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The King's Arms, High Street, Godalming

The Kings Arms in the High Street, built in 1753, was the town's largest coaching inn along the important route between London and Portsmouth. It was somewhere individual travellers changed horses and ate or drank before continuing their journey. It was also a stopping point for stage coaches. In 1788 R. Watson announced he had purchased a business, the Godalming and Guildford Original Coach, that had been previously owned by Thomas Martin of Godalming and John Hale of Guildford. It provided a coach service between Godalming, Guildford and London. There was also a "new and expeditious Post Coach" that set out from the King's Arms every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at 9a.m. and went to the Angel in the Strand and the New Inn at Westminster Bridge, returning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings[1].

This building was the "extensive hotel" mentioned by Brayley in 1844, but he commented that the road trade had greatly fallen off since the opening of the South-western railway despite the fact that it hadn't reached Godalming at the time[2].

The distinctive red and black brickwork of the frontage of the Kings Arms - the black glints in the sun - dates from 1753 but an earlier building or buildings existed on the site. The arms on the hotel are those of King Henry VIII and the historian John Janaway suggests that the inn may go back to mediaeval times[3]. He also provides the date 1641, during the Civil War, for documentary evidence.

On the western end is a large carriage arch and the entrance, with its columns, cornice and wrought iron balcony are in the centre of the building. Today's balcony is much more ornate than the one in the above image. A French window leads onto the balcony and above is an impressive high window with a rounded arch below the central pediment.

One of the most famous visitors was the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great (see below), who visited in 1698. The Bodleian Library at Oxford preserves the innkeeper's record of what Peter and his suite (twenty in all) consumed when they were at the Inn on their way back from Portsmouth. "At breakfast they consumed half a sheep, half a lamb, ten pulletts, 12 chickens, seven dozen eggs, and the contents of two large salad beds, washed down by a gallon of brandy and two gallons of mulled claret. At dinner a few hours later they devoured three stone weigh of ribs of beef, a fat sheep, a lamb, two loins of veal, eight capons, ten rabbits, three dozen of sack and one dozen of Bordeaux"[4].

In 1879 it was reported that about 50 years previously, so in the 1820s, two English Dukes had stopped at the King's Arms to change horses. Two mutton chops and a bottle of claret were taken out to them initially, which they consumed in their carriage. Possibly the gentlemen were extremely hungry, or maybe the fare was exceptional. It was said that they ate 36 chops and downed ten bottles of claret. This seems to be somewhat excessive, but perhaps wine bottles were not so big then![4]

"Salisbury and Winchester Journal", 10 June 1799.

A Capital Inn, at Godalming, Surry.
On Thursday the 13th day of June, 1799, at seven o'clock in
the evening, at the George Inn, Portsmouth,

THE capital and well-accustomed INN called the KINGs ARMS, at Godalming, occupied for many years by Mr. JAMES MOON, tenant at will, with extensive Stabling, Coach-houses, and other building ; a commodious Inn-yard and Garden, for the business of an inn of the first kind.
The situation of Godalming, in the high road from London to Portsmouth, and its convenient distance from other stages, for post travel, are so well known to the public that a particular description is unnecessary.

The Inn was being sold by Mrs Ann Palmer of the George Inn Portsmouth, widow of Samuel Palmer
"Mr. Samuel Palmer, mafter the George Inn, in this town" who died in 1791.
Palmer had tried to sell the King's Arms in both 1778 and 1780[5].

In his Surrey history of 1844 Brayley wrote:

"The King's Arms, in the High Street, kept by Mr. James Moon, has long been celebrated for its hotel accommodations. It was always patronized by the royal family ; and when the continental Sovereigns quitted England after their visit to the Prince Regent in 1816, Mr. Moon had arranged their journey through from London to Portsmouth. On that occasion, the present king of Prussia, prince Leopold (now king of the Belgians), and many others of the Royal cortege, had their luncheons here. A table was laid, also, for the Prince Regent and all his crowned guests, but they having afterwards accepted an invitation to breakfast with Lord Liverpool, at Coombe-wood, only stopped here, for the most part, to change horses".[2]

A number of members of the Moon family were innholders over the years, the last of whom was a Mr. Moon who was granted the licence of the King's Arms in 1851[6]. Yet in the census taken a few days later, on 30 Mar 1851, Charles Cole was the innkeeper. He was still the landlord in 1867 although he could also be found at Dolly's chop house, Paternoster Row, London[7]. He was prosecuted at the end of 1867 for selling a quartern of gin during the hours of divine service, something that had been ordered by the medical attendant of a customer[8]. By 1871 he had moved to London and had been replaced by Charles Edwin Revill at the Godalming Inn[9].

Another owner, from the early 1850s until the 1891 auction not long after his death, was a local surgeon called Frederick Yate. Yate moved into the building and occupied part of the original hotel on its eastern end; the part he lived in included three reception rooms, a surgery and waiting rooms etc. The auctioneers Mellersh were instructed to sell, in lots, on 3rd March the "very valuable FREEHOLD PROPERTY, most advantageously situate in the High street, Godalming, known as The King's Arms Hotel which has been established for a great number of years". There was a melon house and a conservatory as well as accommodation for 23 horses within the grounds. Although the hotel and yard were still let to Mr Revill, his tenancy could be ended on Lady Day 1893[10].

What is not clear is who then bought the properties as the reserve was not reached, but the hotel and residence were sold privately after the auction[11]. The first reference to the King's Arms Royal Hotel was in 1894[12], and two shop units were now in place on the ground floor of the surgeon's former home. The image shows that the shop closest to the camera was an umbrella makers - James Rogers was here in 1913[13].

In 1900 the King's Arms was re branded as the King's Arms Family Hotel, "under new and liberal management. Every accommodation for cyclists on moderate terms. Arrangements made for parties and clubs on special terms". The hotel keeper was Charles A Johnson, who was born in Sweden[14]. The name quickly reverted to the King's Arms Royal Hotel.

1922. Looking towards Wharf Street
The Kings Arms Royal Hotel, 1922.
The Botham sisters were running the Kings Arms Royal Hotel by this time.
The registration number of the vehicle parked on the right was LF 3667.

Two sisters, Mabel and Lily Botham, had arrived at the hotel around 1908. They were the caterers for the Godalming Municipal Banquet that was held at the Borough Hall in 1909[15]. Just after the first war Mabel Botham, who was registered for a supply of 161b. of sugar with a Godalming shop, instead obtained 2321b. of sugar in ten weeks from Stephenson's, a wholesale grocers of Guildford. Sugar was one of the items in short supply and was rationed, so she was fined as she did not have a voucher to buy sugar from Stephenson's[16].

In 1924 she travelled to East Africa to marry Mr. George Hartnell[17] but returned to England and died in tragic circumstances in early 1926[18]. Her sister Lily, who had married Francis Niall in 1915, passed away in 1934[19]; she had held the licence for 26 years, over half of the time with her sister[20].

Mr. Snow of the King's Head hotel, Cuckfield, bought the hotel in 1935[21]. He too fell foul of wartime laws as, in the first local prosecution for a breach of the war time lighting regulations, he was fined 10s. He sold the hotel to a Mr. Critten[?] in 1943[22]. The following year the death was announced of Capt William Ronald Phillips, son of Mr and Mrs Arnold Phillips of the Kings Arms Hotel[23].

1."Godalming" [King's Arm's Hotel]. Published by A. Jury, 71, High Street, Godalming. Unused. Another was posted in 1928 but the image in almost certainly pre-WW1.
2. Godalming. High Street (Kings Arms). Published in 1922 as Frith's Series, Reigate, No.71777. Printed in England. Unused.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Reading Mercury", 9 May 1785

[2] Quotations from "A Topographical History of Surrey", Edward Wedlake Brayley & John Britton & E. W. Brayley Jun., 1844). The Geological Section by Gideon Mantell, L.L. D. F.R.S., etc. The Illustrative Department under the superintendence of Thomas Allom, M. I. B. A. Published Dorking by Robert Best Ede and London by David Bogue, Fleet Street.

[3] Janaway, John (2003) "Godalming and Farncombe Pubs and Breweries", Ammonite Books, Godalming, Surrey. ISBN 1-869866-14-2.

[4] "Surrey Advertiser", 3 May 1879. The King's Arms in Olden Times.

[5] "Hampshire Chronicle", 15 June 1778 and "Salisbury and Winchester Journal", 15 May 1780. In the 1780 advertisement James Moon was "tenant at will, at the rent of 50l". Interestingly, Samuel Palmer's PCC Will (PROB-11-1212-263), proved at London on 29 Dec 1791, mentions his wife and children, but none of the property he owned.

[6] "Sussex Advertiser", 25 March 1851. County Petty Sessions.

[7] Information from the 1851 and 1861 census and the Post Office Directories of 1855 and 1867.

[8] "Norfolk News", 28 December 1867. Caution to Publicans - a case of some importance to licensees. The fine he was given was the smallest possible.

[9] He was found at the hotel in the 1871 census, the 1881 census, the 1891 census, plus the 1878 PO Directory and "Kelly's Directory", 1891.

[10] "Surrey Advertiser", 28 February 1891. Auctions. Tuesday next.

[11] "Surrey Advertiser", 7 March 1891.

[12] "West Middlesex Herald", 7 March 1894.

[13] Kelly's Directory, 1913, shows James Rogers, umbrella maker, was in the lock up shop at what was then 6a High Street and later moved to Queen Street.

[14] "Cycling", 23 June 1900. One of a number of adverts placed in"Cycling" that year. Mr Johnson, then aged 45, was still at the hotel at the time of the 1901 census.

[15] "West Surrey Times", 9 November 1909. The 1911 census, when both were shown as "Hotel proprietor" shows that Mabel was born in Swadlincote in Derbyshire whilst Lily was born in Bedford (Basford?), although no other record has been found for them.

[16] "Western Daily Press", 8 June 1920. Fines. Penalties on Unregistered Customer and Grocers. She was fined £50; the wholesalers had a similar fine for supplying the sugar without a voucher.

[17] Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960. She departed for Mombassa on the Llanstephan Castle on 29 May 1924.

[18] "Gloucester Journal",13 February 1926 and other newspapers recorded that she had been missing for a month when found and that her husband arrived back from Africa very shortly after she went missing. At the inquest a local doctor stated that after she returned to the UK she would not speak and was interested in nothing apart for her own self. But something traumatic must have triggered such behaviour.

[19] "West Sussex Gazette", 26 July 1934. A Tsar's Breakfast Party. Also "The Times", Friday, July 20, 1934 (obituaries).

[20] "West Sussex Gazette", 14 March 1935. "Kelly's Directory", 1924 records "Botham, M & L (Misses)" at the hotel although one of them was already married at this time.

[21] "West Sussex Gazette", 19 October 1939. The offence was apparently due to a maid's mistake.

[22] "West Sussex Gazette", 25 November 1943.

[23] "The Times", Feb. 23, 1944.

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