Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Victoria Hotel

In September 1861 the Phipps family of Northampton were awarded a licence to sell beer, wines and spirits at their new hotel in Wolverton. This was a period of rapid and aggressive brewery expansion after they had discovered that the acquisition of inns and public houses meant that they had ready outlets for their beer production. In the case of the Victoria Family and Commercial Hotel, the Phipps brothers went one stage further and capitalised the project from the beginning. Wolverton was clearly destined to be a promising market.

From the beginning, the Vic was a Phipps outlet, and so it remained until various mergers in the 20th century diminished the Phipps brand. The hotel was built on a large new lot at the corner of Church street and Radcliffe Street with a large yard and stables. It is still in business today although parts of the building complex have been sold off in recent decades.

The first licensee was Berkeley Hicks who for some years had been the licensee of the Radcliffe Arms. He held the licence for five years and then it was transfered in 1866 to his brother Henry who had worked as a barman for his brother at both the Radcliffe Arms and at the Victoria Hotel.

In this period this was regarded as Wolverton's premier hotel. When dignitaries visited the town they were regularly taken here for refreshment. It was probably better appointed than the North Western and the older houses, the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer.

It was not impervious to disaster. In August 1865 the roof was struck by lightening during a thunderstorm. One chimney was cracked and parts of the upper storey of the building were reduced to rubble as bricks tumbled to the ground. The report in Croydon's Weekly Standard (Bucks Standard) mentioned that one room was filled with 'electric fluid'. Fortunately the room was empty.

No one was hurt or injured by the incident and the building was hastily restored. No mention was made of the absence of a lightening conductor, but it is quite possible that there was not one provided for the original building. No doubt that was rectified in the restoration.

Henry Hicks, who was born in 1832 at Maidenhead, ran the hotel with his wife for many years. During their occupancy the hotel was enlarged with additional rooms and a billiard room. Times change, and this room was given over to a juke box and dancing in the 1950s.

In 1894 William Tarry came to be the licensee. 1894 was an eventful year for Mr Tarry. He was a sales representative for a Northampton company of Corn Merchants, Wesley Brothers. In January the founder of the firm, Joseph wesley, died, and it is possible that this unsettled William Tarry. In June he moved to Wolverton and in August was granted the licence for the Victoria Hotel. In October he married Emma Darnell from Northampton. She was the sister of a Northampton solicitor.
By far the most dramatic of William Tarry's adventures in 1894 occurred on February 26th while he was driving his horse and gig along the Northampton road near Gayhurst. He saw a boat capsize on the River Ouse and drove over to assist. He was able to pull out the occupant of the boat and told a nearby farm labourer to take his horse and gig and fetch help. Meanwhile he revived the man who was unconscious when he found him.

The man was none other than Walter Carlile, resident of Gayhurst House. Unfortunately he was too late to save the woman in the boat who was Alice Cadogan, Mr Carlile's 21 year old sister in law.

The story that later emerged was that Walter Carlile had taken his sister in law out for a ride in the boat. As they were turning in the river to return to the house a sudden gust of wind caught the sail and the boat keeled over taking on a lot of water. Exactly what happened next is unclear because Mr Carlile, probably unconscious from a knock on the head, was not able to control the boat. Alice must have fallen out and unable to swim and hampered by a heavy Victorian costume, drowned.

William Tarry was a prominent figure in Wolverton at the turn of the century. He had a fine baritone voice and often performed at concerts. He was a promoter and participant for the Wolverton and Dstrict Choral Society and he involved himself with the affairs of his adopted town. The photograph below shows the Wolverton Victorias Football team in 1899. The photograph is of poor quality but you can see Mr Tarry centre in the back row. tall, heavily moustached, bowler hatted, he must have cut an imposing figure in his day.

He did attempt to establish another public house on the corner of Green Lane and Radcliffe Street when that street was being developed but he was unsuccessful in getting a licence. Undeterred he established an off licence on the corner of Green Lane and Oxford Street. That was first licence about 1902.

In 1924 Tarry retired from the hotel and simply occupied himself with the of licence on Green Lane.
His successor at the Vic, Fred Kettle added a car hire business.

In 1955 Enie Wilford and his wife Mabel came to the Vic from Coventry. Willard was a former miner and a very thrifty man who already owned several properties in Coventry. He and his son len used to make weekly visits to Coventry to collect rents. He was also familiar with the pub trade and had been running the Miners Arms in Coventry since 1921.

Len Wilford, his son, joined his parents in the business and he and his wife Joan ran the public bar. Len Wilford had at one time been a professional football player for Coventry City.

Ernie and Mabel Wilford continued at the Vic until their deaths. Mabel died in 1975 and Ernie in 1977.

Since then the Victoria Hotel has lived with uncertainty and since 1982 has been owned by a series of companies. It has been closed, refurbished, re-opened and been through this cycle several times.

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