History of the Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle in the county of Worcestershire

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Some history of the Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle

The Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle is located on a bend in the River Avon and has some nautical links with the waterway that once carried commercial traffic and today is used by pleasure boats and leisure vessels. The building dates from the 18th century, though it is possible that an earlier tavern traded at this location. The mid-18th century was the period when the River Avon was leased by George Perrott, an entrepreneur who invested a considerable sum of money on upgrading the locks and weirs in order that large barges could carry goods from Stratford-on-Avon down to Tewkesbury and onwards to Gloucester. Competition from the developing canal network eventually led to Perrott leasing the rights to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. So, for a period, the Anchor Inn would have been a popular port-of-call to navigators, though the disorder that tough boatmen could bring risked the reputation of an amenable hostelry. An earlier attempt on profiting on the boat trade was attempted by William "Waterworks" Sandys, a Fladbury-born Member of Parliament who was largely responsible for the improvement of the Avon as far as Stratford-on-Avon during the mid-17th century. However, the undertaking 'drained' his personal wealth and much of the navigation was subsequently transferred to his creditors.

The Anchor Inn gained some trade from its extended frontage on the old road connecting Droitwich and Evesham, though the more lucrative trade was enjoyed by Pershore's inns and hotels as they were on the busier Worcester route. A ferry once operated to the rear of the Anchor Inn and this would have resulted in some tourist trade in the summer months, the footpaths being more treacherous during the winter.

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Although of greater antiquity, one of the earliest references I have seen for the Anchor Inn is a sale notice for an estate at Lower End in the parish of Eckington. The 51 acre farm, which included a brew house and cider mill, along with orchards, was being sold in 1812 following the death of Richard Boulter. His wife Elizabeth remained in residence until the sale, the details of which could be obtained at the Anchor Inn which was kept by John Boulter.

The view of the Anchor Inn below is one of many captured by photographers down the years, all of whom were capturing the scenic view the pub enjoyed - and still does! The pub has a stepped terrace down to the water's edge and the tables are hot tickets during the summer months with customers wanting to spend a sunny afternoon with a meal and a few drinks whilst looking out across the River Avon.

The Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle [c.1949]

The picturesque location of the Anchor Inn has, however, led to the demise of some patrons who, after supping a few ales, felt a sudden rush of bravado and headed to the Avon for a dip, perhaps the result of a bet in the tap room. In August 1851 Thomas Rutter was drinking with others at the Anchor Inn when he suddenly left the building, undressed and jumped into the river. However, he never rose to the surface. Despite efforts to save him, his body was not found for two hours. He was eventually found in a section of the river where the water was 16ft deep. An inquest was held at the Anchor Inn before Mr. Best, the coroner, at which the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death."

The Anchor Inn was also a popular destination for those heading into the countryside to enjoy a little fishing. These trips did not always go according to plan and could also end in tragedy. A young man named Josephs was with a party on the river bank by the Anchor Inn when the river was swollen by floods in April 1858. He accidentally fell into the water and drowned before help could be obtained. Owing to the swollen state of the river, his body was not discovered for several weeks.

When the river levels rise during the rainy season the surrounding meadows could suddenly be a dangerous place to traverse in the old days. In January 1843 three Worcester men, James Mister, a newsman, William Gould, a rag-and-bone gatherer, of Merry Vale, and James Nicholls, son of Mr. Nicholls, a High Street broker, happened to meet whilst enjoying a drinking session inside the Anchor Inn. Over their last beer, the men agreed to walk back to Worcester together. James Nicholls said that he would guide them back via the quickest and most direct route through Pershore. After leaving the Anchor Inn, in no time at all, the men came to some water - the land near the river being flooded, through which they waded, and finally arrived at a bridge. According to a newspaper report Nicholls, "who was rather fresh, became obstinate and refused to go any further." William Gould carried him about a hundred yards in what sounds like an enforced action for the young lad 'got away' and ran towards the mill. The other two men pursued him and begged him to return. Gould told him that "if he was unwilling to wade through the water, that he would carry him." However, all their persuasion was ineffectual, for James Nicholls threw himself upon the ground, declaring that "he would not any further, but that he would lie there and die." That January night was bitterly cold, and James Mister and William Gould were beginning to feel their wet clothes freeze upon their persons. As a result they left their obstinate companion and returned to Wyre Piddle, where they mentioned the circumstances - one assumes this was back in the Anchor. However, the lure of the brandy and the warm fire proved alluring and the men settled in for the night. It would seem that the other patrons were unwilling to head out into the cold and it was not until the following morning that a search was made for James Nicholls. Unfortunately, the poor lad was found dead, having frozen to death.

Walking across the meadow was not the only dangerous method of transport after enjoying the potency of the ale inside the Anchor Inn. In November 1852 a labourer named Charles Taylor met his demise whilst travelling in a boat after drinking in the Anchor Inn before a session in Evesham. It was reported that he, along with his brother and another man called Charles Woodward, "went up the river to Evesham in a boat with some articles they had picked up in the flood to restore them to their owners." Of course, this presented them with an opportunity to enjoy a few beers in the town's taverns. It was noted that they sunk a gallon of ale in The Volunteer before heading to The Cross for another four pints. They rounded off with a pint of cider each before clambering in the boat and heading back towards Wyre Piddle. However, when they passed under the railway bridge at Fladbury, "a cross current of the river drove the boat against the timbers of the bridge, the force of the collision breaking the boat in two and turning it bottom upwards." The body of Charles Taylor was subsequently found drowned near Wyre Mill - but it was almost a month before he was discovered.

In Victorian times the river bank adjoining the Anchor Inn would often expose elements of social deprivation in 19th century Pershore and the surrounding rural area. Many infants would be found floating in the Avon. In April 1876 an inquest was held at the Anchor Inn following the discovery of a young infant boy by the fisherman Thomas Winter. Whilst angling, "his attention was attracted to an object by a number of crows pecking at something close to the river's bank. After going to the place he found the body of a dead child perfectly naked." He subsequently gave information to P.C. Speke, who reported that he had made many inquiries respecting the body, but without success. Dr. Woodward, a Pershore surgeon, testified that "from the decomposition which had taken place, in consequence of the length of time the body had been in the water, he was unable to say whether the child was born alive or not. The wounds found on the body had all been caused since death. The jury returned an open verdict.

At the time of most of the events detailed above the publican of the Anchor Inn was James Roberts. Born in Birlingham around 1797, he kept the pub with his wife Elizabeth, a native of nearby Stoulton. During the 1850's they employed two servants, Alice Bunn and George Hitchins, to undertake the many tasks around the inn. Elizabeth Roberts died on October 31st 1865 aged 67. James Roberts continued as licensee whilst another family moved into the property. Pershore-born coal dealer Joseph Hodgetts took up residence along with his wife Alice. James Roberts was still running the hostelry up until his death at the age of 90 in 1887. It was Alice Hodgetts who would take over as publican though in August 1890 the licence of the Angel Inn was transferred to her husband Joseph. By this time he was a farmer and market gardener employing 8 men and 2 boys. Indeed, a good number of the local population were involved in market gardening, a main topic of conversation no doubt amongst the regular imbibers in the tap room. In fact, the annual Seedsman's Supper was often held at the Anchor Inn, an event hosted by Mr. J. E. Bullock of the Royal Avon Gardens.

Following the death of his wife Alice, Joseph Hodgetts moved to the neighbouring Arbour House with his daughter Minnie. The licence of the Anchor Inn was transferred to Thomas Stanley, a relatively young publican born in Evesham in 1877. He kept the Anchor Inn with his wife Mary who hailed from Broadway. The couple had a one year-old daughter called Mary.

Thomas Stanley had not long taken over behind the counter of the Anchor Inn when he was hauled before the magistrates at the Pershore Petty Sessions in September 1901. He was charged with opening his house on Sunday, September 1st, at eleven o'clock in the morning. Police Constable Johnson saw the publican supply beer to gardeners Frank and William Harwood, who drove to the inn from their home in Hill Furze. The magistrates were told that, by the main road, Hill Furze was only 2 miles 638 yards away from the Anchor Inn. This was critical as the law stated that a publican could only serve alcohol to 'lawful' travellers - or those who lived beyond a three mile radius of the premises. For the defence the brothers stated that they always reckoned Hill Furze was three miles away. On consideration, and possibly because he was new to Wyre Piddle, the Bench thought that Thomas Stanley had been misled. However, they still fined him £l, including costs. I sometimes marvel at the pettiness of the law in Victorian times. Each village seemed to have their own bobby but the lack of any major crime forced them to snoop around looking for anything to justify their boring routine. Consider, for instance, the sting operation the police organised [see newspaper articles below] in order to nab Joseph Hodgetts for a similar 'distance' offence in 1893.

Having looked at accidents and deaths in the river and on the meadows, it is time to look at the road that runs through Wyre Piddle. There is the case of George Duncan, a Fladbury cyclist who was taken to the hospital at Pershore following a collision with a motor-car at Wyre Bridge 90 years ago. He received a fractured jawbone, a broken collarbone, and many other injuries, and was in an unconscious condition when conveyed to the hospital. As a cyclist, and one that has been hit by a car on a bridge, this old news story makes me feel a bit queasy. However, one of the most bizarre accounts I have seen is that of Herbert Harbourne who, in October 1934, on his approach to the old ecclesiastical bridge at Wyre Piddle, saw what he thought was two motorcyclists having a face-to-face conversation on the crown of the bridge. However, when the motorist blew his horn for them to move there was no movement. He therefore pulled up and got out to remonstrate with the pair of riders. But, to his amazement and horror, the two men were both unconscious with their faces almost touching. The injured men were Albert Leach, of High Street, Pershore, an employee of the Staffs., Worcs. and Salop Power Co., who was travelling to his work at Ettington, near Stratford-on-Avon, and Cecil Griffin, a tractor driver, of Queen Street, Evesham, who was coming in the direction of Pershore. Griffin had a gash on the forehead, another under the eye, and a broken nose was bleeding profusely. Meanwhile Leach had a broken right leg and badly injured right hand. Both were removed to hospital.

In the following year Howard Summers, as landlord of the Anchor Hotel, appeared at the Pershore Police Court for the proprietors who were seeking permission to make structural alterations to the pub. The plans submitted, on being approved by Superintendent McDonaugh, were approved.

The Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle [2015]

There is a "Best in the West" ceramic plaque on the building's frontage, showing that the pub was once an outlet for West Country Ales.

The Anchor Inn was the original base for the Wyre Piddle Brewery. Martyn Wilkins, a former Stourbridge publican, established the business in 1992 with the launch of a beer called Piddle in the Hole. With tongue firmly-in-cheek, further 'Piddle' names were applied to a range of ales that were distributed to real ale outlets in the local area and a little further beyond. With increased production, the brewery was moved in 2002 to Highgrove Farm at nearby Pinvin. In 2013 the business was acquired by the Archers-inspired Ambridge Brewery based at Inkberrow who, alongside their own brands, continued to produce beers under the Wyre Piddle banner.

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Newspaper Articles

"Mr. Best held an inquest on Monday last, at the Anchor, Wyre Piddle, on Charles Taylor, who was drowned in the flood of November last, and whose body was picked up in the river Avon, near Wyre Piddle Mill, on Saturday last, by William Mattox, a fisherman. From the evidence of James Taylor, labourer, of Cropthorne, it appeared that the deceased and his companions had been drinking hard all the day of the accident, and their boat was upset while passing under Fladbury railway bridge. Verdict - "Accidental death."
"Death by Drowning at Wyre Piddle"
Worcestershire Chronicle : December 15th 1852 Page 4.

"An inquest was held on Thursday, at the Anchor Inn, before Mr. H. B. Marsh, one of the coroners for the county, on the body of John Jones, aged 74. Deceased, who was a shepherd, was found in the river Avon, and there being no evidence to show how Jones got into the water or as to his state of mind, the jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned in the river Avon."
"Death by Drowning"
Worcestershire Chronicle : March 16th 1870 Page 2.

"An inquest was held at the Anchor Inn, on Thursday, before Mr. J. Martin, deputy coroner, on Jane Lock, of Pinvin. The deceased, it appeared, had fallen into the fire while in a fit, and the jury found accordingly."
"Burned to Death"
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 21st 1870 Page 2.

"On Wednesday last, an inquest was held at the Anchor Inn, by Dr. Marsh, coroner, and a respectable jury, on the body of man named William Moore, labourer, residing at Wyre, aged sixty years, who died suddenly on Tuesday morning. Deceased was in the employ of Mr. Hodgetts, and, whilst carrying a ladder to his master's premises, was seized with an apoplectic fit, and died before medical aid could be obtained. Verdict, "Died by the visitation of God."
"Inquest"
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 21st 1871 Page 3.

"An inquest was held on Tuesday at the Anchor Inn, Wyre Piddle, before J. Martin, Esq., Coroner, on the body of Emanuel Winkett, of Wyre Piddle, who for 40 years had been the service of the Partington family as a carter, and who, it was supposed, was killed while walking down the line to his horses on Sunday morning last by a passing train. The following was evidence: Fanny Winkettt deposed : I live Wyre Piddle, and am a daughter of the deceased, who also lived at Wyre Piddle, and was 64 years of age. He was a widower. He left the house as usual between 5 and 6 on Sunday morning for his work. Mr. James Partington said: I am a farmer at Wyre Piddle, and the deceased was my in employ as carter. He would to go across the Great Western line to the field where his horses were turned out. I have no doubt that because it was a little nearer to the field he went down the line. John Bowkett stated: I was fireman of the Oxford goods train, which reached Pershore Station about 7.55 a.m. on Sunday. About three quarters of a mile before we reached Pershore Station, I saw the body of man lying on the down side of the line, he was three or yards from the metals and appeared dead, and was on his back. We shut off the steam and stopped as soon as we could, but not until we got to the Pershore goods shed. We then told Charles Price of what we had seen. Charles Price stated: I was on duty as ganger at Pershore Station on Sunday morning, at 7.55, when the last witness told me that a man was lying dead about three-quarters of a mile away on the down side. I went directly, and there found the deceased lying about five feet from the metal on the down side, on his back. His body was parallel with the rails, and his head towards Evesham. He was quite dead, but the body was warm. James Wells deposed: I drove the goods train from London on Sunday morning, arriving at Worcester at 6.35 a.m. We left Evesham at 6.05 a.m. It is a fast train, and does not stop at Pershore. I was not aware of any accident to any person, or any injury being caused by my train on Sunday morning, and the first I heard of this man's death was last night. It was not my duty to whistle between Evesham and Norton. Mr. Martin Woodward said: I am a registered surgeon practising at Pershore. I saw the body of the deceased on Sunday afternoon. I found small abrasions on the left cheek, the back the right hand, and above the inner side of the right elbow. On the right side of the back there was a depression where I found several ribs smashed, which depression corresponded with a circular mark on the deceased's jacket, giving the appearance of having been struck by the buffer of a steam engine, such a blow would account for the injuries and death of the deceased. I was told the jacket I had seen was the one he wore at the time of his death. The Jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death."
"A Man Killed on the Railway near Pershore"
Worcestershire Chronicle : June 3rd 1882 Page 5.

"At Pershore Petty Sessions, on Tuesday before Messrs. F. D. Holland [chairman]. R. Hinshaw, A. J. Taylor, C. Whitaker, H. R. M. Porter, and Colonel Stringer, several licensed victuallers were convicted of offences against the licensing laws. In all the cases Mr. Hobson, of Droitwich, prosecuted on behalf of the police, and Mr. Beauchamp, Worcester, defended. Joseph Hodgetts, landlord of the Anchor Inn, Wyre Piddle, was charged with selling drink during prohibited hours on Sunday, August 13th. Police Constables Wainwright and Shutt went to the house on the previous Saturday evening, and were taken for fishermen. They remarked that they were staying at the Swan at Pershore. Defendant said, "Oh, Harry Hunt's. I know him very well. Well, if you should feel inclined for a drink, come round tomorrow morning; I shan't be supposed to know where you come from." They accordingly went round at 11.20 Sunday morning. Defendant invited them in, and said, "I suppose you can do with a drink, and then back to Pershore for your dinner." They said they could, and went into the house and were supplied with three pints of cider. Defendant did not ask where they came from. The Swan, where they were staying, was about a mile and a half from the Anchor. Defendant went into the box and swore he never saw either of the men on Saturday night. They came to the house on Sunday morning, saying they had come from Birmingham. Fined £2 and 10s. 6d. costs."
"Licensing Prosecution at Pershore"
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 2nd 1893 Page 7.

Licensees of this pub

1812 - John Boulter
1821 - John Russen
1832 - Richard Curtis
1860 - James Roberts
1887 - 1890 Alice Hodgetts
1890 - 1901 Joseph Hodgetts
1901 - Joseph Hodgetts
1912 - Thomas Stanley
1940 - Howard C. Summers
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Map

Map Extract Showing the Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle [1883]

This extract from a plan drawn up in 1883 shows the Anchor Inn, on the bank of the River Avon. Note the railway line, the route of which was subsequently developed as by-pass road.

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Shakespeare CAMRA
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Worcester CAMRA
Worcestershire County Council

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