My Three Inns: The Spreadeagle, the Royal Hotel, the Three Swans
A Wry Literary Memoir of a British Inkeeper Between the World Wars
“There is just that sharp touch of wit about the book that makes us want to go on reading. It is a mixture of journal and reminiscence held together by the veracity of the writing.”—Leader
In 1922, at the age of twenty-five, after having studied Greek archaeology for several years, John Fothergill found that he “must do something for a living,” so he was “compelled to take an Inn.” Automobile travel was just blossoming at the time and Fothergill settled on the Spreadeagle at Thame between London and Oxford, a place where motorists could break up their trip. Anticipating that his clientele would want good food and good accommodations, he had to transform the inn from one frequented by farmers in search of a quick pint to a destination for travelers. A critical success, the Spreadeagle was sold and Fothergill was hired by a brewery to showcase his talents at the Royal Hotel in Ascot, on the outskirts of London. It was a miserable experience and he and his new family decided to go it on their own again, this time much further north in Market Harborough, where they purchased The Three Swans. Here Fothergill was able to thrive and at the time My Three Inns was first published in 1949, he was still proprietor. Demanding, impeccable, traditional, and aspiring, John Fothergill became a celebrity innkeeper through his attention to detail, quality of food, and consistent standards. At a time when a good inn was appreciated, Fothergill's establishments attracted regular customers as well as the fashionable and wealthy—but he did not bend rules without reason or suffer fools. And here lies the charm in his idiosyncratic, subtly absorbing memories, accounts, and anecdotes of interacting with the public for decades.
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