Historically interesting pubs

1685: Hanging Judge Jeffreys – The George Inn, Norton St Philip

the-george-pub-norton-st-philipOver to sleepy Somerset and the gentle undulations of the Mendip Hills south of Bath.

In 1689 this West Country idyll was shattered by the Monmouth Rebellion as James Scott, duke of Monmouth, sought to claim the throne from James II, his uncle.

Monmouth was one of the many illegitimate children of Charles II, in his case by Lucy Walter. Like all of Charles’ children he was acknowledged and given land and titles.

A dashing and courageous soldier, Monmouth spent many years fighting for Louis XIV against the Dutch. At the siege of Maastricht in 1673 he fought alongside the famous musketeer D’Artagnan and a young John Churchill (more on him later).

Immensely popular in England, on the death of his father in 1685 he claimed the crown was his and attempted to depose his uncle. Landing in Dorset in February many locals did flock to his banner but the wider popular support never materialised and he was soundly beaten at the Battle of Sedgemoor in May. Captured a little later in Hampshire he was executed in London that July in a grisly and botched beheading attempt.

Possibly the most famous part of his rebellion now began – the aftermath and with it the introduction of the notorious ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys.

James II was not in the mood to be merciful to such early opponents of his reign and the reprisals were severe. Jeffreys travelled around the west and there passed judgment on numerous captured rebels in what become known as the ‘Bloody Assizes’.

The makeshift courts were usually set up in the biggest and most important local building – the pub. The George is just one of several pubs Jeffreys used on his judicial trip, another being The Antelope in Dorchester.

In Norton St Philip Jeffreys hanged 12 rebels and exiled several more. In total, just under 300 men were hanged and another 800-850 transported to the West Indies with many dying en route or soon after arriving because of disease, mistreatment and starvation. Many more were imprisoned and died of typhus while Elizabeth Gaunt has the gruesome distinction of being the last woman burnt at the stake in England for political crimes.

The George, despite its part in this bloody interlude, is worth visiting for more peaceable reasons too; notably that it is one of the country’s oldest taverns having apparently operated as such since the mid-14th century and that it once hosted the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys.

2 Responses to “Historically interesting pubs”

  1. Philip Johnson says:

    Nell Gwynn cumly? How very revealing, Dictionary or decent sub-editor required.

  2. jenna says:

    It was the other way around. Rosalind Franklin first showed the X-ray experiment. Then Watson and Crick get “inspired” to postulate the double helix. #womeninscience…

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