the history of yeovil's pubs





press reviews


Western Gazette, 23 August 2012

Website stirs memories of historic pubs

A fascinating look at Yeovil's history has revealed the town can boast more than 130 past and present pubs. The staggering figure was uncovered by Yeovil author Bob Osborn who has created a website that delves into the history of the town's drinking destinations over hundreds of years.

Today the town has 37 pubs, including a small number of bars. When you include the different names of the establishments over the years, Bob's research uncovered 168 pubs. The 63-year-old said: "It is an amazing number of pubs for such a relatively small town, or at least it was when the majority of these pubs were in business. Additionally, during part of the 19th century there was a huge number of unnamed beerhouses and I have included information on the 104 that I have been able to discover."

"Many people will remember the Hole in the Wall in Wine Street for instance and the Wine Vaults, of course. But how many realise that there were two more pubs, the Full Moon and the Running Horse, between them? Not to mention the Sun Inn opposite and the Bunch of Grapes and the Case is Altered just around the corner?

"A few months ago I spent a pleasant Friday afternoon wandering around some half-dozen of Yeovil's finer watering holes with a couple of chums. Not for the first time it cropped up in our conversation about how few pubs there were in Yeovil these days, at least within walking distance of each other – bearing in mind we'd just sauntered the length of Railway Walk from the Royal Marine to the Railway. All three of us have lived and worked in Yeovil since the 1970s, and spent a lot of time in pubs, so we collectively reminisced and tried to count the number of surviving hostelries and came up with a figure of just over 25. In fact, it is more like 35 but we had been drinking. The next day I began to wonder what had happened to all the old pubs I'd known and indeed if there were any more that I didn't know about. So I began delving into the history of yeovil's pubs – and this website is the result."

The website is full of photographs and information on Yeovil's pubs past and present, as well as information on the people who ran them. As well as the histories of individual pubs, the website features a comprehensive section on drinking laws going back more than 1,000 years. For the family historian there are lists of licensees, premises and addresses with more than 1,700 entries.

Bob's research found in the 1870s there were 63 pubs in Yeovil, 62 in the 1880s, 61 in the 1890s and 58 in both the 1860s and the 1900s. He said: "Indeed between the 1860s and the 1960s there were always more than 50 pubs in the town. Additionally, it has been estimated that between the 1840s and 1880s there were probably some 40 licensed beerhouses at any one time." His research suggests that from the 1850s until the 1880s there was one pub to fewer than 200 Yeovilians. Today's figure is one pub for approximately every 1,000 Yeovilians.
Several of Yeovil's pubs closed around the start of the 20th century, largely down to the Licensing Act 1904. Pubs lost included the Anchor Inn, Chough's Tap, Cow Inn, Cross Keys, Dolphin Inn, Seven Stars Inn, South Western Arms and the Victoria Inn. "At this time there was a strong temperance movement in England and a general feeling that there were simply too many public houses for the public good," said Bob. "The Licensing Act 1904 introduced a national scheme whereby a licensee surrendering his license would receive compensation." There was also many pubs lost to the wholesale redevelopment of the town during the 1960s and the 1980s.

The George Inn in Middle Street was knocked down to make the road wider, only for the council to pedestrianise the road. The pub's footprint can still be seen protruding from the pavement. The building of Wellington Street flats saw the loss of the Royal Standard and Wellington Inn, the development of the Glovers Walk shopping complex saw the fall of Coronation Hotel and the Railway Inn, while the widening of Reckleford and Kingston to create a dual carriageway and hospital saw the Market Street Inn, Nags Head Inn, Red Lion Inn, and White Lion Inn demolished.
Bob added: "Of course, with the increase in pub closures over the past few years and bending to the pressures of modern economics some former pubs have been converted into flats or demolished and replaced by small blocks of flats or other accommodation. "On the flip side, as Yeovil's population expanded, much new housing was built on the edges of the town leading to a surge of building new estate pubs, especially during the 1950s. Today we have the likes of the Arrow at Abbey Manor.

"The website is something of a work-in-progress and I'm still eager to add to the history of yeovil's pubs, so if any of your readers have old photos or further information on any of Yeovil's pub histories I'd be pleased to hear from them."


The Visitor, December 2012

I mention Bob Osborn and his website all about Yeovil pubs and beerhouses... Bob has added a considerable amount to the site now. To say this is fascinating is an understatement, just Google "History of Yeovil Pubs" and the site will soon be apparent. To anyone interested in social history, history of pubs, the changing face of society over the years, or just plain interested in pubs, it contains an absolute wealth of information and some fantastic pictures. There are many pictures of the pubs of Yeovil that are not there any more. In fact, some parts of Yeovil are no longer there either! Do take a look at Bob's site; highly recommended.