29th August 1999
" 'The George' is a house of some antiquity, first recorded about 1650 but judging from the timber is probably older." So writes Mr Assinder in his 'History of Little Hallingbury,' observing, " hereafter are some conflicting records."
However, the Victoria County History and Mr Ernie Field ('Great Hallingbury Village : The Years of Change',) are both agreed that in 1709 it was known as 'The Shoulder of Mutton', while by 1754 it had become the 'King's Head' ; it is first mentioned as 'The George' in 1769, and seems to be a seventeenth century building with an eighteenth century 'wing' added on the west ; originally timber framed with (as we shall see !) some none too substantial 'daub' filled external walls.
Mr Assinder suggests it may have been at one time open day and night to cater for the drovers from Chelmsford market. What is certain, as the VCH tells us, is that " in the eighteenth century coaches from Hatfield Heath to Bishop's Stortford passed through Little Hallingbury," and Mr Field is surely correct that 'The George' "... was more of an inn for travellers on the main road from Bishop's Stortford to Hatfield Heath and beyond..."
The will of ' Thomas DARBY, senior, of Little Hallingbury, carpenter,' written in 1791, (proved in 1797), states "...after the decease of my said Wife I give and devise All that my Messuage known by the Sign of the George with the Outhouses Buildings Yards and Garden in Great Hallingbury in the Tenure of Thomas CLARKE unto my Son Thomas DARBY.."
Situated as it was on the old boundary between Great and Little Hallingbury -( officially in Little Hallingbury since the boundary changes of 1953)- 'The George' managed to make an appearance in the tithe award schedules of both parishes ? In the 1838/39 Award map for Little Hallingbury (plot 24) ,'The George Public House and Cottage Yard and Pond' are shown as owned by Samuel RUMBALL, and occupied by Edward MUMFORD and Thomas HAWKINS, while the adjacent plots are owned by Thomas and Charles CLARKE, presumably the same family referred to in the 1791 will..
In the 1839/40 Award map for Great Hallingbury , plot 450 is 'The George' - public house and garden - now (newly) owned by William Hawkes & Co , and occupied by Louisa PALMER.
It was during the tenure of Widow PALMER, in the 'hungry forties', that 'The George' was the scene of a 'crime' that mixed tragedy and farce in a manner typical of those harsh years. Two unfortunate teenage boys, William ELDRED and James THURLEY, were convicted for 'burglariously' entering 'The George' and stealing '3 and a half Gallons of wine, 15 bottles, 6 lbs of cheese, 3 lbs of bread, and money in copper amounting to 10 shillings'.
The Chelmsford Chronicle (27/7/1843) covering the trial, records the evidence of Mrs PALMER : " I am a widow living at Great Hallingbury and keep the George Inn. I was at home on Friday 31st March. I secured the house before going to bed, about ten o'clock, and was last up, the other inmates consisted of my daughter, maid servant a visitor and his wife, and a lodger. I was awoke about one o'clock in the morning by a noise of persons in the house below me. I instantly gave the alarm and some time afterwards went into the cellar where I saw the prisoner ELDRED in the custody of William CLARK and William RADLEY........The bar was broken open and the till emptied of its contents...things were lying about in a very disordered state, there were in all five locks broken."
William CLARK, who with his wife was staying at 'The George', said, "[Mrs PALMER] gave me an alarm that persons were in the house about one o'clock, having procured a light from her, I went down stairs, the door between the tap-room and the bar was broken open and the things lying in disorder at the bar. I went down the cellar, and saw a man in the act of getting through a hole, which had been made in the wall. I seized him by the legs, and detained him until assistance arrived, it was the prisoner ELDRED...I afterwards went into the garden, and found some bread and cheese , and a few halfpence lying on the ground.........."
Poor young THURLEY, meanwhile, had rushed to Eldred's father's house, where he passed Eldred's smock-frock through the window to his sister, telling Mr Eldred "We are done for, they have Win [ Eldred junior] I tried to pull him through the hole, but could not." [!!!]
Evidently a bizarre 'tug-o-war' had been played with the hapless ELDRED, Mr CLARK pulling him by the legs back into 'The George', while THURLEY, outside the pub, tried to pull him to freedom through the hole in the wall, and in the struggle pulling off his smock !
The farcical aspect is unavoidable : But these two lads were sentenced to ten years transportation -( James Thurley died in Australia in 1910)- and one might bear in mind the observation of another Essex farm labourer, Isaiah Fish, when he was convicted for arson some few months after 'The George' burglary : "I dare say I shall get sent out of the country for those fires and if I am I cant be sent to a much worse country than this is." (See Studies in Essex History No 5, ERO) There were long periods when the laughter in those old Essex rural inns had a 'bitter' ring to it.
Victoria County History, Essex: Great Hallingbury
G. Assinder: History of Little Hallingbury
E. Field et al: Great Hallingbury: The Years of Change
Will of Thomas Darby 1791/97 ERO
Tithe Award map and schedule, Little Hallingbury 1838/9 ERO
Tithe Award map and schedule , Great Hallingbury 1839/40 ERO
Chelmsford Chronicle, 27/7/1843. (Thanks to Denise Lind and Wayne Thurley)
S.Hussey &L Swash : "Horrid Lights" Studies in Essex History no 5, ERO
Supplied by Ken Harrison
The following entries are in this format:
Year/Publican or other Resident/Relationship to Head and or Occupation/Age/Where Born/Source.
1779/Michael Smith/Licensee/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1785/John Beardman/Licensee/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1791/John Beardman/Licensee/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1791/Thomas Darby/Owner/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1791/Thomas Clarke/Licensee/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1798/Thomas Clarke/Licensee/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1838-39/Samuel Rumball/Owner/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1838-39/Edward Mumford/Tenant/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1839-40/William Hawkes & Co./Owners/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1839-40/Louisa Palmer/Tenant/../../Alehouse Recognizances*
1845/Mrs. Louisa Palmer/../../../Post Office
1851/Mrs. Louisa Palmer/../../../Post Office
1862/Mrs. Louisa Palmer/../../../Kelly's
1867/Mrs. Louisa Palmer/../../../Post Office
1870/Edward John Theobolds/../../../Kelly's
1871/Edward John Theobolds/../../../Post Office
1881/Elizabeth Saltmarsh/Innkeeper/58/Great Hallingbury, Essex/Census
1881/Elizabeth Mumford/Niece, Barmaid/28/Great Hallingbury, Essex/Census
1908/Mrs. Drusilla Drage/../../../Kelly's
1912/Mrs. Drusilla Drage/../../../Kelly's
1917/Mrs. Drusilla Drage/../../../Kelly's
1925/Mrs. Drusilla Drage/../../../Kelly's
1933/Leonard Charles William Drage/../../../Kelly's
1937/Leonard Charles William Drage/../../../Kelly's
* Provided by Ken HarrisonAnd Last updated on: Sunday, 30-Jul-2023 14:59:55 BST