Northamptonshire - Pubs and Inns with a literary connection

The Whyte-Melville is unique among English literary pubs in that it started life as a private house which became the home of a talented but now obscure writer - and was later named after him. George John Whyte-Melville (1821-1878), was an English novelist, educated at Eton who joined the 93rd Highlanders in 1839 and became a captain in the Coldstream Guards in 1846. The following August he married Charlotte Hanbury and they moved here to this classical double fronted Victorian villa. The couple had one daughter but their married life was not happy.
George retired in 1849 and devoted his time at first to translating Horace. He published his first novel, Digby Grand in 1853. This was the year war broke out in the Crimea and he went out to fight as a volunteer major of Turkish irregular cavalry. Following his safe return he went on to write twenty-one novels and bound copies of them are on display in this homely village pub.
George Whyte-Melville was the laureate of fox-hunting and all his most popular and distinctive heroes and heroines; Digby Grand, Tilbury Nogo, the Honourable Crasher, Mr Sawyer, Kate Coventry, Mrs Lascelles, are or would be, mighty hunters. Several of his novels are historical, The Gladiators being the best known. He also published volumes of poetry but it is for his portrayal of contemporary sporting society that he is most regarded. The hero of many a stiff ride meeting, he ironically met his end in 1878, galloping quietly over a ploughed field in the Vale of the White Horse during a hunt.
When John Galsworthy went up to Oxford in 1886, he had fallen under the spell of Whyte-Melville and of those ‘bright beings’ in his novels. In Galsworthy’s A Sad Affair, Jolyon Forsyte goes up to Cambridge: “…a little intoxicated on the novels of Whyte- Melville. From continually reading about whiskered dandies, garbed to pefection and imperturbably stoical in the trying circumstances of debt and discomfiture…” Many years later Jolyon reminisced about those: "golden sixties when the world was simple, dandies glamourous, Democracy not born, and the books of Whyte-Melville coming thick and fast".
The Whyte-Melville pub in church street Boughton has been sympathetically extended since the sporting author lived here. There is a selection of reasonably priced food on offer and up to three or four well kept real ales.

White-Melville Inn - Boughton - Northants - George Whyte-Melville

A. P. Herbert(1890 - 1971)

Stoke Bruerne was once a bustling industrial village astride the main canal route for heavy goods traffic from London to the Midlands. Boats had to stop here, for help getting through the Blisworth Tunnel, just a couple of hundred yards to the north. While they waited, the boatmen and women would shop for provisions. If they stayed overnight, they went to The Boat Inn, just as the characters in A. P. Herbert’s delightful novel ’The Water Gipsies’ do.
The story mainly concerns a servant girl, Jane Bell and her three suitors. Ernest is the priggish radical son of Mrs. Higgins, landlady of The Black Lion at Hammersmith. George Bryan is a posh artist who Jane has fallen in love with. And lastly there is Fred Green, a young illiterate bargee who, with his parents, works one of the traditional ornamental boats, towed by Beauty, the old grey mare.
Fred dreams of the day when Jane might agree to marry him and they can work their own boat together. To this end he persuades her to join his family on a journey up the Grand Union Canal; although his parents are convinced Fred will only make a successful union with a girl born to the hard bargee way of life. To make matters worse, prior to arriving at Stoke Bruerne lock, Jane spots Mr. Bryan on a boat and is keen to see him again:
"Jane looked eagerly ahead as the boat rose in the lock, and there, sure enough, a little way on, lay the house boat with Mr. Bryan on the top, making a sketch. It was a very pretty little place, compact and sleepy, and altogether English. The Boat Inn and a few old cottages stood on one side of the lock, the ship-chandlers’ and the grocer’s on the other. An old man fished above the lock, old men sat with their tankards on the bench outside the inn"
. The Boat Inn has been run by six generations of the Woodward family since 1887. It stands adjacent to the beautifully restored lock, and opposite the British Inland Waterways Musuem. Entered from the towpath, the front tap-bar part of the pub has hardly changed. There are two tiny flag-floored rooms with bench seating and service is via a hatch. Go through the small rooms and you are in a much larger modernised back lounge bar with leather sofas and comfortable chairs. Here, and in the adjoining restaurant and bistro, generous helpings of good food are served.

Stoke Bruerne  Boat Inn  A. P. Herbert

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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