the history of yeovil's pubs
pen mill hotel
The area known as Pen Mill is named for the water mill close by. Pen Mill may have existed before Domesday as the manor mill for Kingston, there are ample remains of the substantial post-medieval mill but little above ground sign of any earlier structure.
Earlier known as the Pen Mill Inn, the Pen Mill Hotel, according to information on the restaurant menu, (which erroneously claims the Pen Mill to be one of Yeovil's oldest hotels and inns) was built in 1837 and used as a coaching inn until the 1920's. Apparently (and, I stress, according to the menu) the original site of the Pen Mill was 200 yards down the road on the right, near the site of the water mill but this burnt down and the hotel was rebuilt on the present site. Unfortunately, like many hotel menus, this is pretty much incorrect in all respects as the present building was built in the late 1850's (it was certainly not built by the time of the 1842 Tithe Map), it was not built as a coaching inn as these were in the town centre (although the hotel did have an ostler and extensive stabling to care for guests' horses) but chiefly to serve travellers using the newly-opened Pen Mill railway station. There had, of course, been a public house (although its reputation was as a cider house) in a converted cottage a hundred yards or so to the southeast, but on the left and only halfway to the water mill (there was never an inn near the mill), alongside the London Road (the present Sherborne Road) known as the Pen Mill Inn. But this house ceased trading when the bridge over the railway was built and the associated raising of the roadway level effectively cut it off from the main road itself in the 1860's. It didn't burn down, but reverted to cottages for another hundred years and was demolished around 1961.
In 1859 a lease was signed between Captain William J Prowse of Enham House, Southampton, Lord of the Manor of Kingston and the owner of the Pen Mill Inn, and John Stone, Yeoman, 'of Pen Mill Inn' for a term of seven years and the lease contains interesting references to the inn - "Pen Mill Inn, stables, stalls, yards, barton and gardens are included in Great Meadway [the name of the field]. In the bar - 2 beer engines, 6 motions, 11 spirit taps, jars and piping, shelving behind and both sides of the bar, counters and seven drawers. In pantry - shelves, cupboards and drawers, in the tap room - fixed forms, lead pipe and tap in water closet. Stables and yards, gas fittings and bells, door and fixings to the coal house and shoe house, the fowl house, the lamp over the front door and two long signboards fixed to the walls of the house."
At left is an undated, but probably late Victorian, public house 'check' or trade token issued at the Pen Mill Hotel. It is made of tinned brass, is 23.7mm in diameter and has a plain edge. On the obverse it says "PEN MILL - HOTEL" and on the reverse, within a wreath, is its value - 1½D. At this time a penny-halfpenny could buy you a pint 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.
Yeovil Casuals, founded in 1895 and renamed Yeovil Town Football Club in 1907, played at the Pen Mill Athletic Ground with their headquarters in the Pen Mill Hotel. During the Second World War the Pen Mill Hotel was "Civil Defence Rendezvous Point No 24".
In the Yeovil Guide of 1962 the Manor Hotel and the Mermaid Hotel were the most expensive hotels in Yeovil with Bed and Breakfast from 25/- per night (about £48 at 2017's value). For comparison the Three Choughs Hotel was 22/6 per night, the Pen Mill Hotel was 16/-, the Elephant & Castle Hotel was 15/6 and the Globe & Crown was cheapest at 14/6 (about £13.50 at 2017's value). By 1970 the prices were still the most expensive at the Manor Hotel with Bed & Breakfast from 45/- to 55/- per night (£50 to £63 at 2017's value), lunch at 14/6 (about £19) and dinner at 16/6 (about £22). Again for comparison, Bed & Breakfast at the Three Choughs Hotel was 42/- per night with breakfast only at 9/6 and tea from 3/6, the Preston Hotel was from 32/6 per night with lunch at 12/6 and dinner from 14/6, the Butchers Arms was 25/- for a single and 45/- for a double room per night and the Elephant & Castle Hotel was cheapest at 21/6 (about £29) per night.
The current Pen Mill Hotel is a large double fronted, three storey building with a two storey side annex and extensions to the rear. It is built of ashlar under a Welsh slate roof. The main entrance has a good stone portico supported by a pair of Corinthian columns while the entrance to the side extension is flanked by large squared pilasters with a pediment over.
Following a fire the hotel has been refurbished in recent years and now has large open bar areas, a separate restaurant and accommodation.
The first recorded licensee was John Stone born around 1827 at Hillfield, Dorset (ten miles south southwest of Yeovil) but there are simply too many John Stones in the area to be able to discern his early life. He is first listed as the Pen Mill's licensee in Harrison, Harrod & Co's Directory of 1859 and in the 1861 census he is listed as the hotel keeper and farmer of 100 acres employing 3 men and 2 boys. He is listed with his wife, Elizabeth, and five children under 9, the first born at Hillfield, the remainder in Yeovil. John died in December 1864, aged about 37. Elizabeth was listed as licensee in Kelly's Directory of 1866 but by 1871 she and four of the children were living at Leigh, Dorset, to the south of Yeovil, where Elizabeth lived as an annuitant (ie living on an insurance annuity or pension).
John Alfred Stewart was licensee by 1871 and remained as such for the next twenty years or so. He was born in Taunton, Somerset, about 1835 the son of innkeeper John Stewart and his wife, Hannah and the 1841 census lists the family of six in Silver Street, Taunton. By 1851 John's father had died and he was living with his mother and sister in Taunton. At this time he was aged 17 and was an attorney's clerk. In 1858 he married Sarah Phelps in Axminster, Devon and they lived for a time in South Wales where one of their daughters was born. By 1871 John, Sarah and their two daughters were living at the Pen Mill Hotel where the census listed John's occupation as hotel keeper and coal and salt merchant. Living with them were two of Sarah's sisters. Also living-in were a cook, chambermaid, barmaid, ostler and a boots. In the 1881 census John was listed as a licensed victualler and was living at the Pen Mill with Sarah and daughter Elizabeth. The number of live-in staff had dropped to a barmaid, general servant and an ostler. There was one guest staying in the hotel. In 1891 John was listed as the hotel proprietor and was living with Elizabeth and five staff - two barmaids, waitress, housemaid/cook and a boots but there were no guests. John and Sarah had left the Pen Mill by 1896 and in the 1901 census John and daughter Elizabeth were living in Exeter, Devon, with 66-year old John's occupation given as coal merchant and Elizabeth listed as a laundress. John died around 1914 in Newton Abbot, Devon.
Henry Strangways Bennett was listed as the licensee of the Pen Mill Hotel in the 1896 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser. He was born in Rawmarsh, Yorkshire around 1862, the son of George Bennett and his wife, Harriett, née Strangways. In 1871 the family were living in the Eastwood Inn in Rotherham, Yorkshire and ten years later both Henry and his sister, Beatrice, were assisting their publican father. By 1896 Henry had married Elizabeth Anna Stewart and he was listed as the licensee of the Pen Mill Hotel, as noted above, in Whitby's. In the 1901 census Henry and Elizabeth are listed with four live-in staff and one guest. Henry was last listed as licensee in Whitby's 1903 edition and in June 1904 Elizabeth died. Henry married his new wife, Emma, in 1906 and in the 1911 census they are listed living in Melbury Osmond, Dorset, (where Emma was born), with 3-year old and 9-month old daughters and a young house servant. Henry, at the age of 49, was now described as living on 'private means'. Henry died in Bridport, Dorset, in 1940 aged about 78.
After Henry left the Pen Mill, George Smith ran it for a couple of years, followed by Jesse Paul from around 1909 until at least 1914. Then came Urbane Lot followed by PE and Ernest Lewis and, finally, JG Patrick from at least 1947 until the 1960's.
Sketch Plans of the Pen Mill Hotel
This is a sketch based on plans held at the Heritage Centre, Taunton. The original plans are dated 1934 when J Brutton & Sons were the owners.
This is a sketch based on further plans held at the Heritage Centre, Taunton. The original plans are dated 1966 when the hotel was owned by Charrington & Co (SW) Ltd. By building a new kitchen the public bar doubled in size. The three garages shown were originally stables - the skittle alley ran along the top two at first floor level.
This notice in the Western Gazette's edition of 18 August 1882 was for the sale of "Unsold Lots of the Pen Mill Estate" including the Pen Mill Hotel.
From my collection
The Pen Mill Hotel, photographed around 1908.
The Pen Mill Hotel photographed in the late 1950s.
Photographed in 1960 by Charrington & Co Ltd's surveyors as part of a 'stocktaking' exercise of photographing Brutton's pubs prior to the brewery takeover.
Courtesy of Chris Rendell
The Pen Mill Hotel photographed in 1985.
The Pen Mill Hotel, photographed in 2012.
1859 – John
Harrod & Co 1859
listed as Pen
Mill, Pen Mill
1861 – John Stone – Hotel Keeper (1861 census) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1866 – Mrs Elizabeth Stone (Kelly's 1866 Directory)
1868 – Charles Andrews took the lease of Pen Mill Hotel and farm for 7 years at £260
1871 – John Stewart – Hotel Keeper and Coal & Salt Merchant (1871 census) as Pen Mill Hotel
1875 – John Alfred Stewart – Coal Merchant (Kelly's 1875 Directory)
1881 – John Stewart – Licensed Victualler (1881 census) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1891 – John Stewart – Hotel Proprietor (1891 census) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1896 – HS Bennett – Proprietor (Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser 1896)
1897 – Henry Bennett (Kelly’s 1897 Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1898 – Henry Strangways Bennett (Whitby's 1898 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser)
1901 – Henry Bennett – Hotel Keeper (1901 census) listed as Penn Mill Hotel
1903 – HS Bennett – Proprietor (Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser 1903)
1905 – GT Smith – Proprietor (1905 Western Gazette Almanac)
1909 – J Paull – Proprietor (1909 Western Gazette Almanac)
1908 – George Thomas Smith - License transfer (Borough Petty Sessions, February)
1908 – Jesse Paull - License transferred (Borough Petty Sessions, February)
1911 – Mr Paull (1911 census Summary) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1911 – Jesse Paull (Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser 1911)
1914 – Jesse Paull (Kelly’s 1914 Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1923 – Urbane Lot Shepherd (Kelly’s 1923 Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1936 – PE Lewis (1936 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1938 – PE Lewis (1938 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1939 – Ernest Lewis (Kelly’s 1939 Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1947 – JG Patrick (1947 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1949 – JG Patrick (Kelly’s 1949 Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1951 – JG Patrick (1951 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1954 – JG Patrick (1954 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1957 – JG Patrick (1957 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1960 – JG Patrick (1960 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1965 – Licensee not named (1965 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill Hotel
1968 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1968 Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1969 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1969 Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1970 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1970 Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1971 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1971 Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1972 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1972 Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1973 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1973 Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1974 – Licensee not named (1974 Yeovil Directory) listed as Pen Mill
1987 – Licensee not named (Denton’s 1987 Directory) listed as Penmill Hotel