Today we visit the Winchester Arms in the town of Taunton, Somerset, England in the early 1900s. We find George Babb (1840-1910), the Inn Keeper of the Winchester Arms Hotel is posing with some guests for this photo.
George is in the center and his wife Sarah is to his left. The others in the photo are unidentified. George purchased the property in May 1900 and was still running it at the time of his death in 1910.
From the picture you might assume, as I did, that he was a mild-mannered gentleman. His obituary even says as much. His life story reads very differently. This article was intended to be about the hotel itself and I headed off to Newspapers.com to find some info about when he purchased the hotel. I found a score of articles about him, some of which were shocking to read. There were so many and varied that I couldn’t settle on the headline I would use. Instead, I’ll be placing the various headline ideas ahead of each article.
George Babb and the Scoundrel
George first appears in the Taunton Courier in January 1865 pressing charges against one Robert Hamilton, who obtained money from George under false pretense. I love the phrase the ‘Jeremy Diddler’. It apparently was similar to calling him a Cheat or Swindler.
George Babb – Votes for Cash
In 1869 George is mentioned twice at a hearing discussing who got paid for votes. This likely wasn’t against the law at this time, but the article is more than a full page long, meaning that it was very big news. I’ve included the full Article, but his name only appears on the first item.
George Babb – Attempted Murder of Wife and child (George Jr).
George was brought before a Grand Jury regarding an “attempt” to murder his wife and son. He was held for a week until the Crown Court convened the following Wednesday. Look for the Red Dot in the image below and pick up reading there.
This is quite perplexing. He’s charged with Attempted murder, kept for a week and then the commissioner says, “just kidding”. It wasn’t really a heinous crime; he was just drunk and enraged and threatening his family’s life. Just slap him on the wrist and send him back home. WTF?
George Babb and the Case of the Missing Drawers
In 1885 George is back in court again, but this time on the other side of the aisle as the plaintiff. Margaret Richards was lodging at his property and absconded with a number of items including his drawers. It’s a silly little case, but entertaining to read.
George Babb – Drunkenness
Twelve years after his “attempted” murder of his wife, he is once again charged with Drunkenness. It seems he did not follow the court’s advice to abstain.
George Babb seriously injured in an Accident
Through no fault of his own, George is seriously injured when he was essentially run over by the wagon he was driving. He looks to have suffered from two broken ribs and possibly a punctured lung. Sadly, there was no follow up article that discussed his recovery.
George Babb and the Rusty Cabby
In 1893 we find George brawling with a Cabby. They clearly have some bad blood between them that isn’t fully explained in the article.
George Babb and the Case of the Missing Cashbox
We find George in court one final time in 1903. This time his nephew, George Chamberlin is accused of stealing a Cashbox. It was not clear to me what the exact connection is between them. The term nephew wasn’t used as strictly as it is in modern times, so it could mean a variety of different options.
The article mentions the George Chamberlin was serving as an Ostler, which is essentially a stable boy at an Inn who takes care of the guest’s horses.
The Death of Mr. George Babb, of Taunton
George reaches the end of the Road in 1910 following a sudden illness. It appears that those around him forgave him his trespasses and remembered him fondly.
The long trail of his life shows that the people around him often were not of the highest caliber. Despite his episodes of drinking, he ran a bar at the Hotel.
Not covered in this post is another George Babb, of the nearby town of Wilton. That George was a serious Rabble Rouser with even juicer articles. I’ll cover him on another day. They are 2nd cousins, however.
While George Babb was no gentleman, he most certainly was a Babb!