the history of yeovil's pubs





King's HEAD (2) / freemason's arms

South Street


A bit of a strange one as I've only come across a few references to the Freemason's Arms in South Street and one, the advertisement below of 1869, refers to it as "heretofore known as the King's Head". Now, the only King's Head I've come across before is the King's Head that was in High Street from about 1679 to 1849. There was a King's Arms in South Street in the early 1850s and William Vile may have confused the two names but, until I can prove otherwise, I'm treating the Freemason's Arms / King's Head as a separate establishment.

The earliest mention I've found so far of the King's Head Inn in South Street is in an advertisement (shown below) placed in the Sherborne Mercury of 16 September 1856 by Sarah Hunt following the death of her husband. 

In March 1859 the complete contents of the inn were sold by auction. The sale details, also shown below, give the most detailed inventory of an inn I've ever seen - right down to the canary in a cage. It really is fascinating reading. In December of that year Sarah Hunt "of the King's Head Inn" took James Bryant to the Petty Sessions for "abusing her". He was fined 5s including costs.

There were several landlords in the ten years following, including Mrs Brailey, Arthur Granger and George Legg who lost his license for running a brothel on the premises.

In fact at the Borough Petty Sessions of April 1869, as reported in the Western Gazette, the license of the King's Head "which had been suspended during a previous tenancy, was renewed." The cause, it transpires from an earlier Petty Sessions of September 1868, was that the house was being used for immoral purposes as reported in the Western Gazette of 4 September 1868 "George Legg of the King's Head Inn, South Street, was summoned for allowing persons of notoriously bad character to congregate in his house in 21 July. Sgt. Holwell said he visited the house between one and two in the morning. He found several prostitutes and men in one room, and several boys were playing bagatelle in another room. The house had been frequently complained of by persons living in the neighbourhood. Fined £1 including costs. The license of the house was suspended."

In April 1869 the King's Head Inn was taken on by ex-ship's corporal William Vile who decided to rename the establishment as the Freemason's Arms. In any event William Vile was not to be a landlord for long - in fact only some ten months - since in the Borough Petty Sessions as reported by the Western Gazette was a simple passing reference "Mrs Hill keeps the Freemason's Arms" from the edition of 4 February 1870.

Then, in the edition of 6 May 1870 - "Benjamin Hallett, George Jeffery, coal-heavers, Martha Taylor, Emily Cooper and Amelia Hann, were summoned for being found in the Freemasons Arms Inn, at an unlawful hour, on March 17. Sergeant Holwell proved the case. At the last Court, the landlord of the Freemasons Arms was fined for keeping his house open at unlawful hours, and the present defendants were the persons the Sergeant found there drinking. They were fined 5s each, including costs." At the same Petty Sessions it was noted "Mr John Slade applied for a transfer of the license of the Freemasons Arms.... refused as proper notice had not been given."

 On 9 September 1870 it was reported "John Slade, of the Freemason's Arms, was refused a spirits license." This, of course, infers that he already had a license to sell beer and cider and now wanted to 'upgrade'.

At the County Petty Sessions held during July 1872, the well-known Yeovil 'character' William Crocker, found himself in front of the Bench yet again. He was charged with assaulting Police Constable Dicks while he was in the execution of his duty. PC Dicks stated that he was sent for on Monday night, 1 July 1872, at about ten o'clock in the evening, to remove Crocker from the Freemasons' Arms in South Street, as he was disorderly. Crocker refused to leave quietly, and as PC Dicks attempted to remove him, Crocker hit him twice. In reply to the Bench, Sergeant Holwill said that Crocker had been summoned on several previous occasions for various offences. Crocker was fined ten shillings plus costs.

There were seven men called John Slade in Yeovil in 1861. The only licensee of this name I have so far encountered was the John Slade who had been the licensee of the White Hart Inn (later Duke of Clarence) in Stars Lane in 1842 with his wife, Jane. They were running the Butchers Arms by 1859 and John was still licensee in 1866 but by 1871 he was running the Lamb Inn in Back Kingston.




The earliest mention I've found so far of the King's Head Inn in South Street is in this advertisement placed in the Sherborne Mercury of 16 September 1856 by Sarah Hunt following the death of her husband. 


This extensive notice of sale, listing the entire contents of the King's Head Inn, is from the Sherborne Mercury's edition of 1 March 1859.


Courtesy of Rob Baker

This advertisement, that appeared in the 9 April 1869 edition of the Western Gazette & Flying Post, is the first mention of the Freemason's Arms.




1856 – Sarah Hunt - notice following death of husband (Western Gazette, above) King's Head
1859 – John Griffen "landlord of King's Head" - witness at inquest (Sherborne Mercury)
1859 – King's Head Inn sold by auction (Sherborne Mercury, above)
1866 – Mrs Brailey - inquest held in pub (Western Gazette, 2 February) as King's Head
1867 – Mrs Brailey - case to recover 16s 4d for spirits and cigars - refused (Petty Sessions)
1867 – Henry Trott - Spirit Merchant (Western Gazette, 29 March) of King's Head Inn
1868 – Arthur Granger - License transfer (Petty Sessions, April) as King's Head
1868 – George Legg - License revoked for running a brothel (Petty Sessions, September)
1868 – License renewed (Petty Sessions, April) as King's Head
1869 – William Vile - opening King's Head as Freemason's Arms (Western Gazette, April)
1870 – Mrs Hill - "keeps the Freemason's Arms" (Borough Petty Sessions, February)
1870 – John Slade - out of hours drinking (Borough Petty Sessions, May)
1870 – John Slade - refused spirits license (Borough Petty Sessions, September)