Saturday, 9 November 2013

A swift half

We like our traditional pubs here in England, and this little part of of England is no exception. When I first came to Bath, there were reputed to be so many of them that even if you visited a different one each day, there still would be quite a few left over for the following year. That's over 365, for anyone who is as innumerate as I am.

However, that many were as nothing compared to the quantity that existed between the 18th and 19th century, when many private houses simply opened their front rooms and served ale and spirits to the general public.

Also, when I first came to Bath in the very early 1970s, the traditional cattle market was still held at the Southern end of Walcot Street every Wednesday from dawn until dusk. The street (and what is now the car-park) would be teeming with livestock and farmers, and the pubs that were left opened their doors around 5.00 in the morning, as they had been doing for hundreds of years. Special dispensation, even after the strict licensing laws of the puritanical Victorians.

The oldest dedicated pub and coaching inn still exists after around 300 unbroken years of service, and - as you now know - it is my preferred local. It is called The Bell Inn, and has now been taken over in a community buy-out, with over 530 share-holders keeping it busier than it probably ever has been in it's long history.

Shortly after The Bell was built (in, I believe 1704, but maybe Kirsten Elliot could put me right on this),  these were the other inns, pubs and breweries which all jostled for business in the quarter mile long little area of Walcot Street and immediate buildings off it:

The Beehive
Bladud's Head
Bladud's Head Brewery
Boars Head
Carpenter Inn
Carpenter's Arms
Catherine Wheel Brewery
Catherine Wheel
Chatham House Brewery
Chatham House Tavern
Chequers Inn
Corn Market Tavern
Cornwell Brewry
Don Cossack
Duke of Edinburgh
Duke of Wellington
Fox and Hounds
Gallon Can
George Inn
George and Dragon
Globe Inn
Hand and Shears
Hare and Hounds
Jolly Sailor
Kings Arms
Kings Head
Lord Wellington Arms
Marquis Wellington
Mugg Inn
New Cornwell Brewery
New Inn
New Market Tavern
Nightingale Tavern
Orange Tree
Pelican Inn
Queens Head Tavern
Red Lion Inn
Rifleman's Arms
Royal Oak Tavern
Spirit Vaults
Spirit Vaults 2
St George Inn
Swan Inn
Thatched House
Three Cups
Unicorn Inn (1694)
Walcot Wine Vaults
Wellington Arms
White Swan

And they say we have a drink problem.


  1. Thanks to Geoffrey Binns for compiling this historical list.

  2. I do quizzes for our local Nature reserve - next one is going to be on Pub names - could do worse than start from this list!

    1. There was a pub here called the Hat and Feather. This was a symbol during the Civil War for Royalist support. Bath was a Royalist stronghold. Any use? Somewhere I have a whole book on the meaning of pub names. I'll try and find it.

  3. Our village had three
    The Crown, The Black Boy and The Mostyn Arms
    The name black boy, I find, intriguing

    1. The Black Boy probably had Most In when he dallied with some sheep farmer or whoever. There again, the slavery stuff spread quite high up North, or the tradition did anyway.

  4. I had my first scrumpy in Bath.

    1. So did I. In 1971. It was also my last.

  5. We often go to The Kick and Dicky ..... I think it means horse and cart. XXXX

    1. I've been here for over 40 years, and I have not heard so much as a rumour about a pub of that name. Where is it?

      I do know of a pub near here popularly called The Three Lesbians, though.

    2. It's in Wellpond Green, Standon. Hertfordshire...... I think that it goes back to the early 1800's and has always been called by that name. We know the owners but,like many pubs, it's not doing too well at the moment as it's off the beaten track. It's there when you Google it. XXXX

    3. There's a teeny hamlet, down a nearby track, called Fourquiès; we, of course, call it Four Queers.

  6. Came back this early morning after a tour with husband and two narrowboat-people to three inns in Berlin that brew their own ale (!). It was fun, very loud, and I lack sleep ( glad that is the only thing that ails me). I think Captain Matti can be double cross with himself to have missed you and your knowledge of ale + inns.

    1. I don't know much about either, but I know what the inside of a good pub looks like fairly well.

  7. The Saracens Head is quite nice. Ive been there twice

    1. The Saracen's Head is potentially a really nice, old pub, but the management has destroyed the ambience over the years, turning it into just another place with flashing gaming-machines. Dickens used to stay there.