Kings Head Hotel, Monmouth
|Kings Head Hotel|
|Town or city||Monmouth|
|Current tenants||J D Wetherspoon pub|
|Construction started||mid-17th century|
|Designations||Grade II listed|
The King's Head Hotel is a hotel standing opposite the Shire Hall in Glyndŵr Street, Agincourt Square, Monmouth, Wales. It dates from the mid-17th century, and as one of the major inns in Monmouth was reputedly visited by Charles I of England in 1645. It has a fine black-and-white painted stone façade and became an important posting inn in the late 17th century, with a yard through an archway where visitors' horses could be stabled and where regular coach services called. In the 18th and 19th centuries, stagecoaches for London left from the inn. The range of buildings along Agincourt Street now includes the former Monmouth Bank and the County Club, while the inn itself is now part of the J D Wetherspoon pub chain. It is one of 24 buildings on the town's Heritage Trail and is a Grade II listed building.
Architecture and History
The bottom side of Agincourt Square is dominated by the fine 17th century coaching inn, and its attendant buildings provide an attractive range along Agincourt Street, though decorative facades of the former Monmouth Bank (c 1740) on the left, and the County Club (c 1877) with its fine oriel window on the right are much later buildings. The County Club (by T H Wyatt) has an attractive oriel window. The King's Head runs through to St John's Street, where it had its stabling, and since this spans the outer bailey ditch of the castle it drops a storey from front to back. It became an important posting inn under landlord Richard Ballard, who was Mayor of Monmouth in 1675 and also postmaster. An ardent Royalist, he claimed the visit by Charles I, and issued brass tokens with the inscription "God Preserve our Gracious King" and the head of Charles II. Charles I was reputed to have visited it in 1645, during a stay at Raglan Castle, and the Royalist landlord subsequently erected a plaster bas-relief of Charles in 1673, still to be seen above the fireplace in the left-hand Bar.
Though it is not clear whether this is Charles I or Charles II, or an amalgam of both, or perhaps just a generic monarch. since it is not particularly realistic.
In 1820, William Cobbett, the pamphleteer spoke at the hotel. Cobbett had just stood unsuccessfully as M.P. for Coventry. He was noted for his opposition to paper money and the corn laws and his enthusiasm for parliamentary reform and the rural Englishmen.
In 1835 there were 15 inns and pubs in Agincourt Square, giving rise to the rhyme "A gin court here, a gin court there, no wonder they call it A-gin-court Square"
However, the King's Head Hotel was hardly a gin court, being Monmouth Borough's pre-eminent hostelry until the construction of The Beaufort Arms Hotel on the other side of the Shire Hall. Regular stagecoach services left for Ross, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Oxford and London: even then London was only eighteen hours away. When the railways came to Gloucester in 1840, coach services left the Agincourt Square hotels and reached Gloucester in three hours. Through fares to London at that time were 14s (shillings) 7 d (pence). The railways finally reached Monmouth itself in 1857, to Newport, and in 1873 to Ross and 1875 to Coleford, finally killing off the stagecoach services. In 1840 the hotel had 18 bedrooms, and kept 16 coach horses and several coaches. It caught fire in 1870, but survived in essentially its present form.
By the start of the 20th century the hotel still offered posting and livery stables, but also facilities for cycling and motor cars. The large dining area, with its high ceilings, still has some of the grandeur associated with its past, and the hotel still offers rooms on a bed and breakfast basis. Now, however, and much more mundanely, buses leave from the bus station at the bottom of Monnow Street.
In 2011, the Kings Head (J D Westherspoons) sponsored the local cricket club. There is a framed shirt on the wall and the club holds its monthly meetings at the pub. Like dozens of other objects in the pub the cricket team's display is accompanied by a QRpedia code which allows visitors to obtain information on the club in their own language. These were installed in 2012 as part of the "MonmouthpediA" project which provides visitors with information about all aspects of the town.
- The King's Head Hotel, Monmouth, British Listed Buildings.co.ukm accessed March 2012
- Kissack K. (2003) Monmouth and its Buildings. ISBN 1-904396-01-1 Logaston Press
- Notice within the main bar, viewed March 2012
- Hurley Heather (2007) The pubs of Monmouth, Chepstow and the Wye Valley. ISBN 978-1-904396-87-1 Logaston Press
- "Support for Monmouth Cricket Club". JD Wetherspoons. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
- Wikipedia project to cover life in Monmouth, BBC News, 30 December 2011
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