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A History of the Blue Horse


The Blue Horse inn, although not quite as old as the neighbouring Crossed Swords, has a long and interesting history dating back to early Victorian times.

In the 1851 census return for Skillington, Richard Johnson was a “Baker and Farmer of 20 acres” living with his 57 year-old wife Elizabeth. There was no other inn then save the Cross Swords. By 1861 Richard has obviously died for there, at The Blue Horse, is Elizabeth Johnson, widow, aged 66. In 1871, the new licensee is John Wilson and he is still there in 1881 but listed as “Publican and Butcher”. The 1891 census shows (son?) Arthur Wilson, aged 24, as the “beerhouse Keeper”.

The Cross Swords

The 1861 census shows Edward Atter (aged 23 and from Ponton) in charge but the final license records (1864 and 65) show Thomas Palmer as the keeper. The census return for 1871 has John Berridge, who was born in Stamford, in charge. 1881 shows William Burchnall, born in Little Bytham, doubling up as “publican  and blacksmith”, which he continues to do until at least 1901 when he is 63.

Did the good folk of Skillington go thirsty before the Cross Swords was built? No, there were cottages licensed to sell ale at least as far back as 1684 (usually three in number) and in 1696 one of these was a famous Skillington name indeed – Thomas Newton and Son, almost certainly the ancestors of Fred and Fanny Newton and related to the Woolsthorpe genius, Sir Isaac, were selling ale!

The following was the legal requirement in early Victorian times (here the long and repetitive format has been shortened)

“do and shall keep true assize in uttering and selling bread and other Victuals, Beer, Ale, and other Liquors … and shall not fraudulently Dilute or Adulterate the same.  And shall not in uttering and selling thereof in Pots or other Measures that are not of full assize and shall not knowingly permit Drunkeness or Tipling nor get Drunk … nor knowingly suffer Gaming with Cards, Draughts, Dice, Bagatelle or other Sedentary Game … or suffer any Bull, Bear, Badger Baiting, Cock Fighting or other such sport or amusement … or suffer or designedly and with a view to Harbour or entertain such, permit or suffer men or women of notoriously Bad Name or Disolute Girls and Boys to assemble and meet together … nor permit or suffer any Drinking or Tipling in any part of his … Premises during the hours of Divine Service or Sundays …” etc.

As far as could be seen, the Crossed Swords was a good house but not all were … one was fined £2 for gaming and the landlord and several men of the Sun Inn Colsterworth were convicted of drunkenness in 1863!

A History of The Cross Swords

The Cross Swords Inn was almost certainly built specifically to sell beer and ale – as distinct from the neighbouring Blue Horse, which was converted from three cottages. Records of ale house licenses at Lincoln Archives name the Cross Swords as early as c 1830 but it probably goes back several years before this (licensees were named but not their ale houses).The name is thought to have been brought along by a landlord who came from Grantham, and there was certainly a Cross Swords Yard in that town in early Victorian times. The licensee in those far off days was Edward Herring, from 1837 to at least 1856, possibly taking over from a John Dolby.

His wife is not shown but he has a 47 year-old lodger and housekeeper from Pickworth, Ann Burroughs, and a boarder, “scholar” Florence Baxter aged 12, together with his own one-year-old twins, Frederick and Agnes. Ten years on, Arthur is still there (now, additionally a “Grocer”) and with his wife, Mary. One twin, Agnes, has not survived but they have another daughter, 4 year-old Dorothy. During World War Two, Bill Mead’s father, Logan was the licensee and still the village butcher. The inn then showed the famous Skillington hospitality to some of the British, Commonwealth, American and Polish Forces stationed at Saltby Airbase.

The title Blue Horse, as also used in the Blue Town area of the village, is said to come from the Earl of Dysart’s political favour when he was a candidate as member of parliament. Although his Buckminster Estate only purchased land around Skillington from the Church Commissioners in 1883 (452 acres for £16,500) they appear to have leased land for 21-year periods from 1838. Somewhere between that date and 1861 they probably built the houses of Blue Town and converted cottages into The Blue Horse!

The Blue Horse

Field Names

Reproduced with the kind permission of Trevor Palmer

A History of the Inns in Skillington