What A Load Of Old Bolingbroke.

If you've been reading my drivel for a while then you might remember Leo. Leo had invited us to stay at his new residence for Christmas and was certain that Food Providers 1 & 2 had bought in sufficient fodder to feed us to. Apparently he'd heard quite a bit of clinking and clanking in the recent past and so was pretty certain that he was correct in his assumption. Just in case Leo was mistaken we threw a couple of bottles of the red stuff and half a dozen of Aldwark's finest into the boot and set off for rural Lincolnshire.


Christmas Day broke bright and sunny. If I awoke a little less than bright and sunny I'll put it down to that final Frankenstein Porter. After a leisurely breakfast the earthly remains of some animal species was put in the oven and to occupy the time needed for its resident bacterial population to be sufficiently frazzled to make it safe for consumption a walk was deemed essential. So on went the wellies.


Once upon a time Old Bolingbroke used to have three pubs. (Or was it four?) It has three pubs no longer. The road network, if I can call it that, of the village seems to consist of a maze of six-foot wide strips of tarmac - five feet of which are plastered in mud - that lead to everywhere and nowhere. No matter which junction one arrives at the signposts all point to the same places, none of which you want to go to, or have ever heard of. This mass of lanes formed around Bolingbroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry IV and a Royalist stonghold in the Civil War until it fell to the Parliamentarians, after which Cromwell pulled it down and thereby saved English Heritage what would undoubtably have been the considerable cost of maintaining it in the 21st century.


We set off at a gentle pace, as necessitated by the previous evening's activities, headed for the castle. There were a few locals out and about. The first pair we passed seemed a bit odd, if not a little aloof, and didn't respond to our offering-up of seasonal greetings.


Aloof alpaca.

The second pair we came across were more willing to interact, although one was already displaying the atrocious driving ability associated with BMW owners - the steering wheel having to be grabbed regularly by the person alongside in order to prevent an incident with the verge.


Identities have been concealed to avoid retribution from BMWphobes.

Slip-sliding on the muddy footpath, the tramp through the castle was moderatly interesting and it would certainly be worth another visit in the future - preferably on a day when the air's not so cold that my streaming eyes made it impossible to read the information signs.


Castle, moat and the Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Old Bolingbroke.

Emerging from the castle grounds onto Hagnaby Road I found myself not a million miles from Castle House as it's now known. This imaginatively-named residence used to be the Three Tuns in a previous life. Although several centuries younger than the castle from which it takes its name this building was occupied in 1826 by John Harrison, if White's Directory of that year is to be believed.


The former Three Tuns, Christmas Day 2019.

When Mr. Google drove by, back in 2011, the property was on the market. The new owners possibly have a greater love of privacy and a lesser one of ivy.


The former Three Tuns in June 2011. ©2019 Google

A decade and a half after Mr. Harrison was found in residence, Pigot's Directory of 1841 places a William Tasker there and he's there for at least twenty years. Various census returns and trade directories list him at the Three Tuns, the last being the census of 1861. Two years later and a different William, William Thompson, is the innkeeper according to Morris's Directory. I believe that this William is there until it ceases trading as a pub sometime in the 1880s. The 1882 edition of White's shows him as a farmer and victualer but the 1888 Ordnance Survey map shows no inn at the site, just a house called Castle View. I can't find the Three Tuns mentioned in any more recent directory and the 1891 census describes William as a retired farmer. He probably hung up his publican's apron at the same time as his pitchfork.


By this time the oven should have pretty much finished its job and it was time to return to Chez Leo. This took me past bygone boozer number two - the Duke's Head.


The former Duke's Head, Old Bolingbroke.

Located on Duke's Head Lane, a bit of a giveaway, it too appears in the 1826 edition of White's Directory with a Daniel Spurr as the innkeeper. Daniel dies in 1829 and I believe that his son William takes over the reins. William marries in 1832 but leaves his wife Ann without a husband four years later. Ann remarries, a John Holmes, in 1836 and that is probably how we find a John Holmes as innkeeper in the 1841 census, living with his wife Ann and a couple of young Spurr children, Mary and Daniel.


Mary features again in this story as she marries a William Clarke in 1853 and it is he that is listed as the innkeeper in the White's guide of 1856 and all the way through to the 1871 census when the Spurr family tie with the pub seems to come to an end. The following year suggests a change of hands as the 1872 edition of White's gives a James Butler there. And it's with Joseph that a mystery or two lie. In the 1871 census he's listed as a publican in Old Bolingbroke, with his wife Mary, at what I make out as saying 'Jerry'. The other three inns in the village are all listed by name so was there a fourth pub in the village? If so, this is the only reference to it that I can find and I've no idea where it was located.


The entry for the Duke's Head on the Lost Pubs website has an old picture of the pub along with a statement that Joseph 'disappeared without trace' whilst on a trip to Boston. This might account for the reason that Mrs. Mary Butler is the name listed in the 1876 edition of Kelly's Directory.


Well, that's enough tales of family life and intrigue based around a pub. This is not Eastenders. Let's move on to say that the Duke's Head continued to operate through until at least the 1930s but in all likelihood had shut it's doors by the early 1970s and, like the Three Tuns, is now in residential use.


So that's two, (or maybe three!) pubs dealt with, so what of the other? Fortunately, the Black Horse Inn is still in operation although its opening hours are rather restricted. It was, however, open on Christmas Eve and must take some responsibilty for my condition on Christmas morning. It's a great little pub, with friendly licensees, cracking hand-pulled beers and cider and some interesting features inside. Oh! there's also the bonus of no draught lager. If you're passing and the door's open the I recommend that you pop in.


Black Horse Inn, Old Bolingbroke.
Yes, if you can't read it, the beer is £3 a pint.
The door was open on Christmas Day...

The door was open on Christmas Day but we had to pass by for our host was wating for his Christmas lunch. I must at this point thank him for the invitation and the use of his staff, FP1 and FP2, to cook us our Christmas meal. We would be quite willing to act as FP3 and FP4 in the future, if he will allow us. This should provide the opportunity to pedal around some different lanes and dig out some more bygone boozers of which the area, sadly, has plenty.

Our host - Leo.

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