Rose & Crown

On 3rd October 1839 John Squire, son of James and Ann Squire, married Ann Stacey, daughter of James Stacey of North Curry. John was brought up in a cottage demolished to make way for the railway. You drive ‘through’ it travelling over the level crossing from Stoke to Borough. During the same year they opened a Beer House in Woodhill, and called it the Rose and Crown. The Beer House Acts of the 1830s now allowed any ratepayer in the parish to sell beer and cider on payment of a fee of 2 guineas (£2.10). They could not, however, sell wine and spirits, one of the aims of the act being to curb the excessive drinking of gin and other liquor in the cities. Shortly before, according to the Tithe Apportionment, the building had been owned and occupied, by a William Kearle - field 663 on the Tithe Map.

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Tithe Map

c 1838

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By 1851 John and Ann had four children: Sarah, 9; Charles, 7; Thomas, 6; Mary, 5. In the Census return, as well as Innkeeper, John was now listed as a Higgler. The word has survived in the West Indies, meaning a market trader, but in Victorian times, John would have been a middleman. He would have gone round the local farms, buying up produce such as poultry, rabbits, eggs and cheese to sell in the market. In return he would supply  goods the household needed. Some of the trade was done by barter rather than by money changing hands, but it always involved haggling, or higgling. By the time of the first Ordnance survey maps (c 1888) the building had taken the shape we knew until the 1880s.

John Squire died young in 1855, but Ann continued as Innkeeper at the Rose & Crown. Very soon after she married Thomas Skinner Dyer, a qualified tailor, who moved in to the pub with two children of his own: Thomas J, 12 and Selina, 8. In 1841 he was recorded as an apprentice tailor, living in Paris Street, Exeter, with his widowed mother, a school mistress. There is no record of him in the 1851 Census, but he may well have been away from home on business as he was a tailor employed by the Bristol & Exeter Railway. He might even have known his future wife’s twin brother John, who also became a tailor.

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In 1856, Thomas applied for a full license for the pub, to enable him to sell wine and spirits. The Taunton Courier reported: “Mr. Trenchard then applied on behalf of Thomas Skinner Dyer, of the Rose and Crown, Stoke St Gregory, a house which had been respectably conducted as beerhouse for the last 17 years. Stoke St. Gregory was a most extensive parish, containing nearly 1500 inhabitants, and spread over a very wide area, and there was at present no licensed house in the parish. It was bounded by the parish of North Curry on the one side, and by Durston and Boroughbridge on the other, and the traffic on that road was very considerable. He (Mr. Trenchard) did not think they would find another parish in the kingdom of the large population and extent of area of Stoke St. Gregory without the public convenience of an inn licensed to sell spirits. The applicant, a respectable man, had held office on the railway, but had resigned his situation and married a widow, who kept the house as a beer-shop. He would put in certificates of good conduct both at the time he went into the employ the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company, and when he left; and also a memorial signed by some of the leading farmers and inhabitants of the fair parish of Stoke. In reply to the Magistrates, Mr. Trenchard stated that the house was situated in Woodhill, on the high ground, about a quarter of a mile from the church, on the highway from North Curry to Langport, a spot where the houses are more clustered together than in any other part of the village; and the nearest licensed house was North Curry." The Vicar, however, was annoyed that he had not been able to attend the hearing: "Mr. Trenchard said, Mr. Moor, the clergyman of the parish, came to him yesterday, and expressed his regret that the arrangement of the trains would not permit him to be present when the application was made to the Magistrates; but he strongly deprecated a license being given to the house, and stated that it was not on a great public thoroughfare. Mr. King put some questions to Dyer, from which it seemed that every person asked had signed a memorial except two viz. Mr. Moor, the clergyman, and Mr. Wm. House, his churchwarden." The Magistrates decided to grant the application; the license to date from the 1st of October - the first fully licensed pub in Stoke.

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The pub became known as ‘Dyers Rose & Crown’ and was the venue for local sales, both property and agricultural, withies, grass and timber. Thomas died in July 1889, but Ann continued to run the pub at least until 1902, when she would have been about 83. By 1918, Edward & Annie Crofts had taken over, and in 1927 Moses David Major and his wife Caroline Clara were there. From 1935 to the start of World War 2, Albert Charles Denton was in charge, with his wife Elizabeth. This photo was taken just after the war, but the scene would be very similar to what it had been in Victorian times.

To be continued . . . .