A Short History of The George and Dragon
The Manor of Oistreham (Westerham) was ruled by Godwin, Earl of Kent and later by Harold, the last Saxon King of England. It is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was presented to the Count of Boulogne by William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings.
In 1227 Henry III granted Westerham a market charter for the sale of cattle, a tradition that lasted until 1961.
The George & Dragon first appeared in the early 16th century as a popular coaching house for weary travellers making their last stop on the journey to London from the coast.
Famous visitors to “The George” include General James Wolfe, who stayed here in December 1758 before embarking to death and glory at the Battle of Quebec.
Latter day figures such as Sir Winston Churchill and the Battle of Britain Heroes were also regular visitors.
Clearly an inn that has been operating continuously for five centuries will have been the scene of many fascinating stories. One of these is reproduced below:
THE TALE OF A Dastardly DEED CONCERNING A PATRON
“THE GEORGE & DRAGON INN”
Westerham, in the County of Kent
On 18TH MAY, 1808
‘Twas a fine evening near nine o’clock on 18th May when three companions left Westerham market on horseback to return to their respective homes but, having worked up a thirst, they decided to avail themselves of the hospitality to be found a short distance away at the esteemed George & Dragon Inn. After taking his fill, the wealthy young farmer, Mr John Humphrey, was rather the worse for drink when he left with his two friends, Mr Richard Keys and Mr George Holmden.
On the outskirts of the town Mr Keys encountered an acquaintance and stopped to chat for about a quarter of an hour, leaving his two neighbours to continue their onward journeys. A quarter of a mile or so from Four Elms Mr Holmden wished his friend goodnight and turned towards his own fields, leaving Mr Humphrey to travel on to his farm at Hever Castle.
Approaching 10 o’clock, as Mr Holmden neared his home, he heard a shot which he believed came from the Four Elms direction. Around the same time Mr Keys, who had bidden his acquaintance farewell and who was about three hundred yards away from the cross-roads at Four Elms, also heard a pistol shot. Running to the scene he discovered Mr Humphrey sprawled on his back, lying almost in the pond with profuse bleeding from his mouth and ears. His right arm was thrown out, his left doubled under him and his pockets has been rifled, being turned inside-out. Mr Humphrey was unable to speak so Mr Keys hastened to the nearby public house at Four Elms, raised the alarm and gathered assistance from those within to help carry his neighbour there. Due to the gravity of his injuries Mr Humphrey was kept at the Inn until the morning of the following Sunday, at which point he was returned to his farm near Hever Castle. Over the following two days his condition deteriorated so badly that he departed this world on the Tuesday. He died aged thirty six, leaving a grieving wife and six children.
Nevertheless, during the overnight respite at Four Elms he had recovered his wits sufficiently to make a coherent report of what had befallen him on the Saturday night. He was able to tell several witnesses that a masked man had stepped out of the shadows as he approached the cross-roads and cried “Your money or your life – Immediately!” Unfortunately, due to his befuddled state Mr Humphrey was unsure of what happened next; whether or not he had dismounted and resisted, or if he had just been shot.
In any event, after he was shot and on the ground, the villain demanded his watch and money, declaring that he would shoot him again if he failed to deliver them up. Then the man began to bludgeon him about the head with the butt of his gun until he fell over, whereupon the cursing scoundrel jumped upon him. These were Mr Humphrey’s last recollections until he regained consciousness inside the public house at Four Elms. Mr Keys believed that the robber had tried to push his victim into the pond but was foiled in the attempt when he arrived at the scene.
Mr Humphrey was able to describe his attacker as thick-set, not very tall and wearing a black mask over his face. Indeed, the mask was found by Mr Keys lying on top of Mr Humphrey’s chest when he arrived at the cross-roads.
Following the death of Mr John Humphrey an inquest was held on Saturday, 28th May at Hever Castle, presided over by the Coroner, Richard Crow, Esq.
The surgeon who had attended Mr Humphrey informed the inquest that his injuries consisted of the following: a single gunshot had entered the victim’s throat, breaking his jaw then exiting through his cheek and that he also had cuts to his head and severe bruising to his face and ribs.
The jury returned a verdict that Mr Humphrey had been murdered by some person, or persons unknown. Two days later he was buried in the churchyard at Hever.
Despite persistent inquiries by the authorities, no-one was ever charged with the murder. About three years later another murder occurred near to Westerham and it was thought that the two crimes might have been committed by the same man.
The pond where Mr Humphrey was found can still be seen at the cross-roads at Four Elms by the junction of Pootings Road and Four Elms Road.