Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


Towcester is an exemplary small market town in Northants. The Romans built a fort there- on Watling Street, the Normans built a castle there, the stage coaches stopped there and- so far as I can see nothing very much ever took place there. Mr Pickwick stopped overnight and partook of "a couple of fowls and a weal cutlet" at The Saracen's Head- then known as the Pelham Arms. We ate at the Saracen's Head too- and very good it was- but weal cutlets are no longer on the menu. If Pickwick stayed the night we can probably assume that Dickens did too- and was giving the place the 19th century equivalent of a TripAdvisor write up. Unlike some places I could name, Towcester makes very little of its Dickensian connection, though I believe there's a Pickwick Café.

This is the main entrance to the Saracen's Head. I love the two little statues in their niches. Pubs don't normally have classical statues out front. These are supposed to have come from Eaton Neston House- where they may have become surplus to requirements following the rebuilding of 1702. If so they're 17th century- which strikes me as about right. They represent Venus and Apollo. The stone is ironstone- similar in appearance to Cotswold stone only darker and less buttery. Almost everything of a certain age in Northants is built of it. 

The town had a racecourse tacked onto it in the 1920s. It occupies part of the Eaton Neston estate. The historical society's excellent website (from which I've derived most of the hard info in this and the previous post) does its best not to mention the racecourse so I'm guessing the townspeople would rather it wasn't there.

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