Fovant Hut has also been known as the White Hart Inn or the Hut on Salisbury Plain. It was one of a series of posting houses along the turnpike road, which ran along the ridge of the downs above the village. Although we do not know when the inn was established, the Salisbury and Winchester Journal referred to it as ‘new built’ in 1757. William Kennell, the first landlord, advertised that he had:
‘a stock of neat Wines, rich Cordials, and all sorts of Spirituous Liquors to be sold Wholesale and Retail.’
The inn did a thriving trade until 1787 when the Lower Road (now the A30) was turnpiked. It is not known when the inn ceased to trade, but it has long since been a private house.
The Cross Keys
The earliest part of the Cross Keys, situated on the A30, is said to have been built in the late 15th century. Manor Courts were held here between 1724 and 1820, probably in the large room upstairs, which was originally accessed by external stone stairs.
According to the late Olive Mullins, whose grandparents and parents ran the Cross Keys from 1917 to 1942, the stone stairs were removed some time after 1942, possibly because they were an obstruction to traffic on the A30.
The Fovant Club, a sick benefit club mainly for agricultural workers, which was founded in the mid-1700s and ran until 1911, held its meetings in the upstairs room. Meat and vegetables for the Pig Club Suppers were cooked in large coppers situated in the back kitchen. Water had to be fetched from a pump near the Pound, the stone lockup for stray animals, which used to be near the Brook Street end of the inn.
The Cross Keys closed as an inn on 30 March 2003.
The Pembroke Arms
The Pembroke Arms, opposite the Cross Keys, has been referred to as the Lord’s Inn, the Cart Wheel or the Catherine Wheel. The inn was built in the early 1790s, possibly on the site of a previous hostelry. It is of brick and tile construction.
The inn was part of lot 81 of the 1919 Pembroke sale and its outbuildings were described as stabling, coach house, cow house and piggery. At that time, the inn had a detached garden on the opposite side of the High Street. The stables were demolished after the Second World War, clearing a space for the current car park.
James Millard, the first landlord, informed the public through the local press that he:
‘has laid in an assortment of good Old wines and other liquors. Good beds. Well aired … neat Post-Chaise with able Horses and careful Drivers.’
The Poplar Inn
There is some suggestion that the Poplar Inn was at one time called ‘The Drum and Monkey’, but in 1962 the then owners, Eldridge Pope and Co. disclaimed all knowledge of this name. The date of the building is uncertain, but likely to be between 1789 and 1811. There is no doubt that it was built on an area of ground willed by a Quaker lady to be used as a burial ground for the Brethren, but no documentary or archaeological evidence has proved that it was ever used as such.
During World War II Stephen Jeffery and his mother were evacuated to Fovant where they stayed with his paternal grandparents who were licensees of the Poplar Inn. He remembers that:
‘The Poplars lay well back from the road and had a large front garden where my grandparents grew vegetables. I vividly remember a very large Christmas tree in the front garden, and a stream between the garden and the road in front. I remember harvest time in the fields to the left of the Inn, viewed from the front, using the old fashioned hay making machine and the stooks being piled. There was also a searchlight battery in the field on the right of the Inn.
One interesting point about the Poplar Inn at that time was that it was just a beer house and not licensed to sell spirits. The pub had one bar and a small snug on the side. My recollection of it is of an extremely busy place, full of laughter and plenty of characters.
As you can imagine the many servicemen in the vicinity spent some of their time in the pubs of the area. The Poplar Inn was no exception and in particular it was extremely popular with American soldiers who came regularly from Salisbury, so they must have like the atmosphere. My mother remembers some of them as being particularly helpful to her at the time as she was pregnant with my sister Linda. I remember them regularly keeping me amused by giving me rides in their jeeps up and down Dean Lane and keeping me supplied with ‘candy’. The pub was similarly a popular venue for RAF personnel from Chilmark’.
The Poplar Inn closed in 1998 and the site, in Sutton Road, was used for housing, as can be seen from the second photograph. The area is now known as Home Close.
Click on the links below to see a list of the landlords of all these pubs: