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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Charles James Byles, Innkeeper of Note

Charles James Byles, Innkeeper of Note

This week's Sepia Saturday image of the New Inn in the village of Clovelly in Cornwall prompts me to tell you about my 3 times great grandfather Charles James Byles, who was an innkeeper from the 1830s until the early 1850s in Hampshire and Windsor. 

 Charles was baptized Charles James Biles in the parish of St Mary’s Southampton on 7 April 1798. He was the third child of George Byles and his wife Catharine Greenway, who were married in the All Saints Parish of Southampton on 27 October 1792.

At the age of 22, following a period of service in the Royal Regiment of Artillery during the Napoleonic Wars, Charles married Ann Curby in 1820. His father-in-law William Curby was a yeoman and a victualler, and his will dated 1833 is very informative. He had six daughters and appears to have owned considerable property.  To his daughter Ann, the “wife of Charles Byles of Frimley in the county of Surrey, schoolmaster”, he gave freehold property including what was described as a malthouse, which was tenanted at the time. Ann was not to receive this property until after the death of her mother Sarah, who died aged 79 in Yateley in 1836.

 Either as a consequence of, or perhaps in anticipation of, this property being inherited by his wife Ann, Charles appears to have decided to give up teaching and instead become an innkeeper like his late father-in-law, because when their fifth child Frederick Curby Byles was born in Newnham parish, in 1834, Charles’ occupation in the baptism record is given as ‘Innkeeper of Hook'.  Daughter Amelia was also born in Hook in about 1835, according to the 1851 Census. The Hook parish Council web site says that Hook was located on the main road from London to Exeter, and contained a number of inns, which had prospered as a result of serving the weary stagecoach travellers.  A railway was built from London to Basingstoke in the 1830s, but it was not until 1883 that Hook railway station was constructed near Hook, and meanwhile the boom time for local innkeepers declined with the gradual disappearance of the stage coaches.

 The White Hart Inn, an example of an inn still operating in Hook, Hampshire

Charles and Ann must have decided it was again time to move on, and this time they settled in Windsor, in or around 1835. They may have been influenced by the fact that Charles’ youngest brother John Owen Byles was living in nearby Eton with his wife Sarah at that time.

In the 1841 Census Charles Byles is recorded as being the publican of the Hope Inn, Frogmore Road, Windsor, and his wife Ann and their four youngest children are living there with him. Children Ann and Edward were born in Windsor in 1838 and 1840 respectively. Charles appears to have become a playing member of the Windsor and Eton Junior Cricket Club, according to newspaper reports from 1834 onwards, and the Hope Inn would have provided a convenient venue for the players to socialise after their games. Charles was a bowler rather than a batsman, on one occasion bowling eight wickets and catching another batsman out, and in 1835 he was chosen as a steward of the club for the ensuing year.

As publican of the Hope Inn, Charles achieved some measure of fame, due to the proximity of his establishment to Frogmore House, which was itself very close to Windsor Castle, so it is relevant to know a little of the history of nearby Frogmore House and Mausoleum.  Frogmore House was built in the 1680s, and was then known as Great Frogmore.  The lease to the house was purchased in 1790 by Queen Charlotte, wife of ‘mad’ King George III. On her death, Frogmore house passed to her eldest unmarried daughter, the Princess Augusta.  Then when Princess Augusta died in 1840, her niece Queen Victoria gave Frogmore to her mother, the Duchess of Kent, who died there in 1861.  The Queen ordered the Frogmore Mausoleum to be built in the grounds of Frogmore House, to contain the remains of her husband Prince Albert, and to also be a future resting place for Victoria herself.

 Frogmore Mausoleum in 2011, viewed from the Long Walk


In the Windsor and Eton Express a number of social items appeared over the period 1837 to 1842, in which Charles Byles and the Hope Inn are favourably mentioned. 

On 25 February 1837 the Annual Rabbit Hunt

took place in the grounds of M.R.H. the Princess Augusta at Frogmore”, and
[A]fter the day’s amusement had terminated, a party of gentlemen adjourned to the Hope Inn, where an excellent dinner was provided by the landlord (Mr. Byles)”

 Later that year, the Princess Augusta’s birthday was celebrated and there was a public dinner in honour of the day at the Hope Inn and a display of fireworks there in the evening, the report of which appeared in the Express on 11 November 1837.  

The Three Tuns Inn, Windsor 2011


On 7 May 1842 the annual dinner to celebrate the defeat of the Eton Enclosure Bill took place at the nearby Three Tuns Inn, the chair being ably filled by Mr. C. Byles, according to another report in the Windsor and Eton Express.  This was a Bill brought by John Penn, who had sought to enclose land surrounding his property the Manor of Eton, but his Bill was defeated in Parliament on 1 May 1826, and a banner was triumphantly paraded through the streets of Eton, emblazoned with the words “May Eton Flourish Free and ever Protect her Rights”. Unlike the Hope Inn, the Three Tuns Inn is still in business in 2011.

Another public dinner was held at the Hope Inn on Wednesday 12 October 1842 to commemorate her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent taking up residence at Frogmore. It was reported that

the dinner excited the admiration of all present, especially the fine fat venison which was presented to the worthy host (Mr. Byles) for the occasion by the Duchess of Kent … and the evening was spent in the utmost conviviality and harmony, the company separating at a very late hour, delighted with the entertainment, and with the successful exertions of their host”. 

 Thanks may well have been also owed to Charles’ wife Ann, who might have been hard at work in the kitchens of the Inn, making it all possible, but we will never know.

Unfortunately for Charles Byles, in the later 1840s the main road to Dachet was re-aligned and new bridges were built as a result of changes in road and rail access to the town of Windsor under the Windsor Improvement Act 1848, under which the boundaries of Home Park were set and public access was denied.  In consequence Frogmore Road was closed and so too was the Hope Inn. Charles did not own the freehold title in the land, but he received £300 compensation plus expenses for his interest as a tenant, in consequence of the Inn’s closure and subsequent demolition. The owner Mr Deacon sought permission to relocate the Inn nearby but was ultimately unsuccessful. If any remains of the Inn still exist, they are inside Crown land, near Frogmore House and its Mausoleum, which are only open to the public two or three times per year. 

 Bucks Herald, 22 February 1851

 In the 1851 Census, Charles Byles and family were found residing “next to Cherry Cottage”, Windsor, and Charles’ occupation was given as “formerly publican.” The Byles family may no longer have been enjoying the convivial life to which they had become accustomed, but after his wife Ann died in December 1852, Charles married again in 1855 and appears to have become an agent for a political association, as described in the following article.

Windsor and Eton Express, 31 March 1855

Charles James Byles died in 1863 and is buried inHastings Cemetery.

In 1954, my parents and I visited Great Great Auntie Kitt, granddaughter of Charles Byles, at her home in Margate, Kent.  Kate Annie Byles was born in 1871, 8 years after Charles' death, but perhaps she would have liked to know that this small descendant of her long-lost brother Thomas Byles who emigrated to New Zealand would one day be interested in finding out more about her Byles family, and in particular about her grandfather Charles, the publican who entertained royalty at the Hope Inn Windsor. 

         With Great Great Aunty Kitt, Margate 1954

If anyone is interested in reading a very comprehensive article about the history of the many pubs of Windsor, both old and new(er), have a look at this site here.

And of course, for other blogs prompted by this week's photograph of the New Inn, go to Sepia Saturday #324 

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