the history of yeovil's pubs





half moon inn

Silver Street


The Half Moon Inn in Silver Street (shown as 'A' on the map below) was open from at least 1709, when it was mentioned in a Deed of Property, until the 1970's. It was presumably named as such to distinguish it from the Full Moon just across the Borough in Wine Street.

It was a three-storey, double fronted building under a tiled roof. It had a huge sign, depicting a crescent moon, supported by a frame projecting well out into the street as seen in the photographs below and as described by Pevsner in "The Buildings of England - South and West Somerset" as "a nice wrought-iron inn-sign bracket".

The Ministry of Town & Country Planning's Provisional List of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest of July 1948 described the building and its neighbours thus - "Silver Street bounds churchyard on east side. Houses on one side only, facing church. The houses themselves are mostly 18th or early 19th century in date. They are not of great merit individually but they retain their Georgian scale and form part of the pleasant surroundings of St John's church. They are therefore of value in a largely modern town. Grade III - 'Half Moon' Public House - Two-storey, three-window brick front. Three-light sash windows to ground and first floors. Key stones. Plain door reveal. Large and elaborate wrought-iron bracket to Inn Sign."

At left is an undated, but probably late Victorian, public house 'check' or trade token issued at the Half Moon Inn. It is made of brass, is 18.7mm in diameter and has a plain edge. On the obverse it says "HALF MOON - HOTEL - YEOVIL" and on the reverse the name of the maker "E SEAGE. MAKER - 17 CODRINGTON ST. EXETER" and is its value - 2D. At this time two old pence could buy you a pint or two of ale. Checks were frequently used in games, such as skittles or quoits where, for instance, players would 'chip in' a check to the 'kitty' which would be won by the winning team to redeem at the bar. By issuing checks a landlord could guarantee they would be spent in his establishment only.

An indenture dated 24 June 1790 conveyed the Half Moon Inn in Corn Market (today's Silver Street) for £300 by William Latton to Mrs Betty Kitson. In a further indenture, dated 21 March 1798, Betty conveyed the Half Moon to Robert Tucker for £315.

In 1875, 1878, 1879, 1880 and 1882 the Post Office Directory noted that Mr Musgrove ran a carrier service to South Petherton from the Half Moon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
It is interesting to note on the 1908 advertisement for the Half Moon below that Nicholson's London Gin was being sold for twelve shillings (60p) a gallon!

Vincent's factory, making cardboard boxes for the glove trade, existed for many years at the back of the Half Moon. It was reached via the alleyway in Middle Street between the HSBC bank and Ryman's stationers.

Prior to turning professional, the Yetties set up the Yeovil Folk Club in 1963, initially at the Mermaid Hotel but later moving to the Half Moon. They booked people from all over the place, including Julie Felix. Paul Simon sang there in 1965, on an early pre-Garfunkel tour. “We gave him ten quid because he was so good” remembers Bonny Sartin of the Yetties.


Yeovilians remember...

Thanks to Mike Bolton for the following - "Buff Biggin was a much loved and admired local cricketer and after he left the Half Moon he ran the pub at Trent. The Half Moon was the home of Yeovil Folk Club in the early 60s run by the Yetties in an upstairs room. I believe that Paul Simon once sang there on an early pre-Garfunkel tour. The pub was then run by Johnny Fisk the landlord."

And to Will Rich for the following "Had my first snog at the Half Moon folk club and I don't know about Paul Simon but Julie Felix definitely appeared there. In 1968 a riot started after youths had been drinking heavily there and were encouraged by a couple of French lads to reenact the Paris disturbances of May that year. Several were arrested (including the French boys and yours truly) and the police station was besieged by stone-throwing youths."

Thanks to Brian Butt for the following anecdote - "Playing on the skittle alley at the Half Moon was ‘different’. It was upstairs and the slope was such that if you missed the pins on the way up you had a fair chance of getting them as the ball ran back."



William Bengefield is noted as licensee of the Half Moon in Pigot's Directories of both 1822 and 1824 and the Poll Book records him there in 1827. However he is in the 1832 Poll Book by virtue of being the occupier of lands at Sun House Farm although it is unlikely that he was connected to the Sun House Inn.

The first licensee on whom there is any detail in the records was Benjamin Thomas. He was noted as early as 1830 in the Land Tax Returns and in several trade directories until 1852. He was born in Stockland, Devon around 1800 and the 1841 census shows him as an inn keeper with his wife Elizabeth, known as Betty or Betsy, 2-year old nephew Francis, three servants and several lodgers. The situation was almost identical in 1851. By the time of the 1861 census Benjamin had left the licensed trade and set himself up as a corn merchant in Middle Street. Betty died in March 1863 and in the 1871 census Benjamin, listed as a corn factor, was still living in Middle Street with his nephew Francis. Benjamin died in March 1872.

The next licensee, Henry Trott, was born around 1823 and both he and his wife, Sarah, were from Stocklinch, Devon where, in 1851 he was recorded as a farmer of 100 acres. He and Sarah were living with his father, James Trott, a retired farmer, and Sarah his mother. By 1861 Henry was licensee of the Half Moon and in 1866 he was advertising himself in Kelly's Directory as licensee of the King's Arms, just along the road. However by 1871 Henry and Sarah had moved back to Yarcombe where Henry worked as a builder.

John Knight was born around 1834 in Meltham, Yorkshire, the son of agricultural labourer and ale & beer seller John Knight and his wife, Nancy. In 1851 John junior was also an agricultural labourer. During the next ten years John married and he and his wife, Sarah, from Staffordshire, moved to Yeovil where John worked as a railway engine driver. The 1861 census lists them living in Ebenezer Row in lower Middle Street (roughly where Poundland is today). By the time of the 1871 census John and Sarah, now with a young son and daughter, were living at the Half Moon with a couple of domestic servants, an ostler and four lodgers. John's occupation was listed as inn keeper. He was still listed as the licensee in 1875. However the call of the steam and grime of the railways was obviously too strong because by 1881 the family had moved to the hub of the railway world, Swindon, where John was again living every young boy's dream by being a railway engine driver once more.

Hugh Marsh was born around 1838, son of George and Susannah Marsh, but the family moved to Yeovil quite early in Hugh's life and by 1851 they were living in Paradise Row, Huish. His father was an ostler and even at the age of 14 Hugh was listed as a harness maker. By 1861 Hugh's mother had died but the family were still living at Paradise; Hugh was listed as a saddler while his father had become a brewer. By the time of the next census in 1871, Hugh's father had died. Hugh was now aged 33 and was still living in Paradise Row as a saddle and harness maker with his 19-year old sister, Mary, as housekeeper. However, within the next five years, after more than twenty years of making saddles and harnesses, Hugh was licensee of the King's Arms and was listed in Kelly's Directory. By 1881 he was licensee of the Half Moon, a few doors along Silver Street. By this time Hugh had married Jane Dunn and her daughter, Bessie, worked as a barmaid in the Half Moon. There was also in residence a general servant, a boots and a lodger. By the time of the 1891 census Hugh was listed as a retired publican and was living with Jane in Market Street just around the corner.

The next licensee, Robert Leach, was born in Yeovil in June 1847 the son of pastry cook Henry Leach and his wife, Louisa. In 1851 the family lived in Belmont, next door to the Britannia Inn. He married Ellen in 1873 but he turned out to be one of those roving publicans who seems to move from pub to pub - he was licensee of the George Inn in Middle Street in 1878, licensee of the Pall Tavern with his wife, Ellen, in 1881 and licensee of the Half Moon by 1889. Ellen died in December 1892 and Robert married his second wife, Sarah, during the mid 1890's. However Robert died in the spring of 1897 and Sarah became licensee of the Half Moon where she was to remain until her death, at the age of 64, twenty five years later in the winter of 1922.

Edward Biggin followed straight after Sarah and was landlord for more that a quarter of a century. His wife, only recorded as Mrs A Biggin, took over the license for a couple of years followed by their son, BP Biggin, known as Buff, until the 1960’s – a family total of over forty years.







Courtesy of Tony Rendell

Three images of the same bottle marked "Half Moon Inn", "John Knight" and "Yeovil". John Knight was landlord of the Half Moon Inn, Silver Street, from at least 1871 until around 1875.


This photograph was taken around 1900 from the Borough, looking towards the junction of Silver Street at left and Middle Street at right. The large building on the corner was London House which was built in the 1830s and occupied mostly by a succession of drapers. It was demolished and replaced with the current bank building, Going down Silver Street was Singleton's boot stores, a greengrocer and then the Half Moon Hotel - seen better in the close-up below,


The same scene in 2012 looks completely different.


In this enlargement of the central section of the 1900 photograph above, the Half Moon is the three-storey building just to left of centre. If you look carefully you can just make out the large iron framework projecting from the front of the building to support the inn's square sign, depicting a crescent moon, that hangs way out over the street.


A colourised photograph of 1960 by Charrington & Co Ltd's surveyors as part of a 'stocktaking' exercise of photographing Brutton's pubs prior to the brewery takeover.


The Half Moon circa 1960. The steel frame supporting the sign is the same as the previous photograph but the sign itself has been renewed.



A colourised photograph showing the lower half of Silver Street. I'd guess the photograph dates to the late 1960s or early 1970s. The sign of the Half Moon is seen at the right edge of the photo.


owners / lessees / licensees


1760 – Nathaniel Hayne (Poor Rate Book) 2¾d.
1790 – Mrs Betty Kitson - conveyance transferred from William Latton for £300
1798 – Robert Tucker, innholder, conveyance transferred from Metty Kitson for £315
1799 – Mrs Kitson, owner - John Mole, occupier. Tax £1 9s 2d (Land Tax Redemption)
1822 – William Bengefield (Pigot’s 1822 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1824 – William Bengefield (Pigot's 1824 Directory)
1827 – William Bengefield (1827 Juror's List)
1828 – Jane R of James Edwards (Land Tax Returns) Half Moon Inn
1829 – James Edwards, owner/occupier (Land Tax Returns)
1830 – James Edwards (Pigot’s 1830 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1830 – Thomas, Benge (ie Benjamin Thomas) (Land Tax Returns)
1839 – Benjamin Thomas (Robson’s 1839 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1841 – Benjamin Thomas – Inn Keeper (1841 census) pub not named
1842 – Benjamin Thomas (Pigot’s 1842-4 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1850 – Benjamin Thomas (Hunt & Co's 1850 Directory)
1851 – Benjamin Thomas – Licensed Victualler (1851 census) listed as Half Moon Inn
1852 – Benjamin Thomas – Inn Keeper (Slater’s 1852 Directory) – listed as Half Moon
1861 – Henry Trott (Kelly's 1861 Directory - Inns & Hotels)
1861 – Henry Trott – Inn Keeper (1861 census) listed as Half Moon Inn
1871 – John Knight – Inn Keeper (1871 census) pub name not listed
1875 – John Knight (Kelly's 1875 Directory - Hotels & Inns)
1879 – H Marsh (Whitby's 1879 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser)
1880 – H Marsh (Whitby's 1880 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser)
1881 – Hugh Marsh – Hotel Keeper (1881 census) listed as Half Moon
1881 – H Marsh (Whitby's 1881 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser)
1889 – Robert Leach (Kelly’s 1889 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1891 – Robert Leach – Hotel Proprietor (1891 census) listed as Half Moon
1895 – Robert Leach (Kelly’s 1895 Directory) listed as Half Moon PH
1901 – Sarah Leach (43 year old widow of Robert above) - Licensed Victualler (1901 census)
1902 – Sarah Leach (Kelly’s 1902 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1911 – Sarah Leach - Licensed Victualler (1911 census)
1914 – Sarah Leach (Kelly’s 1914 Directory) listed as Half Moon PH
1919 – Sarah Leach (Kelly’s 1919 Directory) listed as Half Moon PH
1923 – Edward Biggin (Kelly’s 1923 Directory) listed as Half Moon PH
1938 – EW Biggin (1938 Yeovil Directory) listed as Half Moon
1939 – Edward Biggin (Kelly’s 1939 Directory) listed as Half Moon PH
1947 – EW Biggin (1947 Yeovil Directory) listed as Half Moon
1949 – Mrs A Biggin (Kelly’s 1949 Directory) listed as Half Moon
1951 – Mrs A Biggin (1951 Yeovil Directory) listed as Half Moon
1957 – BP Biggin (1957 Yeovil Directory) listed as Half Moon
1960 – BP Biggin (1960 Yeovil Directory) listed as Half Moon. Known as "Buff"
1960's – Johnny Fisk, early 1960's (ref: Mike Bolton)
1965 – Licensee not named (1965 Yeovil Directory) listed as Half Moon
1968 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1968 Directory) listed as Half Moon Inn
1969 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1969 Directory) listed as Half Moon Inn
1970 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1970 Directory) listed as Half Moon Inn
1971 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1971 Directory) listed as Half Moon Inn