Cynthia and Derek Cooper, who have been at the George for 15 years this month.
FOCUS Midsummer 1983
BRAILES has many claims to fame. It has a long main street between Upper and Lower; it has two important hills — Brailes Hill is the second highest point in Warwick- shire and is a landmark for miles around, and Castle Hill is thought to be an ancient earthwork. It is certainly man-made, and haunted! There is a ley-line between Castle Hill, Brailes Hill and Bredon Hill in Worcester- shire.
And it has the George Inn, situated on the main street, described in guide books of the last century as “a fine old inn” and dating further back than can accurately be ascertained. Some say there was an inn before there was a church and Brailes church (the Cathedral of the Feldon) dates mostly to the fourteenth century, with some parts thought to be a little earlier. The building is of mellow stone and is typical of the architecture of the deep south of Warwickshire. Like all buildings that have stood for centuries, it has been added to, and subtracted from, many times. But it remains “right” because over the centuries it has always been a place where people lived and people met; where countless pairs of feet walked in through the door, and perhaps all those many people left a little of themselves behind. Perhaps everyone still does.
The George was altered, but not drastically, in 1957, when the big fireplace you see there now was discovered hidden behind a series of modern tiled monstrosities. Thank goodness they did find it.
Bearing in mind this is in the heart of Warwickshire’s most fertile tract, the Feldon, and on all sides well-cultivated fields stretch as far as the eye can see, the agricultural basis is well represented in the polished horse brasses, pieces of harness and saddlery hanging on the ancient beams. As you come through the front door, the hall has some fine and well polished paneling.
Derek and Cynthia Cooper have been at the George for 15 years this month. Prior to that they had a pub called the Vine in Banbury, which used to stand where the entrance to the new shopping precinct is now. They saw the George and moved in all in the space of a couple of weeks, they tell me, and now consider themselves true “Brailesonians”. Derek used to play a lot of cricket and still turns out for the local team from time to time.
Strength to strength The George is the meeting place for many local groups. Brailes Brass Band for example. They practice twice weekly, elsewhere, but the talk continues in the pub afterwards — so bandmaster David Clemons told me. The band goes from strength to strength with more youngsters coming along wanting to learn and had just given a successful concert in Rhymney, Wales. “We tried to get back from Wales in time to get in at the George”, he said, “but we were just too late”.
David, his wife Pam, and the band’s musical director Peter Stevens, were talking “band” with John and Janet Morris, just as they tell me they always do and always in the same corner of the lounge. They are now discussing ways and means of raising money for new instruments. “This is our local and we like coming here”, they said.
Mr. Jack Bury, born in Brailes 78 years ago, has reason to know the George well. He married the landlady’s daughter some forty years ago. Mr. Bury has farmed all his life, although he now says he has retired and handed on to his sons. He lives in the house in which he was born, and where his mother, too, was born. He told me he has only had one holiday in his life, and that was in 1932. He was not very impressed, and has not had a holiday away from Brailes since. “I never want to lose sight of Brailes Hill”, he said.
Mr. Bury has a day-book kept by his mother-in-law at the George many years ago. In this she kept a note of the takings, morning and evening, each day. Players cigarettes were 11 /d for 20; Woodbines were 2d and
The rather splendid inn sign of the most famous George of them all.
whisky was 6d. And yet, he says, everyone seemed to live well, even though the daily takings were less than two pounds at times.
There is a small room to the left of the hallway which a group of local youngsters have taken as “their” room and meet regularly to enjoy a friendly game of pool. There is no formality about it; they are not in the league but they simply meet to enjoy the company.
The Locke family has been in Brailes for 400 years and, as Mr. Ray Locke has two sons, one of whom has just married Lesley, the daughter of Derek and Cynthia, it looks as if they could continue for another 400. Ray Locke was apprenticed to a very well- known local builder, Richard Hemmings. He took over the business in 1948 and now continues as builder and undertaker.
He and son Alan were enjoying a drink — as they tell me they often do in the George, because it is their local, and quite simply they like it. What better reason would anyone have? Alan is not in his father’s business but he is in the same line in that he works for a builders’ merchant.
Mr. George Bryan, too, has lived in Brailes all his life, except for the war years when he was sent out to Italy with a tank regiment. He married an Italian girl, who now loves Brailes and “is more Warwickshire than I am”, he says.
How long has he been coming into the George? “Since just before I was old enough”, he joked. “And I shall keep on coming in because I like everything about it”, he said. “It’s grand in here. Good company, warm and comfortable”.
Joan Mumford and her husband Jack are regulars, too. Joan was not born in Brailes but came out here during the war as an evacuee from the Coventry bombing. Her grandparents lived in Brailes and she well remembers schoolchildren going to school only in the mornings because they had to help out on local farms in the afternoon, along with the Italian prisoners of war. Joan became a children’s nanny and told me she loved the job, and moved house several times going with the family as they moved around. But she came back to Brailes and married Jack and they are shortly off to the States for the birth of another grandchild out there.
Jack has thought of the George as his local for the past 51 years. He said he never dared come in before he was sixteen because in those days the local bobby, who only lived just down the road, kept a watchful eye on the youngsters of the village, and even if he caught them with a cigarette, they got a strong telling off!
The Furnivals are comparative newcomers having been here for a mere three years but Terry is the captain of Brailes cricket team and was bewailing the fact they had not been able to play because of the rain.
He says they would like a few more young men in the local team, but felt on the whole they did fairly well. His wife Pam comes along purely for relaxation, she told me. “Everyone has made us feel completely at home”, she said. “We thought it would take some time, but it is a really lovely village, and a lovely pub, too”.
John and Francis Evans are twins, born in Brailes where they still live. Francis is a painter and decorator for Ray Locke’s building firm, and John works for the County Council. They both have families; they live just across from each other. They both play football for the village, cricket for the village, and darts and dominoes for the George.
They are both diabetics, and have been for the past 20 years or so, but they tell me it makes absolutely no difference to their lives. Obviously they need to watch what they eat and drink and they need insulin like all diabetics, but apart from that it affects their lives
Below: The Evans twins — Francis, on left, and John. Right:
Mr Ray Locke, whose family have lived in Brailes for 400 years, with son Alan.
not at all. In fact, they dismissed it with a shrug, although they said they knew that some people were a little fearful at the thought of diabetes. “You just get used to it”, said John. “You know exactly what you have to do and you just get on with it”. Full and active lives “It has never stopped us from doing anything we wanted to”, said Francis. “We lead full and active lives and we always have. There is no need to be worried by diabetes if you’re sensible”. Certainly, the Evans brothers enjoy their lives, Jack and Joan Mum ford. and they enjoy the George, where they are regulars. Being twins they feel they are closer perhaps than other brothers. Francis went away from Brailes once, he said, but he soon came back again.
Another local builder — and one who tells a good tale — is Ken Bradley who again was born in Brailes. He and his wife Eileen are regulars along with Ron and Eve White. They all tell me they use the George because “you get a good crowd in here and because we have some fun among ourselves”. The famous Sheldon family, of tapestry weaving
Above: Mr Jack Bury, farmer, who always wishes to stay in sight of Brailes Hill. Below: Mr George Bryan, who has lived in Brailes all his life.
fame, once owned all the land around here. The last member of that illustrious family died at Brailes House. According to reliable local histories, the George used to contain some window glass upon which members of the Sheldon family had, in past centuries, scratched their names and dates with a diamond. Sadly, it is no longer there. The Coopers know nothing of it, and neither do the locals recall it. Where it has gone will probably become one of the great mysteries of the county and the Sheldons, too, are now gone from these parts.
It is true what the old guide books say. The George is a fine old inn, just as it always has been. The guide book also says Brailes has not one ghost but three! A sorrowing Nun lingering around the tiny and beautiful Catholic chapel; a headless woman on the Shipston Road bridge, and a man in a cape and tricorne believed to be George Fox, the Quaker, walking from Brailes Hill. It could be he was one of the many folk who could not bear to live without sight of Brailes Hill, or it could be that he, too, called in at that fine old inn, the George.
Above: “Fairly newcomers” Pam and Terry Furnivall.
Focus Magazine 1983
Reproduced with kind permission of the Focus magazine/ Stratford Herald May 2009