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Thorncombe Village Trust



The property now known as Golden House, High Street, Thorncombe, Chard, TA20 4PF, is situated in the west of Dorset at NGR ST 374 031, close to the borders of Devon and Somerset. The property lies towards the south-western edge of the village, on the south-east side of the High Street. This property was formerly an inn with the core of the two principal ranges both being thought to date from the seventeenth century. The exterior walls, door and window openings were remodelled in 1855, as evidenced by dated key-stones. There was formerly an attached skittle alley to the south-west, which has now been converted to a separate private residence.

  The south-east range of the surviving building comprises three main elements. The north-western end was probably built in the seventeenth century as a two-storey structure, the roof of which has subsequently been raised in a later refurbishment. At its south-east end is a later two-storey extension, which must have been added after the 1855 remodelling, since it butts up against the new facing added at this date. To the south-east of this again is a single storey structure, currently used as a garage, with a single pitch roof, which butts up against the gable wall of the south-east range. The outside of this gable wall also has the scar of a pitched roof on it, showing that the present garage either replaces an earlier structure on this site or that it has been re-roofed in a different manner.

  The north-west range is also a two-storey structure thought to be of seventeenth century origin. This range is butted on the south-west by the former skittle alley and the south-west gable wall above the skittle alley is slate hung. The internal roof structure at its north-east end where it meets the south-east range appears to have been altered, so that the relationship between the two ranges is not certain. Both of the main ranges were thatched until at least the 1960s and the whole property is now a Grade II listed building.

Golden House before its thatch was removed.

Historical Notes

Surviving documentary sources have not been systematically searched but a summary of the building's history is provided by an article entitled Village's Only Inn', which was published in Pulman’s Weekly News on 2 August 1960. The paper includes a contemporary picture of the north-west range, showing the side fronting onto the High Street and entitled Thorncombe's 17th century inn'.

The text of the article is as follows:

Now Thorncombe's only inn, the Golden Lion, once known as the White Lyon, was built in the 17th century and was formerly part of the Sadborow Estate. In January, 1724, William Bragge of Sadborow, leased the White Lyon Inn to Walter Hallett, victualler of Thorncombe, with a provision that the tenant should keep two couple of hounds if required. On 3rd April, 1769, John Bragge of Sadborow, Esq. leased to Ahednego Follett, of Thorncombe, maltster, 'All that Publick House or Inn formerly called the White Lyon Inn but now called the Golden Lyon Inn, in Thorncombe, together with all the Cellars, Brewhouses, Stables, Gardens, etc. thereunto belonging, and one Close of Meadow called Rapseys (3 Acres).' One of the few remaining thatched houses in Thorncombe the inn had a narrow escape during the great fire about 80 years ago when practically the whole of the top part [south-west] of Thorncombe village was destroyed. It was recorded at the time: - 'Houses were burning in all directions and the villagers were in the wildest confusion and consternation. Almost every house in the village was quickly emptied of its contents, which were deposited in the fields around.  The Golden Lion Inn, kept by Mr Cox, was in great danger, the house in which the fire originated being just below, and three times the thatched roof of the inn was caught in one corner but was saved by the buckets of water thrown over it.'

It is clear that some eighteenth century documentary sources, or copies of them, were available at the time that this newspaper article was written. The original sources are now likely to be in the Dorset Record Office, where the collections certainly include early surveys of Thorncombe, for example, a 1725 rental of Thorncombe (D/HAB/M2) and a survey of 1733 (D/HAB/M1), as well as Bragge Estate Papers dating from 1728-1892 (D/HAB/E1). Some basic searching on the internet has revealed background information relating to the people mentioned in the newspaper article.

  The Hallet family who ran the inn in 1724 were clearly  local to the village since there are at least two earlier references to individuals named Walter at Thorncombe. The Mormon Family Search website (IGI) includes a Walter Hallet of Thorncombe who married a Grace Shire or Share on 10 October 1639 and a Walter, son of Walter Hallet, who was baptised on 2 June 1669. The Walter baptised in 1669 could be the same one as listed as the landlord in 1724, when he would have been aged 55. It also seems likely that Abednego Follett, who leased the inn in 1769, was also related to the family by marriage, since he had married a Mary Hallet at Thorncombe on 5 September 1763 (IGI).

  A major refurbishment of the inn must have taken place in 1855 when the whole structure was encased with a facing of local chert. The window and door openings were finished red brick with yellow ashlar key-stones inscribed TS 1855'. Similar yellow ashlar blocks were used for the quoins at the corners of the building.

  By 1881 the inn was being run by William Hockey Cox with another family, the Hussey's, living there as well. These families may well have each occupied one of the two wings of the building. Details of these two families are provided by the 1881 Census, when the property was listed as the Golden Lion in Fore Street. This shows that the road name has been changed to High Street since 1881.

The two families are listed as follows:


William Hockey Cox  Head, Married 54 Winsham, Somerset Licenced Victualler

Elizabeth Hockey Cox Wife, Married 50 Thorncombe, Dorset Licenced Victuraller’s Wife

Alfred George Hockey Cox Son, Unmarried 22 Thorncombe, Doreset Clerk

Elizabeth Hockey Cox Dau  12 Thorncombe, Dorset Scholar

Sarah Jane Hussey  Head  44 Dorchester, Dorset  Laundress

Merina Hussey  Dau., Unmarried 19 Broadway, Dorset  Glover

Henry Hussey Ellen  Son  17 Thorncombe, Dorset Mason

Alfred Hussey  Son  13 Thorncombe, Dorset Scholar  

Walter Hussey  Son   9 Thorncombe, Dorset Scholar

Barter Hussey  Nephew   8 Broadway, Dorset  Scholar

  The site continued to be used as a pub until about 1970, when the brewery that then owned it (Bass Charrington (South West) Ltd.), sold it to Edmund George and Mollie Jean Skinner of Crewkerne, the sale being completed on 28 May 1970. The skittle alley was split off and converted to a private residence and the main ranges of buildings subsequently sold to Nigel Higgins and Lynn Kinsey in 2004.


August 2006

Thanks to Nigel Higgins for providing this article and the illustrations.