Strange goings-on at The George

Paul Wilkinson opens the lid to the well in the bar of The George.
Paul Wilkinson opens the lid to the well in the bar of The George.
A 1903 picture showing 'Point A on the Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway where two former horse tram cars acted as shelters.
Picture: Barry Cox Collection

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The George pub in Queen Street, just 100 yards from the dockyard’s old main gate, is perhaps the oldest pub in what might be called ‘the modern Portsmouth’.

It dates from 1782 as opposed to the Dolphin in High Street, Old Portsmouth, which is 17th century. It was called The George and then The King George.

Paul Wilkinson the landlord of The George with barmaid Sheila Western.

Paul Wilkinson the landlord of The George with barmaid Sheila Western.

There is an artesian well at the back of the bar which still contains water, 12ft down.

Ships’ timbers decorate the ceiling and on the west wall of the bar is a magnificent painting of Horatio Nelson.

Next door was Walton’s, surgical appliance manufacturers. This shop was purchased and converted into a small cosy restaurant.

The landlord for the past nine years has been Paul Wilkinson, formerly of Harrow, who took over the pub after it had been closed for several years.

Headstones set in the floor of the cellar at The George Hotel.

Headstones set in the floor of the cellar at The George Hotel.

Paul also owns the former Market House Tavern at Mile End which is now an hotel mainly for overnight ferry customers.

The reason for my visit is the legend that a baby was murdered in the pub in the mid-19th century and that a girl was sent to the local asylum for either its murder or not declaring the birth. Legend has it that mummified remains were found in the cellar.

There is another tale, of which I can find no evidence, that a prostitute was murdered in the pub and her remains thrown down the well.

Any information on either of these tales would be helpful.

I visited the cellar of the pub where there are what look like parts of two headstones set in the concrete floor.

Now, this is not an uncommon event as displaced headstones were often used as paving stones. Some of the marking can just about be made out but there’s nothing linking them to a dead baby’s remains.

One appears to read: HERE LIES MARGARET. The start of the next letters cannot be read but the end could be TER as in daughter. The next word appears to be BET so it could be TERBET.

If you have heard of such events occurring in Portsea some time in the mid 19th century Paul and I would be glad to hear about it.

captions:

george well = Paul Wilkinson opens the lid to the well in the bar of The George.

george barmaid = Paul Wilkinson with barmaid Sheila Western.

george headstone = Headstones set in the floor of the cellar at The George Hotel.