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History

PhotoRomsey was once renowned for the number of its inns and public houses, giving rise to a saying “so drunk he must have been to Romsey”. Many trace their origins to the 18thC, but The White Horse is the only one remaining with a history that goes back even further. As the town’s principal inn since medieval times, it has played a significant local role.

Surviving timber framing is thought to date from as early as 1450, and written records confirm the existence of an inn during the 1500s. However, earlier medieval stone cellars suggest that it could have hosted guests and visitors to the Abbey as early as the 12thC.

Designs and paintings on internal walls and beams have been discovered that date from the 1500s and 1600s. Black and ochre Tudor motifs and roses can still be seen in parts of the hotel. A will of 1572 was made in a chamber of The White Horse, and in 1610 another listed items in various Chambers and Galleries, some of which remain in the existing building.

During the 18thC, with the creation of a new facade and upper floors, the hotel offered 35 beds and stables for 50 horses. However, as part of the work, original roof timbers and evidence of earlier history were lost. Sadly, no illustrations of the former structures are known to exist.

As a coaching inn serving visitors travelling to and from London and Bristol, The White Horse has for centuries been much larger than the frontage seen from the Market Place. In addition to the inn itself, 18th and 19thC papers list the yard, stables, coach houses, brewery, tap room, granaries, dove cote, gardens, and even a piggery!

The White Horse, and the licence to be “mine host”, has changed hands many times. Commerce, debt and death have all played their part. In the 1790s one owner became indebted to his wine merchant and a local baker. In the 1840s the hotel had to be sold by the executors of a businessman to meet legacies in his will. One family were tenants from the 1830s to the 1860s, with the widow running the hotel for 20 years after the death of her husband.

The early years of the 20thC saw the last private owners. One had previously been the landlord at other pubs in the 1890s, and also became mayor of Romsey. While still advertising that Landaus and Broughams could be obtained from the Hotel stables, he brought it into the modern era. Motor cars were offered for hire, and the word “garage” appeared over the archway.

By 1920 the hotel was part of Trust Houses Ltd., a company originally established to preserve the character of old country inns. In the 1970s The White Horse Hotel formed part of the Forte Heritage Collection of Trust House Forte, and by the end of the 20thC it was in the hands of Macdonald Hotels. After a brief flirtation with developers it was acquired by the current local owners Silks Hotels, who are now looking to restore the hotel to its former pride of place within Romsey and reflect the centuries of history they have inherited.

The White Horse Hotel – snippets of history across the decades

1150s

Site thought to be an early guest house for visitors to the Abbey.

1450s

Timber framed development above old cellars to create parts of the existing building

1550s

Tudor floral designs and motifs are painted on internal walls and beams, some of which are still visible.

1570s

John Uvedale makes his will in The White Horse in 1572.

1610s

The will and inventory of Lucilla Dixson in 1610 lists her belongings “nowe at The White Horse” in Chambers and Galleries that can still be identified.

1710s

William Freeman is recorded as publican in 1714.

1760s

Thomas Dixon purchases The White Horse for £1,136 in 1769 from “Edward James Baker (Gentleman of Romsey) and William Elletton (late of Romsey then of Little Canford, Hampshire)”.

1770s

Charles Sibley purchases “White Horse in Romsey Infra together with all and singular outhouses and appurtenances ... and the Water Wheel jack” from the estate of Thomas Dixon on 1777. 4 carriages and 50 horses could be accommodated, and 35 beds available.

1780s

Charles Sibley’s widow Ann sells the White Horse to John Faithorn, yeoman of Romney Extra.

1790s

John Quinton “stood indebted ... in various sums of money to a considerable amount which he was then unable to discharge without selling and disposing of his estate ...” William Footner (Wine Merchant of Romsey) and John Arnold (Baker) benefit.

1800s

John Latham, son of local historian, gets involved financially with The White Horse, prior to his own bankruptcy in 1817.

1820s

John Young sells The White Horse to Richard Cooe and John Cooe (Gentlemen of Milford, Wiltshire) and William Charles Daman for £3,000 in 1821.

1830s

The Cooe brothers agree to let the “Inn or Public House called or known by the name or sign of the White Horse ... with the Yard Garden Dovecote Stable Coach House Granaries Breweries Tap Room” to Samuel Cocks (Hostler) and Robert Cocks in 1839.

1840s

Owner Richard Cooe and tenant Robert Cocks die within weeks of one another in 1846. The former leaves a will that requires the hotel to be sold. The latter leaves his widow Sarah to run the hotel for the next 20 years.

1850s

In financial trouble, creditors issue a writ for possession to Sarah Cocks in 1858 – but she is supported by local farmer John Allsop.

1860s

Charles Robert Prangnell and his family, from the Isle of Wight, occupy The White Horse.

1870s

Vincent Newman buys the hotel “with Tap Brewery Stables Buildings Outhouses Offices Yard road and gateway ... and two messuages in Latimer Street” for £2,050 from hotel keeper George Hyles. He dies in 1879, leaving his estate to a friend Ellen Trask.

1880s

Richard Talmy Turner becomes the new tenant, and is required to “ ... conduct business in a proper and orderly manner giving no just or reasonable ground for withdrawing or withholding of all or any of the licences for the sale of beer and ale and wine and spirituous liquor ...”

1890s

James Bignal runs The White Horse, a “family and commercial hotel and posting house”.

1900s

New owner, Richard Bowen, previously at The Fleming Arms and The Railway View in the 1890s, offers a single bedroom for 3s 6d, a double for 5s, and a hot bath for 1s. Dogs could also be accommodated for 1s. He also introduces motor cars for hire.

1910s

Percy Sinclair Comyn Woods acquires the hotel for £4,250 in March 1919.

1920s

Trust Houses Ltd. acquire the hotel for £6,500 in March 1920, and agree to pay the “£2,125 for all the furniture fixtures and effects, including the horse and carriage, outdoor effects, poultry pigs etc., and Ford car in proper running condition”

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