the history of yeovil's pubs
23 High Street
Originally built as a small town house, the Fleur-de-Lys was a two-storied and cellared brick building (marked 'B' on the 1886 map below) at the location now occupied by Beales in High Street, the Fleur-de-Lys had been a public house at least since the mid-18th century (see first image) or probably much earlier still. It was also known as the Plume of Feathers - see Documentation of 1739 below. The Millennium Blue Plaque erected by the Town Council shown here is fixed close to where the Fleur de Lys actually stood.
John Martin's map of 1813 depicting the properties owned by the Yeovil Corporation (shown below) demonstrates that at this time the Fleur de Lys building was owned by the Corporation. From an indenture in my collection dated 25 March 1834 it is known that the building, still owned by the Corporation, had become the premises of chemist and druggist Edward Granger (see image below).
However by the 1880’s, as evidenced by the various census records and Trade Directories, it was trading once again as the Fleur-de-Lys and spent the remainder of its existence – more than fifty years - being run by a series of female licensees, being something of a record for Yeovil’s pubs. The records show that many women, especially widows, ran pubs in Yeovil. Many of these assumed the role of licensee after the death of their husband who had been running the pub until his death, but the majority of these widows only lasted a year or two as a licensee before moving on.
In it issue of 12 January 1934 the Western Gazette reported the following "During the extensions to the High Street section of Messrs Denner's drapery establishment and interesting discovery has been made which recalls trading days in Yeovil several hundred years ago. A cellar, which for years had been almost unused, was being cleared, when investigation showed that it was a vaulted chamber with the roof supported on stone pillars of very similar character to those recently discovered when extensions were made to the premises of Mr Percy Windsor, agricultural Engineer, of Vicarage Street. The cellar under Messrs Denner's premises was in some places fashioned out of rock. The original portion consisted of flat but finely constructed vaulting, and the pillars have square cut moulded capitals. The work was of very substantial character, the vaulting especially showing some skill and care in erection. Inside the cellar were found two old barrels, which had apparently contained wine or some other beverage, in addition to wire bottle containers of the same age. The appearance and position of the vault points to its having once been part of the cellars of the Fleur-de-Lys Hotel. In the latter part of the 18th century this hotel was of considerable importance and size."
A photograph of the cellar, complete with barrels and bottles, is shown in the Gallery below.
At the Fleur-de-Lys, however, it was a somewhat different story: firstly, from at least 1889 until 1897, the Fleur-de-Lys was run by a widow, Ellen Sheppard, who took on the role of licensee long after the death of her husband. Ellen was born about 1847 at Lyme Regis, Dorset but her maiden name eludes us. In 1881, as a 35-year old widow, Ellen was a boarding house keeper at 16 South Western Terrace. Living with her were her two daughters; Minnie and Nellie, aged 10 and 7 respectively and both born in Stoford, just south of Yeovil. Listed as 'boarders' were six young ladies aged between 21 and 28 and all six giving their occupations as 'assistant in refreshment rooms'. One was called Jessie Paramour and another was named Effie Thorogood - oh, come on! Now, I'm not casting aspersions (well, actually, I am) but it does seem to me that our Ellen was running a 'house of assignations' as brothels were euphemistically called at the time. In fact, for a young, newly-widowed woman with herself and her children to house, feed and clothe, being the madam of a whorehouse was actually not that uncommon (well, OK, perhaps it was not uncommon in London - granted, it may have been a bit uncommon in Yeovil outside of Park Street). In any event by 1889 'Miss' Ellen Sheppard was listed as licensee of the Fleur-de-Lys in Kelly's Directory and in the 1891 census she was listed there as a licensed victualler with Minnie and Nellie. She was still being listed as the licensee as late as 1897 in Kelly's Directory but disappeared from the records after this.
As a side note, no young ladies were listed at the South Western Terrace address in the 1891 census and all six young ladies listed there in 1881 had left Yeovil by this time.
Ellen was succeeded by another widow, Mrs Emily Dare, who ran the Fleur for at least fifteen years. Emily was born Emily Hicks in 1849 at Clevedon, Somerset, the daughter of carpenter William Hicks and his seamstress wife, Elizabeth. Emily was the youngest of six daughters. In 1871, at the age of 21, she was working as a domestic servant at Westbury on Trym, Bristol, and in Bristol, on 28 July 1873, she married Chew Magna-born Albert Henry Dare. Albert had been working as a waiter in the Stork Hotel in Clifton, Gloucestershire. By the time of the 1881 census they had moved to Melcombe Regis, Weymouth, Dorset. Albert continued to work as a waiter and he and Emily had two young sons, Albert and Harry. By 1891 Albert was the steward of the Melcombe Country Club and he, Emily and the children lived there with two servants of their own. Albert died in the spring of 1900 and Emily moved to Yeovil almost straight away for within a year the 1901 census listed her as inn keeper at the Fleur-de-Lys with her 21-year old son, Leslie, and a servant. They were still there ten years later when the 1911 census listed Emily as a licensed victualler and Leslie as a licensed victualler's assistant. Emily was listed as the licensee in Kelly's Directory of 1914 but had left by 1919.
Finally, for its last twenty years, the Fleur-de-Lys was run by Miss Mollie Thompson from at least 1919 until at least 1939.
A section of John Martin's 1813 map of the properties owned by the Yeovil Corporation (shown blacked-in). The property at farthest left was the Fleur de Lys.
This drawing, showing the Fleur-de-Lys next door to Yeovil's first Post Office (replaced in 1836 by Linsey Denner's shop), has been dated to between 1766 and 1780 based on notes on its back as to the people depicted, including the Reverend Parsons who was vicar between these dates. In the doorway of the Fleur stands the landlord, Mr Boobier with Corporal Pope and in the ground floor inn window Mrs Boobier peeps out. While naive in style, the picture appears quite accurate in its detailing showing a traditional graduated slate roof with heavier eaves slates, as is quite common in the area. The building itself is constructed in red brick with stone quoins, string course, window surrounds and the fine columned entrance. The windows are of the sash type to the front elevation but a casement window is open on the gable indicating one or more rooms in the roof space. At ground level the two grilled windows at pavement level indicate an extensive cellar (see photo below).
This notice for all-comers to take part in prize matches of 'Sword and Dagger' appeared in the edition of 4 September 1780 of the Salisbury & Winchester Journal. It should be noted that four guineas at 2017's value is in the region of £500, but even so....
This drawing dates to 1839 and depicts High Street looking towards the Borough. On the left the Mermaid with its familiar archway and large overhanging sign is clearly seen. On the opposite side of the road, just right of centre, the white three storey building with the two-storey projecting bay is the Kings Head Inn and beyond that the two-storey building is probably the building of the former George Inn. The two-storey building at right (Edward Granger's the druggist shop) was, and part of which at least would become again, the Fleur-de-Lys.
From my collection
The indenture, dated 25 March 1834, in which Edward Granger leased the High Street property from Robert Jennings, Portreeve of the Corporation at the time.
High Street photographed in 1897 by Jarratt Beckett. The three-storey building at extreme right with the arch is the shop of Linsey Denner. The Fleur-de-Lys is the left-hand half of the two storey building with the cart outside. The shop at centre, with all the hats hanging up, would become the premises of pianoforte dealers Swaffield & Foote, called Elgar House.
Courtesy of Jack Sweet
The Fleur-de-Lys, at centre complete with a Fleur-de-Lys sign, photographed in 1906.
From my collection
A hand-coloured postcard of High Street, this one postmarked 1910 but I've seen this card used as early as 1906, with the Fleur-de-Lys next to the building in red brick.
From my collection
An almost identical to the previous by a couple of years later in this hand-coloured postcard as the Town Hall now has its new clock, erected in 1912.
From my collection
An enlargement from a sepia-toned version of the previous postcard showing that since the 1897 Jarratt Beckett photograph above, Swaffield & Foote occupied half of the premises and that a small shop had been formed between their premises and the Fleur de Lys Hotel - which actually only occupied a quarter of the original town house premises.
A photograph taken in the old cellars of the Fleur-de-Lys in 1934.
The scene of a previous image, but seen in 2012. The Mermaid is unchanged but the position of the Fleur-de-Lys is now occupied by the Denner's, now Beales', store extension with its additional floor. This photograph was taken on 02 May 2012 - the day the Queen visited Yeovil as part of her Jubilee Tour. Notice the string of patriotic bunting slung across the road - don't us Yeovilians just know how to celebrate in style!
This postcard, photographed around 1925 and looking along High Street to Westminster Street, shows three pubs – at extreme left is the Fleur-de-Lys with its sign projecting over the pavement. Opposite, at right of photo, is the Mermaid Hotel with its lovely round-arched entrance. In the far distance, at the end of Westminster Street, is the tower of Seaton’s Garage (demolished and now Tesco’s car park) and immediately in front and slightly right is the Heart of Oak. Notice, at the centre of the T-junction, the traffic cop with white cuffs waiting for the rush hour traffic.
At the time of this photograph, in the early 1960's Clements store was closed and awaiting demolition. It, and the smaller building next to it, was replaced with a Pricerite supermarket and is now occupied by Argos. The two-storey white building to the right of centre was the Fleur-de-Lys building - by this time part of Denner's store (now Beales) which was made three-storey in the 1970's (see colour photograph above).
owners / tenants / licensees
1760 – Jos.
Byles (Poor Rate
Book) 2½d. Poor
c1770 - Mr Boobier (from annotated sketch above)
Certainly by 1813 the property was owned by the Yeovil Corporation.
1822 – Thomas
1824 – Thomas Lintern (Pigot's 1824 Directory - Inns & Hotels)
1827 – Thomas Lintern (1827 Jurors List)
1829 – Robert Tucker, owner - Thomas Lintern, occupier (Land Tax Returns)
1830 – Thomas Lintern (Pigot’s 1830 Directory)
From 1834 until he retired around 1850 the building was the chemist shop of Edward Granger.
1881 – census
listed as Fleur
1889 – Miss Ellen Sheppard (Kelly’s 1889 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1891 – Ellen Shephard (widow age 44) – Licensed Victualler (1891 census) pub not named
1895 – Ellen Sheppard (Kelly’s 1895 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1897 – Mrs Ellen Sheppard (Kelly’s 1897 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1901 – Emily Dare (widow age 50) – Inn Keeper (1901 census) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1902 – Mrs Emily Dare (Kelly’s 1902 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1911 – Emily Dare (1911 census) listed as 23 High Street, Fleur-de-Lys Hotel
1914 – Emily Dare (Kelly’s 1914 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys PH
1919 – Miss M Thompson (Kelly’s 1919 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1923 – Miss Millie Thompson (Kelly’s 1923 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys PH
1936 – MM Thompson (1936 Yeovil Directory) listed as Fleur de Lys
1938 – MM Thompson (1938 Yeovil Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys
1939 – Millie Thompson (Kelly’s 1939 Directory) listed as Fleur-de-Lys PH
is to be