Hampshire - Pubs and Inns with a literary connection


Steventon, the village of Jane Austen's birth, lies in a quiet spot between two main thoroughfares to Basingstoke. On the Winchester road to the south near Dummer, which was known as Popham Lane, is the Wheatsheaf Inn (see separate entry). Like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, Jane was a keen walker and often walked here to collect the family's letters.
On the Andover road to the north is Deane and the Deane Gate Inn. Despite the fact that stage coaches to and from London halted here twice a day, we know that Jane's brother Charles was once unlucky enough to find the coach full and had to return home to Steventon.
Although Jane was a frequent traveller by stage there is no record of her catching a coach at Deane Gate but it seems more than probable. She often journeyed to visit her relations in Kent and she is known to have gone shopping in Andover, Alton, Alresford, Basingstoke and Whitchurch.
There are also frequent allusions in her letters to the county balls at Basingstoke which took place once a month on a Thursday during the season. They were held in the Assembly Rooms (probably part of the old Angel Inn which stood in the market place). The present day Basingstoke branch of Barclays Bank stands were the Assembly Rooms used to be and a plaque on the wall of the bank commemorates Jane Austen's association. The balls were frequented by all the well-to-do families of the out-lying neighbourhood; many of them, like the Austen's, coming from long distances, undeterred by the dangers of dark winter nights, lampless lanes, and stormy weather.
Today the Deane Gate Inn is an unpretentious friendly family pub. There are a number of Victorian photographs showing the surrounding area (and the inn) little changed since Jane Austen's day.

Flora Thompson is best known for her acclaimed autobiographical trilogy 'Lark Rise to Candleford' which evokes a vanished world of agricultural customs and rural culture during the 1880s and 90s. Although the setting for Candleford is north Oxfordshire, the author of Lark Rise also lived in Hampshire for nearly thirty of her 70 years. In 1916 when Flora was 40, she moved to Liphook with her husband John Thompson to run the post office. It was here she began to write in earnest, both literary essays and nature articles. In 1922 she began her 'Peverel Papers' nature notes and in 1925 she wrote a guide to Liphook which includes the following description and history of the Anchor:
"The older portion of the place [Liphook] converges to the Square; a large open space with a spreading chestnut tree at the meeting of the six roads before mentioned. The most conspicuous building there is the Anchor Hotel, an old coaching house famous in the days when the Portsmouth road formed one of the main arteries of traffic from London to the sea, and no less than twenty-six coaches and public vehicles drew up daily in Liphook Square for change of horses and refreshment of passengers."
"The coach with its cracking whip, tootling horn and flying colours has given place to the soberer if more luxurious motor-car, but most of Liphook, including the white Georgian facade of the Anchor Hotel, stands, to outward appearance, much as it did in the days when Pepys alighting there upon one of his multitudinous pilgrimages, sampled the good cheer, and gave the host of the day a "good mark" in his famous diary. Fifty years later came Smollett and stayed at the Anchor for a night at least. He, too, was the man to appreciate the good cookery for which the inn has always been famous; he would have an eye, too, as his novels prove, for the rollicking company upon the road.
"The arrival and departure of these men of genius probably passed with little comment; in those days people did not rush to publish their diaries in their own lifetime; nor did ordinary people read novels. Pepys, it is true, would command respect as a highly placed government official, but Smollett would be simply "a ship's doctor, nobody in particular!"

Royal Anchor - Liphook - Hampshire
North Waltham

Like many of England's literary pubs, the Wheatsheaf was an important posting-house during the days of the stage coach. Popham Lane, to the left of the pub, leads to the village of Steventon where Jane Austen was born. As young women, Jane and her sister Cassandra, regularly walked here to the Wheatsheaf to collect the family mail.
In the 18th-century, Popham and the other lanes which they had to negotiate were no more than rutted cart tracks. In bad weather, with bonnets tied tight and cloaks fastened at the neck, the girls set off wearing their patterns; clog-like overshoes, raised several inches above the muddy ground with iron rings beneath their wooden soles.
As recipients, the Austens would have to pay for their letters which, on the 11th of February 1801, contained one from Charles - one of the sailor brothers - written last Saturday from off the Start, and conveyed to Popham Lane by Captain Boyle in his way to Midgham.
Another nearby inn which was well known to Jane is the George & Dragon at Hurstbourne Tarrant (then known as Uphusband). The George & Dragon was also a posting-house with stabling and, above the open fireplace in the bar, you can still see the original mail rack with pigeon holes where mail delivered by coach would await collection.
Modern accommodation wings have been added to the handsome Wheatsheaf red-brick building Jane would have known - and the bar/restaurant is now of the open-plan exposed brick variety. Jane loved this quiet part of Hampshire and hated it when the family moved to the glare and noise of Bath. I wonder what she would make of the motorway fly-over which now carries speeding traffic past the Wheatsheaf along the M3 to London?

Priors Dean
White Horse(or pub with no name)

It seems that Edward Thomas pubs are often fiendishly difficult to find but certainly worth the effort. What makes locating the White Horse especially problematical is that it stands in the middle of a field screened by trees and has no sign. Indeed it is alternatively known as 'The Pub with No Name'. The story goes that locals who want to keep this special place a secret have removed the sign whenever subsequent owners have tried to erect one. There is a post and a wrought iron support but it only frames the passing clouds. During the Napoleonic wars the adjacent road was straightened, to speed up transportation, which left the pub in its current odd position.
Edward Thomas often made the climb up from his home at Steep to this isolated pub the highest in Hampshire at 750ft. And he made it the subject of his longest poem 'Up in the Wind'. In the lounge bar there is an Edward Thomas corner with a carved wooden plaque, erected in 1978 by The Edward Thomas Fellowship to mark the poet's birth centenary. Until she was 80, Myfanwy Thomas, Edward's daughter, came here every other year on the first Sunday in March to join as many as 200 members of the Fellowship for a walk to commemorate her father's death.
The White Horse is among the most treasured and remarkable of Britain's country pubs. Dating from 1620, the two bars in this one-time mediaeval farmhouse have a wonderful patina of antiquity. During the time when the pub was a coaching inn the lounge bar was a smithy and while travellers took their refreshment indoors horses could be changed or quench their thirst at the dew pond. Today there is a relaxed 1970s feel in the idiosyncratically old fashioned parlour rooms.

White Horse - Priors Dean - Hampshire - Edward Thomas

W. H. Hudson      Josephine Tozier

The Reverend Gilbert White (1720-1793), author of the world-famous 'Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne' lived in this village for most of his life in a house called The Wakes which is now open as a museum. Over the centuries, this association with the founding father of modern natural history recording has attracted naturalists and literary pilgrims from around the world, many of them staying in the Queens Arms.
One such was William Henry Hudson who is best known today for his nostalgic Edwardian countryside books, including 'Birds and Man', 'Afoot in England' and 'A Shepherd's Life'. In Hampshire Days he recalls his last visit to Selborne during July 1901: "Several pairs of martins were making their nests under the eaves of a cottage opposite to the Queen's Arms, where I stayed." He describes how the inn's ungainly cockerel made futile attempts to disperse the martins who were collecting mud from a puddle. "It was like a very heavy policeman moving on a flock of fairies".
Josephine Tozier, the American travel writer made a return visit in 1904. Arriving at Alton station after telegraphing ahead, she found the host of the Queen's Arms, sitting on the box of his wagonette waiting for her. In her evocative and very humorous Among English Inns Josephine describes the Queens Arms in great detail. "We reach our bedrooms and our long narrow sitting-room by an antiquated staircase, shut off with a door at the bottom from the neat old-fashioned bar. At the Queen's Arms the bar, true to its name, is a broad shelf of wood, lifted or put down at the will of the innkeeper's pretty daughter, when she serves cider, or more potent drinks, to thirsty customers. To be invited into the family parlour, behind the bar, is the privilege of only the chosen few".
The present Queens Arms was built on the site of an earlier inn called the Compasses soon after Queen Victoria came to the throne. Stormy meetings were held at the Compasses where the local small farmers met to discuss their grievances. In 1803 a serious riot ensued and the inn that Gilbert White knew was burnt down. Today the Queens Arms is a friendly village pub/hotel with interesting local memorabilia in the bar. They have well kept beer and good value standard food.

Queens Arms - Selborne - Hampshire - W.H. Hudson, Josephine Tozier

When Jane moved with her parents and sister Cassandra to Bath in 1801, she no doubt felt that it was going to be for a very long time. But in fact her father died early in 1805. It took about another year for Mrs Austen to decide to settle temporarily with her son Frank, by then a naval captain, who had rented lodgings in Southampton. Frank had a pleasant young wife and by the time the full party finally arrived at Southampton, early in 1807, the first of Frank and Mary's 11 children was on the way. Their second move was to a "commodious old-fashioned" house in Castle Square; a castellated Gothic style mansion built by the Marquis of Lansdowne.
It had a beautiful garden enthusiastically described by Jane as 'the best in town It gave access to the promenade along the top of the walls - below which the river lapped at high tide.
The house stood on what is now the site of an unexceptional modern day inn called the Bosuns Locker. The view from here is of car parks and retail sprawl but in Jane Austen's day it must have been a delightful vista, westwards across Southampton Water to the trees of the New Forest crowding thickly to the shore.
Jane and Cassandra attended dances in the nearby Dolphin Hotel, (see separate entry). But their social life in Southampton was less exciting than that of Bath because their mother was left comparatively poor after her husband's death.
Previously known as 'The Juniper Berry', The Bosuns Locker is situated in an historic part of the medieval town, only a short walk from the Bar Gate and West Quay. The Bosuns Locker provides bed and breakfast accommodation, and there is a restaurant serving home cooked food.

Bosun's Locker Southampton

Jane Austen   William Makepeace Thakeray

Two of Jane Austen's brothers served in Nelson's navy and the great maritime city of Southampton became important to the family. Jane came to live here with members of the Austen clan early in 1807 and took out a subscription to the balls held at the Dolphin. The striking thing about the Dolphin is the rounded bow windows (the largest in Europe) projecting out over the pavement. The first floor bow is part of the magnificent Long Room (added in 1785) where Jane danced during the winter season and commented on the events in correspondence with her sister Cassandra. In one letter she wrote of a black-eyed French officer with whom she danced, but whom she found disappointing - and in another she confided: "We were very well entertained, the Miss Lances have partners, Capt. D'auvernes friend appeared in regimentals, Caroline Maitland had an officer to flirt with and Mr John Harrison was deputed by Capt. Smith to ask me to dance.
Another famous author associated with the inn is William Makepeace Thackeray who arrived 40 years later and wrote much of his novel Pendennis whilst staying here. This story was Thackeray's first great success. Many of the characters were drawn from life, and reappear often in succeeding stories. The hotel honors this connection by naming one of the public rooms (opposite the Long Room) after the author.
The awesome classical façade of the Dolphin conceals foundations some 600 years older, for the first recorded building on the site was in 1200. Over the centuries (and particularly during the coaching era) it became one of England's most important termini. In addition to the literati and glitterati many monarchs have stayed here among them Queen Victoria en route for Osborne whose coach-horses were customarily stabled here to await her return from the Isle of Wight.

Dolphin - Southampton - Hampshire - Jane Austen, Willam Makepace Thackeray

Situated in the High Street below the Bargate and within the old walled town of Southampton lies one of the oldest inns in the city which should be preserved as a national treasure. The cellar is of Norman vintage dating back to the 12th century, but parts of the upper structure of the Inn, which has been considerably altered, are of Tudor origin.
The most attractive part of the interior is the splendid half timbered galleried hall with a fine Tudor fireplace known as Henry V's 'Court Room'. In medieval times this room was used by trade guilds for their meetings and banquets.In1415 it was pressed into service for the hastily arranged treason trial of Richard, Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey of Heton, all of whom conspired against the life and crown of Henry V, immediately prior to the King's departure from Southampton to Agincourt..
The trial, which is the subject of William Shakespeare's King Henry V, Act II, Scene II. was a famous landmark in English history. The conspirators were found guilty of high treason, condemned to death and summarily executed outside the Bargate. A rubbing from the stone describing the execution can be seen in the Court Room.
The façade of the red Lion is not impressive, but no one should be deterred by this from entering the Court Room or climbing the creaky staircase for a view from the gallery. Modern incongruous influences like the big sports screen and fruit machine do detract a little from the atmosphere but the sense of history is still palpable. There is a larger dining room beyond the Court Room and the pub does offer B&B.

Red Lion - Southampton - Hampshire - Willam Shakespeare

To enter the Harrow at Steep is to share the experience of poet Edward Thomas before the world went to war for the first time. The 16th-century brick-and-tiled pub was formerly a drovers' stop. It is unspoilt and rustic with a vegetable garden at the back and outside toilets across the sleepy country lane that dwindles into a footpath by a little stream.
Beer is drawn straight from barrels behind the bar and served through a hatch by a friendly lady who calls everybody "my darling" and whose mother, Ellen MaCutcheon, was born in the pub in 1929. The cosy public bar has hops and dried flowers hanging from the beams, built in wall benches on the tiled floor, stripped pine wallboards and wild flowers on the scrubbed deal tables.
Thomas would notice a couple of changes; the Victorian fire grate has been removed to reveal a large inglenook in which a good log fire now burns. And, when he supped here, XX bitter was 2d a pint.
Thomas moved his family to Steep from Kent because he loved this particular part of England and so that his children could attend the progressive (and now famous) Bedales School which is still in the village and where his wife Hellen taught for a while.
In his early married life Thomas was determined to earn his living as a writer but much of his commissioned work was a drudge to him. He had only discovered his voice as a poet a few short years before he was killed at the Battle of Arras in 1917 fighting for an England you can still discover around the country lanes of Steep. On top of Shoulder of Mutton Hill overlooking the village is a sarsen stone simply dedicated to his memory.

Harrow - Steep - Hampshire - Edward Thomas

H. G. Wells's delightful comedy The Wheels of Chance is a picaresque novel full of fresh air and sunshine. It is one of the few literary memorials to the brief period when the bicycle ruled the road. On his trusty steed, the hero Mr Hoopdriver, sets off for adventure just as Don Quixote, Tom Jones and Mr Pickwick had done before him.
Stockbridge becomes Wallenstock and, in a story full of humour and pathos, one of the funniest incidents takes place here: "in an exceptionally prosperous-looking village inn, where a plausible landlady rises to the occasion. You don't have to look far in Stockbridge to spot the most prosperous looking inn. The Grosvenor Hotel is situated in the centre of the high street and is easily recognised by its prominent portico.
Formerly the King's Head, the Grosvenor is an early 19th-century yellow-brick three storey building once owned by Tom Cannon, the jockey and trainer, and in its early days was much used by the racing fraternity. Recently refurbished, the hotel is home to the famous Houghton Fishing Club. The club room contains the stuffed remains of some of the largest fish to have been caught in the river. Restricted to twenty-two members, the Houghton club had been established 70 years before Wells arrived on a cycling holiday with his brother which provided the author with the background for his story.
Stockbridge had a good bridge built in 1799 and the Grosvenor was established as a posting house on this great thoroughfare at the junction of the roads from Basingstoke and Winchester to Salisbury.
Today the oak panelled restaurant serves a variety of delicious food. There is a pretty country garden, 25 en-suite bedrooms and the bar is a popular meeting place for both locals and anglers alike.

Gosvenor Hotel - Stockbridge - Hampshire - H.G. Wells

This impressive white painted inn stands on the junction of the old London/Exeter & Oxford/Southampton roads, and can trace its origins to 1461. The present building, dates from around 1700, and is transitional between the Stuart and Queen Anne Styles. Tales from the coaching days include a number of accounts of travellers waiting here for long periods sometimes up to 10 hours or more - for ongoing connections.
Charles Kingsley, was a huntin', shootin' fishin' man who often stayed at the White Hart to fish the river Test. He used his experiences of the river in The Water-Babies; the famous fairy story he wrote for his son. He mentions the inn in the story and also in 'Two years Ago' (1857).
Kingsley stayed here in 1863, the year The Water-Babies was published in book form, and wrote: "I like this place, and that is the truth, It is old without being decayed. This low room has a beautiful Queen Anne ceiling and could, by withdrawing the partition, be enlarged from the clubroom into the ballroom in which the three belles and one-and-a-half beaux of Whitchurch would have full room to dance".
More recently the White Hart was frequently patronised by a different type of writer; former Master of the Rolls, (and England's best loved judge) Lord Denning, who died aged 100 in 1999. Lord Denning was most renowned for his storytelling style of writing judicial opinions. He wrote in short, crisp sentences intended to make the law accessible to lay people. A biographer referred to his writing style as "pungent English."
Lord Denning was born in 1899 above his father's draper's shop opposite the hotel and in his latter years he lunched here in the dining room of the inn, sitting at the window overlooking his old family home.

White Hart - Whitchurch - Hampshire - Charles Kingsley, Lord Denning

Copyright T.W. Townsend - the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and any observations were correct at the time of the review.

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