A few days ago we heard on the radio that there was much more violence during the Great Train Robbery of 1963 than has been reflected in the over-romanticised films about it. We also learnt that the notorious Leatherslade Farm, where the robbers held out, is no more.
Luckily, ‘The Bell’ at Aston Clinton, the pub frequented by the prosecution at the trial down the road at Aylesbury, is still around. Here’s what the Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 had to say about this very popular inn just a year before the robbery took place:
Gerard Harris now has his own company and controls the inn; perhaps his brow will become less furrowed. The Bell is no well known to our members now that it is difficult to find anything new to say about it. Its menu is large, but not gigantic and the cuisine rises to a level of real distinction…creamy pate, 3/-; Arbroath smokies in cream,3/6; coq au vin, 9/6; beef Avignon, 8/6; sweetbreads chasseur,8/6; entrecote marchand de vin, 11/-; blackcurrant sorbet,2/-;crème brule,2/6…The menu is supported by a long and a remarkably chosen wine-list. The strongest section is probably the clarets: at one end is a Haut Medoc at 10/6, at the other ‘28’s and ‘29’s—chateau bottled wines between 32/- and 45/-, which are now not at all easy to get, even from wine merchants. Ordinaires at 9/6. Often crowded, and service sometimes overtaxed ( especially the wine service); but meals are served until quite a late hour. Open all year. Bed and breakfast, 19/6; no full board (App by too many members to list .)Continue reading →
Found – two signed handwritten letters from John Fothergill author of An Innkeeper’s Diary. He was the proprietor of The Spreadeagle in Thame, the ‘inn’ he managed to make a cult destination during the 1920s and 30s. To quote travel blogger Ian Weightman:
‘In its heyday, The Spreadeagle near Oxford became a mecca for holiday makers, and the great and the good of the country. Many people booked to stay or dine there, purely because of Fothergill’s notoriety. But many others – including a “glitterati” of writers, actors, artists and heads of state – arrived as a result of the hotel’s widespread reputation as one of the best in the land… Fothergill was not only an illustrious innkeeper, but also an outstanding chef, connoisseur of wine, and an early campaigner for “Real Food”’.
The letters are to the writer Guy Chapman (author of the WW1 account A Passionate Prodigality and husband of Margaret Storm Jameson, English journalist and author.) They were associated with the writer’s organisation PEN – hence Fothergill asking for advice about republishing a gardening book he had written in 1927 (The Gardener’s Colour Book -now quite collectable.) The first letter is from the Spreadeagle and the second from his inn in Market Harborough which he ran from 1934 to 1952. Anybody writing a biography of Fothergill in the future would appreciate these letters, but when they are sold they tend to disappear – so following the original Jot mission we are recording them here. Continue reading →
Found - in A Bunch of Blue Ribbons.A Volume of Cambridge Essays [Collected by I. Rose. London: Chapman & Hall, 1933] a satirical poem lampooning the celebrated innkeeper John Fothergill. Fothergill wrote a best-seller Diary of an Innkeeper and was known to Oxford students for his inn at Thame, frequented by, among others, most of the prominent members of the Brideshead set. Oddly, he is unknown to Wikipedia but has a good entry in the DNB. His Diary was republished fairly recently by the Folio Society. A Bunch of Blue Ribbons was a sort of counter blast to a recent work Red Rags -a record of pet hatreds and aversions by bright young students at Oxford and Cambridge. This poem is in a chapter called A Sob Sister defends Oxford by Christopher Saltmarshe (a Cambridge poet also unknown to the all-knowing Wikipedia):
I am giving below a disgraceful and insulting lampoon which fell into my hands. The subject is an inn-keeper, whose name is dear to the immediate generation of Oxonians, which learnt to appreciate him as a host, an epicure and a gentleman. As an example of the depths of scurrility to which the enemies of Oxford can stoop I, as an old Cantab., believe these verses to be unparalleled.