THE Lion Inn, on the site of the County Hotel in Bridge Street, came into the possession of the corporation in the 14th century but in 1483 its title was changed to The Ramme, and in 1526 to The King’s Head, a name it retained until it was pulled down and the County Hotel built. The yard and the brewery was on the river opposite the clock tower. Today, the old County Hotel is a Wetherspoons establishment and retains its King’s Head title.

There was an interesting reference to the King’s Head in a book published at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign by John Taylor, who was known as ‘the water poet’. He was a waterman on the Thames and he determined to make a voyage with a wherry and five men from London to Salisbury, the crew containing Thomas Eastman, the brother of Richard Eastman, the landlord of the King’s Head. The first part of the journey is written in verse, but the finishing part is in prose, and it describes the passage up the Avon from Christchurch.

“At tymes,” says the writer, “2,000 swans, like pilots, going before us to show us the way. At Fordingbridge an unfortunate misadventure befell. For two men being swimming or washing in the river, a butcher passing over the bridge (with a mastiff dog with him) did cast a stone into the water, and say, A duck; at which, the dog leaped into the river, and seized upon one of the men and killed him; and the butcher leaping in after, thinking to save the man, was also slain by his own dog, the third man also hardly escaping, but was likewise bitten by him.”

At Longford Lord Thomas Gorges entertained the navigators. Eventually they arrived at the King’s Head. Later on, in the time of Charles II, Bishop Seth Ward and others endeavoured to make the river navigable. It was from the King’s Head that the celebrated coach Quicksilver ran to London.