The mystery of Great-Aunt Caroline

My husband had always been told by his father, the story that his great-great-aunt had run a pub in Gosport in Hampshire. His father, he doesn’t think had ever been to the pub, but he knew the name of it and the fact that Caroline had been the landlady.

So last weekend, we visited Gosport, found the pub, took pictures and went inside and had a pleasant couple of hours chatting with the friendly people there. We weren’t exactly sure when Caroline had been in residence, and whether she was here when the present building was in existence (probably built about a hundred years ago) or whether she had been landlady of the previous pub of the same name which had had a thatched roof and had burned down.

We were very pleased with our adventure but it was only when we were back at our hotel and I tried to pin down Caroline and the pub when I found a difficulty. I could find no trace of her listed as landlady, and what is more I could only find details of her life in Portsmouth where she and her husband had a shop not far from where Charles Dickens was born. Maybe it was her daughter, also Caroline, maybe young Caroline had the pub with her husband George… but no, I couldn’t find any connection between her and the pub.

So what had gone wrong with the story my husband’s father had told him? He was so sure of the name, so sure of the pub’s name and location… where had the error arisen? I ferreted about a bit more in the details I already had, to see if there was another Caroline somewhere in the family tree… and yes… I came across an even more distant woman, a great-great-great-aunt of my husband, a Caroline but not with his surname, his great-great-great paternal grandfather’s sister. Could she be the woman who had the pub? back then it would have been the one with the thatched roof… I must investigate further!

I have not given surnames but I will when the story is complete – even if I don’t find the answer!

I have written several novels, the Radwinter series about a  character who solves fictional genealogical mysteries… If you haven’t read them yet, here is a link to them and my other e-books:


    1. Lois

      … that’s another thing, Simon, we’re not sure! If it’s my father-in-law’s aunt it would be the beginning of the twentieth century, if it was his great aunt then back twenty or so years before! I like these puzzles and mysteries, even if there is never a conclusion!


      1. Lois

        I haven’t… thanks, also there are old pub sites, aren’t there, I’ll have a go from that angle. It was originally the Three Guns in Gosport, but changed its name to the Three Tuns for some reason.


    1. Lois

      It’s also when stories get handed down and muddles occur! Was the great-aunt born Caroline Sparshott, did she marry a Mr Sparshott, was she not a Sparshott at all but a sister-in-law?!! Longitude Harrison, what a fabulous name!


      1. simonjkyte

        Well, just on some random searches I may not fully agree. Did Wm Sparshott have a sister called Mary Ann or did a Sparshott marry a Mary Ann? I don’t have access to the 1851 census etc but if you do, look up Mary Ann Bull – various comments I have seen suggest she has her mum on that census born Portsmouth, Maria Sparshott. Again I have not seen any originals and so much family tree work is speculative or wrong (and then gets repeated online until it is considered a fact) but…. 1849…. Mary was widowed and named Thorp? If the comment I saw about the marriage cert was correct witnesses were a William Sparshott mariner (which might make sense to link Greenwich and Ports) and a Juliana ‘Crew’ which I suspect may rightly be read Drew?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lois

        Yes! there were a couple of William Sparshotts, and one did marry a Drew – and I think there may have been other Drew connections! Thanks for the suggestions, I will chase them up!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. simonjkyte

        Caroline was Drew as well? maybe her father etc ran a pub? There are of course quite a lot of people called Sparshott in Hants because of the village. Do you know out in Kent there is a specific name for a pint of beer from Hants?


      4. Lois

        Strange coincidence with the name Bull at the top of the list – my husband’s best friend is a Bull, and seeing the one on the list is Lawrence Petter – probably Peter, our friend is peter Bull! Thanks for the link – I haven’t seen this before!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Lois

        Another coincidence – on my side of the family there are Bulls from Suffolk! Not an uncommon name I know, but who knows, there may be a connection!


      6. Lois

        Yes, there were plenty of workhouse places for the Elsdens too. Not so may Sparshotts in Hampshire, they seem to have receive poor relief or whatever the term was, i can’t quite remember!


      7. simonjkyte

        The Kytes were not so innovatively minded – when they got of the workhouse, they noticed lots of people were moving to S Wales because of the coal and manufacturing industries. But they sort of missed the point. ‘What are we going to do when we get there?’ ‘Same as always, we’ll be ag labs’

        Liked by 1 person

      8. simonjkyte

        Perhaps I could suggest that whilst the link above (? could end up anywhere the way WordPress works) may be ok as research, All hallows Barking was never in Barking – well maybe in saxon times or something

        Liked by 1 person

      9. simonjkyte

        There was always another thing in the family about someone having being Queen Victoria’s riding instructor – that started to fit into place when out of nowhere someone became a Horse Guard in London

        Liked by 1 person

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