probably more tourists, exploring the mountainous country between Ambleside, Windermere, and Patterdale, visit the Kirkstone Pass inn than any other of these loftily placed hostelries—the “Cat and Fiddle” not excepted.
THE “TRAVELLER’S REST,” KIRKSTONE PASS.
The “Newby Head” inn, Yorkshire, between bleak Hawes and lonely Ingleton, stands at a height of 1,420 feet; and the Duchy Hotel at Princetown, on Dartmoor, in far distant Devonshire, seems to be on the roof of the world, with its 1,359 feet.
It is an ominous name, but the signs that straddle across the road, something after the fashion of football goals, have none other. The day of the gallows sign is done. It flourished most abundantly in the middle of the eighteenth century, when travellers progressed, as it would appear from old prints, under a constant succession of them; but examples are so few nowadays that they are remarkable by reason of their very scarcity, instead of, as formerly, by their number, their size, and their extravagant ornamentation.
The largest, the costliest, and the most extravagant gallows sign that ever existed was that of “Scole White Hart,” on the Norwich Road. The inn remains, but the sign itself disappeared somewhere about 1803, after an existence of 148 years, both house and sign having been built in 1655. Sir Thomas Browne thought it “the noblest sighne-post in England,” as surely it should have been, for it cost £1,057, and was crowded with twenty-five carved figures, some of them of gigantic size, of classic deities and others. Not satisfied with displaying Olympus on the cross-beam, and Hades, with Cerberus and Charon, at[Pg 151] the foot of the supporting posts, James Peck, the Norwich merchant who built the house and paid for this galanty-show, caused the armorial bearings of himself and his wife, and those of twelve prominent East Anglian families, to be tricked out in prominent places.
THE “GREYHOUND,” SUTTON.
It does not appear that Grosley, an inquiring and diligent note-taking Frenchman who travelled through England in 1765, noticed this remarkable sign, but so soon as he had landed at Dover he was impressed with the extravagance of signs of all sorts, and as he journeyed to London took note of their “enormous size,” the “ridiculous magnificence of the ornaments with which they are[Pg 152] overcharged, and the height of a sort of triumphal arches that support them.” He and other foreigners travelling in England at that period soon discovered that innkeepers overcharged their signs and their guests with the utmost impartiality.
Misson, another of these inquisitive foreigners, had already, in 1719, observed the signs. He rather wittily likened them to “a kind of triumphal arch to the honour of Bacchus.”
It will be seen, therefore, that the surviving signs of this character are very few and very simple, in proportion to their old numbers and ancient extravagance. If we are to believe another eighteenth-century writer on this subject, who declared that most of the inscriptions on these signs were incorrectly spelled, inquiring strangers very often were led astray by the ridiculous titles given by that lack of orthography. “This is the Beer,” said one sign, intending to convey the information that the house was the “Bear”; but the reader will probably agree that the misspelling in this case was more to the point than even the true name of the inn. To know where the beer is; that is the main thing. Who cares what the sign may be, so long as the booze is there? Swipes are no better for a good sign, nor good ale worse for a bad.
The Brighton Road being so greatly travelled, we may claim for the gallows sign of the “George” at Crawley a greater fame than any other, although that of the “Greyhound” at[Pg 153] Sutton, on an alternative route, is very well known. The once pretty little weather-boarded inn has, unfortunately, of late been rebuilt in a most distressingly ugly fashion. The gallows sign of the “Cock” at Sutton was pulled down in 1898.
THE “FOUR SWANS,” WALTHAM CROSS.
The “Greyhound” at Croydon owned a similar sign until 1890, when, on the High Street being widened and the house itself rebuilt, it was disestablished, the square foot of ground on which the supporting post stood, on the opposite side of the street, costing the Improvements Committee £350, in purchase of freehold and in compensation to the proprietor of the “Greyhound,” for loss of advertisement.
At Little Stonham, on the Norwich Road, the sign of the “Pie”—i.e. the Magpie—spans the road, while at Waltham Cross, on the way to Cambridge, that queer, rambling old coaching inn, the “Four Swans,” still keeps its sign, whereon the four swans themselves, in silhouette against the sky, form a very striking picture, in conjunction with the old Eleanor Cross standing at the cross-roads.
An equally effective sign is that of the rustic little “Fox and Hounds” inn at Barley, where the hunt, consisting of the fox, five hounds and two huntsmen, is shown crossing the beam, the fox about to enter a little kennel-like contrivance in the thatched roof.
THE “FOX AND HOUNDS,” BARLEY.
One of the most prominent and familiar of gallows signs is that of the great, ducal-looking “George” Hotel at Stamford, on the Great North Road. It spans the famous highway, and is the sole advertisement of any description the house permits itself. There is nothing to inform the wayfarer what brewer’s “Fine Ales and Stouts” are dispensed within, nor what distiller’s or wine-merchant’s wines and spirits; and were it not for that sign, I declare you would take the “George” to be the ducal mansion already suggested, or, if not that, a bank at the very least of it. There is an awful, and an almost uncanny, dignity about the “George” that makes you feel it is very kind and condescending to allow you to enter Stamford at all. I have seen dusty and tired, but still[Pg 155] hilarious, cyclists come into Stamford from the direction of London and, seeing the “George” at the very front door of the town, they have instantly felt themselves to be worms. Their instant thought is to disappear down the first drain-opening; but, finding that impossible, they have crept by, abashed, only hoping, like Paul Pry, they “don’t intrude.” Even the haughty (and dusty) occupants of six-cylindered, two-thousand-guinea motor-cars with weird foreign names, begin to look reverent when they draw up to the frontage. The “George,” in short, is to all other inns what the Athenæum Club is to other clubs. I should not be surprised if it[Pg 156] were incumbent upon visitors entering those austere portals to remove their foot-gear, as customary in mosques, nor would it astonish to hear that the head waiter was the performer of awful rites, the chambermaids priestesses, and to stay in the house itself a sacrament.
THE “GEORGE,” STAMFORD.
It is perhaps hardly necessary to say that the “George” at Stamford, in common with the many other inns of the same name throughout the country, derived the sign from the English patron saint, St. George, and not out of compliment to any one of our Four Georges. The existing house is largely of late eighteenth-century period, having been remodelled during those prosperous times of the road, to meet the greatly-increased coaching and posting business; and can have little likeness to the inn where Charles the First lay, on the night of Saturday, August 23rd, 1645, on the march with his army from Newark to Huntingdon.
In that older “George,” in 1714, another taste of warlike times was felt. The town was then full of the King’s troops, come to overawe Jacobites. Queen Anne was just dead, and Bolton, the tapster of the “George,” suspected of Jacobite leanings, was compelled by the military to drink on his bended knees to her memory. He was doing so, meekly enough, when a dragoon ran him through the heart with his sabre. A furious mob then assembled in front of the house, seeking to avenge him, and very quickly broke the windows of his house and threatened to entirely[Pg 157] demolish it, if the murderer were not given up to them. We learn, however, that “the villain escaped backway, and the tumult gradually subsided.”
At the “George” in 1745, the Duke of Cumberland, the victor of Culloden, stayed, on his return, and in 1768, the King of Denmark; but I think the most remarkable thing about the “George” is that Margaret, eldest daughter of Bryan Hodgson, the landlord at that time, in 1765, married a clergyman who afterwards became Bishop of London. The Reverend Beilby Porteous was, at the time of his marriage, Vicar of Ruckinge and Wittersham, in Kent. In 1776 he became Bishop of Chester, and eleven years later was translated to London.
In 1776 the Reverend Thomas Twining wrote of the “distracting bustle of the ‘George,’ which exceeded anything I ever saw or heard.” All that has long since given place to the gravity and sobriety already described, and the great central entrance for the coaches has for many years past been covered over and converted into halls and reception-rooms; but there may yet be seen an ivied courtyard and ancient staircase.
Even as I write, a great change is coming upon the fortunes of the “George.” The motorists who, with the neighbouring huntsmen, have during these last few years been its chief support, have now wholly taken it over. That is to say, the Road Club, establishing club quarters along the Great North Road, as nearly as may be fifty miles[Pg 158] apart, has procured a long lease of the house from the Marquis of Exeter, and has remodelled the interior and furnished it with billiard-rooms up-to-date, a library of road literature, and other essentials of the automobile tourist. While especially devoted to these interests, the “George” will still welcome the huntsman fresh from the fallows, and hopes to interest him in the scent of the petrol as much as in that of the fox.
THE “SWAN,” FITTLEWORTH.
It may be noted, in passing, that the “Red Bull” at Stamford also claims to have entertained the Duke of Cumberland on his return from Culloden, and that the “Crown” inn, with its old staircase and picturesque courtyard, is interesting.
A small gallows sign is still to be seen at the “Old Star,” in Stonegate, York, another at Ottery[Pg 159] St. Mary, and a larger, wreathed in summer with creepers, at the “Swan,” Fittleworth, while at Hampton-on-Thames the picturesque “Red Lion” sign still spans a narrow and busy street.
THE “RED LION,” HAMPTON-ON-THAMES.
The “Green Man” at Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, has a sign of this stamp. That fine old inn, which has added the sign of the “Black’s Head,” since the purchase of a house of that name, is of a size and a respectable mellowed red-brick frontage eminently suited to a road of the ancient importance of that leading from London to Manchester and Glasgow, on which Ashbourne stands. The inn figures in the writings of Boswell as a very good house, and its landlady as “a mighty civil gentlewoman.” She and her establishment no doubt[Pg 160] earned the patronising praise of the self-sufficient Laird of Auchinleck by the humble curtsey she gave him when he hired a post-chaise here to convey him home to Scotland, and by an engraving of her house she handed him, on which she had written:
“M. Kilingley’s duty waits upon Mr. Boswell, is exceedingly obliged to him for this favour; whenever he comes this way, hopes for the continuance of the same. Would Mr. Boswell name this house to his extensive acquaintance, it would be a singular favour conferred on one who has it not in her power to make any other return but her most grateful thanks and sincerest prayers for his happiness in time and in blessed eternity. Tuesday morn.”
Alas! wishes for his worldly and eternal welfare no longer speed the parting guest, especially if he “tips” insufficiently. As for “M. Kilingley,” surely she and her inn must have been doing very badly, for Boswell’s patronage to have turned on so much eloquence at the main.
SIGNS PAINTED BY ARTISTS
In the “good old days,” when an artist was supposed to be drunken and dissolute in proportion to his genius, and when a very large number of them accordingly lived up to that supposition, either in self-defence or out of their own natural depravity, it was no uncommon thing to see the wayside ale-house sporting a sign that to the eye of instructed travellers displayed merits of draughtsmanship and colour of an order entirely different from those commonly associated with mere sign-boards.
Fresh from perusing the domestic records of the eighteenth century, you have a confused mental picture of artists poor in pocket but rich in genius, pervading the country, hoofing it muzzily along the roads, and boozing in every village ale-house. You see such an one, penniless, offering to settle a trivial score by painting a new sign or retouching an old one, and you very vividly picture mine host ungraciously accepting the offer, because he has no choice. Then, behold, the artist goes his way, like the Prodigal Son, to his husks and his harlots, to run up more scores and liquidate them in the like manner; and presently[Pg 162] there enters, to your mental vision, a traveller whose educated eye perceives that sign, and discovers in its yet undried and tacky oils the touch of a master. He buys that masterpiece for golden guineas from the gaping and unappreciative innkeeper, whose score was but a matter of silver shillings; and he—he is a Duke or something in the Personage way—takes that “Barley Mow” or “Ship and Seven Stars,” or whatever the subject may be, tenderly home to his palace and places it, suitably framed, among his ancestral Titians, Raphaels, or Botticellis.
That, I say, is the golden, misty picture of Romance presented to you, and, in sober fact, incidents of that nature were not unknown; but that they happened quite so often as irresponsible weavers of legends would have us believe, we may take leave to doubt.
Artists of established repute sometimes, even then, painted inn-signs from other motives. Hogarth, for example, that stern pictorial moralist, was scarcely the man to be reduced to such straits as those already hinted; but he was a jovial fellow, and is said to have painted a number of signs for friendly innkeepers. The classic example of those attributed to him is, of course, the well-known sign of the “Man Loaded with Mischief,” the name of a public-house, formerly 414, Oxford Street. The name was changed, about 1880, to the “Primrose,” and the painted panel-sign removed. In its last years it—whether the original[Pg 163] or an old copy seems uncertain—was fixed against the wall of the entrance-lobby. The picture was one of crowded detail. The Man, another Atlas, carried on his back a drunken woman holding a glass of gin in her hand, and had on either shoulder a monkey and a jackdaw. In the background were “S. Gripe’s” pawnshop, the “Cuckold’s Fortune” public-house, crowned with a pair of horns, two quarrelling cats, a sleeping sow, and[Pg 164] a jug labelled “Fine Purl.” This scathing satire, peculiarly out of place in a drink-shop, was “Drawn by Experience” and “Engraved by Sorrow,” and was finished off by the rhyme:
A Monkey, a Magpie, and a Wife
Is the true Emblem of Strife.
A somewhat similar sign exists at the present time at Madingley, near Cambridge.
THE “MAN LOADED WITH MISCHIEF.”
The correctness, or otherwise, of the Oxford Street sign being attributed to Hogarth has never been determined, but it is quite characteristic of him, and all through Hogarth’s works there runs a curious familiarity with, and insistence upon, signs. You find the sign of the “Duke of Cumberland” pictorially insisted upon in his “Invasion of England,” although it is merely an accessory to the picture; and in “Gin Lane,” “Southwark Fair,” the “March to Finchley,” and others, every detail of incidental signs is shown. This distinguishing characteristic is nowhere more remarkable than in his “Election: Canvassing for Votes,” where, above the heads of the rival agents in bribery is the sign of the “Royal Oak,” half obscured by an election placard. In the distance is seen a mob, about to tear down the sign of the “Crown,” and above the two seated and drinking and smoking figures in the foreground is part of the “Portobello” sign. A curious item in this picture is the fierce effigy of a lion, looking as though it had been the figurehead of a ship, and somewhat resembling those still existing at[Pg 165] the “Star” inn, Alfriston, and the “Red Lion,” Martlesham.
The classic instance of the dissolute artistic genius, ever drinking in the wayside beerhouse, and leaving long trails of masterpieces behind him in full settlement of paltry scores, is George Morland. He painted exquisitely, for the same reason that the skylark sings divinely, because he could not do otherwise; and no one has represented so finely or so naturally the rustic life of England at the close of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, as he. His chosen companions were “ostlers, potboys, pugilists, moneylenders, and pawnbrokers”—the last two classes, it may be suspected, less from choice than from necessity. He painted over four thousand pictures in his short life of forty-one years, and died in a “sponging-house” for debtors, leaving the all-too-true epitaph for himself, “Here lies a drunken dog.”
He lived for a considerable time opposite the “White Lion” inn, at the then rural village of Paddington, and his masterpiece, the “Inside of a Stable,” was painted there.
Morland was no neglected genius. His natural, unaffected style, that was no style, in the sense that he showed rustic life as it was, without the “classic” artifice of a Claude or the finicking unreality of a Watteau, appealed alike to connoisseurs and to the uneducated in art; and he might, but for his own hindrance, have been a wealthy man. Dealers besieged him, purse in one[Pg 166] hand and bottle in the other. He paid all debts with pictures, and in those inns where he was known the landlords kept a room specially for him, furnished with all the necessaries of his art: only too pleased that, in his ready-made fame, he should settle scores in his characteristic way.
Oddly enough, although Morland is reputed to have painted many inn-signs, not one has survived; or perhaps, more strictly speaking, not one of the existing paintings by him has been identified with a former sign.
Morland died in 1824, and twenty years later one “J. B. P.,” in The Somerset House Gazette, described how, walking from Laleham to Chertsey Bridge, and sheltering at the “Cricketers,” a small public-house there, he noticed, while sitting in the parlour, a painting of a cricket-match. The style seemed familiar, and he at last recognised it as Morland’s. Questioning the landlord, he learned that forty-five years earlier the inn was the “Walnut Tree,” and that a “famous painter” had lodged there and painted the picture. It grew so popular with local cricketers that at last the name of the house was altered.
The stranger offered to buy, but the landlord declared he would not sell. It seemed that he took it with him when he set up a booth at Egham and Staines races, “an’ cricket-matches and such-like.” It was, in fact, his trade-mark.
Mine host thought in shillings, but the stranger in guineas.
“How,” he asked, “if I offered you £10 10s.?”
[Pg 167]“Ah, well!” rejoined the publican: “it should go, with all my heart,”—and go it did.
Thus did the purchaser describe his bargain: “The painting, about a yard in length and of a proportionate height, is done on canvas, strained upon something like an old shutter, which has two staples at the back, suited to hook it for its occasional suspension on the booth-front in the host’s erratic business at fairs and races. The scene I found to be a portrait of the neighbouring cricket-green called Laleham Borough, and contains thirteen cricketers in full play, dressed in white, one arbiter in red and one in blue, besides four spectators, seated two by two on chairs. The picture is greatly cracked, in the reticulated way of paint when much exposed to the sun; but the colours are pure, and the landscape in a very pleasing tone, and in perfect harmony. The figures are done as if with the greatest ease, and the mechanism of Morland’s pencil and his process of painting are clearly obvious in its decided touches, and in the gradations of the white particularly. It cannot be supposed that this freak of the pencil is a work of high art; yet it certainly contains proof of Morland’s extraordinary talent, and it should seem that he even took some pains with it, for there are marks of his having painted out and re-composed at least one figure.”
The appreciation of Morland in his lifetime is well shown by a story of himself and Williams, the engraver, tramping, tired, hungry, thirsty and penniless, from Deal to London. They came[Pg 168] at last to “the ‘Black Bull’ on the Dover Road”—wherever precisely that may have been—and Morland offered the landlord to repaint his faded sign for a crown, the price of a meal. The innkeeper knew nothing of Morland, and was at first unwilling; but he at length agreed, and rode off to Canterbury for the necessary materials.
The friends eventually ran up a score a few shillings in excess of that contemplated originally by the landlord, and left him dissatisfied with his bargain. Meanwhile, artist and engraver tramped to town, and, telling the story to their friends in the hearing of a long-headed admirer of Morland’s work, he rode down and, we are told, purchased the “Black Bull” sign from the amazed landlord for £10 10s.
The story is probably in essentials true, but that unvarying ten-guinea price is inartistic and unconvincing.
Richard Wilson, an earlier than Morland, fought a losing fight as a landscape painter, and “by Britain left in poverty to pine,” at last died in 1782. Classic landscape in the manner of Claude was not then appreciated, and the unfortunate painter sold principally to pawnbrokers, at wretched prices, until even they grew tired of backing him. He lived and died neglected, and had to wait for Fame, as “Peter Pindar,” that shrewdest and best of art-critics, foretold,
Till thou hast been dead a hundred year.
He painted at least one inn-sign: that of the “Loggerheads” at Llanverris, in Denbighshire;[Pg 169] a picture representing two jovial, and not too intellectual, grinning faces, with the inscription, “We Three Loggerheads Be.” The fame of this sign was once so great that the very name of the village itself became obscured, and the place was commonly known as “Loggerheads.” Wilson’s work was long since repainted.
But what is a “loggerhead,” and why should the two grinning faces of the sign have been described as “three”? The origin of the term is, like the birth of Jeames de la Pluche, “wrop in mistry”; but of the meaning of it there is little doubt. A “loggerhead” is anything you please in the dunderhead, silly fool, perfect ass, or complete idiot way, and the gaping stranger who looks inquisitively at the two loggerheads on the sign-board automatically constitutes himself the third, and thus completes the company. It is a kind of small-beer, fine-drawn jape that has from time immemorial passed for wit in rustic parts, and may be traced even in the pages of Shakespeare, where, in Act II. Scene 2 of Twelfth Night, it is the subject of allusion as the picture of “We Three.”
The “Mortal Man” at Troutbeck, in the Lake district, once possessed a pictorial sign, painted by Julius Cæsar Ibbetson, a gifted but dissolute artist, friend of, and kindred spirit with, Morland. It represented two faces, the one melancholy, pallid and thin, the other hearty, good-humoured, and “ruddier than the cherry.” Beneath these two countenances was inscribed a verse attributed[Pg 170] to Thomas Hoggart, a local wit, uncle of Hogarth, the painter:
“Thou mortal man, that liv’st by bread,
What makes thy face to look so red?”
“Thou silly fop, that look’st so pale,
’Tis red with Tony Burchett’s ale.”
First went the heads, and at last the verses also, and to-day the “Mortal Man” has only a plain sign.
John Crome, founder of the “Norwich School” of artists, known as “Old” Crome, in order to distinguish him from his son, contributed to this list of signs painted by artists. It is not surprising that he should have done so, seeing that he won to distinction from the very lowest rungs of the ladder; leaving, as a boy, the occupation of running errands for a doctor, and commencing art in 1783 as apprentice to a coach-, house-, and sign-painter. One work of his of this period is the “Sawyers” sign. It is now preserved at the Anchor Brewery, Pockthorpe, Norwich. Representing a saw-pit, with two sawyers at work, it shows the full-length figure of the top-sawyer and the head and shoulders of the other. It is, however, a very inferior and fumbling piece of work, and its interest is wholly sentimental.
J. F. Herring, afterwards famous for his paintings of horses and farmyard scenes, began as a coach-painter and sign-board artist at Doncaster, in 1814. He painted at least twelve inn-signs in that town, but they have long since become things of the past.
[Pg 171]Charles Herring never reached the heights of fame scaled by his brother, and long painted signs for a great firm of London brewers.
However difficult it might prove nowadays to rise from the humble occupations of house- or coach-painter, to the full glory of a Royal Academician, it seems once to have been a comparatively easy transition. All that was requisite was the genius for it, and sometimes not very much of that. A case in point is that of Sir William Beechey, who not only won to such distinction in 1793 from the several stages of house-painter and solicitor’s clerk, but achieved the further and more dazzling success of knighthood, although never more than an indifferent portrait-painter. A specimen of his art, in the shape of the sign-board of the “Dryden’s Head,” near Kate’s Cabin, on the Great North Road, was long pointed out.
The painting of sign-boards, in fact, was long a kind of preparatory school for higher flights of art, and indeed the fashion of pictorial signs nursed many a dormant genius into life and activity. Robert Dalton, who rose to be Keeper of the Pictures to George the Third, had been a painter of signs and coaches; Gwynne, who first performed similar journey-work, became a marine-painter of repute; Smirke, who eventually became R.A.; Ralph Kirby, drawing-master to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George the Fourth; Thomas Wright, of Liverpool, and many more, started life decorating coach-panels or painting signs. Opie,[Pg 172] the Cornish peasant-lad who rose to fame in paint, declared that his first steps were of the like nature: “I ha’ painted Duke William for the signs, and stars and such-like for the boys’ kites.”
The Royal Academicians of our own time did not begin in this way, and as a pure matter of curious interest it will be found that your sucking painter is too dignified for anything of the kind, and that modern signs painted by artists are usually done for a freak by those who have already long acquired fame and fortune. It is an odd reversal.
Thus, very many years ago, Millais painted a “George and Dragon” sign for the “George” inn, Hayes Common. There it hung, exposed to all weathers, and at last faded into a neutral-tinted, very “speculative” affair, when the landlord had it repainted, “as good as new,” by some one described as “a local artist.” Now even the local painter’s work has disappeared, and the great hideous “George” is content without a picture-sign.
The most famous of all signs painted by artists is, of course, that of the “Royal Oak” at Bettws-y-Coed, on the Holyhead Road. It was painted by David Cox, in 1847, and, all other tales to the contrary notwithstanding, it was not executed by him, when in sore financial straits, to liquidate a tavern score. David Cox was never of the Morland type of dissolute artist, did not run up scores, paid his rates and taxes, never bilked a tradesman, and was just a home-loving,[Pg 173] domesticated man. That he should at the same time have been a great artist, supreme in his own particular field, in his own particular period, is so unusual and unaccountable a thing that it would not be surprising to find some critic-prophet arising to deny his genius because of all those damning circumstances of the commonplace, and the clinching facts that he never wore a velvet jacket, and had his hair cut at frequent intervals.
SIGN OF THE “ROYAL OAK,” BETTWS-Y-COED.
The genius of David Cox was not fully realised in his lifetime, and he received very inadequate prices for his works, but he was probably never “hard up,” and he painted the sign-board of the “Royal Oak” merely as a whimsical compliment to his friend, Mrs. Roberts, the landlady of the house, which was still at that time a rural inn.
The old sign had become faded by long exposure to the weather, and was about to be renewed at the hands of a house-painter, when Cox, who happened then to be on one of his many visits to Bettws, ascended a short ladder reared against the house and repainted it, then and there.[Pg 174] The coaching age still survived in North Wales at that period, and Bettws was still secluded and rustic, and he little looked for interruption; but, while busily at work, he was horrified by hearing a voice below exclaim, “Why, it is Mr. Cox, I declare!” A lady, a former pupil of his, travelling through the country on her honeymoon, had noticed him, and although he rather elaborately explained the how and the why of his acting the part of sign-painter, it seems pretty clear that it was from this source the many old stories derived of Cox being obliged by poverty to resort to this humble branch of art.
In 1849 he retouched the sign, and in 1861, two years after his death, it was, at the request of many admirers, removed from the outside wall and placed in a situation of honour, in the hall of what had by that time become an “hotel.”
The painting, on wooden panel, is a fine, bold, dashing picture of a sturdy oak, in whose midst you do but vaguely see, or fancy you see, His Majesty, hiding. Beneath are troopers, questing about on horseback. It is very Old Masterish in feeling, low-toned and mellow in colour, and rich in impasto. It is fixed as part of a decorative overmantel, and underneath is a prominent inscription stating that it “forms part of the freehold of the hotel belonging to the Baroness Howard de Walden.” Sign and freehold have now descended to the Earl of Ancaster.
Behind that inscription lies a curious story of disputed ownership in the painting. It seems[Pg 175] that in 1880 the then landlady of the “Royal Oak” became bankrupt, and the trustees in bankruptcy claimed the sign as a valuable asset, a portion of the estate; making a statement to the effect that a connoisseur had offered £1,000 for it. This at once aroused the cupidity of the then Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, owner of the freehold, and an action was brought against the trustees, to determine whose property it was. The trustees in the first instance, in the Bangor District Court of Bankruptcy, were worsted by Judge Horatio Lloyd, who held that it was a fixture, and could not be sold by the innkeeper. This decision was challenged, and the question re-argued before Sir James Bacon, who, in delivering judgment for the trustees, said the artist had made a present of the picture, and that it belonged to the innkeeper as much as the coat or the dress on her back. He therefore reversed the decision of the Judge in Bankruptcy; but the case was carried eventually to the Supreme Court, and the Lords finally declared the painting to be the property of the freeholder.
Their decision was based upon the following reasoning: “Assuming that the picture was originally what may be called a ‘tenant’s fixture,’ which he might have removed, it appeared that he had never done so. Therefore, the picture not having been removed by the original tenant within his term, on a new lease being granted it became the property of the landlord, and had never ceased to be so.”
[Pg 176]In these days of the revival of this, of that, and of t’ other, you think inevitably of that very wise saying of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.”
SIGN OF THE “GEORGE AND DRAGON,” WARGRAVE-ON-THAMES.
Painted by G. D. Leslie, R.A.
The most readily allowed excuse for anything in such times as these is the plea that it is a revival of something that existed of old. That at once sets upon it—little matter what it be—the seal of approval. Of late years there has in this way been a notable revival of inn-signs painted by artists of repute.
The oldest of these moderns is perhaps that of the “George and Dragon” at Wargrave-on-Thames: a double-sided sign painted by the two Royal Academicians, G. D. Leslie and J. E. Hodgson. In a gossipy book of reminiscences Mr. Leslie tells how this sign came to be painted, about 1874: “It was during our stay at Wargrave that my friend Mr. Hodgson and I painted Mrs. Wyatt’s sign-board for her—the ‘George[Pg 177] and Dragon.’ I painted my side first, a regular orthodox St. George on a white horse, spearing the dragon. Hodgson was so taken with the idea of painting a sign-board that he asked me to be allowed to do the other side, to which I, of course, consented, and as he could only stop at Wargrave one day, he managed to do it on that day—indeed, it occupied him little more than a couple of hours. The idea of his composition was suggested by Signor Pellegrini, the well-known artist of Vanity Fair. The picture represented St. George, having vanquished the dragon and dismounted from his horse, quenching his thirst in a large beaker of ale. These pictures were duly hung up soon after, and very much admired. They have since had a coat of boat-varnish, and look already very Old Masterly. Hodgson’s, which gets the sun on it, is a little faded; but mine, which faces the north, towards Henley, still looks pretty fresh.”
SIGN OF THE “GEORGE AND DRAGON,” WARGRAVE-ON-THAMES.
Painted by J. E. Hodgson, R.A.
Goring-on-Thames has a now very faded pictorial sign, the “Miller of Mansfield,” painted by Marcus Stone, R.A. The Thames-side villages are indeed especially favoured, and at Wallingford[Pg 178] the sign of the “Row Barge,” by G. D. Leslie, is prominent in a bye-street. The inn itself is a very modest and very ancient place of entertainment. A document is still extant which sets forth how the licence was renewed in 1650, when, owing to the puritanical ways of the age, many other houses in the same town had to forfeit theirs, and discontinue business. Once the property of the Corporation of Wallingford, it seems to have obtained its unusual name from having been the starting-point of the Mayor’s State Barge. With these facts in mind, the artist painted an imaginary state barge, pulled by six sturdy watermen, and containing the Mayor and Corporation of Wallingford, accompanied by the mace-bearer, who occupies a prominent position in the prow. G. D. Leslie also painted the sign of the “King Harry” at St. Stephen’s, outside St. Albans, but it has long been replaced by a quite commonplace daub.
THE “ROW BARGE,” WALLINGFORD.
Painted by G. D. Leslie, R.A.
THE “SWAN,” PRESTON CROWMARSH.
This does not quite[Pg 179] exhaust the list of riverside places thus distinguished, for “Ye Olde Swan,” Preston Crowmarsh, has a sign painted by Mr. Wildridge. It overlooks one of the prettiest ferries on the river.
THE “WINDMILL,” TABLEY.
THE “SMOKER” INN, PLUMBLEY.
Two modern artistic signs in Cheshire owe their existence to a lady. These are the effective pictures of the “Smoker” inn at Plumbley and the “Windmill,” Tabley. They are from the brush of Miss Leighton, a niece of the late Lord de Tabley. The “Smoker” by no means indicates a place devoted with more than usual thoroughness to smoking, but is named after a once-famous race-horse belonging to the family in the early years of the nineteenth century. On one side of the sign is a portrait of the horse, the reverse displaying the arms of the De Tableys, supported by two ferocious-looking cockatrices.
The sign of the “Windmill” explains[Pg 180] itself: it is Don Quixote, tilting at one of his imaginary enemies.
THE “FERRY” INN, ROSNEATH.
In 1897 the Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, designed and painted a pictorial sign for the “Ferry” inn at Rosneath. It is only remarkable as being the work of a Royal Princess. The three-masted ancient ship, or galleon, is the heraldic charge known as a “lymphad,” borne by many Scottish families, among them the Campbells, Dukes of Argyll.
Some three years later Mr. Walter Crane enriched the little Hampshire village of Grayshott with a pictorial sign for the “Fox and Pelican,” a converted inn conducted on the principles of one of the feather-brained nostrums of the age.
THE “FERRY” INN, ROSNEATH.
The name of the house commemorates Fox, the great Bishop of Winchester, whose device was “A Pelican in her Piety.” It represents a pelican guarding a nest of three young birds, and[Pg 181] feeding them with blood from her breast. The device is painted on one side of the board, and the name of the house is inscribed on a scroll on the other.
THE “FOX AND PELICAN,” GRAYSHOTT.
Many other pictorial inn-signs have of late years replaced the merely lettered boards, and although the artists are not famous, or even well-known, the average merit of the work is high. A particularly good example is the double-sided sign of a little thatched rural inn, the “Cat and Fiddle,” between Christchurch and Bournemouth; where on one side you perceive the cat seated calmly, in a domestic manner, while on the other he is reared upon his hind-legs, fiddle-playing, according to the nursery-rhyme:
Hey, diddle, diddle,
The Cat and the Fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the Moon,
The Little Dog laughed to see such sport,
And the Dish ran away with the spoon.
Serious antiquaries—a thought too serious—have long attempted to find a hidden meaning in the well-known sign of the “Cat and Fiddle.” According to some commentators, it derived from “Caton fidèle,” one Caton, a staunch Protestant governor of Calais in the reactionary reign of[Pg 182] Queen Mary, who could justly apply to himself the praise: “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the Faith,” while in the rhyme it has been sought to discover some veiled political allusion, carefully wrapped up in nursery allegory, in times when to interfere openly in politics, or to criticise personages or affairs of State was not merely dangerous, but fatal. Ingenious people have discovered in the wild jingle an allusion to Henry the Eighth and the Disestablishment of the Monasteries, and others have found it to be a satire on James the Second and the Great Rebellion. Given the requisite ingenuity, there is no national event to which it could not be compared; but why not take it merely for what it is: a bundle of[Pg 183] inconsequent rhymes for the amusement of the childish ear?
THE “CAT AND FIDDLE,” NEAR CHRISTCHURCH.
THE “CAT AND FIDDLE,” NEAR CHRISTCHURCH.
From every point of view the revival and spread of the old fashion of artistic sign-boards is to be encouraged, for it not only creates an interest in the different localities, but serves to perpetuate local history and legend.
A remarkable feature of the “Swan” at Fittleworth is the number of pictures painted by artists on the old panelling of the coffee-room.
Caton Woodville painted a sign for this house, but it has long been considered too precious to be hung outside, exposed to the chances of wind and wet, and perhaps in danger of being filched one dark night by some connoisseur more appreciative than honest. It has therefore been removed within. It represents on one side the swan, ridden by a Queen of the Fairies, while a frog, perched on the swan’s tail, holds a lantern, whose light is in rivalry with a star.
On the other side a frog, seated in a pewter pot, is observed contentedly smoking a “churchwarden” pipe while he is being conveyed down stream.
QUEER SIGNS IN QUAINT PLACES
Thus did Horace Walpole moralise over the fickleness of sign-board favour:
“I was yesterday out of town, and the very signs, as I passed through the villages, made me make very quaint reflections on the mortality of fame and popularity. I observed how the ‘Duke’s Head’ had succeeded almost universally to ‘Admiral Vernon’s,’ as his had left but few traces of the ‘Duke of Ormonde’s.’ I pondered these things in my breast, and said to myself, ‘Surely all glory is but as a sign.’”
True, and trite. He might even, perhaps, by dint of scraping, have found upon those old sign-boards whole strata of discarded heroes, painted one over another. Vernon was, of course, the dashing captor of Portobello, in 1739. There were “Portobellos” and “Admiral Vernons” all over the country, for some years, but one would need to travel far and search diligently before he found an “Admiral Vernon” in these days. Six years only was his term of popularity, and there was no renewal of the lease. The Duke of Cumberland displaced him, and he, the victor of Colloden—little enough of a hero—was painted out in favour of our[Pg 185] ally, the “King of Prussia” (Frederick the Great) about 1756. The “King of Proosher,” as the rustics commonly called him, had an extraordinary vogue, and the sign is still occasionally to be found, even in these days, when everything German is, with excellent reason, detested. But, as the poet remarks, “all that’s bright must fade,” and the greater number of “Kings of Prussia” were abolished after the battle of Minden, in 1759, in favour of the “Marquis of Granby.” The “Markis o’ Granby” is associated, in the minds of most people, with Dorking, with the Pickwick Papers, and with the ducking in a horse-trough of a certain prophet; but when the sign first became popular, it stood for military glory. The Marquis himself was the eldest son of the third Duke of Rutland: a soldier who rose to distinction in our wars upon the Continent, became Commander-in-Chief, and at length died in his fifty-eighth year, in 1779. There was another special appropriateness in selecting him for a tavern sign; for he was one of the deepest drinkers among the hard-drinking men of his age.
The actual labour of converting the Duke of Cumberland into the King of Prussia, and his Most Protestant Majesty into the Marquis of Granby could have been but small, for they were all represented in profile, and all were clean-shaven, and wore a uniform and a cocked hat; and it is probable that in most cases the sole alteration that took place was in the lettering.
But the vogue of all other heroes was as[Pg 186] nothing beside that of Nelson. He, at least, is permanent, and the sign-boards in this significant instance justify themselves. Other heroes won a victory, or victories, and conducted successful campaigns. They were incidents in the history of the country; but Nelson saved the nation, and died in the act of saving it.
This exception apart, nothing is so fleeting as sign-board popularity. The hero of yesterday is sacrificed without a pang, and the idol of to-day takes his place; and just as inevitably the popular figure of to-day will yield to the hero of to-morrow. Would you blame mine host of the “Duke of Wellington” because he changes his sign for that of a later captain? Not at all; for we are not to suppose that the original sign was chosen from any motive of personal loyalty. The Duke was selected because of his popularity with all classes; for the reasoning was that the inn bearing his name would secure the most custom. He was the last of the giants, and no other military commander has come within leagues of his especial glory.
The sign of the “Duke of Wellington” long ceased to specially attract, but it survived for many years because of his own greatness, and, inversely, because of the smallness of the men who commanded our armies in the Crimean War, at the end of the long thirty-nine years’ peace between Waterloo and the Alma. It is true that there were, and still perhaps are, inns and public-houses named after Lord Raglan, the Commander-in-Chief in the Crimea, but they were comparatively few.[Pg 187] In short, the line of heroes ceased with “the Duke,” and later generals have been not only intrinsically lesser personalities, but have suffered from being engaged in smaller issues, and under the eye of the “special correspondent,” whose foible has ever been to criticise the general-commanding in detail, to teach him his business, and show a gaping public what had been “a better way” in attack, in strategy, or in tactics. Indeed, one sometimes doubts if even “the Duke” himself would have become the great figure he still remains had the “special correspondent” been in existence during his campaigns.
The lineal successor of Lord Raglan and Lord Napier was Sir Garnet Wolseley, who first adorned a sign-board at the close of his successful campaign in Ashanti, in 1874. He was long “our only general,” and was such a synonym for rightness and efficiency that he even gave rise to a popular saying. “That’s all Sir Garnet” was for some years a Cockney vulgarism, but after the fall of Khartoum, in 1885, it was heard no more. For two reasons: the military knight had become a peer and his Christian name was being forgotten; and the failure of his Nile Expedition to the relief of Gordon broke the tradition of unvaried success.
The true story of a public-house at Dover—doubtless one of many such instances—points these remarks. It was originally the “Sir Garnet Wolseley,” and then the “Lord Wolseley,” and is now the “Lord Roberts.” “Alas!” said the Chairman of the local Licensing Committee, in[Pg 188] 1906, “such is popularity!” He was evidently, equally with Horace Walpole, a moralist.
Lord Roberts is now the risen star on the public-house firmament. Sometimes Lord Kitchener shines with, and in a few instances has even occluded, him.
But when does a sign begin to be “queer,” and where does the quality of “quaintness” commence? Those are matters for individual preference, for that which is to one person unusual and worthy of remark is to another the merest commonplace. For my part, for instance, I regard the sign of the “Swan” at Charing as decidedly unusual, and of the quaintness of the old village of Charing there is surely no need to insist.
THE “SWAN,” CHARING.
It is essentially the business of a sign to be in some way queer, for by attracting attention you also secure trade. The first problem of sign-painters was to attract the attention and to reach the intelligence of those who could not read—a class in times not so long since very large and grossly ignorant. For their benefit the barber displayed his parti-coloured pole, the maker of fishing-tackle hung out his rod and fish, the hosier showed his Golden Fleece, and the pawnbroker the three golden balls. In the same way the “Lions” of the various inns in town and country were pictured red, white, black, or even blue, so that the unlettered but not colour-blind should at least be able to use the sense that nature gave them, and from the rival lions make a choice. But lions were never familiar objects in the British [Pg 191]landscape, and the sign-painter, lacking a model, in presenting his idea of that “king of beasts” often merely succeeded in picturing something that, unlike anything on earth, was often styled by Hodge a “ramping cat.” In such a manner the former “Cats” inn at Sevenoaks obtained its name. Its signboard originally displayed the arms of the Sackvilles, with their supporters, two white leopards, spotted black; but partly, no doubt, because the painting was bad, and in part because leopards did not come within the everyday experience of the Kentish rustic, the house became known by the more homely name. The “Leather Bottle” was once a sign understood by all; but in its last years that of the “Leather Bottle” public-house, in Leather Lane, Holborn, became something of a puzzle.
SIGN OF THE “LEATHER BOTTLE,” LEATHER LANE.
Perhaps the most ingenious and unusual sign it is possible to find throughout the whole length and breadth of the country is that of the little[Pg 192] unassuming inn in Castlegate, Grantham, known indifferently as the “Beehive” and the “Living Sign.” A sapling tree growing on the pavement in front of the house has a beehive fixed in its branches, with an inscribed board calling attention to the fact during those summer months when foliage obscures it:
Stop, traveller, this wondrous Sign explore,
And say, when thou hast viewed it o’er and o’er,
“Grantham, now two rareties are thine,
A lofty steeple and a living Sign.”
The beehive being generally occupied, the invitation to “explore” it is perhaps an unfortunate choice of language. At any rate, the traveller is much more likely to explore the house than the sign of it.
The “Pack Horse and Talbot” may now, by sheer lapse of time, be regarded as a queer sign. It is the name of what was once an inn but is now a public-house, on the Chiswick High Road, Turnham Green—a thoroughfare which is also the old coach-road to Bath. The painted sign is a pictorial allusion to the ancient wayfaring days when packmen journeyed through the country with their wares on horseback, and accompanied by a faithful dog who kept guard over his master’s goods. This type of dog—the “talbot,” the old English hound—is now extinct. Probably not one person in every thousand of those who pass the house could explain what the “Talbot” in the sign means, or would think of associating it with the dog seen in the picture.
SIGN OF THE “BEEHIVE,” GRANTHAM.
Another London sign that tells of manners and customs long since obsolete is that of the “Running Footman,” Hay Hill, Berkeley Square, picturing a gaily uniformed man running, with a wand of office in his hand. In the middle of the eighteenth century it was as much the “correct thing” for noble families to keep a running footman[Pg 194] to precede them on their journeys as it was for their Dalmatian dogs to trot beneath their carriages. Those “plum-pudding dogs” finally went out of fashion about half a century ago, but the running footmen became extinct half a century earlier. Extraordinary tales were told of the endurance of, and the long distances covered by, these men.
Everywhere we have the “Cat and Fiddle,” a sign whose origin still troubles some people, who seek a reason for even the most unreasonable and fantastic things, and lose sight of the fact that a whimsical fancy, a kind of nursery-lore imagination, in all likelihood originated the sign, which is probably not any debased and half-forgotten allusion to “Caton le Fidèle,” the brave Governor of Calais, to “Catherine la Fidèle,” the French sobriquet for the wife of the Czar Peter, or to “Santa Catherina Fidelius,” but simply—the “Cat and Fiddle,” neither more nor less. The rest of it is all “learned” fudge, and stuff and nonsense. Serious persons will object that cats do not play the fiddle; but they do—in nursery-land, where cows have for many centuries jumped over the moon and the table utensils have eloped together, and where pigs have played whistles from quite ancient times, a little to the confusion of those who derive the “Pig and Whistle” sign from some supposed Saxon invocation to the Virgin Mary: “Pige Washail!” ’Tis a way they have in the nursery, which nobody will deny.
SIGN OF THE “PACK HORSE AND TALBOT.” TURNHAM GREEN.
THE “RUNNING FOOTMAN.” HAY HILL.
SIGN OF THE “LION AND FIDDLE,” HILPERTON.
In some cases the “Cat and Fiddle” has become the “Lion and Fiddle”: notably at Hilperton, in Wiltshire, where a picture-sign represents a very mild and apologetic-looking lion walking on his hind-legs, with his tail humbly tucked between them, and playing a tune upon a fiddle—doubtless something doleful, to describe the folly of giving trust.
At Moulsford, on the banks of the Thames, is the rustic inn displaying the sign of the “Beetle and Wedge,” a puzzling conjunction, until we learn that the “beetle” in this case is no insect, but a heavy wooden mallet, and the wedge a wooden, iron, or steel instrument struck by it in splitting timber.
THE “SUGAR-LOAVES,” SIBLE HEDINGHAM.
At Sible Hedingham, in Essex, the sign of the “Sugar-loaves” strikes the traveller as curious,[Pg 196] both in name and in shape. Sugar-loaves, of course, we never see nowadays, now that cube sugar prevails; and grocers no longer, as they did of old, receive their sugar in pyramidical-shaped loaves and cut it up themselves.
Manchester people are familiar with a very curious sign indeed: that which hangs from the “Old Rock House” inn at Barton. On the sign is seen the figure of a man wearing a “fool’s cap” and intent upon threshing corn, and in his hands is an uplifted flail, bearing the mysterious inscription, “Now Thus.”
The origin of this is found in the local story of how William Trafford, a staunch Royalist, outwitted Cromwell’s soldiery. Trafford owned South Lamley Hall, and when the troops of the Parliament were heard approaching, he caused all his servants and farm stock to be stowed away in a remote glen called “Solomon’s Hollow,” leaving him alone in the great house. When they were all gone, he collected his jewellery and plate, and, having buried them in a secret place, disguised himself in rough clothes, being discovered when the Roundheads arrived threshing corn over the place where the valuables were hidden.
As they entered the barn they heard him repeating mechanically at intervals the solitary expression, “Now thus”; and although he was questioned by the officers, who took him to be a servant, they could get nothing else out of him, being at length obliged to depart, with the belief that they had been talking to a harmless lunatic.
INTERIOR OF “UNCLE TOM’S CABIN.”
“UNCLE TOM’S CABIN.” BLUEPITTS, NEAR ROCHDALE.
[Pg 197]The De Traffords still live on this estate, whose wealth was thus saved by their ready-witted ancestor.
It will be conceded that the “Boar” inn, more generally known as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” between Heywood and Castleton, on the Rochdale Canal, is not only a queer sign, but a queer house, being nothing other than an old passenger barge that used formerly to ply along the Bridgewater Canal, between Heywood and Bluepitt.
The railway at last took away all the passenger traffic of the canal, and the old barge, after many years of usefulness, ceased to run. It was purchased by a man named Butterworth, who had it drawn on rollers to a position some three miles from the “cut,” and built walls against the sides, and roofed it over.
SIGN OF THE “OLD ROCK HOUSE” INN, BARTON.
One of the finest and most artistic old signs in the country is that of the “Three Horseshoes,” a little weather-boarded ale-house at Great Mongeham, which is, in a contradictory way, quite a[Pg 198] small village, between Sandwich and Deal. It is a rare instance of the use of wrought iron, not as the support of a sign, but as a sign itself, and is so strikingly like a number of wrought-iron signs in Nottingham Castle Museum, the work of that famous artist in iron, Huntingdon Shaw, who wrought the celebrated iron gates of Hampton Court, that it would seem to be a product of his school. The vogue of the artistic sign is returning, and a good example of modern work in iron is to be found at Great Missenden, in Buckinghamshire, where the “Red Lion” inn displays an heraldic lion in silhouette, ramping on his heraldic wreath,[Pg 199] and clawed and whiskered in approved mediæval style.
THE “THREE HORSESHOES,” GREAT MONGEHAM.
SIGN OF THE “RED LION,” GREAT MISSENDEN.
At Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, and at some other places, the sign of the “Labour in Vain” is met with, representing two busy persons in the act of trying to scrub a nigger white. The Stourbridge example shows two very serious-looking maid-servants striving to perform that impossible task, while the nigger, whose head and shoulders are seen emerging from a dolly tub, has a large, superior smile, only sufficiently to be expressed by a foot-rule.
SIGN OF THE “LABOUR IN VAIN.”
Queer signs are often the product of ignorant alteration of old signs whose original meaning has become obscured by lapse of time. The “Mourning Bush,” for example, was a sign set up originally by a Royalist innkeeper, grieving for the death of Charles the First. A bush, or bundle of twigs, was at that time the usual sign of an ale-house, and he swathed his in black. What if he could revisit this earth after these two hundred and fifty years, and find that sign corrupted, at a little inn near Shifnal, Shropshire, into the “Maund and Bush,” the sign representing[Pg 200] a hardy-looking laurel and a basket—“maund” being a provincialism for a wicker basket!
The “Coach and Dogs” sign at Oswestry, a queer variant of the more usual “Coach and Horses” found so numerously all over the country, takes its origin from an eccentric country gentleman, one Edward Lloyd, of Llanforda, two miles from Oswestry, whose whim it was to drive to and from the town in a diminutive chaise drawn by two retrievers.
The “Eight Bells” at Twickenham, in itself no more than a commonplace public-house, has for a sign an oddly assorted group of eight actual bells, apparently gathered at haphazard from various marine-stores, for no two are exactly of a size. Hanging as they do from a wooden bracket, projecting over the pathway, and showing prominently against the sky, they help to make the not very desirable bye-lane picturesque. It is a lane that runs down to the river, where the Twickenham eyots divide the stream in two, and has not yet been levelled to the ordinary suburban respectability of the neighbourhood. Waterside folk and other queer fish reside in, and resort to it, and on Saturday evenings the usual beery hum proceeding o’ nights from the “Eight Bells” develops into a spirituous tumult, ending at closing-time with stumbling steps and incoherent snatches of song, as the revellers, at odds with kerbstones and lamp-posts, make their devious way home.
THE “EIGHT BELLS,” TWICKENHAM.
At Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, a Temperance Hotel displaying the unique sign of “The Old Fox with His Teeth Drawn” may be seen. It was, until 1893, a rural inn called the “Old Fox,” but was then purchased by the Hon. A. H. Holland-Hibbert, son-in-law of Sir Wilfrid Lawson, and, like him, a total abstinence enthusiast, who made the changes noted above. At his house at Great Munden he has a collection of the signs of inns he has in the same way converted.
SIGN OF THE “STOCKS” INN, CLAPGATE, NEAR WIMBORNE.
The “Stocks” inn, at Clapgate, near Wimborne, displays a miniature model of “stocks for three” over its porch, while the “Shears” inn at Wantage, a rustic ale-house in an obscure corner of that town, with the odd feature of a blacksmith’s forge attached, exhibits a gigantic pair of shears.
THE “SHEARS” INN, WANTAGE.
A sign that certainly, if not in itself unusual,[Pg 203] is nowadays in an unwonted place, is that of the old “White Bear,” a galleried coaching inn that stood in Piccadilly, on the site of the present Criterion Restaurant, until about 1860. It is a great white-painted wooden effigy that is now to be found in the garden of the little rustic inn of the same name at Fickles Hole, a quiet hamlet on the Surrey downs to the south-east of Croydon. To the stranger who first catches sight of it, this polar bear among the geraniums and the sweet-williams is sufficiently startling.
SIGN OF THE “WHITE BEAR.” FICKLES HOLE.
At Nidd, Yorkshire, we have the odd sign of the “Ass in the Bandbox”; at Brixham, South Devon, the “Civil Usage”; at Chepstow the “Old Tippling Philosopher”; the “Cart Overthrown,” at Edmonton; the “Trouble House,” near Tetbury; the “Smiling Man,” at Dudley. At Bridgwater, Somerset, the pilgrim finds both the “Ship Aground” and the “Ship Afloat”; and a somewhat similar sign, the “Barge Aground,” in those places of barges and canals, Brentford and Stratford, at the western and eastern extremities of London.
[Pg 204]The “World Turned Upside Down” is the name of a large public-house in the Old Kent Road and the sign of an inn near Three Mile Cross, Reading, where a rabbit is pictured on one side with a gun, out man-shooting; while on the other is a donkey seated in a cart, driving a man.
The sign “Who’d have thought it?” at Barking, is said to express the surprise of the original proprietor at obtaining a licence; while the “Why not?” at Dover is probably a suggestion to the undecided wayfarer to make up his mind and have some refreshment. There are at least four of the “Hark to!”—hunting signs: “Hark to Jowler” at Bury, Lancashire; “Hark to [or “Hark the”] Lasher” at Castleton, Derbyshire; “Hark to Bounty,” at Staidburn, and “Hark to Nudger,” at Dobcross, near Manchester.
Of signs such as “The Case is Altered” and the “Live and Let Live” there is no end; nor is there any finality in the many versions of the incidents that are said to have originated them. The real original story of “The Case is Altered” is said to be that of the once-celebrated lawyer, Edward Plowden, who died in 1584: to him came a farmer whose cow had been killed by the lawyer’s bull. He was suspicious, as it seems, of lawyers, and came cunningly prepared with a trap to catch him out.
“My bull,” said the farmer, “has gored and killed your cow.”
“The case is clear,” said the lawyer, “you must pay me her value.”
[Pg 205]“I’m sorry,” then said the farmer, but with a contradictory gleam of triumph in his eye: “I should have said that it was your bull killed my cow.”
“Ah!” exclaimed Plowden, resignedly, “the case is altered.”
THE “CROW-ON-GATE” INN, CROWBOROUGH.
Nowadays, many of these signs no doubt derive merely from an improvement in the conduct of the house, indicating that better drinks and superior accommodation are to be had within, the “Case is Altered” in such cases being just a permanent form of the familiar and more usual and temporary notice, “Under New Management.”
The popularity of the “Gate” sign has already been mentioned. An odd variation of it is to be seen at Crowborough, in Sussex, where the “Crow-on-Gate” inn, itself the ne plus ultra of the[Pg 206] commonplace, displays a miniature gate with the effigy of a crow over it.
THE “FIRST AND LAST” INN, SENNEN.
Land’s End, in Cornwall, is notable from our present point of view because it possesses no fewer than three inns, or houses of public refreshment, each one claiming to be the “First and Last House in England.” The real original “First and Last” is the inn, so-called, that stands next to the grey, weatherbeaten granite church in the weatherbeaten and grey village of Sennen, one mile distant from the beetling cliffs of Land’s End itself; but in modern times, since touring has brought civilisation and excursion brakes and broken bottles and sandwich-papers to the old-time savage solitudes of this rocky coast, there have sprung up, almost on the verge of those cliffs, two[Pg 207] other houses—an ugly “hotel” and a plain white-washed tea-house—that have cut in to share this peculiar fame. The tiny tea-house, where you get tea and picture-postcards, and are bothered to buy shells, and tin and copper-bearing quartz, is actually the most westerly, and therefore the “Last” or the “First,” according to whether you are setting out from Penzance, or returning.
THE “FIRST AND LAST,” LAND’S END.
The “Eagle and Child,” a sign common in Cheshire and Lancashire, is heraldically described as “an eagle, wings extended or, preying on an infant in its cradle proper, swaddled gules, the cradle laced or.” The eagle is generally represented on inn-signs without the cradle. In the mere straightforward, unmystical language of every day, the eagle thus fantastically described is golden, the infant is naturally coloured, and the swaddling is red.
The origin of this curious sign is found in the fourteenth-century legend which tells how Sir[Pg 208] Thomas de Latham was walking in his park with his lady, who was childless, when they drew near to a desert and wild situation where it was commonly reported an eagle had built her nest. Approaching the spot, they heard the cries of a young child, and, on bursting through thickets and brambles, the attendant servants found a baby-boy, dressed in rich swaddling-clothes, in the eagle’s nest. The knight affected astonishment; the good dame, unsuspecting, or, like the Lady Mottisfont who, under somewhat similar circumstances, in one of Mr. Thomas Hardy’s Group of Noble Dames, thought strange things but said nothing, was wisely silent and accepted the “gift from Heaven.” As the old ballad has it:
Their content was such to see the hap
That th’ ancient lady hugs yt in her lap;
Smooth’s yt with kisses, bathes yt in her teares,
And unto Lathom House the babe she bears.
Good lady! She soon learnt, in common with the countryside in general, that the foundling thus “miraculously” given her was the offspring of her husband and one Mary Oscatel; but the baby was adopted, was given the name of Latham, and succeeded eventually to the family estates. In after years, Isabel, daughter and sole heiress of this foundling, married Sir John Stanley, ancestor of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, who still bear the “Eagle and Child” crest.
This custom of good knights casually finding infants when out walking with their wives seems anciently to have been extremely common. A[Pg 209] somewhat similar incident is told of the infancy of Sir William Sevenoke.
THE “EAGLE AND CHILD,” NETHER ALDERLEY.
The old “Eagle and Child” at Nether Alderley, in Cheshire, is the property of Lord Stanley of Alderley, but the licence was surrendered some thirty years since, and it is now a farmhouse. A leaden spout-head bears the date “1688,” but the house is obviously much older. A relic of old, unsettled times is seen in the great oaken bar that serves to strengthen the front door against possible attack and forcible entry.
Of first importance to the tourist who flits day by day to fresh woods and pastures new are the rural inns that afford so hospitable and unconventionally comfortable a welcome at the close of the day’s journey. Unwise is he who concludes the day at populous town or busy city, where modern hotels, pervaded by waiters and chambermaids, remind the Londoner of the metropolis he has just left. Your old and seasoned tourist, afoot or on a cycle, by himself or with one trusty, quarrel-proof companion, avoids altogether the Big Town. He has been there, more often than he could wish, and will be there again. His pleasure is in the village inn, or the tavern of some sequestered hamlet; and he knows, so only his needs be not sybarite, that he will be well served there.
Queer old places some of them are: bowered ofttimes in honeysuckle and jessamine; sometimes built by the side of some clear-running stream; at others fronting picturesquely upon the village green. How quaint their architecture, how tortuous their staircases and sloping their floors, and what memories they have gathered round them in their long career! Who, not being the[Pg 211] slave of mere luxuries intended to make a man eat when he has no appetite, and to drink when he has no thirst upon him, does not delight in the rural inn?
THE “WHITE HORSE,” WOOLSTONE.
Many, like Canning’s “Needy Knife Grinder,” have—God bless you!—no story to tell, and leave you, it may be, pleasantly vacant-minded, after long spells elsewhere of close-packed mental effort. A welcome vacation indeed!
The “White Horse” at Woolstone, a queerly[Pg 212] pretty little inn with a front distantly resembling a Chippendale bureau-bookcase, is an instance. No story belongs to the “White Horse,” which is tucked away under the mighty sides of White Horse Hill, Berkshire, and additionally overhung with trees and encircled with shrubberies and underwoods, and is finally situated on a narrow road that presently leads, as it would seem, to the end of the known world. The stranger stumbles by accident upon the “White Horse” inn while looking for a way uphill to that ancient Saxon effigy of a horse scored in the turf and chalk on the summit; and there, before he tackles that ascent, he does, if he be a wise man, fortify himself against the fatigue of much hard Excelsior business by that best of tourist’s fare—ale and bread and cheese—in the little stone-flagged parlour.
Among memories of old rural inns, those of the “White Horse” are not the least endearing; but the “Anchor” at Ripley has a warm corner in the hearts of many old-time frequenters of the “Ripley Road,” who, when the world was young and the bicycle high, made it their house of call every week in the summer season, and wavered little in their allegiance to the “Ripley Road” even in autumn and winter. Ripley, in the days of the high bicycle and in the first years of the “safety,” was well styled the “Cyclists’ Mecca,” for it was then the most popular place in the wheelman’s world. On Saturdays and Sundays it was no uncommon thing to see two or three [Pg 213]hundred machines stacked in front of the “Anchor.”
THE “TALBOT,” RIPLEY.
Photo by R. W. Thomas.
There were several reasons for this popularity: the easy distance of twenty-three miles from London; the fine character of the road; and certainly not least, the welcome extended to cyclists at the “Anchor” by the Dibble sisters and brother in early days when all the world regarded the cyclist as a pariah, and when to knock him over with a brick, or by the simple expedient of inserting a stick between the spokes of his wheel, was a popular form of humour.
The two inns of Ripley—the great red-bricked “Talbot” and the rustic, white-faced “Anchor”—are typical, in their individual ways, of old road life that called them into existence centuries before ever the cycle came into being. The “Talbot,” you see at a glance, was the coaching-and posting-house; the “Anchor” was the house where the waggoners pulled up and the packmen stayed and the humbler wayfarers found a welcome. When railways came, both alike fell into the cold shade of neglect, but came into their own once more during those years of cycling popularity already mentioned. Now that Ripley has ceased to be the popular place it was, another reverse of fortune has overtaken them in common.
At Rickmansworth, which seems to be the battle-ground of Benskin’s Watford Ales, Mullen’s Hertford brews, and the various tipples of half a dozen other surrounding townlets, in addition to the liquors of its own local brewery, there are[Pg 214] extraordinary numbers of inns. How do they exist? By consuming each other’s stock-in-trade? Or is the thirst of Rickmansworth so hardly quenched? The inquiring mind is at a nonplus, and is likely to remain so.
A romantic history, in the barley-brew sort, belongs to Rickmansworth; for there, until a year or so later than 1856, by the wish of some pious benefactor—heaven be his bed!—the local authorities every morning placed a cask of ale by the roadside, at the foot of the hill, on the way to Watford. If, however, it were no better than the very “small” and ditchwater-flat ale that to this day forms the “Wayfarers’ Dole” at the Hospital of St. Cross, near Winchester, its discontinuance could have been no great loss.
There was a similarly great and glorious time at Hoddesdon, not so long since but that some ancients still speak of it with moist eyes and regretful accents, when beer was free to all comers. A brewer of that town, one Christian Catherow—a Christian indeed—left a bequest by which a large barrel of ale was placed in the High Street and kept constantly replenished, for the use of all and sundry, who had but to help themselves from an iron pot, chained to a post beside the barrel. Alas! in some mysterious way the ale gradually deteriorated from good strong drink to table-beer, then it became mere purge, and then small beer of the smallest, and at last, about 1841—oh, horrible!—water.
THE “ANCHOR,” RIPLEY, IN THE DAYS OF THE DIBBLES AND THE CYCLING BOOM.
Photo by R. W. Thomas.
Apart from the “Swan” at Rickmansworth, [Pg 215]with quaintly carved sign of a swan, dated 1799, swimming among bulrushes, there are but two or three important hostelries in the town; the others are chiefly ale-houses of the semi-rustic type, most of them old enough and quaintly enough built to seem natural productions of the soil. Among them the “Halfway House” and the “Rose and Crown” at Mill End are typical; houses that are, above all else, “good pull-ups” for carmen and waggoners, where a tankard of ale and a goodly chunk of bread with its cousinly cheese are usually called for while the horses outside are taking their nosebag refreshment. Both these old houses are racy of the soil: the “Rose and Crown,” the older of the two, but the “Halfway House” the most curious, by reason of its odd arrangement of seats outside, with backs formed by the window-shutters that were formerly—in[Pg 216] times not so secure as our own—put up and firmly secured every night.
THE “HALFWAY HOUSE,” RICKMANSWORTH.
THE “ROSE AND CROWN,” MILL END, RICKMANSWORTH.
Two rural inns, typical in their respective ways of rustic England, are illustrated here. They neighbour one another; the one on the Bath Road at the fifty-fifth mile-stone from London, before entering Newbury, and being, in fact, the half-way house between the General Post Office, London, and the Post Office in Bath; the other but two miles away, at Sandleford Water, where a footbridge and a watersplash on the river Enborne mark the boundaries of Hampshire and Berkshire. Sitting in the arbours of the “Swan,” [Pg 217]that looks upon the Bath Road, you may see the traffic of a great highway go by, and at Sandleford Water you have the place wholly to yourself, or share it only with the squirrels and the birds of the overarching trees. There was once an obscure little Priory here, whose every stone has utterly vanished.
THE “SWAN,” SANDLEFORD.
THE “SWAN,” NEAR NEWBURY.
THE “JOLLY FARMER,” FARNHAM.
The “Jolly Farmer” inn at Farnham, where William Cobbett was born in 1762, still stands and, overhung as it is with tall trees, and neatly kept, is in every way, we may well suspect, a prettier place than it was in his time. And it is, doubtless, in its way, now a higher-class house; a general levelling up, in the country, of ale-houses, taverns and rustic inns, being always to be borne in mind when we read or write of the rustic[Pg 218] wayside inns of a hundred years or so since. You may in these days even play billiards, on a full-size table, at the “Jolly Farmer,” and order strange exotic drinks undreamt of by the rustics of Cobbett’s day.
THE “BOAR’S HEAD,” MIDDLETON.
Five and a half miles from Manchester, in the now busy township of Middleton, the old rural “Boar’s Head” inn stands, fronting the main street; a striking anachronism in that twentieth-century manufacturing centre, looking out with its sixteenth-century timbered front upon modern tram-lines and an unlovely commercialism. The projecting sign proclaims it to be that now rare thing among inns, a “Free House.” The sight of that inscription leads inevitably to the thought,[Pg 219] how strange it is that in this boasted land of freedom, in this country that freed the black slaves, the “tied-house” system should be allowed, by which brewers can buy licensed premises and insist that their tenants shall sell no other liquors than those they supply. Pity the poor bondsman of a tenant, and still more pity the general public condemned by the system to drink the inferior brews that no one would dare to sell to a free man.
The curious late eighteenth-century addition to the “Boar’s Head,” shown in the illustration, was once the local Sessions House, but is now the Assembly Room.
THE “OLD HOUSE AT HOME” HAVANT.
At Havant, adjoining the church, as may be[Pg 220] seen in the illustration, is an extremely ancient and highly picturesque inn, the “Old House at Home,” enormously strong and sturdy, with huge beams criss-crossing in every direction, and stout enough to support a superstructure several storeys high, instead of merely two floors. It is as excellent an example as could probably be found anywhere of a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century lavishness of material and want of proportion of means toward ends. But that should not make us grieve; no builder is guilty of such things to-day; let us rather be thankful for the picturesqueness and the strength of it. Those who axed these timbers out of the tree-trunks, and reared up this framework, built to last; and those others who doubtless will some day pull it down, to make way for modern buildings, will have hard work to do so. It can never merely fall down. The history of it is told in few words. It was not built as an inn, and was indeed originally the vicarage, and so remained for some centuries.
An inn with a similar history to that just mentioned—although by no means so humble—is the “Pounds Bridge” inn, on a secluded road between Speldhurst and Penshurst, in Kent. As will be seen by the illustration, it is an exceedingly picturesque example of the half-timbered method of construction greatly favoured in that district, both originally and in modern revival. It is, however, a genuine sixteenth-century building, and was erected, as the date upon it clearly[Pg 221] proclaims, in 1593. The singular device of which this date forms a part is almost invariably a “poser” to the passer-by. The “W” is sufficiently clear, but the other letter, like an inverted Q, is not so readily identified. It is really the old Gothic form of the letter D, and was the initial of William Darkenoll, rector of Penshurst, who built the house for a residence, in his sixty-ninth year: as “E.T.A. 69”—his quaint way of rendering “aet.,” i.e. aetatis suae—rather obscurely informs us. Three years later, July 12th, 1596, William Darkenoll died, and for many years—to the contrary the memory of man runneth not—the house he built and adorned with such quaint conceits has been a rustic inn.
[Pg 222]A house rural now that the old semi-urban character of the great road to Oxford has, with the passing of the coaches and the post-chaises, long become merely a memory is the great “George and Dragon” inn at West Wycombe. West Wycombe once called itself a town, and perhaps does so still, but it cannot nowadays make that claim convincingly. If we call it a decayed coaching town, that is the most that can be conceded, in the urban way; for to-day its every circumstance is rustic. The “George and Dragon,” a glance at its upstanding, imposing front is sufficient to show, was built for the accommodation of the great, or at any rate for those who were great enough to be able to command the price of chaise-and-four and sybarite accommodation; but the passing stranger would nowadays be unlikely to secure any better meal than bread and cheese, and the greater part of the house is silence and emptiness, while the once bustling yard has subsided into that condition of picturesque decrepitude which, however pleasing to the artist, tells of business decay.
YARD OF THE “GEORGE AND DRAGON,” WEST WYCOMBE.
It is, indeed, remarkable what picturesqueness lingers in the courtyards of old inns. The front of the house may have been modernised, or in some way smartened up, but the old gables and the casement windows are still generally to be found in the rear, and sometimes the local church-tower comes in, across the roof-tops, in a partly benedictory and wholly sketchable way, as at the village of Dedham, near Colchester, where the [Pg 225]yard of the “Sun” inn and the church-tower combine to make a very fine composition. A relic of the bygone coaching days of Dedham remains, in the small oval spy-hole cut through the wall on either side of the tap-room bay-window, and glazed, commanding views up and down the village street, so that the approach of coaches coming either way might be clearly seen.
THE YARD OF THE “SUN,” DEDHAM.
THE “OLD SHIP,” WORKSOP.
Dedham, however, is very far from being exceptionally fortunate among Essex villages, in[Pg 226] retaining old inns. It is an old-world county, largely off the beaten track, and offering few inducements to the innovator. Among the many humble old Essex inns the “Dial House” at Bocking, adjoining Braintree, is notable; for although it is now only an ale-house, the elaborately panelled and sculptured Renaissance oak of the tap-room walls indicates a bygone grandeur whose history cannot now be even surmised. Local records do not tell us the story of the “Dial House” before it became an inn. The sign, it should be said, derives from an old sundial on the wail. A curious contrivance may be[Pg 227] noticed in one of the old wooden seats in the tap-room; a circular hole, with a drawer below. The purpose at first sight seems mysterious; but it appears that this is the simple outfit for that ancient, and now illegal, game, shove-halfpenny. A recent visit discloses the fact that all the beautiful panelling of the “Dial House” has now been sold and removed.
THE “OLD SWAN,” ATHERSTONE.
The uniquely projecting porch of the “Old Ship” at Worksop, and the old gabled house behind it, still keep a rustic air in the streets of that growing town, just as the “Old Swan” at Atherstone, restored in a judiciously conservative manner, will long serve to maintain memories of the old England of four hundred years ago.
All the old inns of the decayed port of Sandwich have, by dint of the fallen circumstances of[Pg 228] that once busy haven, become, with all their surroundings, rural. Golfers have of late years enlivened the surroundings of Sandwich, and partly peopled the empty streets, but commerce has for ever forsaken this old Cinque Port. In one of the most silent streets stands the inn now known as the “King’s Arms,” although, according to the date of 1592 on the richly carved angle-post of the building, and with the additional evidence of the Royal Arms supported by the Red Dragon of the Tudors, it was erected in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The grotesque figure carved in high relief on the angle-post appears to be a Tudor Renaissance combination of Sun-god and the great god Pan. The front of the house is covered with plaster, but there can be little doubt that here, beneath that coating, as in numberless other instances, a good half-timbered construction awaits discovery. Already, when the “King’s Arms” was built, Sandwich haven was being choked with the sand and shingle brought by the Channel currents, and the seaport was seen to be doomed to extinction. He was, therefore, a rash man who then built anew here, and few indeed have been the new houses since then.
A characteristic old inn of Sandwich is the queer old house with peaked gables, contemporary with the “King’s Arms,” bearing the sign of the “Malt Shovel,” and exhibiting one of those implements of the maltster’s trade over the doorway.
The fisher village of Mousehole, in Cornwall—whose name is a perennial joy to visitors—possesses[Pg 229] a manor-house turned inn; a private house made public: if indeed it be not altogether derogatory to a picturesque village inn to style it by a name more usually associated with a mere modern urban drinking-shop.
THE “KING’S ARMS,” SANDWICH.
Mousehole may be found a little to the westward of Penzance and Newlyn. Like most of its fellows, it lies along the sides and in the bottom of a hollow, where the sea comes in like a pool, and gives more or less shelter to fisher-boats. No one who retains his sense of smell ever has any doubt of Mousehole being engaged in the fish trade, for there are fresh fish continually being brought in, and there are fish, very far from fresh, preserved in the fish-cellars that are so striking a feature of[Pg 230] the place, in the olfactory way. In those cellars the pilchards that are the staple of the Cornish fishery are barrelled until such time as they are wanted for export to the Mediterranean, whence, it is commonly believed, they return, in all the glory of oil, tinned and labelled in strange tongues, “sardines.”
THE “KEIGWIN ARMS,” MOUSEHOLE.
In midst of the crowded houses, and in the thick of these ancient and fishlike odours, stands this rugged old inn, the “Keigwin Arms,” remarkable for its picturesque exterior and for the boldly projecting porch, supported on granite pillars, rather than for any internal beauties. It[Pg 231] survives, as it were, to show that not all manor-houses were abodes of luxury, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
I do not know what the Keigwins blazoned on their old coat, for the sign displays no armorial bearings, and the Keigwins were long since extinct. But they were once great here and otherwhere. Here they were the squires, and you read that in 1595, when the Spaniards, grown saucy and revengeful after their Armada disaster of seven years earlier, came and burnt the town while Drake and Hawkins and our sea-dogs were looking the other way, Jenkin Keigwin, the squire, was killed by a cannon-ball, in front of his own house.
THE “SWAN,” KNOWLE.
SIGN OF THE “SWAN,” KNOWLE.
When the “Swan” at Knowle, near Birmingham, was built, “ever so long ago,” which in this case was somewhere about the beginning of the seventeenth century, the neighbourhood of Knowle was wild, open heath. The country round about has long ceased to be anything at all of that nature, but the village has until quite recently retained its rural look, and only in our time is in process of being swallowed by the boa-constrictor of suburban expansion. In a still rustic corner, near the church, the “Swan” stands as sound as ever, and will probably be standing, just as sound in every particular, centuries hence, when the neighbouring houses, built on ninety-nine years leases, and calculated to last barely that time, will be in the last stages of decay. The “Swan”[Pg 233] has the additionally interesting feature of a very fine wrought-iron bracket, designed in a free and flowing style, to represent leaves and tendrils, and supporting a handsome oval picture-sign of the “Swan.”
THE “RUNNING HORSE,” MERROW.
Surrey lies too near London and all that tremendous fact implies for very many of its ancient rural inns to have survived, but among those that remain but little altered the “Running Horse” at Merrow stands out with distinction. It was built, as the date over the great window of the centre gable shows, in 1615, and, in unusual fashion for a country inn, in a situation where ground space is plentiful, runs to height, rather than to length.
The frontispiece to this volume, “A Mug of[Pg 234] Cider,” showing a picturesquely gabled and white-faced village inn, is a representation of the “White Hart” at Castle Combe, Wiltshire, without doubt the most old-world village in the county, where every house is in keeping, and the modern builder has never gained a footing. It is one of the dozen or so villages that might be bracketed together for first place in any competition as to which is the “most picturesque village in England.”
THE EVOLUTION OF A COUNTRY INN
It was called simply the “Bear” inn, and had no idea of styling itself “hotel.” Embowered in trees, it stood well back from the road, for it was modest and shy. A besom was placed outside the door, and on it the yokels who were the inn’s chief customers scraped off the sticky clay of the ploughlands they had been tramping all day. The entrance-passage was floored with great stone flags. On one side you saw the tap, its floor sprinkled with sawdust, and on the other was a kind of sacred “best parlour,” furnished with a round table loaded with the impossible, unreadable books of more than half a century ago, and a number of chairs and a sofa, upholstered in horse-hair. In the rear was the family kitchen, “keeping-room,” and drawing-room, all in one.
The cyclist of thirty-odd years ago—only he was a “bicyclist” then—sprang lightly off his giraffe-like steed of steel, and, leaning it against the white-washed wall, called for food and drink. The landlady, a smiling, simple, motherly woman, in answer to his inquiry, told him that she and her family were just sitting down to dinner, and he could have some of it, if he wished. No need[Pg 236] to tell him what it was: for there was a scent of hot roast beef which seemed to him, who had breakfasted light and early, the most desirable thing on earth for a hungry man.
The landlady was for clearing the table in the sacred parlour and placing his dinner there, but our early bicyclist was a man of the world—a kind of secular St. Paul, “all things to all men”—and he suggested that, if she didn’t mind, and it was no intrusion, he would as soon have dinner with the family. “Well, sir,” said she, “you’re very welcome, I’m sure,” and so he sat him down in company with two fresh-coloured daughters in neat print dresses, and a silent, but not unamiable, son in corduroys and an ancient jacket.
That was a memorable dinner. There was good ale, in its native pewter, and the roast beef was followed by a strange but delightful dish—whortleberry tart—and that by a very Daniel Lambert of a cheese, of majestic proportions and mellow taste. The talk at table was of crops and the likelihood of the squire coming back to live in the long-deserted neighbouring mansion.
When he rose to go, and asked what he owed, the landlady, with much diffidence, “for you see, sir, we ain’t used to seeing many strangers,” thought perhaps tenpence would not be too much. That early tourist paid the modest sum with enthusiasm.
Preparing to mount his high bicycle again, the whole family must needs come to see him off. They had never before set eyes upon such a[Pg 237] contrivance, and wondered how it could be kept upright. “Come thirty miles on it to-day!” exclaimed the landlady: “well, I’m sure! You’ll never catch me on one of ’em.”
The bicyclist glanced whimsically at the stout, middle-aged matron, and suppressed a smile at the thought.
The next season saw that early wheelman upon the road again. He was now not the only one who straddled across the top of some fifty inches of wheel, and, as the novelty of such things had worn off, the cottagers no longer rushed to doors and windows to gaze after him. Perhaps he did not mind that so very much.
He came again to the inn, and there he found subtle changes. Ploughmen and clodhoppers in general were obviously now discouraged, for the besom had disappeared. There was, too, a something of sufficiency in the manner of the landlady, and one no longer would have desired to sit down to table with her—nor she possibly have agreed, for the parlour had now lost something of its sacramental detachedness, and had become a sort of dining-room. Again roast beef, but cold, and whortleberry tart—with fewer berries and more crust—and instead of the cheese that invited you to cut and come again, a mere slice; while pewter was obviously reckoned vulgar, for a glass was provided instead. The price had risen to one and six.
“Many bicycliss’ calls here now,” said the landlady. Behind a newly constructed bar stood[Pg 238] her son. His cords were more baggy at the hips and tighter at the knees, and he obviously knew a thing or two: beside him was one of the daughters, garishly apparelled.
In another year or so the village itself had changed. There was an epidemic of mineral waters, and every aforetime simple cottager sold them, professing to know nothing of the old-fashioned “stone bottle” ginger-beer. The inn had now got a new window, something in the “Queen Anne” way, that projected beyond the general building-line of the house and converted what had been the tap into a “saloon” where two golden-haired barmaids presided. The landlady had by this time got a black satin dress, and was plentifully hung with gold chains. A highly varnished suite of unreliable furniture from Curtain Road filled the dining-room, whose walls were hung with the advertisements of pushful distillery companies’ latest liqueurs. “Lunch,” consisting of a plate of indifferent cold beef, some doubtful salad, bottled beer, a fossil roll, and a small piece of American cheese, cost half a crown.
One phase alone remains of this “strange, eventful history.” The old-time bicyclist, long since shorn of his first syllable—and of much else in this vale of tears—comes now to his ancient haunt along a road thickly overhung with dust-fog created by swift motor-cars, and finds a new wing built, with—in the odd spirit of contradiction—an elaborate wrought-iron sign projecting from[Pg 239] it, proclaiming this to be “Ye Old Beare.” He further learns that it has “Accommodation for Motorists,” sells petrol, and boasts a “Garage and Inspection Pit.” An ostler, or a something black and greasy in the mechanic line, leads his cycle away in custody into the yard.
The landlady has now risen to the dignity of diamond rings, and the dining-room to that of separate round tables, menus, serviettes and a depressed and dingy waiter. Lager-beer, and something vinegary of the claret order afford an indifferent choice, and if the house still possesses a pewter tankard, it probably is cherished on some shelf as a curious relic of savage times. The house professes to supply luncheons at three shillings, but sweets and “attendance” are “extras.”
The chimney-corners of the old rustic inns, in which the gossips lingered late on bitter winter nights, have ever formed an attraction for writers of the historic novel. There is no more romantic opening possible than that of the village inn, with the spiced ale warming on the hearth, and the rustics toasting their toes in the ingle-nook, what time the wind howls without, roars in the trees, like the roaring of an angry sea, and takes hold of the casements and shakes and rattles them, as though some outcast, denied admittance, would yet force his way into the warmth and comfort, out of the cheerless night. The warring elements, and the gush of wind and driven snow following the opening of the door and the entrance from time to time of other recruits for the ingle-nook, would make that cosy corner seem, if possible, only the more desirable.
THE INGLE-NOOK, “WHITE HORSE” INN, SHERE.
In fact, there is no more sure way of engrossing a reader from the very first page than that of beginning on this note. He feels that something melodramatic is in the wind, and pokes the fire, snuggles up in his arm-chair, and prepares to [Pg 241]be thrilled. The thrill is generally not long in coming, for there was never—or, well, hardly ever—any romantic novel where an ingle-nook occurs in which we do not presently find the advent of the inscrutable and taciturn stranger who, after calling, “Ho! landlord, a tankard of your best,” relapses into a bodeful and gloomy silence, and piques the curiosity, and at the same time chills the marrow, of the assembled company, and may turn out to be anything you please, according to the period, from a king in disguise to a burglar on his way to crack some lonely crib.
Most of the ingle-nooks are gone, and modern fire-places are installed in their stead, conferring upon the survivors an additional measure and esteem of respect in these times of a reaction in favour of the old English domestic arrangements. One of the finest of these surviving examples is that of the “White Horse” at Shere, an old-world inn in midst of an equally old-world village. Shere is the most picturesque of those rural villages—Wotton, Abinger Hatch, Gomshall, Shere, Albury and Shalford—strung along the road that runs, lovely, under the southern shoulders of the bold South Downs, between Reigate and Guildford. Modern times have passed it by, and the grey Norman church, a huge and ancient tree, and the old “White Horse,” have a very special quiet nook to themselves. One would not like to hazard too close a guess as to the antiquity of the “White[Pg 242] Horse,” whose sign is perhaps the only new thing about it—and that is a picturesque acquisition. The inn is, of course, not of the Norman and early English antiquity of the church, but it was built, let us say, “once upon a time”; which sounds vaguely impressive, and in doing so begins to do justice to the old-world air of the inn. The fine ingle-nook pictured here is to be found in the parlour, and is furnished, as usual in such hospitable contrivances, with a seat on either side and recesses for mugs and glasses. A fine array of copper kettles and brass pots, candlesticks and apothecaries’ mortars, together with an old sampler, runs along the wide beam, and on the hearth are a beautiful pair of fire-dogs and an elaborate cast-iron fireback.
A good ingle-nook, rather obscured by the alterations and “improvements” of late years, is to be found in a low-ceilinged little front room at the “Anchor,” Ripley, with a highly ornate fireback; and at the “Swan,” Haslemere, we have the ingle-nook in perhaps its simplest and roughest expression, rudely brick-and-timber built and plastered, with an exiguous little shelf running along the beam, and above that a gunrack. The simple fire-dogs are entirely in character, and have probably been here almost as long as the ingle-nook itself.
INGLE-NOOK AT THE “SWAN,” HASLEMERE.
The ingle-nook of the “Crown” inn at Chiddingfold exists, little altered, although a little iron grate, now itself of considerable age, has been built on the wide open hearth, with a [Pg 243]brick smoke-hood over it. You see again, on either side of the deep recess, above the side benches, the little square cranny in the wall, handy to reach by those sitting in the nook, and intended, in those bygone days when this cosy feature was still in use, to hold the tankards, the jugs, and the pipes of those who here very literally “took their ease at their inn.”
INGLE-NOOK AT THE “TALBOT,” TOWCESTER.
In this room the curious may notice the copy of a deed, dated March 22nd, 1383, conveying the inn from one Peter Pokeland to Richard Gofayre; but, although the “Crown” is a house of considerable antiquity, and mentioned in that document, the existing house is not of so great an[Pg 244] age as this, and has been rebuilt, or very extensively remodelled, since then.
A fine ingle-nook, with ancient iron crane, is now a feature of the refurnished “Lygon Arms” at Broadway, in Worcestershire, an hotel that in these latter days has been carefully “restored” and so fitted out with modern-ancient features by Warings, and some really old articles of furniture, purchased here, there, and everywhere, that in course of time posterity may agree to consider the whole house-full a legacy, as it stands, of the old domestic economy of the inn-keeping of the sixteenth, the seventeenth, and the eighteenth centuries.
At the quaint Kentish village of Sissinghurst, near Cranbrook, stands the old “Bull” inn. It had a rugged ingle-nook occupying one side of the taproom, and on the wall picturesquely hung a very old pair of bellows, a domestic utensil now not often seen. In the corner of the room stood a gigantic eight-footer “grandfather” clock. But the chief item of interest was, without doubt, the roasting-jack over the hearth, with the date “1684.” All this formed one of the most delightful old-world interiors, until quite recently, but now the ingle is abolished and the ancient crane sold to a museum.
A particularly good ingle-nook is to be seen in what is now a lumber-room, but was once the tap-room of the “Talbot” inn at Towcester, the great oaken beam spanning the fireplace being quaintly carved, in flat and low relief, with the figure of that extinct breed of dog, the “talbot.”
THE INGLE-NOOK, “CROWN” INN, CHIDDINGFOLD.
In the long, long pages of the large collections of curious epitaphs that have been printed from time to time, we find innkeepers celebrated, no less than those of other trades and professions. The irreverent wags who made light of all ills, and turned every calling into a jest had, it may well be supposed, a fine subject to their hands in the landlords of the village ale-houses.
To Richard Philpots (appropriate name!) of the “Bell” inn, Bell End, who died in 1766, we find an elaborate stone in the churchyard of Belbroughton, near Kidderminster, with these verses:
To tell a merry or a wonderous tale
Over a chearful glass of nappy Ale,
In harmless mirth, was his supreme delight,
To please his Guests or Friends by Day or Night;
But no fine tale, how well soever told,
Could make the tyrant Death his stroak withold;
That fatal Stroak has laid him here in dust,
To rise again once more with Joy, we trust.
On the upper portion of this Christian monument are carved, in high relief, a punch-bowl and a flagon: emblems, presumably, of those pots that[Pg 246] Mr. Philpots delighted to fill. The inscription is fast becoming obliterated, but the fine old “Bell” inn stands as well as ever it did, on the coach-road between Stourbridge and Bromsgrove, with the sign of a bell hanging picturesquely from it.
Collectors of epitaphs are, however, a credulous and uncritical race, and are content to collect from irresponsible sources. All is fish that comes to their net, and, so only the thing be in some way unusual, it finds a place in their note-books, without their having taken the trouble to search on the spot and verify. Thus, at Upton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, is supposed to be the following:
Beneath this stone, in hopes of Zion
Doth lie the landlord of the “Lion.”
His son keeps on the business still,
Resigned unto the heavenly will.
Vain is the search of the conscientious historian for that gem, or for its variant:
Here lies the body of Matilda Brown,
Who, while alive, was hostess of the “Crown,”
Resigned unto the heavenly will,
Her son keeps on the business still.
It would, perhaps, be too much to say there was never such an epitaph at Upton, but certainly there is not one of the kind there now.
INGLE-NOOK, “LYGON ARMS,” BROADWAY.
A publican whose name was Pepper is commemorated by an odd epitaph in the churchyard of St. John’s, Stamford. None of the funny dogs [Pg 247]who indulged in mortuary japes and quips and cranks could have resisted the temptation of the name “Pepper,” and thus we find:
Hot by name, but mild by nature,
He brewed good ale for every creature;
He brewed good ale, and sold it too,
And unto each man gave his due.
In Pannal churchyard, between Wakefield and Harrogate, is the terse inscription on Joseph Thackerey, who died November 26th, 1791:
In the year of our Lord 1740
I came to the “Crown”;
In 1791 they laid me down.
Presumably the idea the writer here intended to convey was that this landlord of the “Crown” was “laid down” after the manner of wine in bins, to mature.
At St. John’s, Leeds, are said to be the following lines, dated 1793, that have a lilt somewhat anticipatory of the Bab Ballads metres, on one who was originally a clothier:
Hic jacet, sure the fattest man
That Yorkshire stingo made,
He was a lover of his can,
A clothier by his trade.
His waist did measure three yards round,
He weighed almost three hundred pound.
His flesh did weigh full twenty stone:
His flesh, I say,—he had no bone,
At least, ’tis said he had none.
The next, at Northallerton, seems to be by[Pg 248] way of warning to innkeepers at all disposed to drinking their stock:
Hic jacet Walter Gun,
Sometime Landlord of the “Sun”;
Sic transit gloria mundi,
He drank hard upon Friday,
That being a high day,
Then took to his bed and died upon Sunday.
Why did he, according to the epitaph, merely “die”? Surely, from the point of view of an incorrigibly eccentric epitaph-writer, a man not only named Gun, but spelling his name with one “n,” and dying so suddenly, should have “gone off.” We are sadly compelled to acknowledge this particular wag to be an incompetent.
If Mr. Walter Gun had been more careful and abstemious, he might have emulated the subject of our next example, and completed a half-century of inn-keeping, as did John Wigglesworth, of Whalley, who, as under, seems to have been a burning and a shining light and exemplar:
Here lies the Body of
More than fifty years he was the perpetual innkeeper in this Town. Notwithstanding the temptations of that dangerous calling, he maintained good order in his House, kept the Sabbath Day Holy, frequented the Public Worship with his family, induced his guests to do the same, and regularly partook of the Holy Communion. He was also bountiful to the Poor, in private, as well as in public, and by the blessings of Providence on a life so spent, died possessed of competent Wealth,
Feb. 28, 1813,
Aged 77 years.
[Pg 249]This was written by Dr. Whittaker, the historian of Whalley, who seems, according to the last line of this tremendous effort, to have been considerably impressed by the innkeeper’s “competent wealth,” even to the extent of reckoning it among the virtues.
At Barnwell All Saints, near Oundle, Northants, we read this epitaph on an innkeeper:
Man’s life is like a winter’s day,
Some only breakfast, and away;
Others to dinner stay, and are full fed:
The oldest man but sups, and goes to bed.
Large is his debt who lingers out the day,
Who goes the soonest has the least to pay.
Death is the waiter, some few run on tick,
And some, alas! must pay the bill to Nick!
Tho’ I owed much, I hope long trust is given,
And truly mean to pay all debts in heaven.
Worldly creditors might well look askance at such a resolution as that expressed in the last line, for there is no parting there.
In the churchyard of the deserted old church of Stockbridge, Hampshire, the curious may still, with some difficulty, find the whimsical epitaph of John Bucket, landlord of the “King’s Head” in that little town, who died, aged 67, in 1802:
And is, alas! poor Bucket gone?
Farewell, convivial honest John.
Oft at the well, by fatal stroke,
Buckets, like pitchers, must be broke.
In this same motley, shifting scene,
How various have thy fortunes been.
Now lifting high, now sinking low,
[Pg 250]To-day the brim would overflow.
Thy bounty then would all supply,
To fill, and drink, and leave thee dry,
To-morrow sunk as in a well,
Content, unseen, with Truth to dwell.
But high or low, or wet or dry,
No rotten stave could malice spy.
Then rise, immortal Bucket, rise,
And claim thy station in the skies;
’Twixt Amphora and Pisces shine,
Still guarding Stockbridge with thy sign.
Lawrence, the great proprietor of the “Lion” at Shrewsbury, lies in the churchyard of St. Julian, hard by his old inn, and on the south wall of the church may yet be read his epitaph: “Sacred to the memory of Mr. Robert Lawrence, for many years proprietor of the ‘Raven’ and ‘Lion’ inns in this town, to whose public spirit and unremitting exertions for upwards of thirty years, in opening the great road through Wales between the United Kingdoms, as also for establishing the first mail coach to this town, the public in general have been greatly indebted, and will long have to regret his loss. Died III September MDCCCVI, in the LVII year of his age.”
Not an innkeeper, but a brewer, was Thomas Tipper, whose alliterative name is boldly carved on his remarkable tombstone in the windy little churchyard of Newhaven. I make no sort of apology or excuse for including Tipper’s epitaph in this chapter, for if he did not, in fact, keep an inn, he at any rate kept many inns supplied with his “stingo,” and his brew was a favourite[Pg 251] with the immortal Mrs. Gamp, an acknowledged connoisseur in curious liquors. A “pint of the celebrated staggering ale or Real Old Brighton Tipper,” was her little whack at supper-time.
TIPPER’S EPITAPH, NEWHAVEN.
[Pg 252]Tipper was by way of being an Admirable Crichton, as by his epitaph, written by T. Clio Rickman, you perceive; but his claim upon the world’s gratitude was, and is, the production of good beer. Is, I say, because although Tipper himself has gone to amuse the gods with the interminable cantos of Hudibras, and to tickle them in the ribs with his own comicality, his ale is still brewed at Newhaven, by Messrs. Towner Bros., and keeps to this day that pleasantly sharp taste, which is said to come from the well whence the water for it is drawn having some communication with the sea. This sharpness conferred upon it the “stingo” title. It is, to all intents and purposes, identical with the “humming ale,” and the “nappy” strong ale, so frequently mentioned by the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists.
The carving in low relief at the head of Tipper’s tombstone, with vaguely defined clouds and winged cherubs’ heads in the background, is a representation of old Newhaven Bridge, that formerly crossed the Ouse.
Attached to the church of St. Magnus the Martyr, whose tall and beautiful tower forms so striking an object in views of London Bridge, is a grim little plot of land, once a churchyard green with grass and open to the sunshine, but now only to be reached through the vestry, and hemmed in by tall buildings to such an extent that sunshine will not reach down there, and the earth is bare and dark. There stands the[Pg 253] well-preserved stone to the memory of Robert Preston, once “drawer”—that is to say, a “barman”—at the famous “Boar’s Head,” Eastcheap. The stone was removed from the churchyard of St. Michael, Paternoster Royal. Planted doubtless[Pg 254] by some sentimental person, a small vine-tree grows at the foot of the stone.
PRESTON’S EPITAPH, ST. MAGNUS-THE-MARTYR.
Among minor epitaphs that may be noticed to persons in some way engaged in the licensed victualling trade, is that in the churchyard of Capel Curig, on the Holyhead Road, to Jonathan Jackson, who died in 1848, and was “for many years a most confidential waiter at Capel Curig inn.”
INNS WITH ODD PRIVILEGES
Here and there, scattered in the byways of the country, rather than situated in towns, inns may be found that have some attribute out of the common, in the way of privileges conferred or usurped. Thus, the licence of the “White Hart” inn at Adwalton, near Drighlington, Yorkshire, has, or had, the unusual privilege of holding the charter for the local fair, granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1576 to John Brookes, the then landlord, who under that charter held the exclusive right to levy tolls and direct the entire conduct of the gathering.
This royal grant recalls a once-celebrated inn on a road in Derbyshire greatly travelled in the coaching age. In a now lonely position on that very bleak and elevated highway, the road between Ashbourne and Buxton, stands the inn known as “Newhaven House.” A haven of some sort was sorely wanted there in coaching days, and accordingly this great building was ordained by the Duke of Rutland, one of those two overawing noble landlords of the district, who had merely to say, in their off-hand manner, “Let it be done,” for almost anything to be done, forthwith.
[Pg 256]It was in the flamboyant days of George the Fourth that the “Newhaven” inn arose, and his Majesty himself stayed one night “under its roof,” as the guide-books carefully say, lest perhaps we might suspect him of sleeping on the tiles. Those were the days when travelling Majesties still did picturesque things, more or less in the manner of the Caliphs in the Arabian Nights; and the great George, by some mysterious exercise of kingly prerogative, granted the house a perpetual licence, by way of signifying his content with the entertainment provided. That perpetual licence must once have been a very valuable asset of the Manners family, for the house was, in the merry days of the road, one of the best-appointed and most thriving posting and coaching establishments of the age; but in these times it is very quiet and very empty, save for the great Newhaven horse- and cattle-fairs, in spring and autumn, now the two red-letter days of the year for the once-busy hostelry.
From a perpetual licence to a licence for one day in every year is a curious extreme, afforded by the village of King’s Cliffe, Northants, where any householder, under the terms of a charter granted in the reign of King John, may, if he so pleases, on the day of the annual autumn fair, sell beer; provided that a branch of a tree is suspended over the doorway, after the manner of the “bush” anciently displayed by the ale-stakes.
Among London suburban inns demolished in recent times and rebuilt is the “White Hart,” on[Pg 257] Hackney Marshes: that sometime desolate and remote place of footpads and swamps. To-day “Hackney Marshes” is merely a name. Little in the actual appearance of the place, unless it be in midst of some particularly mild and wet winter, suggests a marsh, and the broad level stretch of grass is, in fact, in process of becoming a conventional London park. Through the midst of the Marsh flows the river Lea, and the several “cuts” that have been at different times made for commercial purposes divide up the surrounding wastes with foul, canal-like reaches.
A very ancient cut indeed, and one now little better than a ditch, is that of the Temple stream, made for the purpose of the Temple Mills, so called from the manor having anciently belonged[Pg 258] to the Knights Templars. The site of the mills is still pointed out by the “White Hart.” The old inn was said to have been built in 1514, and in after years was a reputed haunt of Dick Turpin, that phenomenally ubiquitous highwayman who, if all those legends were true, must have been no single person, but a syndicate, and a large one at that. The house, which bore no evidence of sixteenth-century antiquity on its whitewashed, brick-built face, was a favourite resort of holiday-making East Enders, and, with its long, white front and cheerful old red-tiled roof, seemed a natural part of the scenery, just as the still-extant “White House” or “Old Ferry House” inn, half a mile distant, does to this day. It was, however, wantonly rebuilt in 1900, and replaced by a dull, evil-looking public-house that looks very much down on its luck. The appearance of the old house suggested festivity in the open-air tea and watercresses style; the new is suggestive only of drinking across a bar.
But a long-existing privilege still belongs to the property, the landlord being the proprietor of a private toll-bridge leading across the Temple stream to Leyton. He exercises that right in virtue of some predecessor having long ago repaired the broken-down passage when three parishes whose boundaries meet here disputed and declined the liability. Accordingly, although foot-passengers pass freely, a penny is levied upon a bicycle, and upon each head of sheep or cattle, and twopence for carts, carriages, motor-cars, or [Pg 259]motor-bicycles, at the little hut where the tollkeeper lounges in a very bored manner. Well may he look so, for although, in exceptional times of holiday, the toll has been known to yield, once or twice, so much as a pound in a day, five shillings is a more usual sum, and there are many days in winter when threepence has been the sum-total of the day’s revenue.
THE “VINE TAVERN,” MILE END ROAD.
A similar right is said to belong to the “White House,” where a substantial timber bridge spans the Lea itself, but it lies only on a little-used bridle-path, and the right does not appear to be exercised. The scene here has elements of picturesqueness, and could be made a good subject in colour.
In October, 1903, the “Vine,” the old inn that had stood so long and so oddly on “Mile End Waste,” was demolished. Although it had stood there for three hundred years, there was not the slightest trace about the building of any architectural embellishment, the front of it being merely an extremely unlovely and ill-cared-for example of a London public-house, while the back Was a weather-boarded relic of the vanished rural days of the Mile End Road.
Like the fly in amber,
The thing itself was neither rich nor rare:
We only wondered how the devil it got there.
The manner of it may be guessed. In the old, easy-going days some impudent squatter sat down on that wide selvedge[Pg 260] of open space beside the road and built the primeval hovel from which the “Vine” sprang, and in the course of time, by the mere lapse of twenty-one years, acquired a title to the site. Hence the isolated building, standing in advance of the general line of houses. But, if the illustration be carefully scanned, it will be noted that at some very much later period the then owner, much more impudent than the original grabber of public, or “waste” land, seems to have stolen an additional piece. This is evident enough, not only in the different styles and periods of the building, but in the manner in which the little attic windows in the roof are obscured by the addition.
INNS IN LITERATURE
Inns occupy a very large and prominent place in the literature of all ages. A great deal of Shakespeare is concerned with inns, most prominent among them the “Boar’s Head,” in Eastcheap, scene of many of Falstaff’s revels; while at the “Garter,” at Windsor, Falstaff had “his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing bed and truckle-bed,” and his chamber was “painted about with the Story of the Prodigal, fresh and new.”
It is difficult to see what the old dramatists could have done without inns. In Farquhar’s Beaux’ Stratagem we find some of the best dialogue to be that at the inn at Lichfield, between Boniface, the landlord, and Aimwell.
“I have heard your town of Lichfield much famed for ale,” says Aimwell: “I think I’ll taste that.”
“Sir,” replies the landlord, “I have now in my cellar ten tun of the best ale in Staffordshire; ’tis smooth as oil, sweet as milk, clear as amber, and strong as brandy, and will be just fourteen years old the fifth day of next March, old style.”
“You’re very exact in the age of your ales.”
“As punctual, sir, as in the age of my[Pg 262] children. I’ll show you such ale. Here, tapster, broach number 1706, as the saying is. Sir, you shall taste my anno domini. I have lived in Lichfield, man and boy, above fifty years, and, I believe, have not consumed eight-and-fifty ounces of meat.”
“At a meal, you mean, if one may guess your sum by your bulk.”
“Not in my life, sir; I have fed freely upon ale. I have ate my ale, drank my ale, and I always sleep upon ale.”
Izaak Walton, going a-fishing in the river Lea, was not ashamed to call at the “Swan,” Tottenham High Cross, and drink ale, and call it “nectar.”
The history of the inns at which Pepys stayed would form an interesting subject of inquiry. Few men of his time were better informed than he on the subject of inns: large, small, dear, cheap, comfortable and uncomfortable: they are all set forth in detail in his Diary. He more than once patronised the “Red Lion” at Guildford, a far more important house then than now. At that time it possessed very fine and extensive orchards and gardens, and, according to Aubrey, could make up fifty beds, and owned stables for two hundred horses. Imagination can easily picture Mr. Pepys, during his stay in 1661, cutting asparagus for supper: “the best that ever I ate in my life.”
Those gardens were long since abolished, and Market Street stands on the site of them.
[Pg 263]On June 10th, 1668, we find him sleeping at the “George,” Salisbury, in a silk bed. He notes that he had “very good diet, but very dear,” and had probably, overnight, when sleeping in that silk bed, been visited with gruesome thoughts of the bill to follow the luxury. The bill was, as he expressed it, “exorbitant.”
Insatiable curiosity in that old Pepys. Something, too, of childlike wonder, infantile artlessness, and a fear of strange things, and the dark. His inquisitiveness took him to the lonely giant ramparts of Old Sarum, “prodigious, so as to fright me”; and thereabouts he and his party of three ladies riding pillion found, and stayed at, a rustic inn, where a pedlar was turned out of bed in order that our Samuel might turn in. The party found the beds “lousy.” Strangely enough, this was a discovery “which made us merry.” Every man to his taste in merriment.
And so, enjoying the full savour of life, he goes his way, as appreciative of good music as of a good dinner, and a connoisseur alike of sermons and of a pretty face. Did he ever outlive his lusts, and know all things to be vanities, before his natural force had abated? or did the end surprise him in midst of his worldly activities?
A transition from Pepys to Sir Roger de Coverley is easy and natural. The old servant in Sir Roger’s family, retiring from service and taking an inn, is one of Addison’s most pleasing pictures. To do honour to his master, the old retainer had Sir Roger’s portrait painted and hung[Pg 264] it out as his sign, under the title of the “Knight’s Head.”
As soon as Sir Roger was acquainted with it, finding that his servant’s indiscretion proceeded wholly from affection and good-will, he only told him that he made him too high a compliment; and when the fellow seemed to think that could hardly be, added, with a more decisive look, that it was too great an honour for any man under a duke; but told him, at the same time, that it might be altered with a very few touches, and that he himself would be at the charge of it. Accordingly, they got a painter, by the Knight’s directions, to add a pair of whiskers to the face, and, by a little aggravation of the features, to change it into the “Saracen’s Head.”
According to Pope, in his Moral Essays, it was at an inn that the witty and sparkling debauchee, George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham, “the most accomplished man of the age, in riding, dancing, and fencing,” died in his fifty-ninth year, in 1687:
In the worst inn’s worst room, with mat half hung,
The floors of plaster and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies—alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim.
A most complete picture of retribution in a moral essay, set forth in the most denunciatory lines.
[Pg 265]In the whole range of poetry there is nothing that so well lends itself to a cold, calculated vituperation as the heroic couplet. You can pile detail upon detail, like an inventory-clerk, so long as rhymes last; and thus an impeachment of this sort has a very formidable air.
HOUSE WHERE THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM DIED, KIRKBY MOORSIDE.
But it has been denied that the profligate Duke ended in such misery. However that may be, he maintained his peculiar reputation to the last; for, according to Dr. Lowth, Bishop of London, he “died between two common girls,” at the house of one of his tenants in the Yorkshire village of Kirkby Moorside. That house is still wearily pointed out to the insistent stranger by the uninterested Kirkby Moorsiders, who, as Yorkshiremen with magnificent thirsts, are uninterested,[Pg 266] chiefly by reason of its being no longer an inn; and, truth to tell, its old-time picturesque features, if it ever had any, are wholly overlaid by furiously ugly modern shop-fronts. Now, if it were only the “Swan,” some little way up the street, still, in the midst of picturesque squalor, dispensing drink of varied sorts to all and sundry, for good current coin of the realm, one might conceive some local historic and literary enthusiasm. The “Swan,” however, has no associations, and is merely, with its projecting porch, supported upon finely carved but woefully dilapidated seventeenth-century Renaissance pillars, a subject for an artist. The odd, and ugly, encroachment of an adjoining hairdresser’s shop is redeemed, from that same artistic point of view, by that now unusual object, a barber’s pole, projecting across.
The robust pages of Fielding and Smollett are rich in incidents of travel, and in scenes at wayside inns, where postboys, persecuted lovers, footpads, and highwaymen mingle romantically. The “Three Jolly Pigeons,” the village ale-house of Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, must not be forgotten, while the “Black Bear” in Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth, is prominent. Marryat, Theodore Hook, Harrison Ainsworth, Charles Lever, Bulwer Lytton, all largely introduced inns into their novels. Dickens, of course, is so prolific in his references to inns and taverns that he requires special chapters. Thackeray’s inns are as the poles asunder from those of Dickens, and are superior places, the resorts of superior people,[Pg 267] and of people who, if not superior, endeavour to appear so. In short, in their individual treatment of inns, Dickens and Thackeray are thoroughly characteristic and dissimilar. Thackeray’s waiters and the waiters drawn by Dickens are very different.[Pg 268] Thackeray could never have imagined the waiter at the “Old Royal,” at Birmingham, who, having succeeded in obtaining an order for soda-water from Bob Sawyer, “melted imperceptibly away”; nor the preternaturally mean and cunning waiters at Yarmouth and at the “Golden Cross,” in David Copperfield—own brothers to the Artful Dodger. I don’t think there could ever have existed such creatures.
THE “BLACK SWAN,” KIRKBY MOORSIDE.
Thackeray’s waiters are not figments of the imagination; they are drawn from the life, as, for example, John, the old waiter in Vanity Fair, who, when Dobbin returns to England, after ten years in India, welcomes him as if he had been absent only weeks, and supposes he’ll have a roast fowl for dinner.
But in the amazing quantity of drink they consume, the characters of Dickens and Thackeray are on common ground. Mr. Pickwick could apparently begin drinking brandy shortly after breakfast, and continue all day, without being much the worse for it; and in Pendennis we read how Jack Finucane and Mr. Trotter, dining at Dick’s Restaurant with Mr. Bungay, drank with impunity what would easily suffice to overthrow most modern men.
Washington Irving thought as highly of inns as did Dr. Johnson. “To a homeless man, who has no spot on this wide world which he can truly call his own,” he says, in a memorable passage, “there is a momentary feeling of something like independence and territorial consequence when, after[Pg 269] a weary day’s travel, he kicks off his boots, thrusts his feet into slippers, and stretches himself before an inn fire. Let the world without go as it may; let kingdoms rise or fall, so long as he has the wherewithal to pay his bill, he is, for the time being, the very monarch of all he surveys. The armchair is his throne, the poker his sceptre, and the little parlour, some twelve feet square, his undisputed empire. It is a morsel of certainty, snatched from the midst of the uncertainties of life; it is a sunny moment gleaming out kindly on a cloudy day; and he who has advanced some way on the pilgrimage of existence knows the importance of husbanding even morsels and moments of enjoyment. ‘Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?’ thought I, as I gave the fire a stir, lolled back in my elbow-chair, and cast a complacent look about the little parlour of the ‘Red Horse,’ at Stratford-on-Avon.”
He was very speedily answered, No! for at that instant the chimes preluded the stroke of midnight, and at the same time “a gentle tap came at the door, and a pretty chambermaid, putting in her smiling face, inquired, with a hesitating air,” whether that momentary monarch of all he surveyed had rung. Of course she knew perfectly well he had not rung, and the humbled autocrat of those twelve square feet was quite correct when he “understood it as a modest hint that it was time to retire.” The Emperor of the Inn Parlour accordingly abdicated immediately,[Pg 270] lest a worse thing—i.e., the possible turning off the gas at the meter—should befall; and, his dream of absolute dominion at an end, went off to bed, like a good boy, rather than the Crowned Head he had fancied himself.
WASHINGTON IRVING’S “THRONE” AND “SCEPTRE.”
The “Red Horse”—the name is taken from the Vale of Red Horse in which the town of Stratford-on-Avon stands—is still in being, and the “Washington Irving Room” is even yet a shrine, of sorts. A shrine, however, none too easy for the casual worshipper of heroes, or the amateur of literary landmarks, to come to, for it is generally used as a private sitting-room; and not the most sympathetic and easy-going of guests who has hired it for that purpose is content to receive all day a stream of strangers bubbling over with real, or affected, interest. It is a small room, measuring some ten feet by fifteen, looking out upon Bridge Street. Nowadays the walls of it are hung with portraits of Irving himself, of Longfellow, and others, together with old views of the town; and a framed letter written by Irving, and a silhouette of “Sally Garner,” daughter[Pg 271] of the landlord of that time, bring the place closely into touch with the Sketch Book. The “Sexton’s Clock” stands beside the door, with a suitably inscribed brass plate; but no longer may you wield that poker which was Irving’s “sceptre,” nor sit in the chair that was, in his fancy, a throne; for the poker is kept in the office of the hotel, and the chair, also with an inscribed brass plate, is locked within a cupboard, through whose glass doors you may see where it is jealously retired from touch. In short, every thing that will harbour an inscription has one, not excepting the poker itself, which has been engraved with the legend, “Geoffrey Crayon’s Sceptre.”
The chambermaid who so obliquely suggested that it was time to go to bed, and no doubt preceded him to Number 15, with candle and warming-pan, was, we are told, “pretty Hannah Cuppage,” and we wish he had told us more about her, instead of writing so much very thin description of antiquities.
Poets—Southey apart, with his tragical Mary, the Maid of the Inn—have not sung so frequently as might have been expected of the fair maids at inns. Of this type of minstrelsy, Gay’s ballad on Molly Mog, daughter of the landlord at the “Rose,” Wokingham, is best known:
Says my Uncle, I pray you discover
What hath been the cause of your woes;
Why you pine and you whine like a lover?
—I have seen Molly Mog, of the “Rose.”
O Nephew! your grief is but folly,
In town you may find better prog;
Half a crown there will get you a Molly,
A Molly much better than Mog.
But he will not hear anything of the kind:
I know that by wits ’tis recited
That women are best at a clog:
But I am not so easily frighted
From loving of sweet Molly Mog.
And so forth, for twelve more verses; when, having exhausted all possible rhymes to “Mog,” he concludes, not before we are heartily tired of him and Molly too.
The ballad was composed in the company of Swift, Pope, and Arbuthnot, the four friends whiling away the dull hours of a rainy day at the inn by capping verses in praise of Molly, “with pluvial patter for refrain.”
The verses were supposed to be the lament of the love-lorn young Squire of Arborfield, the last of the Standens, who died through an unrequited affection for her.
The beautiful Molly lived to the age of sixty-seven, and died a spinster, in 1766. It should be added that the present “Rose” inn at Wokingham, although itself of great age, and not unpicturesque, and an inn centuries before coy Molly herself was thought of, has only in modern times adopted the sign. The old “Rose” is the plain red-brick house opposite, now occupied partly as an ironmonger’s shop.
Another Mary, maid—barmaid—of the inn, is[Pg 273] sung in the modern song, “The Belle of the ‘Rose and Crown’”; but no one would accuse that of being poetry. How does it go?—
I’m saving ’em all for Mary, she shall have ev’ry one,
I’m saving ’em all for Mary, she shall have lots of fun.
They know me well at the County Bank,
Cash is better than fame or rank.
So, happy-go-lucky, I’ll marry my ducky,
The Belle of the “Rose and Crown.”
Let us hope, in all charity, that purse-proud bounder and the barmaid married, and lived happily ever after.
Inns figure in various ways in literature. Daniel De Foe wrote a part of Robinson Crusoe at the “Rose and Crown” at Halifax, and at the “Royal Hotel,” at Bideford, Charles Kingsley wrote Westward Ho! During a wakeful night at the “Burford Bridge Hotel,” near Dorking, Robert Louis Stevenson imagined a highway romance in the tapping of an outside shutter by some chance wayfarer at dead o’ night, and there Keats composed Endymion.
The “Royal” is in many respects a notable house. The earliest portion, dating from 1688, is the old mansion of one of Bideford’s merchant princes, who flourished so bravely in the remote times when distance had not been annihilated by mechanical invention and when each port had its own rich and self-contained trade. The house compares well with the “Star” Hotel at Yarmouth, whose history closely matches it. Here, at Bideford, a finely carved oak staircase leads to[Pg 274] rooms magnificently panelled and furnished with moulded plaster ceilings designed in wreaths of fruits and flowers, ascribed to Italian workmanship. The Drawing-room, in which Westward Ho! or a portion of it, was written, has an exceptionally fine ceiling, of this type.
The great “Lion” inn on Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, forms the scene of one of De Quincey’s mystical rhapsodies. It is the house to which he came in 1802, when, as a youth, he was setting forth in his unpractical way for London. He had walked in from Oswestry, reaching Shrewsbury two hours after nightfall. Innkeepers in those times knew little of pedestrians who footed it for pleasure, and classed all who walked when they might have rode as tramps. Therefore, it will be allowed that De Quincey timed his arrival well, at an hour when dusty feet are not so easily seen. However, had his shoes been noticed, he was ready with a defence, for he came to the “Lion” as a passenger already booked to London by the Mail. An Oswestry friend had performed that service for him, and here he was come to await the arrival of that conveyance.
“This character,” he says, “at once installed me as rightfully a guest of the inn, however profligate a life I might have previously led as a pedestrian. Accordingly I was received with special courtesy, and, it so happened, with something even like pomp. Four wax-lights carried before me by obedient mutes, these were but[Pg 275] ordinary honours, meant (as old experience had instructed me) for the first engineering step towards effecting a lodgment upon the stranger’s purse. In fact, the wax-lights are used by innkeepers, both abroad and at home, to ‘try the range of their guns.’ If the stranger submits quietly, as a good anti-pedestrian ought surely to do, and fires no counter-gun by way of protest, then he is recognised at once as passively within range, and amenable to orders. I have always looked upon this fine of 5s. or 7s. (for wax that you do not absolutely need) as a sort of inaugural honorarium entrance-money, what in jails used to be known as smart money, proclaiming me to be a man comme il faut, and no toll in this world of tolls do I pay so cheerfully. This, meantime, as I have said, was too customary a form to confer much distinction. The wax-lights, to use the magnificent Grecian phrase επομπ ευε moved pompously before me, as the holy-holy fire (the inextinguishable fire and its golden hearth) moved before Cæsar semper Augustus, when he made his official or ceremonial avatars. Yet still this moved along the ancient channels of glorification: it rolled along ancient grooves—I might say, indeed, like one of the twelve Cæsars when dying, Ut puto, Deus fio (It’s my private opinion that at this very moment I am turning into a god), but still the metamorphosis was not complete. That was accomplished when I stepped into the sumptuous room allotted to me. It was a ball-room of noble proportions—lighted,[Pg 276] if I chose to issue orders, by three gorgeous chandeliers, not basely wrapped up in paper, but sparkling through all their thickets of crystal branches, and flashing back the soft rays of my tall waxen lights. There were, moreover, two orchestras, which money would have filled within thirty minutes. And, upon the whole, one thing only was wanting—viz., a throne, for the completion of my apotheosis.
“It might be seven p.m. when first I entered upon my kingdom. About three hours later I rose from my chair, and with considerable interest looked out into the night. For nearly two hours I had heard fierce winds arising; and the whole atmosphere had by this time become one vast laboratory of hostile movements in all directions. Such a chaos, such a distracting wilderness of dim sights, and of those awful ‘sounds that live in darkness’ (Wordsworth’s Excursion), never had I consciously witnessed.... Long before midnight the household (with the exception of a solitary waiter) had retired to rest. Two hours, at least, were left to me, after twelve o’clock had struck, for heart-shaking reflections, and the local circumstances around me deepened and intensified these reflections, impressed upon them solemnity and terror, sometimes even horror....
“The unusual dimensions of the rooms, especially their towering height, brought up continually and obstinately, through natural links of associated feelings or images, the mighty vision of London[Pg 277] waiting me, afar off. An altitude of nineteen or twenty feet showed itself unavoidably upon an exaggerated scale in some of the smaller side-rooms—meant probably for cards or for refreshments. This single feature of the rooms—their unusual altitude, and the echoing hollowness which had become the exponent of that altitude—this one terrific feature (for terrific it was in its effect), together with the crowding and evanescent images of the flying feet that so often had spread gladness through these halls, on the wings of youth and hope, at seasons when every room rang with music—all this, rising in tumultuous vision, whilst the dead hours of the night were stealing along, all around me—household and town—sleeping, and whilst against the windows more and more the storm was raving, and to all appearance endlessly growing, threw me into the deadliest condition of nervous emotion under contradictory forces, high over which predominated horror recoiling from that unfathomed abyss in London into which I was now so wilfully precipitating myself.”
The circumstance that led to his being shown into the ball-room of the “Lion,” was that of the house being under repair. That room is still in existence, and a noble and impressive room it is, occupying the upper floor of a two-storeyed building, added to the back of the older house perhaps a hundred and fifty years ago. Lofty, as he describes it, and lighted by tall windows, the feature of the two[Pg 278] music-galleries and the chandeliers are still there, together with the supper-room at one end divided off from the greater saloon, and therefore disproportionately lofty. The ball-room is additionally lighted from the ceiling by a domed skylight. The moulded plaster decorations on walls and ceiling, in the Adams style—that style which so beautifully recast classic conventions—are exquisite, and even yet keep their delicate colouring, as do the emblematic figures of Music and Dancing painted on the door-panels. At rare intervals the room is used for its original purpose, and has a fine oak dancing-floor, but it more commonly serves, throughout the year, that of a commercial traveller’s stock-room.
The way to this derelict haunt of eighteenth-century gaiety lies down the yard of the inn, and up a fine broad stone stairway, now much chipped, dirty, and neglected. On the ground floor is the billiard-room of the present day, formerly the coach dining-room. In crepuscular apartments adjoining, in these times given over to forgotten lumber, the curious may find the deserted kitchens of a bygone age, with the lifts and hatches to upper floors that once conveyed their abundant meals to a vanished generation of John Bulls.
This portion of the house is seen to advantage at the end of the cobble-stoned yard, passing the old coach-office remaining there, unchanged, and proceeding to the other end, where the yard passes out into a steep and narrow lane[Pg 279] called Stony Bank. Looking back, the great red-brick bulk of the ball-room, with the stone effigy of a lion on the parapet, is seen; the surrounding buildings giving a very powerful impression of the extensive business done here in days of old.
YARD OF THE “OLD ANGEL,” BASINGSTOKE.
The “Old Angel,” Basingstoke, associated with Jane Austen’s early days, has for close upon thirty years ceased from being an inn, and is now quite unrecognisable as a modern “temperance hotel.” In the rear, approached nowadays through the yard of a livery-stable, the old Assembly Rooms where she danced with the élite of the county families of her day, may with some difficulty be found by climbing a crazy staircase and pushing through the accumulated cobwebs of years. There, on a spacious upper floor, is the ball-room of a hundred years ago, now deserted, or but seldom used as a corn-store.
The great “Royal George” hotel at Knutsford is associated with that finest of Mrs. Gaskell’s works, Cranford, and the “White Hart” at[Pg 280] Whitchurch, on the Exeter Road, has reminiscences of Newman.
The “White Hart” is an inn typical of the coaching age along that western highway, and repays examination. Dark and tortuous corridors, a coffee-room decorated in barbaric colours, a capacious stable-yard, all tell of the old days of the Exeter Mail. The inn stands in the centre of the little town of narrow streets, where the Oxford and Southampton Road crosses the road to Exeter, and was thus in receipt of a very great deal of coaching business, travellers from Southampton or from Oxford changing here and waiting for the West of England coaches. Here it was, perhaps in the coffee-room, that the young clergyman who afterwards became a pervert to Rome and figured prominently as Cardinal Newman, wrote the first verses of the Lyra Apostolica, beginning:
Are these the tracks of some unearthly friend?
It was on December 2nd, 1832, while waiting for the mail to Falmouth, that he found his inspiration here. He wrote, at the same time, to his mother that he was waiting “from one till eleven” for the down Exeter mail. Ten hours! Can we imagine any one in these days waiting even half that time for a train? I think not even the most bizarre imagination could conceive such a preposterous notion. But such were the experiences of our grandfathers, travelling from branch roads to intercept the mails. With such facts before us, we may well understand how it was the inns then did such good business.
THE “WHITE HART,” WHITCHURCH.
[Pg 283]Since 1857, when Dinah Mulock, at the age of thirty-one, wrote that remarkably popular novel, John Halifax, Gentleman, the “Bell” inn at Tewkesbury has been marked down for a literary landmark. For the “Morton Bury” of that story is the Tewkesbury of fact, and a tombstone (long since disappeared) in the Abbey churchyard gave her the name of the hero. It was in 1852, on a chance drive into the town with a friend, to view the Abbey, that Miss Mulock first thought of it as the background of a story, and lunching at the “Bell” inn, close by the Abbey gates, decided her to make that house the pivot of the tale. According to the landlord of that time, it had once, before becoming an inn, been the house of a tanner; and thus we find something of the framework of the story suggested. The resemblance of the actual house to the home of Abel Fletcher, the Quaker tanner of the story, is scarce to be followed, for it is only in the mention of the bowling-green in the garden and the yew hedge, and the channels of the Severn and the Avon at the end of it that the place is to be identified at all. You find no mention of the fine old timbered front and its three gables, nor of the initials “I K 1696” that probably indicate the owner who restored the house at that date (for the building is certainly at least a hundred and fifty years older), and altogether there is in the pages of John Halifax,[Pg 284] Gentleman, none of that meticulous topographical care that many later novelists have been at pains to bestow upon their works. But that matters little to the literary pilgrims in general, or to the American section of them in particular, who flock to Tewkesbury for sake of that very rare hero, John Halifax, whose like, one fears, never walked this imperfect earth of ours. He is, in short, a lady novelist’s hero, and all such, whether they be the military heroes of Ouida, with the physique of Greek gods, and queer morals, or the never-say-“damn” young men of the opposite extreme, have few points of contact with human beings. John Halifax, however, has a brother in fiction, and may be found in Mr. Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge, where he masquerades as a Scot, under the alias of “Donald Farfrae.” He and Angel Clare, of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, are rivals for the distinction of being the least natural men among all Mr. Hardy’s characters. Donald is not quite the perfect gentle knight of Miss Mulock’s tale, but the same blood runs in the veins of either.
When the author of John Halifax, Gentleman, who had many years before become Mrs. Craik, died, in 1887, a monument was fittingly erected to her memory in Tewkesbury Abbey Church, hard by the home of her hero.
THE “BELL,” TEWKESBURY.
The “Bell” inn is a beautiful old building, of strongly contrasted very white plaster and very black timbers. A blue and gold bell hangs out as a sign in front. At the left-hand side an [Pg 287]addition has quite recently been made (not included in the illustration) to provide a billiard-room and additional bedrooms.
THE “WHEATSHEAF,” TEWKESBURY.
For the rest, Tewkesbury is a town full of ancient buildings, built in those dark times of the warring Roses, when men were foolish enough to fight—and to die and to lose all—for their principles. Savage, barbaric times, happily gone for ever, to give place to the era of argument and the[Pg 288] amateur lawyer! In our own age you do not go forth and kill or be killed, but simply “passively resist” and await the advent of the bailiffs coming to distrain for the amount of your unpaid rates and taxes, confident that, in any change of government, your party will in its turn be able to enact the petty tyrant.
In those times, when men fought well, they built with equal sturdiness, and the memory of their deeds beside the Avon meadows, in the bloody Battle of Tewkesbury of 1471, survives, side by side with the fine black-and-white timbered houses they designed and framed, and will survive centuries yet.
Tewkesbury is a town of inns. The “Hop Pole,” among the largest of them, is a Dickensian inn, and so treated of in another chapter; but besides it you have the great red-brick Georgian “Swan,” typically a coaching hostelry, that is not quite sure of the titles “inn,” “hotel,” or “tavern,” and so, to be certain, calls itself, in the boldest of lettering, “Swan Hotel, Inn, and Tavern,” and thus has it all ways.
YARD OF THE “WHITE HORSE,” MAIDEN NEWTON.
THE “WHITE HORSE,” MAIDEN NEWTON.
Probably the oldest inn of Tewkesbury is the “Berkeley Arms.” There it stands in the High Street, as sturdily as ever, and is in every timber, every casement, and in all the circumstances of uneven flooring and tortuous stairways, so indubitably ancient that men who fought on Yorkist or Lancastrian side in those contested meads by Severn and Avon in 1471 may well have slept beneath its roof the night before the battle, and [Pg 289]considered the place, even then, “old-fashioned.” Its age is so evident that for the sign to proclaim it, as it does, in the modern pseudo-antique Wardour Street style, “Ye olde Berkeley Arms,” is an impertinent inadequacy, comparable to calling the Pyramids “large” or the Alps “hills.” It is much the same tale with the “Wheatsheaf”; a little less hoary, perhaps, and certainly more susceptible to pictorial treatment. It latterly has become “Ye,” instead of “The,” Wheatsheaf, and has assumed a redundant “e” or so; but the equally old neighbouring “Black Bear” fairly revels in the antique, and on a quite new sign-board proclaims itself to be “Ye Olde Blacke Beare.” What a prodigal and immoral consumption of that already poor, overworked letter “e,” already, as every compositor working at case knows, the greatest in demand of all the twenty-six letters of the alphabet!
Among the various inns mentioned in Thomas Hardy’s novels, the “White Horse” at Maiden Newton was exceptionally picturesque. “Was,” and is not, for already, in the little while between the writing of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and now, that fine old stone hostelry of the seventeenth century has been pulled down, to make way for a smart new red-brick house, all show and glitter. The old house was the original of the inn at “Chalk-Newton,” where Tess breakfasted, on the way to Flintcomb Ash.
The “Carnarvon Arms,” Bloomsbury, in Besant and Rice’s Golden Butterfly, to which[Pg 290] the dog “Cæsar” leads Phillis so early in the morning, is the “Guildford Arms,” at the corner of Guildford and Brunswick Streets: “The door ... hung half open by means of a leathern strap.... A smell of stale beer and stale tobacco hanging about the room smote her senses, and made her sick and faint.... She was in a tavern—that is, she thought, a ‘place where workmen spend their earnings and leave their families to starve.’”
Similarly, the “Birch Tree Tavern,” of the same authors’ Seamy Side, is the “Bay Tree,” St. Swithin’s Lane. It is described in those pages as the resort, in the quieter hours of the afternoon, when all the hungry diners were gone, of Mr. Bunter Baker and a coterie of needy company-promoters, always seeking to float impossible companies and impracticable inventions, and so unfortunate as to be, themselves, convinced of the commercial value of their preposterous projects.
The Visitors’ Book is no new thing. In 1466, when a distinguished Bohemian traveller, one Baron Leo von Rozmital, dined with the Knights of Windsor, his hosts, after dinner, produced what they called their “missal,” and asked for his autograph “in memoriam” of him. A little daunted, perhaps, by so ill-omened an expression, but still courteous, the Baron complied with the request, and wrote, “Lwyk z Rozmitala a z Blatnie.” This uncouth autograph was not unnaturally looked upon with suspicion, and the Baron, on leaving Windsor, found himself followed by the Knights, who made inquiries of his retinue as to his real name. They suspected him to be some impostor, or at the least considered him guilty of that kind of foolishness which nowadays induces a certain class of visitor to sign himself “Kruger” or the “King of the Cannibal Islands,” or, worse still, to write down the name of the latest notorious criminal.
Foolishness is expected in a Visitors’ Book, and is not often wanting. In the present writer’s own experience, when two friends who, oddly enough, were named Rands and Sands, wrote their names[Pg 292] in such a volume, the waiter who read them there, half-apologetically, said, “No: your real names, please, gentlemen.” Argument and assertion could not convince, and in the end they wrote “Jones” and “Robinson,” which duly satisfied.
The Visitors’ Book of an inn usually contains little else than fulsome praise of the establishment and a somewhat revolting appreciation of its good cheer. Would-be wit and offensive scurrility are, as a rule, the only other characteristics; but from all this heap of chaff and rubbish it is possible to extract a residuum of fun and sprightly fancy. Many modern tourists in the Lake District have, for instance, been amused—after their own experiences around the steeps of Langdale Pikes—to read in the Visitors’ Book of the “Salutation” at Ambleside the following piece of poignant observation:
Little bits of Langdales,
Little bits of pikes,
Make the little tourists
Walk their little bikes.
Of the “Swan,” at Thames Ditton, Theodore Hook wrote, but whether in a book there, or not, does not appear:
The “Swan,” snug inn, good fare affords,
As table e’er was put on;
And worthier quite of loftier boards,
Its poultry, fish, and mutton.
And while sound wine mine host supplies,
With beer of Meux or Tritton,
Mine hostess, with her bright blue eyes,
Invites to stay at Ditton.
[Pg 293]Among the severe epigrams that guests have left behind them, none other is so witty as that by Quin, written at the once famed “Pelican” inn, a favourite Bath Road hostelry at Speenhamland, Newbury:
The famous inn at Speenhamland,
That stands beneath the hill,
May well be called the Pelican,
From its enormous bill.
Its monumental charges were long since ended, and where the “Pelican” stood there are now only stables and a veterinary establishment.
Bathos, ineptitude, and lines that refuse to scan are the stigmata of visitors’-book verse. There is no worse “poetry” on earth than that which lurks between those covers, or in the pages of young ladies’ albums, the last refuge of drivel and impertinence. People who would be ashamed to own their verse elsewhere will write and sign it in a Visitors’ Book; and thus we find, for example, at the “King’s Arms” at Malmesbury, the following, signed by Bishop Potter of New York:
Three savages from far New York
Found rest, refreshment here;
And grateful for the King’s Arms,
Bear memory of good cheer.
All blessings rest on Hostess Jones,
And her good spouse as well;
Of their kind thought for tired bones
Our countrymen will tell.
Let us hope his divinity is better than his metrical efforts.
[Pg 294]The interesting pages of Visitors’ Books are generally those that are not there, as an Irishman might say; for the world is populated very densely with those appreciative people who, whether from a love of literature, or with an instinct for collecting autographs that may have a realisable value, remove the signatures of distinguished men, and with them anything original they may have written. Many years ago Charles Kingsley, Tom Taylor, dramatist and sometime editor of Punch, and Thomas Hughes, author of that classic, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, were staying at the Penygwryd Hotel, on the summit of Llanberis Pass, North Wales, and wrote a long set of verses in the Visitors’ Book; but the pages were stolen, long, since, and now you do but come to that book by asking very nicely for it, and then it is produced from a locked cupboard.
Here are the verses, the respective authors identified by the initials over each. It will clearly be seen that those three were sadly in want of occupation, and were wound up for a long run:
I came to Penygwryd
With colours armed and pencils,
But found no use whatever
For any such utensils;
So in default of them I took
To using knives and forks,
And made successful drawings—
Of Mrs. Owen’s corks!
I came to Penygwryd
In frantic hopes of slaying
Grilse, salmon, three-pound red-fleshed trout,
And what else there’s no saying;
But bitter cold and lashing rain,
And black nor’-eastern skies, sir,
Drove me from fish to botany,
A sadder man and wiser.
I came to Penygwryd
A-larking with my betters,
A mad wag and a mad poet—
Both of them men of letters;
Which two ungrateful parties,
After all the care I’ve took
Of them, make me write verses
In Henry Owen’s book.
We’ve been mist-soak’d on Snowdon,
Mist-soak’d on Glyder Fawr;
We’ve been wet through on an average
Every day three times an hour.
We’ve walk’d the upper leathers
From the soles of our balmorals,
And as sketchers and as fishers
With the weather have had our quarrels.
But think just of the plants which stuff’d
Our box, old Yarrel’s gift,
And of those which might have stuff’d it
If the clouds had giv’n a lift;
Of tramping bogs, and climbing cliffs,
And shoving down stone fences
For spiderwort, Saussurea,
And Woodsia strensis.
Oh, my dear namesake’s breeches—
You never saw the like—
He bust them all so shameful
A-crossing of a dyke;
But Mrs. Owen patched them
As careful as a mother,
With flannel of three colours—
She hadn’t got no other.
But, can we say enough
Of those legs of mountain muttons?
And that onion sauce lies on our souls,
For it made of us three gluttons;
And the Dublin stout is genuine,
And so’s the Burton beer,
And the apple tarts they’ve won our hearts;
And think of soufflets here!
Resembling that old woman
That never could be quiet,
Though victuals (says the child’s song)
And drink formed all her diet,
My love for plants and scrambling
Shared empire with my dinner;
And who says it wasn’t good must be
A most fastidious sinner.
Now, all I’ve got to say is,
You can’t be better treated.
Order pancakes, and you’ll find
They’re the best you ever eated;
If you scramble o’er the mountains,
You should bring an ordnance map;
I endorse all that previous gents
Have said about the tap.
Penygwryd, when wet and worn, has kept
A warm fireside for us;
Socks, boots, and never-mention-’ems,
Mrs. Owen still has dried for us;
With host and hostess, fare and bill,
So pleased we are that, going,
We feel, for all their kindness,
’Tis we, not they, are Owin’.
T. H., T. T., C. K.
Nos tres in uno juncti
Hos fecimus versiculos,
Tomas piscator pisces qui
Non cepi sed pisciculos,
Tomas sciagraphus sketches qui
Non feci sed ridiculos,
Herbarius Carolus montes qui
There’s big trout I hear in Edno,
Likewise in Gwynant lake,
And the governor and black alder
Are the flies that they will take,
Also the cockabondy,
But I can only say,
If you think to catch big fishes,
I only hope you may!
I have come in for more of mountain gloom
Than mountain glory,
But I’ve seen old Snowdon rear his head
With storm-toss’d mist-wreaths hoary
I stood in the fight of mountain winds
And I go back an unsketching
But a better-minded man.
And I, too, have another debt
To pay another way,
For kindness shown by these good souls
To one who’s far away,
Even to this old colley dog,
Who tracked the mountains o’er,
For one who seeks strange birds and flowers
On far Australia’s shore.
Enough; quantum sufficit!
It was for lack of that natural outlet, the Visitors’ Book, that many old-time guests had recourse to the window-pane. Unfortunately—or should it not perhaps rather be a fortunate circumstance?—while pen and ink were at command of every one, only a diamond ring would serve on glass; and not every guest was so luxuriously equipped.
The classic instance of a window-pane at an[Pg 299] inn being thus inscribed is, of course, that of Shenstone’s writing the last stanza of his lines on “Freedom” upon the window of an inn—generally said to be the “Red Lion” at Henley-on-Thames. But who shall decide?
If we are to believe the account of Richard Graves, who knew the poet well, and published Recollections of Some Particulars in the Life of the Late William Shenstone, Esq., in 1788, the lines were first written in an arbour of what used to be the “Sunrising” inn, on the crest of Edge Hill, a house long since become a private residence.
According to Graves, Shenstone, about 1750, visited a friend, one Mr. Whistler, in the southernmost part of Oxfordshire, and did not particularly enjoy his visit, Mr. Whistler sending the poet’s servant off to stay at an inn, in order that the man and the domestics of his own house should not gossip together. Shenstone himself seems to have been a very unamiable guest, and one better suited to an inn than to the house of a friend; for he grew disagreeable over being expected to play “Pope Joan” in the evening with his friend’s children, and sulked when he lost a trifle at cards. Then he would not dress himself tidily for dinner, and snuffed and slouched to the inconvenience of every one, so that it is not surprising to read of a coolness, and then quarrels, coming to estrange the pair, resulting in Shenstone abruptly cutting short his visit. He lay, overnight, on his journey home, at the “Sunrising” inn, and the next[Pg 300] morning, in an arbour, inscribed the famous lines which now form the last stanza of “Freedom.”
“More stanzas,” says Graves, “were added afterwards,” and he rightly adds that they “diminish the force” of the original thought.
The “Sunrising” inn, long since become a private mansion, and added to very largely, has no relics of Shenstone. It stands, with lovely gardens surrounding, on the very lip and verge of Edge Hill, and looks out across the great levels of Warwickshire. In recent times the hill has becomes famous, or notorious, for motor and cycle accidents, and the approach to it is heralded by a notice-board proclaiming “Great Danger. Cyclists Dismount.” But in these days of better brakes, very few obey that injunction, and ride down, safely enough.
Whistler died in 1754, when Shenstone, remorseful, wrote, “how little do all our disputes appear to us now!”
Here, then, is the original story of the famous inscription, but it does not necessarily prove that this melancholy poet did not also inscribe it at Henley-on-Thames and elsewhere, notably at the “White Swan,” at that quite different and far-distant place from the Thames-side Henley, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire; an old-fashioned house still in existence, and claiming to date from 1358.
HENLEY-IN-ARDEN, AND THE “WHITE SWAN.”
If the story of the “Red Lion” at the Oxfordshire Henley be a myth, as it is held to be, it is one of very considerable age, and one that has not only misled uncounted myriads of writers, but will continue to do so until the end of time. There is no disabling the flying canard, no overtaking the original lie, howsoever hard you strive; and as the famous stanza really was at one time to be seen on a window of the “Red Lion” (whether written there by Shenstone or another), it really seems that there is a way out of the dilemma that probably has never until now been considered. Shenstone resided on the Shropshire border, near Henley-in-Arden, but on his journeys to and from London must often have stayed at the “Red Lion,” Henley-on-Thames, then on one of the two principal coach-routes; and it is quite probable that he was so pleased with the[Pg 302] last stanza of “Freedom,” and so satisfied with its peculiar fitness for inn windows, that he inscribed it at both places, if not indeed at others as well:
To thee, fair Freedom! I retire,
From flattery, feasting, dice and din;
Nor art thou found in homes much higher
Than the lone cot or humble Inn.
’Tis here with boundless power I reign,
And every health which I begin,
Converts dull port to bright champagne;
For Freedom crowns it, at an Inn.
I fly from pomp, I fly from state,
I fly from falsehood’s specious grin;
Freedom I love, and form I hate,
And choose my lodgings at an Inn.
Here, waiter! take my sordid ore,
Which lacqueys else might hope to win;
It buys what Courts have not in store,
It buys me Freedom, at an Inn.
And now once more I shape my way
Through rain or shine, through thick or thin,
Secure to meet, at close of day,
With kind reception at an Inn.
Whoe’er has travelled life’s dull round,
Where’er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think how oft he found
The warmest welcome—at an Inn.
Misquotation—sometimes a vice, occasionally a great improvement upon the original—has constantly rendered the last two lines:
May sigh to think, he still has found
His warmest welcome at an inn;
[Pg 303]and here, it seems, the use of posterity is the better.
Neither at the “White Swan” nor the “Red Lion” is the inscription now to be found.
Dean Swift’s bitter jest, by way of advice to the landlord, scratched on a window of the “Three Crosses” inn at Willoughby, on the road to Holyhead, is certainly the next most celebrated. It runs:
There are three
Crosses at your door:
Hang up your Wife,
And you’l count Four.
Swift, D., 1730.
I have elsewhere, and at considerable length, told the story of this remarkable incident, and given a facsimile of the still-surviving inscription, so hesitate before reprinting it.
In imagination one sees that gifted man riding horseback on his journeys between London and Holyhead, or Chester and Parkgate, on his way to or from Ireland, halting overnight with his attendant at the rough inns of that time, and leaving broadcast on the dim and flawed glass of their windows humorous or spiteful comments upon anything that chanced to arouse his criticism. You perceive him, waiting impatiently for breakfast, scrawling malignant lampoons with his ring, or recording the stupidities of his servant. The wayside taverns along that great north-westerly[Pg 304] road should still have such evidence of his passing, only glass is brittle, and many a pane precious with those autographed records has accidentally perished, while doubtless many another has long ago been removed by admirers, and so become lost to the world.
One such was the pane at the “Yacht” inn at Chester, that hoary timbered and plastered tavern whose nodding gables scarce uphold the story that this was once the foremost hotel of this picturesque city. The Dean, then at the height of his fame, halting here on his way into Ireland, was in one of his companionable humours, and invited the Dean and the other dignified clergy of the Cathedral to supper; but not one of them acknowledged his intended hospitality. Deans, Canons, and Prebendaries all agreed among themselves, or resolved separately, to ignore the distinguished visitor, who, in his rage, decorated a window with the couplet:
Rotten without and mouldering within,
This place and its clergy are all near akin.
On the whole, regarding this quite dispassionately, having regard to the gross affront on the one hand and Swift’s malignant nature and very full sense of what was due to himself on the other, it can hardly be said that he rose to the heights of epigram or sank to the depths of abuse demanded by the occasion. Here he surely should have surpassed himself, in the one category or the other, or—even more characteristically—in both. We want more bitterness, more gall, an extra[Pg 305] infusion of wormwood, and feel that this is an ineffectual thing that any affronted person, owning a diamond and merely capable of writing, could have achieved. And, even so, the historic pane itself has disappeared.
The guests at inns in the middle of the eighteenth century often did not, it seems, disdain the walls; for in Columella, a curious novel of travelling, published about that period, we read that the characters in it found time on their journey “to examine the inscriptions on walls and windows, and learned that the love of woman, the love of wine, and the love of fame were the three ruling passions that usually vented themselves” in this manner.
These were travellers who, come what might, determined to be unconventional.
“When they came to an inn, instead of complaining of their accommodations, or bullying the waiters, they diverted themselves with the humours of my landlord, criticising his taste in his furniture or his pictures, or in perusing the inscriptions on the walls or windows, or inquiring into the history of the neighbouring gentry. In short, they had determined to be pleased with everything, and therefore were not disappointed.”
At the inn where these original persons breakfasted the great patriot, John Wilkes, had usurped the principal place over the parlour chimney. Where they stopped to dine, the virtuous George the Third and the amiable Charlotte had resumed their places in the dining-room, and “Wilkes was[Pg 306] only stuck up against the stable-door, and in the temple of Cloacina.”
Alas! poor Wilkes, to be subjected to such an indignity!
At one inn they found the inscription:
James Harding, from Birmingham, dined here, Sept. 29, 1763. Button-maker by trade,
and there is your bid for fame. The other remarks they shamelessly quote are all very well for eighteenth-century books, but they are not permitted on the printed page in our own time.
There was once a poet of a minor sort who not only cherished a mania for scribbling verse on the windows of inns, but was mad enough to collect and print a series of these by no means distinguished efforts, which he published under the title of Verses written on Windows in several parts of the Kingdom in a Journey to Scotland.
This extraordinary person was one Aaron Hill, who “flourished” (as an historian might say) between 1685 and 1750. If he is at all remembered to-day, it is only as a friend of Pope, whose truest criticism presents him as “one of the flying fishes, only capable of making brief flights out of the profound.” He afterwards, with more friendship and less truth, described Hill as attempting to dive into dulness, but rising unstained to “mount far off among the swans of Thames.” How pretty! but he was in truth the veriest goose, and his pinions ineffectual.
Hill wrote reams of rhymes, but few of them[Pg 307] are poetry and fewer have any power of entertaining. In 1728 he travelled in Scotland, and there—it is an experience not unmatched nowadays—he encountered, while staying at an inn in the Highlands, bad weather. Happily, not all who are weatherbound in those latitudes scrawl their thoughts on windows, or poetic congestion must long since have ensued. At that inn—what inn or where we are not told, he accomplished his one excellent epigram, his solitary perfect quatrain:
Scotland! thy weather’s like a modish wife;
Thy winds and rains for ever are at strife;
So Termagant a while her thunder tries,
And when she can no longer scold—she cries.
Other specimens of his quality do not exhibit the inspiration of those lines, and indeed he is found to be too concerned with moral analogies to please greatly, even in the best of them. Thus:
Where’er the diamond’s busy point could pass,
See! what deep wounds have pierced the middle glass!
While partial and untouching, all the rest,
Highest and lowest panes, shine, unimpressed:
No wonder, this!—for, e’en in life, ’tis so;
High fortunes stand, unreached—unseen the low,
But middle states are marks for every blow.
Whig and Tory scratch and bite,
Just as hungry dogs we see:
Toss a bone ’twixt two, they fight,
Throw a couple, they agree.
There is some just observation in that last, although how you are to give a bone apiece, and[Pg 308] at the same time, to Whig and Tory, would, as I conceive the situation, be a difficult, not to say an impossible, matter in our scheme of politics. When a Government comes into power, be it Whig or Tory, or any other fancy label you please, it takes all the bones, and the other dog merely does the growling, until the times do alter.
With two more specimens we practically exhaust Hill’s well of fancy:
Tender-handed, stroke a nettle,
And it stings you, for your pains:
Grasp it, like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.
’Tis the same with common natures,
Use ’em kindly, they rebel:
But be rough on Nutmeg-graters,
And the rogues obey you well.
Here, in wet and windy weather,
Muse and I, two mopes together,
Far from friends and short of pleasure,
Wanting everything but leisure:
Scarce content, in any one sense,
Tell the showers, and scribble nonsense.
How true that last admission!
Adelphi Hotel, Adelphi, i. 212, 264
Ale-stakes, i. 14-17
Anchor, Ripley, ii. 212, 242
Angel, Basingstoke, ii. 279
— Bury St. Edmunds, i. 238
— Colchester, i. 90
— Ferrybridge, ii. 81
— Grantham, i. 118-123
— Guildford, ii. 57
— Islington, i. 119
— Stilton, ii. 48
Ass-in-the-Bandbox, Nidd, ii. 203
Barge Aground, Brentford, ii. 203
— Stratford High Road, ii. 203
Battle, Pilgrims’ Hostel at, i. 97
Bay Tree Tavern, St. Swithin’s Lane, ii. 290
Bear, Devizes, ii. 8-16
— Esher, ii. 116
— and Billet, Chester, ii. 74
Bear’s Head, Brereton, ii. 62
Beaufort Arms, Bath, i. 254
Beckhampton Inn, i. 238
Bee-Hive, Eaumont Bridge, ii. 138
— Grantham, ii. 192
Beetle-and-Wedge, Moulsford, ii. 195
Bell, Barnby Moor, i. 60, ii. 55, 81
— Belbroughton, ii. 245
— Berkeley Heath, i. 256
— Dale Abbey, ii. 88, 90
— Stilton, ii. 48-54
— Tewkesbury, ii. 283-287
— Warwick Lane, London, i. 30
— Woodbridge, ii. 112
Bell and Mackerel, Mile End, ii. 129
Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, i. 229
Berkeley Arms, Tewkesbury, ii. 288
Birch Tree Tavern, St. Swithin’s Lane, ii. 290
Black Bear, Sandbach, ii. 58
— — Tewkesbury, ii. 289
— Boy, Chelmsford, i. 242
— Bull, Holborn, i. 288-290
— — Newcastle-on-Tyne, i. 53
— Horse, Cherhill, i. 232
— Jack, Clare Market, i. 242-244
— Swan, Kirkby Moorside, ii. 267
Blue Bell, Barnby Moor, i. 60, ii. 55, 81
— Boar, Leicester, i. 202
— — Whitechapel, i. 291
— Dragon, near Salisbury, i. 282-288
— Lion, Muggleton, i.e. Town Malling, i. 226
— Posts, Chester, i. 155-158
— — Portsmouth, ii. 137
Boar, Bluepitts, near Rochdale, ii. 197
Boar’s Head, Eastcheap, ii. 253, 261
— Middleton, ii. 218
Boot, Chester, ii. 78
Bottom Inn, Chalton Downs, near Petersfield, i. 270-274
Buck and Bell, Long Itchington, ii. 130
Bull, Dartford, i. 79-82
— Fenny Stratford, ii. 111
— Rochester, i. 221-223
— Sissinghurst, ii. 244
— Whitechapel, i. 242, 245
Bull and Mouth, St. Martin’s-le-Grand, i. 228
Bull’s Head, Meriden, ii. 80
— Greengate, Salford, i. 7
Burford Bridge Hotel, near Dorking, ii. 273
Bush, Bristol, i. 255
— Farnham, i. 309
Capel Curig Inn, ii. 254
Carnarvon Castle, Chester, ii. 77
— Arms, Guildford Street, ii. 289
Cart Overthrown, Edmonton, ii. 203
Castle, Conway, ii. 122
— Marlborough, i. 60, ii. 8, 90-99
Cat and Fiddle, near Buxton, ii. 147
— near Christchurch, ii. 181
Cat and Mutton, London Fields, ii. 139
Cats, Sevenoaks, ii. 191
Chapel House, near Chipping Norton, ii. 100-106
Cheney Gate, near Congleton, ii. 139
Chequers, Slapestones, ii. 134
— of the Hope, Canterbury, i. 85
Civil Usage, Brixham, ii. 203
Clayton Arms, Godstone, ii. 30-34
Coach and Dogs, Oswestry, ii. 200
Coach and Horses, Chalton Downs, near Petersfield, i. 270
Coach and Horses, Isleworth, i. 276
Cock, Eaton Socon, i. 267
— Great Budworth, ii. 69-71
— Stony Stratford, ii. 43, 47
Cock and Pymat, Whittington, near Chesterfield, i. 181-184
County Inn, Canterbury, i. 291
Craven Arms, near Church Stretton, ii. 47
Cricketers, Laleham, ii. 167
Crispin and Crispianus, Strood, i. 292-295
Cross Hands, near Chipping Sodbury, ii. 85
Cross Keys, Wood Street, Cheapside, i. 295
Crow-on-Gate, Crowborough, ii. 205
Crown, Chiddingfold, ii. 242
— Hempstead, i. 310
— Oxford, ii. 101
— Rochester, i. 223-225
— Stamford, ii. 158
Crown and Treaty, Uxbridge, i. 161-169
Custom House, Chester, ii. 77
Dale Abbey, ii. 88-90
Dedlock Arms, i. 290
De Quincey, T., on old inns, i. 57, ii. 274-279
Dial House, Bocking, ii. 226
Dick Whittington, Cloth Fair, i. 4
Dolphin, Potter Heigham, i. 159
Domus Dei, Southampton, i. 90
Dorset Arms, East Grinstead, ii. 35
Duchy Hotel, Princetown, ii. 149
[Pg 311]Eagle and Child, Nether Alderley, ii. 209
Edinburgh Castle, Limehouse, ii. 106-108
— Regent’s Park, ii. 126-128
Eight Bells, Twickenham, ii. 200
Epitaphs on Innkeepers, ii. 245-254
Falcon, Bidford, ii. 89
— Chester, ii. 74
Falstaff, Canterbury, i. 87
Feathers, Ludlow, ii. 18-25
Ferry inn, Rosneath, ii. 180
Fighting Cocks, St. Albans, i. 4
First and Last, Land’s End, ii. 206
— Sennen, ii. 206
Fish and Eels, Roydon, i. 118
Flitch of Bacon, Wichnor, ii. 79
Fountain, Canterbury, i. 291
Four Crosses, Hatherton, ii. 134
Fowler, J. Kearsley, of the White Hart, Aylesbury, i. 62
Fox and Hounds, Barley, ii. 153
Fox and Pelican, Grayshott, ii. 180
Fox-under-the-Hill, Strand, i. 255
Garter, Windsor, ii. 261
Gate, Dunkirk, ii. 133
Gate Hangs Well, Nottingham, ii. 133
Gatehouse Tavern, Norwich, ii. 130
George, Amesbury, i. 283-287
— Andover, ii. 16-18
— Bridport, i. 180
— Brighthelmstone, i. 181
— Broadwindsor, i. 180
— Colnbrook, i. 188
— Crawley, ii. 152
— Grantham, i. 267, ii. 55
— Glastonbury, i. 107, 116
— Greta Bridge, i. 268
— Hayes Common, ii. 172
— Huntingdon, ii. 47
— Mere, i. 180
— Norton St. Philip, i. 123-132
— Odiham, ii. 44
— Rochester, i. 82
— St. Albans, i. 117, 119
— Salisbury, ii. 263
— Southwark, i. 31
— Stamford, ii. 154-158
— Walsall, i. 60
— Wanstead, ii. 141
— Winchcombe, i. 132-136
George and Dragon, Dragon’s Green, ii. 117-119
— Great Budworth, ii. 137
— Wargrave-on-Thames, ii. 176
— West Wycombe, ii. 222
George and Vulture, Lombard Street, i. 213, 251, 264
George the Fourth, Clare Market, i. 242-244
God’s House, Portsmouth, i. 89
Golden Cross, Charing Cross, i. 213-220, ii. 72, 268
Grand Pump Room Hotel, Bath, i. 254
Great Western Railway Hotel, Paddington, i. 72
Great White Horse, Ipswich, i. 246-251
Green Dragon, Alderbury, i. 282-288
— Combe St. Nicholas, ii. 109
— Welton, i. 312
— Wymondham, i. 95
Green Man, Hatton, i. 317
— Putney Heath, i. 319
Green Man and Black’s Head, Ashbourne, ii. 159
Grenadier, Whitley, ii. 138
Greyhound, Croydon, ii. 153
— Sutton, ii. 153
— Thame, i. 160
Guildford Arms, Guildford Street, ii. 290
Halfway House, Rickmansworth, ii. 215
Hark to Bounty, Staidburn, ii. 204
— Lasher, Castleton, ii. 204
— Nudger, Dobcross, Manchester, ii. 204
— Towler, Bury, Lancashire, ii. 204
Haycock, Wansford, ii. 80
Haygate Inn, near Wellington, Salop, ii. 80
Hearts of Oak, West Allington, ii. 87
Herbergers, i. 25
Hop-pole, Tewkesbury, i. 257, ii. 288
Horseshoe and Castle, Cooling, i. 295
Hostelers, i. 25
Hundred-and-One, The, ii. 129
Innkeepers, Epitaphs on, ii. 245-254
Isle of Skye, near Holmfirth, ii. 148
Jack Straw’s Castle, Hampstead Heath, i. 300-302
Johnson Dr., on inns, i. 43-46
Jolly Farmer, Farnham, ii. 217
Keigwin Arms, Mousehole, ii. 230
King and Tinker, Enfield, i. 205-207
King Edgar, Chester, ii. 72-74
King’s Arms, Lancaster, i. 299
— Malmesbury, ii. 293
— Salisbury, i. 180
— Sandwich, ii. 228
King’s Head, Aylesbury, i. 141-143, ii. 38
— Chigwell, i. 277-283
— Dorking, i. 230
— Stockbridge, ii. 249
— Thame, i. 160
— Yarmouth, i. 207, ii. 114
Labour in Vain, Stourbridge, ii. 199
Lamb, Eastbourne, ii. 57
Lawrence, Robert, of the “Lion,” Shrewsbury, i. 60, ii. 250
Leather Bottle, Cobham, Kent, i. 230
— Holborn, ii. 191
Leighton, Archbishop, i. 29
Lion, Shrewsbury, i. 60, 297, ii. 250, 274-279
Lion and Fiddle, Hilperton, ii. 195
Lion and Swan, Congleton, ii. 65-67
Living Sign, Grantham, ii. 192
Load of Mischief, Oxford Street, ii. 162
Locker-Lampson, F., on old inns, i. 58
Loggerheads, Llanverris, ii. 168
Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland, i. 136-140
Lord Warden, Dover, i. 54
Luttrell Arms, Dunster, ii. 37-40
Lygon Arms, Broadway, ii. 2-8, 244
Magpie, Little Stonham, ii. 153
— and Stump, Clare Market, i. 242
Maiden’s Head, Uckfield, ii. 37
Maid’s Head, Norwich, ii. 40-42
Maison Dieu, Dover, i. 88
— Ospringe, i. 84
Malt Shovel, Sandwich, ii. 228
Man Loaded with Mischief, Oxford Street, ii. 162
Marlborough Downs, i. 231-238
Marquis of Ailesbury’s Arms, Manton, i. 232
— Granby, Dorking, i. 230
Maund and Bush, near Shifnal, ii. 199
Maypole, Chigwell, i. 277-282
Miller of Mansfield, Goring-on-Thames, ii. 177
Molly Mog, ii. 271
Mompesson, Sir Giles, i. 37-41
Mortal Man, Troutbeck, ii. 169
Morison, Fynes, on English inns, i. 36
Music House, Norwich, i. 157
Nag’s Head, Thame, i. 160
Neptune, Ipswich, ii. 110
Newhaven Inn, near Buxton, ii. 255
New Inn, Allerton, ii. 80
— Gloucester, i. 98-106
— Greta Bridge, i. 268
— New Romney, ii. 44
— Sherborne, i. 106
Newby Head, near Hawes, ii. 149
Noah’s Ark, Compton, i. 90
Nutley Inn, ii. 36
Old Angel, Basingstoke, ii. 279
— Bell, Holborn, i. 30
— — Chester, ii. 78
— Black Jack, Clare Market, i. 242-244
— Fox, Bricket Wood, ii. 201
— Hall, Sandbach, ii. 58-62
— House at Home, Havant, ii. 220
— King’s Head, Aylesbury, i. 141-143, ii. 38
— — Chester, ii. 77
— Leather Bottle, Cobham, Kent, i. 230
— Magpies, Sipson Green, i. 317
— Rock House, Barton, ii. 196
— Rover’s Return, Manchester, i. 7
— Royal Hotel, Birmingham, i. 258, ii. 268
— Ship, Worksop, ii. 226
— Star, York, ii. 158
— Swan, Atherstone, ii. 227
— Tippling Philosopher, Chepstow, ii. 203
— White Swan, Piff’s Elm, i. 202-205
Osborne’s Hotel, Adelphi, i. 212, 264
Ostrich, Colnbrook, i. 188-201
Pack Horse and Talbot, Turnham Green, ii. 192
Peacock, Eatanswill, i. 230
— Rowsley, ii. 25-29
Pelican, Speenhamland, i. 208, ii. 293
Penygwryd Hotel, Llanberis, ii. 294-298
Pheasant, Winterslow Hut, ii. 102
Pickering Arms, Thelwall, ii. 71
Pie, Little Stonham, ii. 153
Pied Bull, Chester, ii. 78
Piers Plowman, i. 16-18
Piff’s Elm, i. 202-205
Pilgrims’ Hostel, Battle, i. 97
— Compton, i. 90
Plough, Blundeston, i. 290
— Ford, ii. 136
Pomfret Arms, Towcester, i. 259-263
Pounds Bridge, near Penshurst, ii. 220
Queen’s Arms, Charmouth, i. 180
— Head, Hesket Newmarket, i. 299
— Hotel, St. Martin’s-le-Grand, i. 229
— Burton-on-Trent, ii. 114
Raven, Hook, ii. 86
— Shrewsbury, i. 42, 60
Red Bull, Stamford, ii. 158
Red Horse, Stratford-on-Avon, ii. 47, 269-271
Red Lion, Banbury, i. 146
— Canterbury, i. 51
— Chiswick Mall, ii. 123-125
— Egham, ii. 53-56
— Glastonbury, i. 116
— Great Missenden, ii. 198
— Guildford, ii. 262
— Hampton-on-Thames, ii. 159
— Hatfield, ii. 55
— Henley-on-Thames, ii. 299-301
— High Wycombe, i. 184
— Hillingdon, i. 169
— Martlesham, ii. 113, 165
— Ospringe, i. 84
— Parliament Street, i. 265, 290
Reindeer, Banbury, i. 145, 147-155, 169
Ridler’s Hotel, Holborn, i. 31
Robin Hood, Turnham Green, ii. 131
— Cherry Hinton, ii. 131
Rose, Wokingham, ii. 271
Rose and Crown, Halifax, ii. 273
— Rickmansworth, ii. 215
Rover’s Return, Shudehill, Manchester, i. 7
Row Barge, Wallingford, ii. 178
Royal County Hotel, Durham, ii. 55
Royal George, Knutsford, ii. 279
— Stroud, ii. 82
Royal Hotel, Bath, i. 255
— Bideford, ii. 273
Royal Oak, Bettws-y-Coed, ii. 172-175
Rummyng, Elynor, i. 19-24
Running Footman, Hay Hill, i. 255, ii. 193
Running Horse, Leatherhead, i. 18-25
— Merrow, ii. 233
Salutation, Ambleside, ii. 292
Saracen’s Head, Bath, i. 266
— Southwell, i. 172-180
— Towcester, i. 259-263
Serjeant’s Inn Coffee House, i. 255
Seven Stars, Manchester, i. 6, 8-12
Shakespeare’s Head, near Chipping Norton, ii. 100-106
Shears, Wantage, ii. 202
Shepherd’s Shore, Marlborough Downs, i. 232-237
Ship and Lobster, Denton, near Gravesend, i. 296
— Afloat, Bridgwater, ii. 203
— Aground, ii. 203
Ship, Brixham, ii. 139
— Dover, i. 54
Smiling Man, Dudley, ii. 203
Smoker, Plumbley, ii. 179
Soldier’s Fortune, Kidderminster, ii. 136
Sondes Arms, Rockingham, i. 290
Spaniards, Hampstead Heath, i. 256, 320-327
Star, Alfriston, i. 93-97, ii. 165
— Lewes, ii. 37
— Yarmouth, ii. 42-44, 273
Stocks, Clapgate, ii. 202
Stonham Pie, Little Stonham, ii. 153
Sugar Loaves, Sible Hedingham, ii. 195
[Pg 315]Sun, Canterbury, i. 292
— Cirencester, i. 180
— Dedham, ii. 225
— Northallerton, ii. 248
Sunrising Inn, Edge Hill, ii. 299
Swan and Bottle, Uxbridge, i. 165
— Charing, ii. 188
— Ferrybridge, ii. 81, 83
— Fittleworth, ii. 159, 183
— Haslemere, ii. 242
— Kirkby Moorside, ii. 267
— Knowle, ii. 231-233
— near Newbury, ii. 216
— Preston Crowmarsh, ii. 179
— Rickmansworth, ii. 214
— Sandleford, ii. 217
— Tewkesbury, ii. 288
— Thames Ditton, ii. 292
— Town Malling, i. 226
— with Two Necks, Gresham Street, i. 54-56
Tabard, Southwark, i. 77-79
Talbot, Atcham, ii. 80
— Cuckfield, ii. 81
— Newark, i. 308
— Ripley, ii. 213
— Shrewsbury, ii. 80
— Southwark, i. 79
— Towcester, ii. 115, 243
Tan Hill Inn, Swaledale, near Brough, ii. 145
Tankard, Ipswich, ii. 110
Thorn, Appleton, ii. 138
Three Cats, Sevenoaks, ii. 191
— Cocks, near Hay, ii. 47
— Crosses, Willoughby, ii. 303
— Crowns, Chagford, i. 170-172
— Horseshoes, Great Mongeham, ii. 197
— Houses, Sandal, i. 308
— Jolly Bargemen, Cooling, i. 295
— Magpies, Sipson Green, i. 317
— Queens, Burton-on-Trent, ii. 114
— Tuns, Bideford, ii. 110
Town Arms, Eatanswill, i. 230
Traveller’s Rest, Flash Bar, ii. 148
— Kirkstone Pass, ii. 148
Treaty House, Uxbridge, i. 161-169
Trevelyan Arms, Barnstaple, ii. 40, 110
Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham, ii. 134
Trouble House, near Tetbury, ii. 203
Turnspit Dogs, i. 48-51
Turpin’s Cave, Epping Forest, i. 310
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Bluepitts, near Rochdale, ii. 197
Unicorn, Bowes, i. 269
— Ripon, ii. 121
Verulam Arms, St. Albans, ii. 79
Vine, Mile-End, ii. 259
Vision of Piers Plowman, i. 16-18
Visitors’ Books, ii. 291-308
Waggon and Horses, Beckhampton, i. 233, 237
Wellington, Broadstairs, ii. 47
— Market Place, Manchester, i. 7
— Rushyford Bridge, i. 60
— Tewkesbury, ii. 287
Whetstone, Chiswick Mall, ii. 124
White Bear, Fickles Hole, ii. 203
— and Whetstone, Chiswick Mall, ii. 123-125
— Bull, Ribchester, ii. 119-121
White Hart, Adwalton, ii. 255
— Aylesbury, i. 62-67, 140
— Bath, i. 254
— Castle Combe, ii. 234
— Drighlington, ii. 255
— Eatanswill, i. 230
— Glastonbury, i. 112
— Godstone, ii. 30-34
— Guildford, ii. 55
— Hackney Marshes, ii. 257-259
— Scole, ii. 150
— Somerton, i. 185-187
— Southwark, i. 226-228
— Whitchurch, Hants, ii. 280
— Widcombe, i. 254
— Yard, Gray’s Inn Road, ii. 106
White Horse, Eaton Socon, i. 267
— Fetter Lane, i. 31, 219
— Maiden Newton, ii. 289
— Shere, ii. 241
— Woolstone, ii. 211
White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, i. 253
White House, Hackney Marshes, ii. 259
White Lion, Maidstone, i. 226
White Swan, Henley-in-Arden, ii. 300
Who’d Have Thought It, Barking, ii. 204
Why Not, Dover, ii. 204
Widow’s Son, Bromley-by-Bow, ii. 125-127
Windmill, North Cheriton, ii. 89-91
— Salt Hill, i. 60
— Tabley, ii. 179
Winterslow Hut, near Salisbury, ii. 102
Wizard, Alderley Edge, ii. 65-69
Wood’s Hotel, Furnival’s Inn, i. 31
World Turned Upside Down, Old Kent Road, ii. 204
— near Three Mile Cross, ii. 204
Wright’s, Rochester, i. 223-225
Yacht, Chester, ii. 77, 304
Printed and bound by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.
 The Great North Road, 1901, vol. i., pp. 260-66.
 The sign of “Scole White Hart,” illustrated in Norwich Road, p. 265.
 Illustrated: Brighton Road, pp. 333, 337.
 Illustrated: Brighton Road, p. 295.
 Illustrated: Norwich Road, p. 256.
 It is now the “Dolphin,” and numbered 269.
 Cf. The Hastings Road, p. 82.
 The Holyhead Road, vol. i., pp. 244-7; Stage Coach and Mail in Days of Yore, vol. i., p. 46.