Tales Of Pubs,
Inns & Taverns
This week's Folklore Thursday features tales of pubs, inns and taverns in and around Warwickshire.
Also: ghosts, bears and a Saracen's head (literally).
The White Swan pub at Harborne (Birmingham) is haunted by the ghost of John Wentworth.
John was a man of some means but he fell for a girl from the wrong side of the cart tracks. His carriage would bring the girl to the White Swan for their secret assignations.
Until there was an accident and the girl was killed on her way to the pub. John, mad with grief when he heard the news, shot first his dog and then himself.
John's ghost remained, manifesting as a gust of cold air, a tap on the shoulder or footsteps around you.
Welford has a ye olde inn called The Four Alls which took its name from:
A king who rules over all; a parson who prays for all;
A soldier who fights for all; and a farmer who pays for all.
Still apt even today.
Whereas The Four Crosses at Willoughby used to be the Three Crosses until Jonathan Swift spent the night and scratched this on the bedroom window:
There are three crosses at your door:
Hang up your wife and you'll count four.
The Roebuck's at Prior Marsh was known as the Rogue's Hall because the local highwaymen used it as a base while waiting for hapless cattle drovers who trod the old Welsh Road.
Cattle went down to London, cash came back as far as Prior but was then diverted.
The famed highwayman of the Fosse Way Bendigo Mitchell preferred the Old Inn at Bishop's Tachbrook.
Another was said to have an enchanted bridle that allowed him to evade capture while in flight but he was captured at an inn in Warwick drinking his ill-gotten gains away.
It all got a bit PSA with Clifton-upon-Dunsmere, a Lyon, a bear and lots of alcohol:
A bear forms part of the local Barford family crest and one is carved above the West window of the church. The tale goes that the Church Bible was sold to buy a bear as a booze-fuelled jape.
Oddly, some of the more pious locals were a bit miffed about that and anti-alcohol propaganda ensued:
Ye younge men of Clifton of ye Lyon[*] beware,
If you wish to be happy turn in at the Bayre.
[*] The local alehouse.
Because I love a bit of versifying:
If to King's Norton you should go,
Seven public houses it can show:
The Saracen's Head, the Bull's Head,
The Plumber's Arms and Navigation,
The Old Bell, one by the canal [ [The Old Boat],
And another by the station [The Railway].
The Saracen's Head at Ettington took its name from a knight and squire who stopped to drink at the spring on Rookery Lane and dropped a Saracen's head (their Crusade souvenir) into the water.
This may be why the spring is no-longer used for drinking water.
The Black Dog Inn at Southam got its name via the execution of Piers Gaveston[*] by Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick.
Piers had given Guy the title due to his dark complexion and Guy declared that, "the Black Dog of Arden is come to keep his oath that you should one day feel his teeth," when he captured Piers.
The Black Dog has a sign showing a knight in armour with a second being executed behind him.
Guy's ghost is said to haunt Bordesley Abbey (Worcs) in the form of a large black dog[**].
[*] Edward II's chum/favourite/boyfriend described as "the minion of a hateful King" on the monument at the nearby Gaveston Mount.
[**] One of the many Black Dog tales around the country that inspired the story of a certain Consulting Detective and an overgrown hound.
On a lighter note, there's the tale (documented by the Parish Clerk) of Ralph Oakley at The Red Lion near Derby who on the 3rd May 1777 proved that some people really do have hollow legs by putting away in a single sitting enough to feed a couple of villages for a week.
When he'd finished the five course, gout-inducing feast he was challenged to a 300 yard race by a local youth. Oakley accepted the wager, won the race by 12 yards and spent his winnings on more ale.
Presumably he paid his bill, unlike a guest at The Ram Jam Inn at Stretton.
The Ram Jam probably gets its name via the Hindi for Table Servant and from Ram as in Cask but the pub sign tells a different story.
While the landlord was away, a chap who had run up a sizeable bill told the landlady that he knew the secret of tapping both mild and bitter from the same cask so off they went to the cellar.
He drills a hole in one side and asks the wife to stopper it with her thumb. A second hole, other side; the same request.
No thumbs = no booze so the chap took advantage to abscond without settling his bill.