Towcester Town in Drawings
In the coaching era over twenty inns thrived along Towcester's main street. The Saracens Head, built in the early eighteenth century has survived to the present day virtually unchanged in its outward appearance. In the 19th century it was known as the Pomfret Arms and as such it was graphically described in the Pickwick Papers. The figures of Venus and Apollo above the carriage entrance are reputed to come from Easton Neston House.
Sponne House of today would not be recognised by Archdeacon Sponne who, in 1446,purchased what was then the hostelry known as the Tabard Inn. He gave its income to the town to alleviate the parish taxes on the poor and to maintain the town's pavements. In 1643 it was renamed the Talbot and under that name it remained as an hotel until the 1970's. Known to Dean Swift as a welcome posting house on his journeys to and from Ireland, it now serves as a bank, a photographic film processing business [in 1986 a shoe shop] and the entrance to a shopping precinct.
The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 placed Towcester at the head a union of 23 neighbouring parishes and resulted in the building of the Union Workhouse. Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, the distinguished Victorian architect, to accommodate 200 inmates, it has recently been rescued from demolition and converted into a private residential estate fittingly named Gilbert Scott Court.
The Town Hall and Corn Exchange was built in 1865 under the direction of its architect T.H.Vernon. Its construction was due entirely to Towcester's Victorian forefathers who formed a company, issued shares and raised the capital to build it. Its friendly Italianate frontage is a reminder of their confidence and enterprise. In 1983 for the first time in its 118 years existence, it became the responsibility of the Parish Council.
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Text ©1986,2003 Towcester History Society
Drawings ©1986 Robert Sunderland