Malmesbury pub murder and ‘barmy’ beer talk


Murder in the Kings Arms in Malmesbury, going to the inn for your school lessons and why local shops only sold beer foam will all be revealed in the first of a series of teatime talks which will begin next month at the city’s Athelstan Museum.

Local historian Susan Mockler will start the talks with stories about Malmesbury’s pub history.

Susan, from Hankerton, will detail that the town used to have 50 hostels, whereas it now has less than ten.

Among the stories will be the tale of a pub fight that ended badly at the Kings Arms.

“It was a murder involving a Horseman,” Susan said, “and now her ghost is said to haunt the place.”

She will also talk about the “barm shops” that were once found in the city.

“Bar is the foam of beer and it was once sold to make bread, for yeast,” said Susan, who has spent four years researching the history of Malmesbury pubs, dating back to medieval times. and to unearth tales of fires, ghosts, political intrigues, elegant balls, political dinners, and “a mysterious society hosting crowded gatherings.”

She explained: “That society was one that was started in the 18th century for adult education and they met in pubs. There were a few high jinks involved in this, which I will reveal in my talk.

“Currently there are only nine restaurants, hotels and pubs in the town, but at one time there were over 50 inns in Malmesbury with such wonderful names as The Griffin, The Green Dragon, The Prince and Princess, The White Lion and The Slappy.”

The Slappy was the old nickname of the Royal Oak and was so called after strange ancient rites that surrounded becoming a freeman of the city.

“It was called The Slappy because when someone got a piece of land they buried a coin and then got slapped on the back with an oak twig to indicate they were now a keeper or a free man and then you retired to the pub. to celebrate,” Susan said.

Athelstan’s new series of teatime talks begins with Susan’s on Wednesday, February 16 at the Rausing Building. Tea will be served at 2.30 p.m. and the conference will start at 3 p.m. Tickets cost £5 to include refreshments and are available on the Athelstan Museum website at: teatime-talk-malmesbury-pubs.

“Only tea, not beer, will be served, but there will be cake!” The talks are a trial, for people who are hesitant to go out at night,” said Susan, who was president of the Hankerton History Group for 14 years.

Although particularly knowledgeable about the history of Hankerton, Susan is deeply involved in the history of Malmesbury. In 2019 she worked with members of the Malmesbury and District U3A history group to produce an exhibition on Malmesbury pubs and inns. She is also currently Vice President of the Athelstan Museum.

Susan also lectures on the Malmesbury Union Workhouse, stories of Malmesbury in the press in the 1830s and a First World War lecture on three flying heroes. She has been supported in her research by the Malmesbury Civic Society and the History Society.


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