George & Dragon Pubs
April 22nd, 2022
‘St George he was for England,
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.’
So wrote G K Chesterton in his poem ‘The Englishman’, so it seemed appropriate to mark St George’s Day with a selection of nostalgic Frith photographs of pubs and inns named after St George and the Dragon, some of which are sadly no longer in business. Why not raise a glass of your own favourite tipple and toast England’s patron saint today – Cheers!
Two children are filling their bucket from the fountain, and the George and Dragon Hotel, which welcomed members of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, is the prominent building on the right in this nostalgic view of Dent in Cumbria.
The George and Dragon Commercial Hotel and Posting House stood in Canterbury’s High Street, but it was demolished around 1897 to make way for a new building that became the Beaney Institute and is now home to the County Library and Royal Museum.
Here we see two fine old coaching inns - the Lion, on the left, dating back to 1500, and the 18th-century George and Dragon Hotel on the right. It is the early days of motoring, and the hotels are clearly competing against each other with the facilities on offer, including inspection pits! Further down the street, we see a wonderfully-posed assortment of turn-of-the-century trades - a delivery boy in his striped apron, someone pushing a cart with a water barrel, and the village postman.
In the 1920s and 1930s the George and Dragon Hotel at Baldock was a popular stopping-place for cyclists and walkers following the route of the Icknield Way. For the more discerning ‘Commercials and Motorists’ it provided ‘wines, spirits and billiards’.
Designed by Edgar Wood and opened on 18 February 1897, this inn stood beside the Manchester Road at Castleton, near Rochdale. Original carved dragons have survived on either side of the painted sign of St George on horseback killing the dragon. Next to the ‘Unmistakeable’ Guinness advertisement on the wall to the right of this view are canvassing posters for the municipal elections of 10 May 1951. One urges onlookers: ‘Your choice Arthur Tweedale again for Castleton’.
Some iconic cars of the era are parked in front of the George and Dragon at Thames Ditton in Surrey in this view from the 1960s, when it served Courage beer. Still in business, the George & Dragon continues to be a perfect place for ale lovers nowadays.
This comfortable pub in the Hampshire village of Hurstbourne Tarrant lies under Hurstbourne Hill on what was the Andover turnpike road to Newbury. There were once five coaching inns in the village, and the George and Dragon, which dates from the 16th century, is the sole survivor. This inn still preserves the letter rack where letters brought by the coaches were kept until they were collected. Note the sign on the wall of the pub for the Simonds brewery of Reading with its trademark logo of a hop leaf, which was particularly famous for its India Pale Ale.
The most famous resident of this attractive village in Kent was a protector of England and dragon-slayer of more recent times, Sir Winston Churchill, who lived a short walk away at Chartwell. His local was the white-washed, stone-built George and Dragon, which is as busy today as it was when this picture was taken. The trousers known as Oxford ‘bags’ worn by the man outside the white weather-boarded teashop are a fetching sight.
The George and Dragon at Codicote in Hertfordshire is first mentioned as a tavern in the court book of St Albans Abbey in 1279. The half-timbered building dates from the 17th century. In 1967, ‘Trencherman’, writing for ‘Hertfordshire Countryside’ magazine, reported that the bill for a three-course meal for two cost £3 2s 8d (£3.18), and that the main course of two (!) rainbow trout cooked in butter with almonds was priced at 11s 6d (62p). The half-bottle of red wine cost 4s 6d (42p). But bear in mind that a meal there in 1650 would have cost about 6d (2p).
On the left of this view is the sign for the George & Dragon Hotel at West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, a former 18th-century coaching inn on the Oxford road. The George and Dragon is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Sukie, a servant girl who worked at the inn in the 18th century. Her admirers were three village lads, but she wanted a better husband. She set about charming a rich guest at the inn, who was soon besotted. Her humbler suitors were so jealous that they sent her a note, purporting to come from the rich young buck, suggesting elopement - she was to meet him in the notorious caves near the town that were excavated by Sir Francis Dashwood to house the notorious Hell-Fire Club. When Sukie arrived, her hidden suitors jumped out and chased her through the caves. Sukie tripped and fell, knocking her head. She was carried unconscious back to the George and Dragon, where she died. Two days later, the other maids who shared her room saw her ghost, and it is said that, dressed in white, she has haunted the inn ever since.
The village of Aldbrough is situated about twelve miles north of Hull in the Vale of Holderness. This quaint public house on the main road through the village was originally constructed in the late 17th century as a coaching inn, and it underwent remodelling in the 19th century.
Later known simply as The George, the original George and Dragon was a coaching inn at the junction of the High Street and Church Road. The original inn was demolished in 1936 and replaced by the typically 1930s’ style pub seen in this view. It was a popular destination for day trippers from London, and early photos show fleets of open-topped No 47 buses from Shoreditch pulled up outside. (There was usually a cockle and whelk stall outside to cater for the hungry East-Enders.) Judging by the ‘No Coaches’ sign in the photo, in 1950 the pub was trying to attract a new clientele.
St George and the dragon are depicted on the inn sign and the gable end in this 1950s’ view of Wargrave in Berkshire. Note the AA and RAC signs on the front wall, and the elaborate flower displays above the two porches. The sign for the cocktail lounge is something of a rarity today, and the old telephone box on the right is a nostalgic reminder of how Britain’s streets looked in those lean, post-war years.
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British Pubs and Inns
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British Pubs and Inns
Eliza and Terence Sackett
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