THE CROWN INN
19 High Street East
The very earliest route through Uppingham is thought to be the narrow track passing in front of Tod’s Terrace, along The Crown backyard, across High Street, down Reeves Yard and Beast Market Hill and on to Lyddington. For this reason it is suggested the area of The Crown is where the late 5th or early 6th century Saxon settlement of Uppingham started, before spreading on either side along the ridge.
For Uppingham, The Crown is a relative newcomer. At some time in the 17th century an inn known as The Katherine Wheel moved here from 12 High Street East and by 1738 had changed its name to The Crown. The building is c1700 with a later 18th century front but the oldest surviving structures are the barns in Crown Passage, now the Antiques Centre.
Notable features are the decorated inn sign and flagpole visible the length of the High Street. At first floor level above them is a magnificent sundial set in a blocked window probably early 19th century with the motto ‘Non Rego Nisi Regar’ otherwise ‘I do not guide unless I am guided’ acknowledging its submission to the sun.
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THE (OLD) UNICORN INN
11 High Street East
The first mention of the inn by this name comes from 1617 when Sir Giles Mompesson a favourite of James I, imposed an annual license fee of 5/5d considered to be grossly excessive. John Warrington was the landlord. His house may not have been of the best repute. When in July 1629 Edmund Wright was presented to the Archdeacon’s Court for incontinence with a servant maid, the offence was alleged to have taken place in Warrington’s ‘house’. Earlier still in 1595 there was an inn at or adjacent called The George owned by John Anderson. We do not know what licenses he paid but his annual chief rent to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord of the Manor was 6d.
Further evidence of the building’s Elizabethan origins can be seen in the architecture down the side passage. Otherwise the front is early 18th century. The moulding of the Unicorn is dated 1765 with the exhortation on the sundial, ‘Improve the Time’. Alas, much of its magnificent coloured decoration has been painted out leaving only a pale shadow of the dial by which travellers once told the time of day.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, The Unicorn was an equal to The Falcon for popularity and social functions held in the town. Auctions, dances, social gatherings, banquets and public meetings took place here. Towards the end of the Victorian era it lost ground. While local carriers still departed from the Unicorn, due to its cramped accommodation, more and more the long distance passenger coaches stayed at The Falcon.
Located midway between The Falcon and The Crown, the Unicorn could not compete and closed its doors for the last time in 1974, reducing the number of public houses in Uppingham to just six. In the 1960s living at the Inn were Lilian F Bayford and Constance R Dwyer. The widowed Mrs Dwyer was one of the last, if not the final tenant of the Unicorn. Her late husband was part of the famous music hall act of Clapham and Dwyer, and as a result of this short time the inn once more enjoyed a flourishing clientele.
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