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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

Formerly stood a good sized publichouse

It was noticed by someone that a brass button was missing from the sort of gamekeeper's velveteen coat which he wore; and, strange to say, a button of the exact kind was found behind the counter of the shop where the thefts occurred. No public action was taken in the matter, but it came to be strongly suspected that the professional thief-taker had himself been guilty of thieving. Other suspicious circumstances occurred, but he was a clever man, and nothing was brought home against him. It was believed, however, that something of the truth had become known at head quarters, as his appointment was a few months later cancelled, and he was not appointed elsewhere. He continued to reside in Horncastle and, having no employment, he accepted the post of water bailiff to the local angling association, which he filled for some time, until he eventually disappeared from the scene of his labours, which were thought by not a few to be somewhat "fishy" in the unfavourable sense of being at least questionable in their nature.

He had not left the town very long when it became known that certain parties had received from him some of the goods which had disappeared from the grocer's shop, which had been robbed. Sundry hams were found concealed in a hay loft, and it was generally believed that the robbery of an inn in the town, not far from the shop in question, as well as other thefts in the country around, had been perpetrated by him.


One of the remarkable features of Horncastle is the number of its publichouses, and these were far more numerous formerly than at the present day. This was, of course, mainly due to the great number of dealers who attended the horse fairs, not only from all parts of England and Ireland, but from most countries on the continent; especially the great August fair, which formerly lasted no less than three weeks. The present facilities for rapid travel, by rail, and quicker means of communication, which now enable dealers to hear of horses for sale, and to visit them in their owners stables, before they are brought to the fair, has altered all this, and the fairs now last only a few days at the most.

These publichouses had also generally attached to them large yards, and extensive stabling (as may still be seen), where the best horses were shewn and tried, without appearing in the streets. In consequence of the reduced need for such accommodation many of these publichouses have disappeared. Among the names of those which have been lost, are the Royal Oak, the Peal of Bells, Cock and Breeches, Chequers, Hammer and Pincers, Dolphin, Pack Horse, Woolpack, Fox and Goose, Marquis of Granby, Blue Bell, Horseshoes, Axe and Cleaver, Three Maids' Heads, Queen's Head, the George, and others which are only traditionally remembered. {162}

Several of these were almost contiguous. For instance, on the west side of the market, on the site of No. 1, now (1908) occupied by Mr. R. W. Clitherow, formerly stood a good-sized publichouse, which was destroyed by fire. Being rebuilt, it became the private residence of Mr. H. Sellwood, Solicitor, father-in-law of the late Poet Laureate, Lord Tennyson. Separated from this, northward, by only two houses, was the Black Horse Inn, still existing, and next to this, on what is now part of the shop of Messrs. Lunn and Dodson, was the Peal of Bells, and not more than half-a-dozen yards distant, on the opposite side of the street, was the very old Saracen's Head, still existing.

On the north side of the Market Place, next to what is now Mr. Cammack's cycle depot, was the Queen's Head Inn, now gone; and at the north-east corner of the Market Place, one door removed from St. Lawrence Street, was the Nelson Inn, still existing; while at the south-east corner stood the large George Inn, no longer existing; and near the churchyard, under the same roof with the old vicarage, was a much patronized dram shop, kept by a Mrs. Clayton, long since removed.

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