1581 is the earliest documentary evidence of the existence of the King’s Head.
An ale house was on this site (50 South Street) from about 1599. It was in around 1740 that the Tudor façade was added to the Tudor building. Legend claims that a tunnel once ran from the King’s Head to the Cathedral, so that choristers could enjoy a covert pint of ale. The clockmaker, Henry Fogden, was landlord from 1804 until after 1840.
A gruesome event occurred in 1889 when a man named John Dyer purchased some rat poison from a nearby chemist and subsequently entered the King’s Head to consume the potion mixed with some beer in an attempted suicide. Becoming violently sick he was taken to infirmary where he recovered. Appearing at the City Bench later he was let off with a warning of the serious nature of his offence – one ‘against the laws of both God and Man’.
In 1891 publican Frederick Tilling was convicted for ‘selling gin not of the nature, substance and quality demanded by the purchaser’ it being 40.3 degrees under proof having been examined by the public analyst. It consisted of two parts gin of the lowest legal strength and ten parts of added water. A notice stating ‘All sprits sold in this establishment are diluted’ had been displayed at times but ‘it was possible that while dusting the place the notice might have fallen behind the glasses on the shelf’ said Tilling. Tilling was fined £2 and 13s costs, the alternative being fourteen days’ imprisonment.
Mrs Raynor, landlady in 1898, was the innocent party in an attempt by Ann Sharp, employed at the King’s Head, to obtain a sum of 10s from Mrs Turner, the owner of a neighbouring shop Turner and Son. The girl had sent a note to Mrs Turner, via a lad James Munro who also worked at the Inn, stating ‘With Mrs Rayner’s complements. Would you mind lending me half a sovereign’s worth of change until Mr Raynor gets up and gets some, and then I will send it back over to you’. Suspicions arose when Mrs Raynor received a request that evening for repayment of 10s and it was discovered that Ann now possessed a new pair of shoes. On further questioning Ann admitted the offence and was committed for trial with bail being accepted for £20 and two sureties of £10 each.
Friary Meux was revived by Allied in 1979 as a brand name for its public houses, but disappeared after Allied’s pubs were sold to Punch Taverns in 1999.
The King’s Head was the venue for several bodies, one being the ‘Falstaff’ Lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. A policemen’s dinner (not ball!) was held for over 200 guests in 1904. Landlord Styles ran a welding business in the 1930s on the site which continued under new ownership after his death. Mrs Mary Harriet Drury died aged 77 in 1936 having had the licence at the inn for nearly 30 years.
The ancient name of the pub was changed in 1994 to the Hog’s Head. Green King purchased the property in 2006 and it subsequently become Trent’s bar-restaurant providing accommodation, so, in a sense, it has become an inn!