How Drinkers Got The Boot and Ended Up Legge-less

Hemel Hempstead High Street - 1881

Hemel High Street – 1881
Hemel Hempstead Local History and Museum Society cared for by the Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd
Picture: Dacorum Heritage Trust

As we go in search of the lost inns, it is best to begin at the bottom of the High Street on the east side, move to the top of the street and return down the west side. One pub, the Boot, photographed in 1881, is shown at the entrance to the High Street at what is now No.9. As it did not have stables, it was merely a lodging house with a bar. The Boot, as with so many beer houses in the High Street, is an example where the landlord needed another occupation to make ends meet whilst his wife ran the business. James Barnes is listed in the 1851 Census as being a ‘carpenter/innkeeper’. Then in 1917 a full licence was granted to the Jackson family and later the pub was bought by Benskins Brewery. The brewers closed the pub in 1939 and transferred the licence to another property, also called the Boot, at St Albans Hill, Hemel Hempstead.

Some licensed premises changed names and an example of this is a public house dating from 1690, which was situated at what is now No 11 High Street. The owner, Miss Jane Halsey, bequeathed this property in her will dated 20 May 1747 to her nephew, Thomas Halsey. According to the will it was “by the name of the ship, formerly called the Hollybush”.

Just past the Rose and Crown at No 23 was once the Cock Inn, one of the first inns to be built in the High Street, for it is mentioned as one of the properties conveyed by the Earl of Leicester to the Earl of Bedford in 1574. The Cock appears to have been enlarged during the extensive rebuilding of the High Street in the eigtheenth century, when it was an inn of three storeys. However, by the middle of the nineteenth century it had become a common lodging house, until 1857 when Joseph Cranstone, the ironmonger who had a shop next door at No.25, purchased the property in order to extend his iron foundery.

The former Swan Inn, which was located at No.29, appears to have been a fairly large inn. In 1756 Thomas Sellar had five bedrooms and stabling for 31 horses and by 1850 it was a thriving business run by the Donalson family. The Swan survived as a pub well into the twentieth century, finally closing in 1963.

Situated on the site between the King’s Arms and the Bell was once the inn known as the Three Compasses. According to the 1851 Census, Thomas and Anne Stroud had a full licence and ran what appears to be to have been a good-class establishment. At the beginning of the twentieth century the property was acquired by Benskins Brewery and let to tenants. However the lack of stabling and space for vehicles made the pub difficult to run and it closed on 31 December 1912.

Hemel High Street looking towards Piccotts End, circa 1910

Hemel High Street looking towards Piccotts End, circa 1910
Dacorum Heritage Trust

The building at No.63 has an early eighteenth century front to a sixteenth century, timber framed structure at the back. This was the site of the Angel Inn, which had a special pew with an angel carved on it in St Mary’s Church for the use of travellers staying at the inn. Somewhere in this area was also a pub known as the Boat which was run by Martha Durrant in 1838, and there was another very early inn known as the Legge. These are two of the inns that have long since disappeared.

The renovated shops at Nos 75 and 77 were originally built at street level in the mid-sixteenth century. Forming one building, it does not conform to any known plan and all available evidence reveals that until 1781 it was an inn known as the Mermaid. Ben Puddephat, the landlord of the Mermaid in 1756, had a substantial business with accommodation of six beds and stabling for 14 horses. The building was extensively altered over the centuries and two wings were added around 1600. One wing, with minor extensions in 1800, was the site of an inn named the Lord Nelson.

The shop at No.81 was once the Sun, which, according to the Billeting return of 1756, was an inn of quite a considerable size. It had room for five beds and extensive outbuildings that were used for stabling 30 horses. The Sun also became well known as a meeting place for the Artisans Benefit Society, which was formed to provide sickness and death benefits to its members. By the end of the nineteenth century the Sun traded as a pub and survived well into the twentieth century before finally closing in 1960.

At the Corner of Cherry Bounce once stood the Oak, which was renamed the Royal Oak to commemorate the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Then in 1664, after a decision by the Justices of Quarter Sessions to provide a house of correction in Hemel Hempstead, this was established in a part of the Royal Oak premises with Christopher Mitchell appointed Master. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the building was used as an ordinary jail. Later, in the mid-nineteenth century, after the jail closed, Mrs Isabella Harrington ran the business described in the 1851 Census as a “public house”, but in reality it was a squalid lodging house. This beer house eventually gained a full licence, but it remained a lodging house for labourers up to the Second World War. Finally this run-down pub was closed in the early 1970s and the site was tastefully developed into three houses.

6th July 2011

By Elizabeth Buteaux

The Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd.

The Museum Store, Clarence Road, Berkhamsted, Herts HP4 3YL

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