The King's Head Inn

The Listed Buildings Survey describes the King's Head as a mid-19th century public house, but it is rather older than that. In the 1700's this inn was part of the estate of Paul Methuen, the Lord of the Manor of Chitterne St Mary, and was known as the George Inn. It burnt down under the tenure of Thomas Bennet, and after being rebuilt it was let to James Wheeler in 1742. Several generations of the Wheeler family leased the pub, or were maltsters. They are commemorated by memorial plaques on the outside of St Mary's Chancel. By 1826, when another James Wheeler held the copyhold lease, the pub was known as the King's Head.

In 1830 the new Lord of the Manor of Chitterne St Mary and owner of the pub was Walter Long. Around this time the Wheeler family drop out of the picture and are replaced by the Wallis family who had rented and moved into the nearby Manor house about 1825. William Wallis's mother-in-law, Ann White, was landlady at first. After her death a series of innkeepers ran the pub for the family. The Wallis' grew barley in Chitterne fields, malted it themselves at the malthouse opposite, and brewed beer, which they sold at the pub. This continued until 1910 when they stopped malting after tax made it uneconomic.

In those days when the building was thatched the King's Head was flanked by two cottages/shops. In 1861 William Compton, the innkeeper, ran a saddlery business in one of them. One cottage/shop was later demolished except for a part of the front wall. The outline of the door in the wall behind the pub sign can still be seen if you look carefully. The other shop was incorporated into the main building.
In 1896 Lord of the Manor, Walter Hume Long, put the Chitterne estate including the pub, up for sale. The King's Head was described then as having a bar, bar parlour, sitting-room, smoking room, tap room, kitchen, back kitchen and larder with four bedrooms over. An adjoining cottage was being used as a storeroom, but had once been a small shop.

Outside, behind and at the side of the pub in 1896, were a brewhouse, stables for eleven horses, a large clubroom, (at one time a skittle alley), outhouses and a walled-in kitchen garden. There was also a weighbridge, and the landlord was described as a surveyor as well as an innkeeper. The grounds in all totalled 2 roods 26 perches (over half an acre).

Bartlett's Brewery, Warminster, is thought to have acquired the King's Head from Walter Hume Long, but probably not until after 1910, when the Wallis family stopped malting. Beer was brought from Bartlett's brewery in the High Street, Warminster in barrels hauled on a dray by two horses. Sometimes winter conditions on the plain forced the drayman to stay overnight at the pub and return to the brewery next day. George Burgess the landlord for Bartlett's offered "tobacco, wines and spirits, comfortable accommodation and good stabling".

Bartlett's Brewery closed in 1920 and the King's Head was acquired by Usher's Brewery of Trowbridge. It remained an Ushers pub for the next 60-odd years. Ushers had the remaining adjacent cottage demolished, the thatch replaced with tiles and in 1928 gave a portion of the land behind the pub to the church to extend the graveyard at Chitterne St Mary Chancel.

This sketch by Ernie George dated 1948 shows the outbuildings that stood behind the pub in Ushers time. The thatched building is the skittle alley, which was used for all sorts of other occasions as well, such as wedding receptions. To the right are the stables, from the days when horse transport was the norm, and between the two, the carport.
In 1987 the King's Head Domino Team competed in the British Domino Championships and was the last team from Wiltshire left in. In 1990 Gibbs Mew of Salisbury acquired the King's Head. They sold off more of the pub land as a building plot, (101 Chitterne). In 1995 the King's Head won the Bulmer's/Gibbs Mew Cup for the pub with the best display of flowers.

In 2002 the King's Head became part of the Enterprise Inns chain. The pub was given a major refit and was a popular venue until the closure of the road for bridge strengthening at the beginning of 2004, which led to a loss of trade. In 2008, after a 3 month closure, the King's Head re-opened in April, but closed again on 24th December 2008. On the Friday 18th December 2009 the King's Head opened for the first time in almost a year with new landlords, but closed again the weekend of 22 October 2010 having been put up for sale by Enterprise Inns the previous month.

The King's Head became a Free House for the first time in 100 years when it was sold prior to the planned auction by Strakers in February 2011. The new owners and landlords opened, for wet sales only, on 1st April 2011.

Pub website

Back to History