Surprise was the strongest emotion raised by their appearance; but Anne was really glad to see them; and the others were not so sorry but that they could put on a decent air of welcome; and as soon as it became clear that these, their nearest relations, were not arrived with any views of accommodation in that house, Sir Walter and Elizabeth were able to rise in cordiality, and do the honours of it very well. They were come to Bath for a few days with Mrs. Musgrove, and were at the White Hart. So much was pretty soon understood; but till Sir Walter and Elizabeth were walking Mary into the other drawing-room, and regaling themselves with her admiration, Anne could not draw upon Charles’s brain for a regular history of their coming, or an explanation of some smiling hints of particular business, which had been ostentatiously dropped by Mary, as well as of some apparent confusion as to whom their party consisted of.

Persuasion Chapter 22

I’ve been researching The White Hart Inn, Bath for some time.

The reason why it excites my curiosity is that, for such a famous and celebrated place, it was demolished in 1869 and never rebuilt. And information about it is hard to find. In its heyday it was one of the most famous inns in the country let alone Bath and was duly celebrated for its style and efficiency

Images of it are scarce.

In this print of the Pump Room, you can just discern the roof of the inn appearing over the colonnade running to right angels of the Pump Room.

And this very early photograph is of the view from the site of the White Hart after its demolition.

You can imagine my delight when, a few years ago,  I found this picture of it in its busy glory days

….with all its amazing detail…The White Hart -a deer- standing proud above the entrance. The print also conveys just how very busy it was-(do I count 7 coaches?)

It must have been very noisy. Something Jane Austen alluded to in one of her letters:

Poor F. Cage has suffered a good deal from her accident. The noise of the White Hart was terrible to her-They will keep her quiet I daresay…

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 15th September 1813)

Hopefully, you will be able to envisage its situation, just to the north of Bath Street ( see the colonnade running to the left of the print). You can also guess its size and how many visitors it must have accommodated. It says a lot for its organization and for its proprietor that I have never been able to find a bad review of the facilities ;-)

Here is my map of Bath of 1803 from A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc by John Feltham

Here is a section of it  showing Stall Street

and this is  the same section annotated with the positions of the Inn and the Pump Room

The Guide from which this map was taken gave the Inn a good review:

The principal inns and Taverns are the White Hart in Stall-street where the accommodations and treatment are excellent.

Here are a few of the other reviews I have collated over the years. Parson Woodford, from Norfolk, in his dairy gives us these two brief but glowing mentions of the inn:

28 June 1793

About 10 o’clock this Evening, thank God, we got safe and well to Bath to the White Hart Inn, where we supped & slept – a very noble Inn

and

11 October 1793

We got to Bath … about six o’clock this Evening, to the White Hart in Stall Street, kept by one Pickwick, where we drank Tea, supped and slept, a very good, very capital Inn, everything in stile.

Louis Simond , the rather puritanical American who wrote his Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britian during the years 1810 and 1811 ( published in 1815) wrote in detail of the White Hart. He was clearly impressed:

January 8th 1810.

We arrived at Bath last night. The chaise drew up in style at the White Hart. Two well-dressed footmen were ready to help us alight , presenting an arm on each side. Then a loud bell on the stairs, and lights carried before us to an elegantly furnished sitting –room where the fire was already blazing. In a few minutes a neat looking chamber maid with an ample white apron pinned behind, came to offer her services to the Ladies and shew the Bed-rooms. In less than half an hour five powdered gentlemen burst into the room with three dishes etc and two remained to wait. I gave this as a sample of the best or rather of the finest inns. Our bill was £2 ,11 shillings sterling dinner for three, tea, beds and breakfast. The servants have no wages-but depending on the generosity of travellers, they find it in their interest to please them. They (the servants-jfw) cost us about five shillings a day.

Here is a link to the portrait by John Saunders of the  proprietor of the inn-sadly in black and white and rather small. He was one Eleanzer Pickwick, who would have been the owner of the inn when Jane Austen knew of it (and when the Musgroves stayed three). The portrait shows him as a bluff ruddy-cheeked man in simple riding habit, clearly at ease in a country setting.

Eleazer Pickwick was the son of Moses Pickwick  and his wife, Sarah Smith, and was baptized at Freshford parish church, Somerset, on 2 February 1749. His parents were from the village of Limpley Stoke just outside Bath.

Eleazer was the grandson of a foundling, baptized Moses Pickwick in 1695 due to his being discovered as a baby at Pickwick in Corsham, Wiltshire He was immortalized in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, which made his name a household word.

In 1780, building on his experience as serving as a postboy at the Bear Inn, he was able to provide the services of a post-coach to London from the Angel Inn in Bath whose license he held. He soon enlarged his business by increasing the number of services scheduled, especially to London, from Bristol as well as Bath, and by transferring his base to the White Hart, which was, as we have seen, a major inn in the city

He was made a freeman of Bath in 1799, and a member of the common council in 1801, becoming mayor in 1826. In 1797 he purchased the manor house and lands in the parish of Bathford in Somerset. To this land he added Hartley Farm in Batheaston, Somerset, as well as a manor house and lands in the parish of Wingfield in Wiltshire.

He owned a freehold property in Bath, in Bath Street, but actually resided in Westgate Buildings from 1800. He died on 8 December 1837. His wife had predeceased him, dying in 1835; they were both buried at Bathford parish church.

I have one last “review” to add to all this and it is from my copy of John Cary’s Itinerary etc. (1798).

This book originated from the library of John Ruskin at his Lakeland home of Brantwood.

Authentication of the handwriting in the book is ongoing at present, but the owner of this book in the early 19th century was a sort of early “Egon Ronay” and he devised his own code to describe the places he was staying and their facilities.

(Do remember you can enlarge all the images here, merely by clicking on them)

Above is the page in the Itinerary for the White Hart, and you can see that he marks the entry for the inn with a lower case “a”.

I am pleased to report that, as you can see from his  annotations above, this is his code for

“Excellent”

So we can rest assured that the Musgroves will have every attention , good food and that the service will never be “indifferent and inattentive” or (horrors) the pale will not be “doubtful as to beds”-two categories which he indicates by the use of the initials q and b.

They deserve no less, frankly.