Almost everybody is aware of the Domesday Book introduced by William the Conqueror twenty years after the Norman Invasion. It was not until studying history at Keele that I was introduced to England’s ‘other Domesday Book’, this time instigated by Lloyd George in 1910.
This was an incremental tax that attempted to replace rates and income tax. The methodology was that the value of each piece of land was estimated, along with an estimation of the value of whatever stood on that piece, and the occupier was then taxed upon the difference.
Where this differed from the tax list of 1086 was that the surveyors who went out to gather the information recorded a description of every inhabited dwelling in the country, including The Crown at Nantwich.
In 1910 licensee George Piggott was paying £110 a year in rent for the Inn. As well as being the innkeeper he also ran a small postal business. The surveyor who visited the hotel (as it was then listed) found the building to be ‘very old fashioned, three storeys in height and in a dilapidated condition.’ The overall impression was ‘not a level floor in the building and staircase very uneven.’
The entrance was the same as it is today under a covered way that then led to stables and outhouses at the rear. Once inside the surveyor found that the establishment was frequented by farmers. He went on to describe that ‘the only drinking room is the bar, which acts as a serving bar and has seating accommodation for up to twenty people, and is apparently well used.’
Adjacent to this was a ‘convienial room’ which ‘was set for six persons to dine on for lunch, but apparently only used by one customer.’ Also on the ground floor was a coffee room, and a kitchen and scullery. Under these were the beer and wine cellars.
The staircase led to the first floor which had a sitting room, six bedrooms, bath and lavatory, and an old ballroom. This occupied most of the first floor measuring 60ft by 25ft although by this time it had ‘a very poor floor and was now being used as a storeroom. The second floor had five bedrooms including two occupied by the servants and one by the barmaid.
The outbuildings at the rear consisted of an open coach house and open trap room, stables, saddle room, harness cleaning store, corn rooms, parcel room, a pigsty and a small private yard and garden. These were also described as being ‘in poor condition and the paving throughout of old cobble stones.’ As motor cars were still a relatively new arrival on the roads the surveyor also recorded that ‘the stables are also well used.’
The field surveyors’ notebooks for the 1910 Domesday exist at most county record offices and provide a fascinating detailed glimpse of the buildings of England just over a century ago.