The Crown, Everleigh, Wiltshire
This picturesque old building was formerly the Dower House and was probably converted to its present use around 1790 or perhaps a little later.
In the Parish Registers is a reference to a Lord and Lady Ossulstone who lived there in 1748. Lady Ossulstone was a daughter of one of the Astleys. Like its predecessor it soon established a name for itself, and the following appeared in the "Salisbury and Winchester Journal" of January 9th, 1792. "Last Tuesday se\'nnight three men met at the Crown Inn, Everley, and for a trifling wager, ate 6o red herrings, with three half-gallon loaves, and drank six gallons of beer." Those were the brave days of old!
The beer would, of course, have been brewed on the premises. Built in the form of a "L" the original front entrance faced to the southwards and before the giant sycamores at the end of the lawn reached their present height must have commanded a wide view over the green expanse of the Plain. What is now the main entrance faces to the eastwards and is approached by a shallow flight of stone steps. The projecting wing on the south-east corner was probably added when the change was made, as the interruption of the string course on the main building shows it to have been a later addition. The house is included in the list of buildings of architectural and historical interest prepared in accordance with Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947.
Although not usually lavish with his praises, that outspoken old Radical, William Cobbett, in his famous "Rural Rides" speaks very highly of the inn. Staying there on August 27th, 1826, he writes: "This inn is one of the nicest, and in summer one of the pleasantest in England: for I think that my experience in this way will justify me in speaking thus positively. The house is large, the stables good, the landlord a farmer also, and therefore no cribbing your horses in hay or straw, and yourself in eggs and cream. The garden which adjoins the south side of the house is large, of a good shape, consists of well disposed clumps of shrubs and flowers, and of short grass very neatly kept. In the lower part of the garden there are high trees, and amongst these, the tulip tree and the live oak. Beyond the garden is a large clump of lofty sycamores and in these a most populous rookery."
He also says "This is real down-country. Here you have miles and miles square without a tree, hedge or bush. It is a country of greensward. It is the most famous place in all England for coursing."
A note also speaks of his seeing "an acre of hares" at nearby Netheravon. Being at the Crown at Everley for the coursing in 1820 one of the party spoke of having seen such a sight on the Hicks-Beach estate. They asked permission for a day's coursing, which was granted. He goes on "Mr. Hicks-Beach received us very politely and took us into a wheat stubble; his son took a gallop round, cracking his whip at the same time; the hares (which were,very thickly in sight before) started all over the field, and ran into a flock like sheep. We all agreed that the flock did cover an acre of ground."
During the time in the early 1800's while he was excavating the barrows on the surrounding downs, Sir Richard Colt Hoare also sojourned at the "Crown" and describes it thus: "A good site on the verge of very fine down, and from its tranquility and retirement, most admirably suited to the studies of an antiquary."
During the last three decades this famous greensward has however virtually disappeared, due to the encroachments of the plough, and the activities of tank training regiments from nearby Tidworth. There is much barbed wire also, and the proud boast can now no longer be made (as it once was) that a man could ride on horseback from Everleigh to Salisbury, about 16 miles, without jumping a fence or opening a gate. Closely connected with the sports of coursing and hawking the "Crown" was the scene of great activity twice a year up to 1914, on the occasions of the coursing meetings organised in February and September by the late Mr. F. Alexander of the Manor House.
The Old Hawking Club of Lyndhurst, also made it their headquarters every year in March, while the members followed the ancient sport for six weeks or so over the nearby downs. Although this came to an end shortly after the beginning of the First World War, devotees of the snort are still attracted to the "Crown," but now at rather infrequent intervals. Until recently in the saloon bar, there hung a picture of the 3rd baronet Sir J. D. Astley mounted on his favourite "Drumhead" and wearing racing silks.
During the last thirty years the house has been modernised by the installation of electric light, central heating, and many other amenities, which have added enormously to its comfort, without in any way destroying its old world character.
Information taken from the Everleigh Village Website