Sunday, September 4, 2011

Spooky goings on in The Flag, Bridge Street

When pub landlady Lorna Sumbler, licensee at The Flag in 2008 caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure on the stairs, she knew immediately it wasn't a locked in customer - well not from this century anyway!  There had been other sightings too - a figure standing at the end of the bar that sat down - and then disappeared. She reported feeling a tap on the shoulder and seats moving, but there was never anyone there - or was there?

John Knapp, one of James and Jane Knapp's seven children, was born in Shrivenham in 1849. Married to Mary Jane Hill in 1872, by 1881 the couple, with their four children Helen 8, William 6, Evelyn 4 and two year old John, were mine hosts at the Lamb and Flag in Bridge Street.

In April of that same year John took Elizabeth Cavill to Swindon County Court for non-payment of £2 3s 6d, (£2.17 worth about £150 today) costs accrued by her husband George, The report in the Evening Advertiser reads: "Mr, Boddle appeared for the plaintiff and explained the nature of the claim. The late George Cavill, husband of the defendant was lodging at the plaintiffs house, where he was taken ill and died, and the charges necessary and which were included in the account, he said were very moderate." A search of deaths registered in the Swindon area revealed that of a George Cavill aged 60 who died in the first quarter of 1881.

Mrs. Cavill, a tailoress from Whitechapel, used her moment in court to tell how Knapp had invited her husband down from London to stay free of charge until such time as he found work. She also claimed Knapp had possessions belonging to her husband worth more than the amount he was asking her to pay, an accusation Knapp denied.

Although questioning some of the charges Knapp was making, Elizabeth accepted liability for the debt, but explained that at the time she had no means to pay. With her husband recently dead she had only £7 (worth about £485 today ), a payment from an insurance company, to her name.

Mr. Boddle, said he appreciated Mrs. Cavil’s predicament but that a verdict had to be reached "until such time as she could pay" and the judge agreed.

Did Knapp ever receive the money owed him? By 1891 the family had moved to Camberwell, South London where in 1901 John and his two sons are working as bricklayers. And as for the spooky spectre in Lorna's pub perhaps it's the wronged George Cavill trying to reclaim his lost belongings.

1854 - The Lamb and Flag opened at 31 Bridge Street.
1855 - Notorious landlady Amelia Barratt was charged with being 'beastly
1871 - The pub reported 5 cases of smallpox.
c 1877 - The pub was briefly renamed The Ewe and Lamb.
1886 - Wadworth brewery bought the pub but immediately resold it to
1887 - The new owners made an application to New Swindon Local Board
to make alterations to the building.
1976 - Pub modernised

Known as Father Ted's and Bar Cuba in recent years, sadly The Flag closed in 2012.

Image of Lorna Sumbler and her son is published courtesy of the Swindon Advertiser; old image of the pub can be viewed on Swindon Local Collections and recent photo of The Flag is courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball.

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