Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Bolingbroke Arms

Hook Farm signpost
Today there is little evidence of the medieval village of Lydiard Tregoze.  However, despite the proliferation of 1980s building around Lydiard Park, it is still possible to trace a depression in the landscape close to the park and St Mary’s Church.  This is believed to be a ‘hollow way,’ the former medieval high street from village to parish church.

The popular theory is that the village was abandoned following the Black Death when plague decimated the population.  The tithing of Lydiard Tregoze, a group of ten householders, a sort of medieval neighbourhood watch, continues to appear in records during the 16th century but disappears after this date when there was a shift of population to Hook.

The Bolingbroke Arms, situated between Hook and Greatfield, is little changed since it served the Lydiard estate workers in the 19th century – or is it?

The inn first appeared listed in early local trade directories and at the time of the 1841 census Samuel Kerley was the innkeeper.

James Cox took over as mine host following Samuel’s death in 1855 and in 1861 his widow Lucy was in charge.  Jesse Hitchcock, a carpenter and joiner with a family builder’s business in Wootton Bassett, took over the lease a year later and the Hitchcock family was still pulling pints at the pub into the 20th century.  It was the departure of 78 year old Frances Hitchcock in 1904 that saw the beginning of some drastic changes at the Bolingbroke.

When the Surveyor of Taxes valued the inn and six acres of land at £20, landagents Goodwyn & Sons of Granville Chambers in Portman Square, London wrote the following report to Lady Bolingbroke in 1905.

“The widow Hitchcock the tenant had been there for about 40 years and the place had been demolished within the last few months after an intimation from the magistrates that they could not renew the licence to a new tenant when Mrs Hitchcock left unless the place was rebuilt.”

Properties at Hook

Two years later and landlord Tom Townsend was established as tenant but unfortunately the new inn would eventually lose its association with family from whom it took its name.

When the major portion of the Lydiard Estate came under the hammer at the Goddard Arms Hotel in Old Town on Friday March 21, 1930 lot 12 was described as a fully licensed Inn known as The Bolingbroke Arms, Hook.  Fronting the Wootton Bassett to Purton Road the property comprised three enclosures of land measuring over five acres with outbuildings, a store and garage.  An additional shed, pig sties and trade fittings are described as belonging to the tenant, Tom Townsend who paid £35 a year rent.

The Advertiser coverage of the auction reported that “the biddings started at £1,000 and rose to £2,500 at which figure the lot was purchased by Mr F. Weeks, managing director of the Lamb Brewery Company, Frome."

Kingsdown brewer Arkells bought the Hook hostelry in 2001.  The refurbished Bolingbroke Arms, hotel, pub and restaurant now boasts eight en-suite bedrooms furnished in Cotswold pine, considerably more upmarket than in widow Hitchcock’s day!

The Bolingbroke Arms today

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