The Old George


Offered as a reproduction on Amazon, The Old George Hotel, in an earlier incarnation.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The Residents shown here are identified as Bonzo, Tou-Tou and Joseph. Silly me, I assumed the dog was Bonzo until I looked up Tou-Tou and realized it is French for doggie. So that leaves us to wonder if the cat is Joseph (my guess) and the turtle Bonzo or otherways around – or, of course, the cat or turtle could be named Tou-Tou and the dog Bonzo. Both the cat and the dog (and the turtle?) seem to be looking upward at where Residents is written – very nifty indeed.

Evidently the original Old George Hotel building dates back to 1314, although very little of it remains today – it’s ground floor knocked out to become the entrance to the Old George Mall shopping precinct. As recently as 1994 there was a restaurant, the Bay Tree, in residence – followed by the Old George Tearooms, which closed in ’09.  I gather that the building is open to the public on special occasions such as Heritage Days, whatever those might be. All this according to a BBC history site which goes on to share a short list of some of the famous guests which include Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys and Buddy Holly – quite a diverse list. Pepys recorded the following in his famous diary:

Lay in a silk bed, and a very good diet…

The next day he wrote:

…paid the reckoning, which was so exorbitant…that I was mad and resolved to trouble the mistress about it and get something for the poor.

Actually, pretty tame for Pepys!  In addition, Shakespeare and his players are believed to have played in the courtyard, which had room for 50 horses. Last, but not least, Dickens mentions it in Martin Chuzzlewit. H.G. Wells has a turn in The Secret Places of the Heart referring to the Old George smoking room and he writes,

 The Old George at Salisbury is really old; it shows it, and Miss Seyffert laced the entire evening with her recognition of the fact. ‘Just look at that old beam!’she would cry suddenly. ‘To think it was exactly where it is before there was a Cabot in America!’

Of course, with the possible exception of H.G. Wells and Buddy Holly, all of this was most likely well before Bonzo, Tou-Tou and Joseph arrived on the scene and had their photo taken in the garden. (Of course, hard to tell with turtles.) No date on this photo postcard, nothing on the back. Photo postcards stopped being marketed by Kodak in 1930 although I am sure, like tintypes, they continued to be used for quite a while beyond – and since this is a promotional postcard for a hotel it could easily be much later.

In the end, I imagine it was a lovely place to stay and can see myself, drink in hand, enjoying the garden with Bonzo, Tou-Tou and Joseph and all those interesting ghosts from its earlier incarnations.

The garden at the Old George Hotel, 1928 in a photo for sale online.

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