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The Third Saturday in March.


In this earlier post, which featured the Queens Arms in Wraxall, I described how every year, on the second Saturday in March, I'd take part – I hesitate to use the word compete – in a time trial on the Somerset-Wiltshire border, combining the trip with a visit to see Ma and Pa Outlaw in Glastonbury. It would see me start in the town of Bruton, climb up to the Hunters Lodge Inn, pass through Bourton and Zeals, cross Kilmington Common and skirt Stourhead before I plummeted back down into Bruton. I didn't take the event too seriously, in that I didn't bother taking my best bike or pointy hat with me, but I found it useful to ride as it took me almost exactly an hour to complete the nineteen and a bit hilly miles and so would give me a good idea of what my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) was at the time. Without going into too much detail, FTP is a metric that can be used for setting the levels of intensity and duration for future training sessions, as well as giving an indication of my current level of fitness.


Approaching the Hunter's Lodge junction. Joy! The bulk of the climbing's now over.

Starting any athletic activity without properly warming up is a big no-no with coaches. Although if it's that vital, I do wonder how early man managed to run flat out to escape from lions on the African plains without performing twenty minutes of structured activity beforehand. To keep mine happy I would do a few loops through the town before heading off to the start near the railway station. That loop would see me ride along Patwell Street before crossing the bridge over the River Brue.




Site of the former Crown Inn in Bruton
Looking back along Patwell Street from the bridge over the River Brue in March 2021. © Google 2023

Were I to be taking part in the event this year I'd be riding that loop today. I know it's not the second Saturday, but some quirk of the calendar has resulted in it being scheduled for the third Saturday in March instead. And as I'd start to cross the bridge over the Brue I'd pass the site where the Crown Inn used to stand.



The location of the Crown Inn on the 1903 Ordnance Survey map.


Crown Inn Bruton.
The former Crown Inn in Bruton.

I started to make an appearance in this event around the year 2002, about a century and a half after the pub appeared. The census of 1851 records a Stephen Penny as an innkeeper on Patwell Street. In fact he's the only recorded innkeeper on Patwell Street...



Extract from the 1851 census.

...but I can't help but wonder if he wasn't in the older Old Bull, which was just around the bend from the Crown.



Crown Inn Bruton
The Crown, with the Old Bull a little further up Patwell Street..


What I can say for certain is that the Crown was in existence by 1861 when John Dobel was the innkeeper.


Extract from the 1861 census.

Ten years later, in 1871, it was with Hugh Hurden. It remained in the care of the Hurden family for almost twenty years...


Extract from the 1871 census.

It remained in the care of the Hurden family for almost twenty years, for Hugh was still there a decade later...



Extract from the 1881 census.

...and after his death in 1887 we find that his younger brother Henry had taken over.



Extract from Kelly's 1889 directory.

Henry himself died in 1892, but by then he'd left the pub for at the time of the previous year's census Charles Bowering and family were in residence.



Extract from the 1891 census.

Charles died in 1893 but Emma continued to pour the pints.


Extract from Kelly's 1894 directory.

In 1895 she remarried and two years later her new husband, Thomas James, gets a mention in Kelly.



Extract from Kelly's 1897 directory.

The Jameses and the Bowrings were still there in 1901...



Extract from the 1901 census.

...but Thomas and Emma had left by the time of the net headcount. The pub continued without them for another half-century. It finally called time in the 1960s before succumbing to the wrecking ball.



I last rode the Bruton event in March 2017, six months before my heart and lungs were hit by that wrecking ball of a Spanish virus. The hilly nature of the course, requiring periods of very high effort, mean that, in the words of my cardiologist, "...it's probably not the best of events for you...", so I haven't ridden it since. However my thoughts always seem to return to Bruton, even if I don't, on the second, or sometimes the third, Saturday in March.




The map extract is copyright and is reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under this licence.


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