The landlord and the soldiers

This post’s title is the headline of a case before the Hastings Bench, as reported in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 7 September 1878. I was astonished that billeting soldiers was still going on as late as 1878. The account given below is an insight into how billeting worked in practice. The North Star pub is at 13 Clarence Road, with most of its frontage on Upper South Road, going down (to the west) to Bohemia Road.

The North Star, Bohemia, at 13 Clarence Road

Joseph Wisden, landlord of the North Star, Bohemia, was summoned for refusing to receive and provide for two soldiers of the 8th Hussars, quartered at his house.

 Mr Hewitt appeared for the defendant, and after pleading guilty to the charge, briefly stated the facts of the case. From these it appeared that between eleven and twelve o’clock on Saturday last, a policeman went with two soldiers and their horses to the defendant’s house. Defendant told the policeman that he had no accommodation for them, or stables for their horses, and as his wife was very ill he could not leave the house to look for accommodation for them. The soldiers then left. Defendant was willing to pay any expenses that they had incurred while in the town.

 Supt. Glenister said that the case had been taken up by desire of the commanding officer. He must apply for the costs for the two soldiers, who had come from Shorncliffe to prove the case. He wished it to be understood by the publicans in the town that the want of accommodation was no excuse for not receiving the soldiers.

 The Bench fined the defendant in the mitigated penalty of £2 and costs (total £ 12s 6d), and ordered him to pay all expenses incurred by the two men being billeted on other landlords during their sojourn in the town.

 Defendant paid the fine and costs, and left the Court to settle with the landlords of the houses that had accommodated the two soldiers.

 Wisden had referred to his wife being very ill. She died shortly after, aged 62.

One reason why publicans resented having to provide accommodation (most pubs had at least some rooms to let, and often stables) was that they were only paid fourpence a night for a cavalryman and his horse, the ‘soldiers’ allowance’.

When a publican took over the licence of a pub we are rarely told anything more than that simple fact. In this case, we have more information. The following is summarised from the Hastings Observer, 27 August 1870.

Joseph Wisden had applied for a wine and spirit license for a “new house, built by him, near the toll-gate, Bohemia” to be called the North Star. His lawyer said he had been a railway guard for 19 years and bore the highest character. He had resigned in order to become a licensed victualler. He had taken a 99-year lease of the house. This implies of course that he had purchased the land from the freeholder, and then engaged an architect and builder.

As was normal, he presented a memorial in favour of his application, signed by the Rev. S. Hadden Parkes (the Vicar of St Leonards) and respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood. It was normal for Anglican ministers to do this. “The bar was 19 ft. frontage, with a depth of ten feet, and with two entrances. There was a smoking room, and the house was replete with every convenience.” The application was allowed. The current pub sign shows a railway locomotive, fitting for a pub started by a railway guard.

In the 1871 census at 13 Clarence Road, The North Star, Joseph, 40, inn keeper, born Brighton was there with his wife Ann, 48, born West Firle. They had married in 1852 at Brighton, he a railway porter, she daughter of William Burgess, shepherd. In the 1861 census they were at 152 Railway Cottages, St Leonards, he a railway guard.

Planning applications as kept at The Keep, Falmer, in class DH/C/6/1 are a valuable source for early historical material on buildings. In theory there ought to be an application for the original building, meaning either it is not in the series or is not marked as the house. There is one from 1873, no. 1541, which is catalogued as “cellar” for the North Star, so a request for one to be installed or altered. In 1878 no. 2157 was for “additions”. Drawings of the proposed changes will be in those applications, but I have not gone to Falmer to see them.

Wisden was a Conservative, as meetings of the local branch of the Conservatives were held in the pub, as frequently announced in the newspaper. Below are some more mentions of him and his pub in the Hastings Observer.

The 14 October 1876 issue had a dispute before the Bench where Valentine Ransom, a mariner, charged Wisden with assault, while Wisden counter-charged assault against Ransom. Ransom’s evidence was that he was in the pub at 3 pm on the 4th and, in a “jeering” with a man about some case swung at the other man but did not hit him. Someone caught hold of him by his coat collar. He turned around and saw it was the landlord. He caught hold of Wisden by the coat and chin, was pushed out of the house, and struck on the nose, making a mark. Wisden’s testimony was that he saw Ransom striking out at Jeal, told them he wanted no fighting, took hold of Ransom round the waist. Ransom then caught hold of him by the throat and drew blood, told him to leave, he refused. A policeman eventually put him out. Thought that the mark on the nose was caused by Jeal.

Despite the conflicting testimonies, the summons against Wisden was dismissed, while Ransom was fined 10s and costs, or fourteen days hard labour.

 The 13 April 1878 issue had a brief advertisement by J. Wisden for a boy about 15 years old “to clean pots and make himself useful.” A pot boy, that is.

 In the 1881 census there were only two occupants in the North Star. These were Wisden as a widower, 50, born Brighton, and William Manser, 14, pot boy, born Hastings.

 The 3 March 1883 issue had a long account of how Frederick Kenward, a 14-year-old pot boy in Wisden’s employ for three or four months, had stolen from him. He was under notice, which had expired the previous day. The prisoner slept in the house. Wisden’s “suspicions were aroused, and about nine o’clock he went into his bed-room. He saw prisoner’s clothes spread out on a trunk. Witness noticed something bulky in prisoner’s trousers picket. He put his hand in and found it was a bag of money.” He took the bag down to the kitchen, waited for Kenward to return five minutes later, and, “shooting the money on the table, said, ‘Fred, where did you get this ?’ He said, ‘I had it from you.’ Witness replied, ‘No, you did not; where did you get it ?’ Prisoner then said, ‘I got it out of your bag in the drawer in the bar, a few days ago.’ “ He had been robbed before. A policeman was called for and took them both to the police station.

There was £3 10s in the bag. Fred’s mother said that he was one of ten children, and that she had never been disgraced before. Wisden said that he would be content with a fine (instead of prison), and a £1 fine was imposed, or else a month’s hard labour. We are not told which option the prisoner chose. The same “Bill Manser” who was in the 1881 census was mentioned, the bag in the room being, apparently, his.

 The 26 July 1884 issue of the Hastings and St Leonards Times has a short account of a fracas about which we would surely want more details as to the cause:

ASSAULT. George Rowse was summoned for having unlawfully assaulted and beaten Joseph Wisden on July 19th. Mr C.D. Jones prosecuted. – The complainant, who keeps the North Star Inn at Bohemia, said that defendant came to his house, and took up a glass containing beer, and threw it over him. – Mary Balcombe gave corroborative evidence, and defendant was fined 5s and costs.

His death was announced in the 9 February 1889 issue of the Hastings Observer:

 WISDEN. – On the 3rd inst., at his residence, 11, Newgate-road, Bohemia, late of the North Star, Joseph Wisden, age 58 years. Deeply regretted.

It is normally possible to identify changes of landlord from licensing information in the newspapers but I could not trace it in this case. Wisden had retired from the business, and at the time of his death his successor had already died.

The 1887 Pike’s Directory gives the landlord as J.M. Collins. This was Joseph Montague Collins, who died on the 15 August 1888, age 42. There is a very detailed advertisement for an auction, in the 15 September 1888, issue, given below, which gives an excellent idea of what the pub was like at the time. Although Wisden had a leasehold in 1870, Collins apparently owned the freehold, as it was in his estate to sell.

Sale by auction of the North Star

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