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Goodbye to a Medieval Pub in Downton

In early times, the parish of Downton formed part of a great estate granted to Winchester cathedral. The village itself was divided topographically into three sections which were linked by bridges. Settlement had developed in the High Street, so called in 1452 in a document in Winchester College archives, and from the mid-15th century the area was called the east borough.

The King’s Arms, at the junction of Church Hatch and High Street, a solid-looking brick building with a tiled roof, was known to be a public house in 1628. We know who owned and occupied the King’s Arms in the mid-C18 from the Guildhall Library insurance documents.  These refer to James Russell, a schoolmaster of Downton, who took out a policy in 1755 ‘on his house only being the King’s Arms Inn at Downton …in the tenure of Lucy Loveday, Innholder… Brick, Timber and Thatched, Brewhouse only adjoining, Thatched. Two Stables only belonging, Thatched, £10 each.’ He paid £250 on the inn and £30 on the brewhouse.

This historic pub has now closed after at least 350 years of serving customers, and probably a good few years before that. The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments (England) investigated it in 1980 and found the substantial remains of no less than three medieval timber-framed ranges inside, hidden by the mid-C18 facelift. This is the type of detail that makes the building archaeologist’s job so absorbing – separating successive layers of alteration which can be driven by fashion, fortune and function.

The King’s Arms proximity to St Laurence’s church, a particularly large and splendid church which accommodated congregations from as far afield as Redlynch, Morgan’s Vale and Charlton, must have been advantageous to the King’s Arms, set right at the entrance to Church Hatch. The church dates from 1150 and represents flourishing trade from early on, which had increased by the 15th century; the date of the King’s Arms. The town used to send not one, but two members to parliament. It is likely therefore, that such a large and commodious inn would be used as a regular meeting spot not only for recreation, but business.

The Salisbury Journal periodically advertised auctions held at the King’s Arms, for the sale of an estate, houses, brick kilns and timber; also a meeting of the Association for the Protection of Property on April 8th 1811 and mention of a ‘stray ox left at the King’s Arms’ on Sept. 10th 1804 – not a common occurrence today!  The Wiltshire Buildings Record’s annual study day in October 2017 was on the subject of inns, taverns and alehouses, and this year on October 20th 2018 we will be looking at timber-framed houses.  Details available soon.  If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact me at the History Centre.

Dorothy Treasure. Wiltshire Buildings Record

A Mystery Building in Redlynch

Redlynch is a very interesting example of a former forested area that has only been populated to any great extent over the last two centuries. The earlier buildings are in local brick, including this interesting example in Slab Lane, next to The Old Thatched Cottage, now known as The Hollies, a remodelled house of the 17th century. The subject of the study, an early-19th century brick and stone outbuilding, is approximately 5 metres to the east of The Hollies.

The outbuilding is of two bays and set at right-angles to The Hollies. It is constructed of local rubblestone and flint dressed with local brick. It is unusual in that the north-west elevation facing The Hollies is entirely fenestrated with 6 large windows, indicating a need for light on both ground and first floor. At this time Redlynch had smithies and a foundry while broom making was a traditional local trade that continued until the Second World War. It is possible that the outbuilding was used in such a way, but with many of these small ancillary buildings we just can’t tell exactly. I suspect that the uses changed over time according to the needs of the person who lived there. A wide original double doorway suggests workshop use.

Mapping of 1822 shows that an outbuilding existed on the present site which belonged then, as now, to the Mitchell family. The later tithe mapping of 1840 is unfortunately torn at that point, but does not show an outbuilding existing on the present footprint. The first real evidence of the outbuilding is shown on the 1901 edition of the Ordnance Survey.

Little is known for certain about the use this building was put to. Local information suggests the building was used as a hay store and a barbershop within living memory. The lack of interior plastering suggests a workshop or two-storey storage. Workshop use is perhaps more likely originally, because of the amount of light originally coming in. A stable would have had doors facing the house. As always, any information that would help discover what went on in here would be gratefully received.

Dorothy Treasure. Principle Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

A House of Medics

WBR recently looked at Wolseley House in Market Lavington. This fascinating house is tucked away at the east end of the village. The land on which it stands apparently once belonged to the chantry of the parish church. Examination of the physical fabric showed that it dated from the early 18th century, as the listed building schedule suggested, and the rough dates of additions. What the list does not do is tell you about the succession of occupiers and what they did. Our redoubtable researcher Margaret researched the history and among other facts she found that from 1826 until the early 20th century the house was occupied by those of the medical profession. In 1831 the parish registers show William Tucker, a surgeon, as both owner and occupier of a house and land on which 9/- tax was paid. The house next door (now called Ivy Lodge) was also curiously occupied by a general practitioner in 1851.

It was then found that this concentration of medics was probably due to the proximity to Fiddington House, which had become a private lunatic asylum in about 1817. Other medics occupied the two houses after 1831 including a James Herriot, a general practitioner (not the vet!), and William B. Pepler described as a ‘surgeon and apothecary’.

By 1881, the Lush brothers, William Henry and John Selfe, both practising as surgeons, had moved into the two adjoining houses. John Selfe Lush was said to be living at ‘Ivy Cottage’. He was medical officer for the No.7 District of the Devizes Union, and also medical superintendent of the nearby Fiddington House Asylum. His brother William Lush was the public vaccinator for the 7th District. An anonymous reminiscence recalls that the two brothers used to visit their patients who lived out of the village on horseback. After 1910 this long period of occupation by medics was broken, though Fiddington House continued in existence until at least 1936.

Dorothy Treasure. Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record