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Friday, 26th July 2019
'Winchcombeshire – the forgotten county'
with Tim Porter
'The man in the white suit'
Saturday 21st Sep 2019
Theatre Royal, Bath
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The Porch House has a long and chequered history. It was originally a hospice, and then an inn, possibly with a dog fighting pit, and eventually a hotel, formerly known as The Royalist. It is said to be the oldest pub in England, with timbers that have been carbon dated to approximately 1000 AD.
By the time Stow-on-the-Wold had acquired a church and a market charter in 1107, Digbeth Street was one of the main routes into the town. We know that in medieval times the townsfolk were contributing financially to the church, the support of alms houses and a hospice for travellers and pilgrims. The Porch House is believed to have been founded by the Saxon Duke of Cornwall, Athelmar, in 947 AD and was subsequently run by the Knights Hospitallers. At that time it would have been timber framed with five bays facing Well Lane. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 it was enlarged in stone and the porch was added by Thomas Shellard in 1615. It is well protected as evidenced by the witch marks above the 16th century fireplace in the dining room, put there to ward off evil spirits.
One of the bedrooms has a curious plaster frieze carved with mythical beasts and medallions of lions heads. One theory is that this is a medieval ‘houris’ frieze dating from the time of the crusades. It is believed to be from the same mould as one in Chastleton House which dates to the 17th century and ties in with the alterations to the building by Thomas Shellard in 1615.
It is thought that, in medieval times, this area of the town would have been renowned for popular blood sports such as dog fighting, badger baiting and cock fighting. During alterations a 3 feet deep pit was found under what is now the restaurant. This would have been outside the original wooden building and a good site for blood sports.