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The George and Dragon Public House Potton

The George and Dragon Public House [formerly The White Hart also The George]: 2 to 4 King Street, Potton

The George and Dragon February 2013
The George and Dragon February 2013

The George and Dragon was known as the George following the former George Inn’s destruction in the Great Fire of Potton in 1783. The former George, we can see from a map of 1813 [W2/10], lay on the north side of the Market Square. The map shows a building, probably stabling or a barn, standing well back from the frontage onto the Market Square in an area labelled the George Yard. The frontage at that date was empty but was later occupied by 9, 10 and 11 Market Square.

A mortgage of 1836 tells us explicitly that the George (clearly today's George and Dragon because it was then a functioning inn), had also been known as the White Hart [AD3889]. The deed goes on to state that the George, along with a bakehouse and premises, four cottages and another dwelling house were all built on the site of buildings and part of a close or closes called Upper Close and Lower Close. They had belonged to George Kitchin and he had devised them in his will to his son, also George. In 1836 George the son and his son, inevitably another George, mortgaged them to Octavius Robert Wilkinson. This strongly suggests that the George and Dragon was built on the site of the White Hart, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire, just as the George was. The replacement inn was known as the George and later as the George and Dragon.

The George and Dragon was listed by English Heritage in November 1986 as Grade II, of special interest. It is dated to the 18th century, supporting the theory that it was built after the Great Fire, "with later reworkings". The property is built of the same red brick as other properties, such as 9 King Street, built after the fire, and comprises two storeys with attics beneath a clay tiled roof. The listing notes: "included for group value".

Also in 1836 a minor riot took place at the George [QSR1836/1/5/53]. John Jefferies, constable of Everton said that on Saturday 26th September he had a warrant to apprehend John Page for an offence against the game laws (i. e. he was a suspected poacher). He heard Page was at the George Inn at Potton. He went there, taking William Smith and Peter Gurney with him to assist. With their help he apprehended Page, who resisted violently. They got him out of the house and as far as the far end of the yard. A great crowd collected who kept calling out to Page to encourage him to resist. They fell together in the yard, then got up again. Page called out to James Almond to help him. Almond thrust himself between the policeman and his prey and forced him to let go; Page then ran away. William Smith of Everton stated that Almond struck him several times so that he was smothered in blood. He also struck Peter Gurney once and pushed him backwards so as to prevent him from assisting the constable. Constable Jeffries charged several persons, especially William Baines of Potton, to aid and assist him in keeping the peace. Baines refused. Baines and Almond were both brought to trial, but acquitted.

Curiously no gaol register contains an entry for John Page, nor are Baines or Almond entered for their part in Page’s escape (they would have entered prison just before trial). Almond may, however, have had previous. A nineteen year old called James Almond of Everton was fined £2, with an alternative sentence of one month in prison, in 1833 for assault. He was five feet seven inches tall and had a sallow complexion [QGV10/1]. The same man was convicted in 1864, aged fifty, again of assault. This time he was up with his son and was fined £5, the son also James and aged 23 was given the same sentence [QGV12/1].

The inn, together with neighbouring properties, was sold by auction (at the Crown!) in 1847 [WG2441] the description being as follows: Lot 2: The well-known old-established “GEORGE INN”. It is freehold, substantially brick-built and tiled, with large yard, extensive Stabling, Corn Shops, and other Outbuildings, in a most advantageous situation and doing a good trade; now let to Mr. Day at a rental of £36 per annum, which rental includes all the premises now occupied by Mr. Fisher with the George Inn. This lot to be subject to a right of cart way to lot 1 [6 and 8 King Street], as delineated on the plan. The plan (see below) makes it clear that the George is today’s George and Dragon.

Lot 2 is the George in this plan of 1847 [WG2441]
Lot 2 is the George in this plan of 1847 [WG2441]

In December 1873 Elizabeth Abbiss, wife of the landlord, made a statement that about a month before she had missed several articles of linen. Ann Giddings was employed by her once a fortnight to come to her house to wash. She counted all her linen and on 18th December gave information to the police. She went with Sergeant Vincent to the house of George Giddings and was present when he searched it. She identified as her property: three chamber towels; four pocket handkerchiefs; one draper towel; two napkins; one pillow case; one pair of socks and one head dress. The marks that were on them had been cut out. Mrs. Giddings had been in the habit of taking her linen to her house to wash, but she had always returned the number of articles correctly. Several other articles belonging to Mrs. Abbiss were still missing. The value of the goods was nine shillings. When xross-examined by the magistrate Mrs. Abbiss said that she did not know that Mrs. Giddings had been to prison before. She went again with Sergeant Vincent to the Giddings’ house that morning and identified two tea cloths, one little child’s blanket, one napkin with her name on it, one apron, a duster, and a pair of child’s socks.

Thomas Vincent said that Mrs. Giddings told him she had nothing in the house belonging to Mrs Abbiss. He searched the house and found various items in different parts of the house which Mrs. Abbiss identified as her property. Mrs. Giddings said she did not steal the articles but brought them home to wash. Vincent then told George Giddings he would charge him with receiving stolen goods. Giddings said he knew nothing at all about the matter. The couple were both detained in custody. Mrs. Giddings said: “I am sure Mrs. Abbiss never catched me off my guard in her life and I have worked at her house till twelve at night”.

The gaol register [QGV12/2] gives Ann Giddings’ age at the time as 42. She was convicted and sentenced to six months hard labour. She had been convicted three years earlier of stealing a gold pin and other items and had been to prison for fourteen days hard labour on that occasion. One can only hope that she was taught a lesson, certainly she does not appear in any other gaol registers. George was obviously not brought to trial as he is not mentioned in the gaol register.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 still refers to the premises as the George and notes that it had been licensed for over a hundred years; of course this particular building could only have been licensed for around ninety three years but the period is well over a century if either or both the old George and the White Hart are included. In 1876 the property was owned by Frederick Fisher of Potton. The countywide register of 1891 refers to the George and Dragon and notes that, unusually, it was owned by Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire] brewer John W. Down as a tied premises. The countywide register of 1903 states that the George and Dragon was then owned by Watford [Hertfordshire] brewer Benskin and Company, it was in good repair, 41 yards from the nearest licensed premises (the Rose and Crown) and had one front and two back doors.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Potton, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the George and Dragon [DV1/C12/61] made the cryptic remark on his notepad "I think personality here". More prosaically he noted three bedrooms and attics upstairs with, below, a parlour, a smoke room, a tap room, a living room, a kitchen and a cellar. He noted that it was bounded by the Rose and Crown and that average weekly trade amounted to four and a half barrels and six dozen bottles of beer along with six bottles of spirits. Owned with the public house was a farm at the rear occupied by the licensee consisting of a large barn and loft which was part sublet as a potato store and partly used for wood by the licensee; there was also a three bay cart hovel, a loose box, a two stall stable and a store.

Benskins of Watford were bought out by Ind Coope in 1967, which then became Allied Breweries. The George and Dragon is still [2013] a public house, now owned by Greene King.

References

  • WG2521: auction sale at the George: 1800;
  • P64/18/7: vestry meeting held at inn: 1813;
  • X440/252-253 and 258: sale particulars of various properties available at inn: 1813;
  • X744/46 and 48: Tithe Commissioners to meet at inn: 1815;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Licenses: 1822-1828;
  • Z858/28/6-7: auction sale held at inn: 1825;
  • P64/5/1/132: bills for ironmongery: 1827-1828;
  • QSR1836/1/5/53: violent arrest at the George: 1835;
  • AD3889: mortgage: 1836;
  • P64/5/3/342: bill for wine and beer supplied: 1840;
  • P64/5/3/384: bill for sacramental wine: 1841;
  • QSR1841/4/5/29-30: stolen pony returned to its owner at the George: 1841;
  • P64/5/3/413: bill for wine supplied: 1842;
  • P64/5/3/439: bill for port supplied: 1843-1844;
  • P64/5/3/472: bill for port supplied: 1844-1845;
  • P64/5/4/488: bill for port: 1846;
  • P64/5/4/524: bill for port: 1847;
  • WG2441: sale particulars: 1847;
  • WG2441: sale catalogue: 1847;
  • P64/5/4/547: bill for wine supplied: 1848;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • QSR1874/1/5/5: theft from the landlord: 1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF147/2/572: depositions regarding a disturbance at the public house leading to the ejection of a customer on Potton Fair day: 1875;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • ST/U4/11: valuation notes: 1893;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • Z753/1/2: meeting place of Ancient Order of Druids: 1904;
  • PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1818 Thomas Ellis;
1822: Rachael Ellis;
1823-1828: William King;
1830: William Woodward;
1836: William Peters;
1839-1842: James Bennett;
1843-1848: James Fisher, plumber and glazier
1850-1869: Wiliam Wales/Wiles;
1872-1873: Henry Coull;
1873-1875: George Abbiss;
1875-1881: Henry Gudgin;
1881-1886: Thomas Parkin;
1886-1888: William Parkin;
1888-1889: Frances Bingham;
1889: Eliza Brown;
1889-1892: Sarah Brown;
1892-1904: Walter Meeks Bentley;
1904-1905: Francis Henry Cox;
1905-1909: John Warboys;
1909-1912: Leonard Surtees;
1912-1924: Harry Vincent Sapwell;
1927-1828: Alexander Charles Hilton;
1931: Walter J Bennett;
1940: Arthur Wilkinson;
1957-1960: George Louis Walker;
1960-1967: Alec Free;
1967-1976: Charles Thomas Clarke;
1976-1982: Stanley Ronald Appleby;
1982-1987: Donald O'Sullivan;
1987: Tracey John Buggins;
1987-1996: Michael Allen.