History of The George Inn and Bathampton
The George Inn sits on the banks of the Kennet and Avon Canal in Mill Lane, Bathampton, opposite St. Nicholas Church.
There is some debate as to when exactly the inn was built. Some sections seem to have been established as early as the 12th century, when it was part of a monastery for the Prior of Bath. Though according to English Heritage, the current building is built from ‘coursed rubble with a Cotswold stone slate roof’ and dates from the mid to late 17th century, while the west gable is dated 1815.
The George Inn is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, a foreign noble, who died in the last legal duel fought in Britain. A decadent man who held lavish parties, he was also fond of gambling. Following a quarrel over a game of cards, a challenge was thrown down and he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn on 18th November 1778. The Viscount was mortally wounded and his body was transported back to the George Inn where it was laid out for a post-mortem.
Today, a mysterious apparition thought to resemble Viscount John Baptiste is often spotted standing by the bar. His body is buried in St. Nicholas Church.
According to the local village website, the earliest known record of Bathampton was thought to be an entry in the Domesday Book. That is until excavations of the northern meadows unearthed settlements dating as far back as far as the Iron Age.
Bathampton Downs in the south is surrounded by an Iron Age mound and ditch known as 'Caer Badon'. It was also thought to have been quarried for ‘Bath Stone’ (a type of limestone), a practice that continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Around 1371 a vicarage was ordained in Bathampton. St. Nicholas Church and its surrounding lands was controlled by the Prior of Bath until the English Reformation of the 16th century, which led to Catholics being persecuted by law. Though the church has been much rebuilt over the years, there is still evidence of a priest hole that connects it to The George Inn, where terrified Catholic priests would often hide away for days to escape capture.
The inside of the church boasts a ribbed, barrel-shaped plaster ceiling, decorated in an early Georgian style. The ceiling is the work of Ralph Allen, the famous philanthropist who owned Bathampton Manor from 1731.
Mr Allen is perhaps best known for his reforming of the Post Office, a project that made him a very wealthy man. But he also formed a partnership with the famous architect, John Wood, quarrying the distinctive ‘Bath Stone’ at Combe Down and using it to construct the world-famous Georgian town-house crescents in Bath. He died in 1764 and is buried in the mausoleum he helped design at St. Mary’s Church, Claverton.
The eastern part of the church is known as the Australia Chapel. It is a memorial to Captain Arthur Phillip, who commanded the First Fleet of 11 vessels to Sydney, to establish a British colony. He set sail in May 1787 and landed at Sydney Cove on 26 January the following year. The 26th January is today known as Australia Day.
He retired from the Navy in 1805 and settled in a handsome Georgian house in the city of Bath. When he died in 1814, he was buried in St. Nicholas Church, by the porch so that visitors would always pay their respects as they entered. Today, it is his gravestone that greets visitors when they arrive.
Another notable resident of Bathampton was William Harbutt, who invented and manufactured Plasticine. He lived at The Grange, High Street, Bathampton, just a short stroll from The George Inn, in the late 19th century.
Bathampton is a picturesque village with a story that goes back centuries. Situated on the south bank of the River Avon, with the Kennett and Avon Canal flowing gently through its sleepy centre, and the spa city of Bath on its doorstep, it’s the quintessential rural English village.
Directions to The George Inn
You can find The George Inn on Mill Lane in Bathampton, Somerset. Simply key BA2 6TR into your satnav.