Category Archives: Pubs of Frome

Jazz at the Griffin

Sunday afternoon
last light
a fire smouldering
in the hearth
an occasional spurting flame
jazz notes from a flute
soaring into the air
a trumpet reaching up
to draw gem-stone colours
on the gathering dark
a keyboard scattering tunes
like pebbles on water
a guitar threading pickpocket music
into the mix
and a girl
swaying to the beat’
her voice rich with the words
of Summertime
wrapping the listeners
in the sound of sadness
their drinks forgotten –
then a growing silence
broken only
by a shower of sparks

By Moira Andrew

Born and educated in Scotland.  Ex-Head Teacher, college and university lecturer.  She has written several books on art and creative writing for primary teachers, published by Belair.  Also books for children, the most recent Grandad’s Party, Poetry Space, 2016 and a collection Wish a Wish, 2014, Poetry Space.  She has seven collections of poetry for adults:  Light the Blue Touch Paper, Iron Press, Fresh out of Dragonflies, Headlock Press, This year, Next year, Marvin Katz Press, Firebird, IDP, Man in the Moon, IDP, Box of Sky, Integral, (parallel translation into Romanian) and most recently, Breakfast with Swallows, Austin McAuley.

31st December 1873

The Bridge Hotel, at 3 The Bridge, was originally a three-story house on the bridge over the River Frome. In 1872, the Bridge Hotel was quoted in a police report as being ‘the worst conducted house in Frome.’ It was a challenging pub to run and manage, and when Charles George Tucker and his wife took over the pub, they did all they could to clean it up. A very hard-working couple, Mr and Mrs Tucker supplemented their income with their own hearse hire company which rented out a ‘shillibeer’ – a horse-drawn hearse which had additional seats for mourners.

One of the biggest and most regular problems the Bridge Inn had, was customers who refused to leave when they had had too much to drink. There are many recorded incidents, but on New Year’s Eve in 1873, a young labourer, Samuel Dartnell got into an argument with Samuel Hinton in the pub. Dartnell stabbed Hinton six times. In a panic Dartnell went on the run and travelled along the railway line to Wiltshire and then made his way to Hampshire, where he finally handed himself in. His guilty sentence came with seven years hard labour. Thankfully Horton recovered to see many more New Years Eves.

The Blue Boar Inn

The Blue Boar Inn was erected in 1691, built by Theophilus Lacey. 1691, if written in some fonts, shows the same number upside down. William III and Mary II had only been on the throne for three years.  In 1677, the 26-year-old William, described as being humourless, surly, with a crooked nose and black teeth, married a distraught 15-year-old Mary, who at the time had a crush on an older woman. Charles II had given Mary away, and when he put the newlyweds to bed, William refrained from removing his under garments – he said he always slept with them on.  Charles was having none of it and he drew the curtains around the bed saying, “Now, nephew to your work! Hey! Saint George for England!”

By the 1720s in Frome, the Town Bridge was being renovated and the Blue House was having a partial rebuild. With some left-over money, a new guardhouse or ‘lock up’ was built on the Blue House grounds, adjoining the Blue Boar Inn.  It apparently replaced the Blindhouse in the St John’s churchyard.

Most communities had a Blindhouse.  The one in Frome was a vault-like underground stone cell with a barred opening for concerned relatives to lower food to those interned. Disruptive, unruly drunks were often thrown into the Blindhouse, which of course had no windows, where they slept it off to sober up.  When they awoke, it was so dark they thought they were blind. We thus get the expression ‘blind drunk.

By 1774 there were forty three inns on the Frome map, excluding those slightly further out like the Royal Oak, The Crown in Keyford or even The Vine Tree. The Blue Boar Inn is one of those older survivors and was much larger than it is today.  The back yard of the pub was large enough to provide for coaches and carriages coming in and out of the town centre.

When the Frome police station opened in 1857, the ‘lock up’ possibly moved to the police station and the guardhouse was converted to men’s conveniences, being demolished in the early 1960s. Corner stonework may be seen today in the walls of the Blue Boar Inn.