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The Bounty – The Early Years

by by Bob Clarke [and Annie Strong]

The Bounty was originally called the Cattle Market. It was built during the 1830s to serve the drovers and dealers who attended the Cattle Market which moved from the Market Place to the land to the east of the cricket field wall on Wednesday, 7 October 1829. The pub was later extended in 1903 and 1927.

The earliest reference to the pub that I can find is an account in the Reading Mercury for August 21, 1841of a cricket match played on Basingstoke Common between “eleven gents of the upper part of the town” and “eleven young men of the lower part.” After the game, the players “repaired to the Cattle Market Inn, where a supper was prepared for them, and the evening afterwards [was] spent in harmony and conviviality.”

Harmony and conviviality were absent on 19 November 1862 when a fight broke out in the pub between George Boswell senior and George Boswell junior, cattle dealers from South Warnborough, and a pig dealer from Hartley Wespall.

Like many pubs in the 19th century, the Cattle Market was used for Coroner’s juries to “sit on the body of the deceased” to determine the cause of death. In 1869 an inquest was held in the Cattle Market “on the body of Charles Thumwood” who cut his throat with a clasp knife. He lived in the flint cottage next door to the pub with his widowed sister, Amelia Pollard, and her three sons, the youngest of whom was called Thomas (of whom more later).

Another example was the inquest into the death of Arthur Baldwin of Phoenix Green. In 1897 he travelled to Basingstoke to watch a cricket match. He got as far as Bounty Road, where he fainted, got up, and fell down again. He was carried into the Cattle Market and laid down. By the time the doctor arrived, he was dead.

The first landlord of the Cattle Market was John Leavey who remained landlord until around 1860. Other publicans included Thomas Griffin, his successor; Mrs Sarah Cooper who was the landlady in 1865; George Saunders to 1872, when William Sayers took over the licence. James Strong took over from William Sayers in 1880. When James Strong relinquished the licence in early 1882, James Heath became the landlord. He lasted ten years to 1892, when he lost his licence for being drunk in charge of a pub.

Those familiar with the phenomenon of psychogeography, whereby the atmosphere of certain locations influences particular human characteristics down the ages, e.g., centuries of left-wing radicalism in a part of Clerkenwell, and are aware that the Bounty seems to attract a disproportionately large number of characters with a deep knowledge of American blues, may be interested to learn that the landlady in 1911 was one Bessie Smith, though unfortunately not the Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, whose many recordings included Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer in 1933. The landlord in 1915 was Luke Kilhams, who sounds like a cowboy, and probably was.

Basingstoke in the 1880s had 54 pubs, competing to serve a population of less than 7,000. In order to make a living, many landlords had other occupations, leaving their wives to serve in the bar and effectively run the pub. John Leavey was a sawyer; Thomas Griffin a saddler; William Sayers was the local gunsmith; and James Strong was a boot repairer.

James Strong came from Devon. Annie, his wife, was born in Freefolk. Annie was in her early twenties and had two young children. One day in May 1881, John Wakeham, a journeyman tailor, came into the pub. He had been on the tramp, looking for work. As he also came from Devon, James took pity on him, and allowed him to lodge at the pub. Wakeham managed to find work with James Williamson, the London Street tailor, but developed a reputation for returning the work he was supposed to do uncompleted. He had only paid Annie two weeks’ rent during the six or seven weeks he stayed there.

On the night of Thursday, 14 July, Wakeham went out drinking round the town, and when he returned to the Cattle Market, he was so drunk that Annie refused to serve him. The following day, he came down to the parlour with a cut-throat razor, and said, “Mrs Strong, look here, look here, look here”, and immediately cut his throat. Annie screamed, and as she rushed out of the room, she felt the floor tremble as Wakeham fell. James rushed in from the garden on hearing Annie scream, “just in time to see Wakeham roll his eyeballs and expire.” At the inquest, Charles Frère Webb, the local surgeon, testified that he had found John Wakeham lying in a pool of blood on the parlour floor, with a gash that extended right across his throat, dividing all the structures, including the right carotid artery.

Since I read about the Wakeham suicide in the Hants and Berks Gazette for July 27, 1881, I had often wondered what happened to young Annie, the Bounty barmaid. So I did some research and found that James and Annie gave up the pub shortly after the Wakeham incident, and moved to Bracknell where Annie had another child in 1883. Sometime in the 1880s they moved back to Basingstoke where James died in 1888. In 1891 Annie was living with her children at 2 Oxford Terrace, just round the corner from the pub, where the car park behind All Saints Church is now. Her next door neighbour, at 1 Oxford Terrace, was Amelia Pollard.

Some time in the 1890s, Annie married Amelia’s son, Thomas, who was an ostler. In 1901 they were living together at 10 Castons Road. Thomas Pollard died in late 1901, and Annie remained in Basingstoke where she died in 1931 aged 73. Some time in the 1950s the pub changed its name to The Bounty, in a belated acknowledgement of Colonel May’s “bounty” in buying the Folly for cricket matches in 1880. My guess is that they changed the name from the Cattle Market because the women thought it referred to them!

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