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It was the pubs that mattered back then

By Central Somerset Gazette  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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Where does Street end and Walton begin, not geographically but in personal terms?

For most people living at the far West End of Street, it mattered not a jot whether the boundary was a stream or a hedge; if they liked a drop of beer or cider, it was the pubs that counted.

And because Street had so few watering holes, thanks to the Quaker and teetotal Clarks, Walton's two hostelries were their nearest. Certainly the still-extant Royal Oak, walking distance in the days when people walked much longer distances than today.

The chance survival of a badly typed set of diary sheets for 1896, found by this writer's aunt, gives quite a detailed picture of social life for those who avoided the temperance hotel, The Bear, and walked in the opposite direction.

Or, as a large family group, clambered aboard a farmer's pony and trap, or Voake's horse bus.

By 1896 West End did at least have an off-licence, Tazwell's, of fond memory to their descendants today.

Tazwell's faced Teetotal Row, at the corner of West End. Its main display was just a large glass porch, with a few shelves of sample bottles.

Prices were good: light ale at 3d (1 1/4p) a quart; beer or strong ales at 6d (2 1/2p) and Porter, again at sixpence.

Also known as stout, Porter smelled foul, but was much loved of the working man. I faintly recall one such old drinker sitting in a rocking chair with several bottles on the floor, picking up the first one and then another for a contented swig.

Apart from Tazwell's, it was a long walk to the Street Inn from West End, that their nearest pub was the Royal Oak, whose current interior includes many features the ancestors would have known.

There the speciality was a Charlton brew. On one occasion the pals had their fill at Ashcott before stopping for two more quarts at the Royal Oak, after which the narrator, George Stebbing, managed to slip on wet grass and sprain his ankle.

Nearly three months later, when re-reading the diary, George added: "The beer had nothing to do with the slip.

"We had been sitting on a hillside and my foot slipped on the grass as I was getting up."

Oh yeah?

By this time, Street had overtaken Walton in importance, the latter having once been more dominant.

A postcard sent on a later Street visit called Walton "a pretty little spot of no particular interest but great charm on account of its rural simplicity and general air of quietude."

What would George Stebbing and his relations made of a traffic-ridden walk from the Royal Oak back to West End in 2012?

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