Kings Head to Close

Our local pub the Kings Head is to close at the end of this week. Like many local pubs its fortunes have been stormy since the clamp down on drinking and driving and the ban on smoking in public places, but it has survived until now. Who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I thought I would take a look at the pub’s past.

kings head interior

The first reference to an inn here comes from the 18th century when the inn was part of the Chitterne estate owned by a series of wealthy landowning families. The George Inn burnt down in Chitterne St Mary when Thomas Bennet was the tenant and the Paulet family were the owners. James Wheeler took on the tenancy in 1742 and presumably changed the inn’s name because the Wheeler family were still there in 1826 when another James Wheeler was the copyholder of the “King’s Head Inn, outbuildings, garden, yard etc.” which he held for the lives of Mary Huntley 62, Mary Wheeler 32, and William Huntley Wheeler 10 (mother-in-law, wife and son). By then the owners were the Methuen family who had bought the Chitterne estate from the Paulets in the 1770s. Wheeler and Huntley memorials are still visible on the outside walls of the chancel.

The Long family bought the Chitterne estate from the Methuens in 1830. The Wallis family of Chitterne St Mary Manor were their tenants and William Wallis’s mother-in-law Ann White was the innkeeper. The Wallis family continued to be associated with the inn until they gave up malting their own barley around 1910. In 1896 the Longs auctioned the estate and the inn sold for £1350 to ‘Marjant? Bladworth’ (pencilled none too clearly alongside the inn details on the auction catalogue) who could be agents for a brewer. Bartletts brewery in Warminster were supplying the inn with beer in the early 20thC before they went bust in 1920.

Landlords of the inn changed frequently after Ann White. Henry Hull 1841; John Whatley 1851; William Compton, saddler and innkeeper in 1861 and 1871. Then the 3 Bs: James Burr 1880-1887, William Beak 1888-1894, George Brown 1895-1897. By 1901 Sidney and Alice Daniels were landlords followed by another B, George Burgess during World War 1.

kings head burgess
The Kings Head flanked by shop and store with George Burgess standing outside

Ushers Brewery of Trowbridge acquired the inn after the demise of Bartletts brewery. Joseph and Kate Robberts ran the pub in 1925, George Turner in 1927 and Thomas Burbidge 1928-1932. William and Florence Jones in wartime and in 1945 Mick and Winifred Benson took over and stayed until 1954. Their daughter Jeanne married Ernie George, a Chitterne lad, and settled in Townsend. Ernie made a drawing of the pub yard as it looked in 1948.

kings head yard
Kings Head Inn yard 1948, the skittle alley top left, carport, and stables on the right.

Cecil and Doris Newton took over as innkeepers from the Bensons in 1954 and stayed until Cecil’s sudden death in 1980. The other pub in the village, the White Hart Inn closed permanently in the mid-1950s, so that gave Cecil and Doris a boost and they made the most of it. During their time the pub Cribbage team won the league in 1974 and the darts team played in the Till Darts League in 1977, winning against the Royal Oak at Shrewton, but then losing to the Catherine Wheel 10-9.

kings head newton
The Kings Head 1950/60s, Doris Newton talking to Vic Diaper with Clifford Mould and Peter Newton near the bike.

The Kings Head was still an Ushers pub in 1980, but before 1990 it was up for sale and brewers Gibbs Mew bought it.

kings head gibbs mew 1
The pub decked in Gibbs Mew black and gold livery around 1988

After the Newtons 26 year tenure landlords came and went with alarming frequency, none staying more than four years despite the pub winning the Bulmers and Gibbs Mew competition for the best display of flowers in 1995. From 1980 to 2002 the pub had eleven different landlords and then changed owners once again.

kings head gibbs mew 2
Gibbs Mew blue livery in later years

Gibbs Mew sold the pub around 2002 to Enterprise Inns. The new owners revamped the bar area considerably, replacing the optics with shelves and updating the floor surface and eating area. The pub re-opened on the 29th November 2002, but despite these efforts the pub’s fortunes didn’t improve, the final straw was the closure of the road outside the pub for bridge works, which lasted several months in 2005.

Four more landlords came and went, the optics came back, and closures in 2008 and 2009 led to Enterprise Inns offering the pub for sale in September 2010. They were heading to auction in February 2011, but at the last moment agreed to sell to the current landlord. The pub opened as a Free House on 1st April 2011, and has been open now for eight and a half years, the longest serving landlord since the Newtons.

Now Saturday night will see the pub close once again. What will the future bring?

 

Kings Head to Close

Fire at Chitterne St Mary 1831

An early 1900s view of the area of Chitterne St Mary affected by the fire. The Manor is top centre, Glebe House can just be seen far left centre. The church farm buildings are to the left of the King’s Head, fronted by a wall.

A newspaper report of a fire in a Chitterne St Mary farmyard describes in great detail just how easily fire can spread once it takes hold. The farmyard belonged to the lord of the manor and was leased from him by William Wallis, who lived at The Manor, while his widowed mother, Mary Buckeridge Wallis, lived in what is now Glebe House.  When the fire was first spotted it was no more than a small blaze in a rick. The date was 26th February 1831.

Report of the fire from the Evening Mail of 1st March 1831

Some explanations seem necessary. The ricks of wheat and barley were kept in an enclosed yard known as a rick-barton. The house and cottage that were burned on the other side of the road would have been in the vicinity of present day St Mary’s Lodge, number 104 and Glebe Farmhouse. The farm mentioned “to the leeward” of the fire was George Parham’s Clump Farm, a site now occupied by St Mary’s Close. Other farm buildings owned by the church stood on the site of present day Birch Cottage.

The “late disturbances” refer to the Swing Riots of 1830. When groups of farm workers worried for their livelihoods travelled around the neighbourhood wrecking the new threshing machines. There had been no wrecking in Chitterne, unlike in Heytesbury, Upton Lovell, Knook and Corton where several machines were wrecked and as a consequence 20 men transported to Australia for terms of seven years.

Thanks to the eagle eyed J & R for this, who spotted it when looking for something else!

Fire at Chitterne St Mary 1831

Dates at the Manor 3

Over 400 years ago a date was chiselled into the stone surround of the front door of The Manor, which may mark the date the Manor was built.

manor 1615
A very worn, but still just about visible, date on the stone surround of the front door

The manor of Chitterne St Mary had been held by the Paulet family since 1547. After the dissolution of the monasteries King Edward VI granted the manor to William Paulet Lord St John, later created 1st Marquis of Winchester. If the date in the photograph refers to the building of the house, then it was built during the time of the 4th Marquis of Winchester, another William Paulet, who died in 1629.

William Paulet, 4th Marquis, Baron St John, lived at Basing, Hampshire where he entertained Queen Elizabeth I at Basing House. His shield of arms sported a trio of short swords or daggers beneath a coronet, indicating a member of the peerage.

Paulet arms

You may see this distinctive shield if you ever visit the public house known as the Three Daggers at Edington, previously the Paulet Arms, but re-named by public preference.

Lastly, the Manor has a few more inscriptions on the outside. Most significant of these is this one, to be found on the extreme right at the front where a wing was demolished in the 1800s. C or G W was perhaps the author of the demolition? Could the W be for Wallis?

manor CW

The last two marks, both to the left of the front door, are difficult to discern and even more difficult to explain, though the one on the right appears to be A I.

This concludes our look into inscriptions on buildings in Chitterne. Many of the inscriptions and dates on buildings chart the times when the Chitterne manors changed hands, The Manor representing the Paulets and Chitterne House the Michells.  The Long family clearly had Chestnut Cottages and Pitts House built, and Richard Hayward Pitts Cottage, but what about the Methuen family and the Abbesses of Lacock Abbey? I suspect the Methuens were the builders of Clump House, and the nuns of the Great Manor (sportsfield site), the original Manor Farmhouse and the Gate House, but I wonder who had Chitterne Lodge built?

In an ideal world every house would have a datestone and at least the initials of the builder.

Dates at the Manor 3

John Grant and Chitterne Post Mill

post mill low tech magazine
Section through a post mill from Low Tech Magazine

Further research on the post mill at Chitterne has revealed more about tenants previous to  John Wallis Titt’s family (see blog dated 8 March 2016). In 1826 the post mill was leased from the Methuen family by John Grant 1743-1828 for the lives of John Grant aged 26, Elizabeth Grant aged 26 and James Grant aged 2 years.

Up until now we had not been able to link the two John Grants to each other, nor to trace the subsequent whereabouts of John the younger, Elizabeth and James. Now all is revealed, and a sad tale it is too, a tale of early death, manslaughter and abandonment. Too long to tell here. To read more click here: John Grant 1743 and Chitterne Post Mill

John Grant and Chitterne Post Mill