Oh dear, now a new confssion of an addict......and it all concerns the White Hart.
This has been a personal "holy grail" of mine…I've been searching for an image of this inn for some time. The reason it has been hard to find is that the original inn was demolished in 1867-8 and though this was a most famous coaching inn, image of it are scarce.
Sometimes I have been teased by a glimpse of it in other prints of Georgian Bath such as this one of the Pump Room:
You can see the roof of the inn appearing over the colonnade running to right angels of the Pump Room.
So imagine my utter delight when I finally found this print earlier this year:
And this very early photograph of the view from the site of the White Hart after its demolition:
It was a very famous inn and one of the best not only in Bath but in the country.
You can see from the print of the building just how very busy it was-(Do I count 7 coaches?)- and also can envisage its situation, just to the north of Bath Street( see the colonnade running to the left of the print). You can also guess its size and how many visitors it must have accommodated. It says a lot for its organisation and for its proprietor that I have never been able to find a bad review of the facilities ;-)
Here are a few of the good reviews……
Parson Woodford in his dairy give us these two brief mentions of the inn:
28 June 1793: "About 10 o’clock this Evening, thank God, we got safe and well to Bath to the White Hart Inn, where we supped & slept – a very noble Inn.”
11 October 1793: “We got to Bath … about six o’clock this Evening, to the White Hart in Stall Street, kept by one Pickwick, where we drank Tea, supped and slept, a very good, very capital Inn, everything in stile.”
Louis Simond , our friend the rather puritanical American who wrote his Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britian during the years 1810 and 1811 ( published in 1815) wrote of the White Hart in glowing terms:
January 8th 1810.
We arrived at Bath last night. The chaise drew up in style at the White Hart. Two well-dressed footmen were ready to help us alight , presenting an arm on each side. Then a loud bell on the stairs, and lights carried before us to an elegantly furnished sitting –room where the fire was already blazing. In a few minutes a neat looking chamber maid with an ample white apron pinned behind, came to offer her services to the Ladies and shew the Bed-rooms. In less than half an hour five powdered gentlemen burst into the room with three dishes etc and two remained to wait. I gave this as a sample of the best or rather of the finest inns. Our bill was £2 ,11 shillings sterling dinner for three, tea, beds and breakfast. The servants have no wages-but depending on the generosity of travellers, they find it in their interest to please them. They (the servants-JW) cost us about five shillings a day.
Here is a picture-sadly in black and white and rather small- of Eleanzer Pickwick, the proprietor, who would have been the owner of the inn when JA knew of it (and when the Musgroves stayed three).
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography writes of his career as follows and attendees of the ROp 2002 Trip to England will be intimately acquainted with the village of his parents birth ;-D :
Eleazer Pickwick (bap. 1749, d. 1837), stagecoach proprietor, the son of Moses Pickwick (bap. 1725, d. 1799) and his wife, Sarah Smith, was baptized at Freshford parish church, Somerset, on 2 February 1749. His parents were from the village of Limpley Stoke.
The family fortunes began and ended in a bizarre manner, for Eleazer was the grandson of a foundling, baptized Moses Pickwick in 1695 in commemoration of his discovery at Pickwick in Corsham, Wiltshire, and his death coincided with the publication of Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers, which made his name a household word. By then, however, the business was being run by his cousin Moses Pickwick, whose name Dickens's Sam Weller found emblazoned on the London to Bath coach.
At Eleazer's birth the family was living in obscurity on the Wiltshire/Somerset border, but he moved to Bath, where in 1775 he married Susanna Coombs at St Michael's Church, where she had been baptized twenty years earlier. By the end of the decade, building on his experience as a postboy at the Bear inn, he was able to provide the services of a post-coach to London from the Angel inn in Bath whose licence he held. He soon enlarged his scope by increasing the number of services scheduled, especially to London, from Bristol as well as Bath, and by transferring his base to the White Hart, which was a major inn in the centre of Bath. The exemplary manner in which Pickwick undertook the Oxford cross-post to Bath and Bristol was praised by the superintendent of the mails in 1797. The facilities at the White Hart remained vital to Pickwick's business, although by the turn of the century he no longer found it necessary to retain the licence, held since 1782. Pickwick was to be at the profitable heart of the coaching trade in Bath for over half a century.
Municipal recognition came late to Eleazer Pickwick. He was made a freeman of Bath in 1799, and a member of the common council in 1801, becoming mayor in 1826; and although named a turnpike trustee in 1800 he did not qualify for service until 1810. During these years he was also actively engaged in acquiring a landed interest in the area with which his family had earlier been associated. In 1797 he purchased the manor house and lands in the parish of Bathford in Somerset. To this he added Hartley Farm in Batheaston, Somerset, as well as a manor house and lands in the parish of Wingfield in Wiltshire. He owned a freehold property in Bath, in Bath Street, but resided in Westgate Buildings from 1800. About 1830 Pickwick acquired a fine town house in the city, 10 Queen Square, Bath, where he died on 8 December 1837. His wife had predeceased him, dying in 1835; they were both buried at Bathford parish church. Their two sons had died at an early age, and so on Pickwick's death his estate was inherited by his nephew, Captain William Eleazer Pickwick, except for the coaching business. Moses Pickwick had long been associated with this, and had already become the sole proprietor in the mid-1830s. However, the railways dealt coaching a great blow, and in the 1850s Moses retired to a family farm rented since 1800 from Oriel College, Oxford.
A portrait of Eleazer Pickwick, painted about 1803 by John Sanders, (see above,-JW) shows a bluff ruddy-cheeked man in simple riding habit, at ease in a country setting. His successors, perhaps to erase memories of the foundling, and of Dickens's eccentric characters, and having obtained a grant of arms in 1838, abandoned the name of Pickwick about 1872 in favour of Sainsbury, which was acquired through marriage.
I have one last "review" to add to all this and it is from my copy of John Cary's Itinerary etc. (1798). The owner of this book was a sort of early "Egon Ronay" and he devised his own code to describe the places he was staying and their facilites.
Above is the page for the white Hart, and you can see that he marks the entry for the inn with a lower case "a". I am pleased to repot that this is his code for "Excellent".
So we can rest assured that the Murgroves will have every attention , good food and that the service will never be "indifferent and inattentive" or (horrors) the pale will not be "doubtful as to beds"-two categories which he indicates by the use of the initials q and b.