the history of yeovil's pubs
Grope Lane (Wine Street)
The Running Horse was a short-lived beerhouse in Grope Lane, today's Wine Street (shown as 'E' on the map at left) The name of the licensee is unknown but the Running Horse was quickly superseded by the second pub called the Bunch of Grapes.
The Running Horse came to prominence in 1843 following a fatal fight on the premises during the afternoon of 25 March as reported in the Western Flying Post of 15 April. The fight was between local bruiser, William Crocker, and George Watkins, a Rifleman of the Rifle Brigade who was recruiting in Yeovil and lodging at the Running Horse while doing so. After the consumption of much cider and local ale, challenges were given and accepted and the pair ventured to the rear yard of the establishment accompanied by the other drinkers. A fight ensued in which Watkins was struck to the ground several times. Additionally he was hit by another soldier and Crocker's wife. To cut a long story short it appears that Watkins came in a very poor second and, in a very bloody state was given cider and put to bed. Several days later Watkins sought medical advice but told the doctor that he had fallen in the River Yeo. Nevertheless his conditioned worsened and he died on 12 April.
On the death of Watkins, Crocker disappeared but was later apprehended in Crewkerne and brought before the Assizes at Bridgwater on 12 August 1843. As reported by the Somerset County Gazette of 19 August 1843, Crocker was indicted for feloniously killing George Watkins by striking, beating and throwing him to the ground. He was also charged with common assault.
For a full account of the case as reported by the Sherborne Mercury - click here.
Although a post-mortem examination confirmed that death was due to 'affectation of the head caused by blows' it could not be proven that Crocker had caused the death of Watkins as others had also been involved, also the freezing water of the River Yeo could have had an adverse affect on Watkins when he fell in. Crocker was found guilty of the charge of common assault and sentenced to six months penal servitude in the County Gaol at Taunton.
The animation at left shows the development of the Grope Lane / Wine Street premises from 1800 through 1880.
As far as I'm aware the Running Horse only operated during the 1840's. The most likely scenario is that the license for the beerhouse was removed following the fatal fight in 1843 and the establishment closed for good. As stated above, the second Bunch of Grapes was certainly in the same building that had housed the Running Horse but whether or not it was run by the same landlord with a new license can only be conjecture. Since the first recorded licensee of the Bunch of Grapes, Thomas Brett, was recorded in 1856, some thirteen years after the fatal altercation, it is therefore most unlikely.