The Catherine Wheel

catherinewheelbannerThe Catherine Wheel pub was, up until the 1980s, the premier pub in Shrewton. The Catherine Wheel site consisted of the main pub building with its distinctive L shaped frontage incorporating the veranda – from which lovely baskets of flowers dangled each year – and some additional buildings behind, notably the “coach house”. The coach house was located at the rear of the main car park. The upstairs part of this was sometimes used as a function room and Shrewton Silver Band are known to have used this room for band practice sessions up until at least the 1940s. The ground floor of the coach house was latterly used as a garage, and presumably – given the name of the building – at some stage in the past, the building held coaches of visitors to the inn and their horses too.

By January 1999 the pub was boarded up and deserted and stood awaiting its fate for almost two years, as shown in these pictures,
dating from November 1999.
 Nobody seems to be quite sure when the original Catherine Wheel inn was built. From the layout and facilities it seems to have provided, we might infer that the Catherine Wheel was once Shrewton’s premier coaching inn. In pre-railway days such inns were to be found at regular intervals along coaching routes, the routes taken by stage coaches, the forerunner of modern buses. Coaching inns provided a fresh team of horses for the coach and – of course – quick (and apparently highly priced!) drinks all round for the passengers before resuming their journey. However, this romantic image of the Catherine Wheel is almost certainly mistaken.
What is now the main road from Salisbury to Devizes (The A360) was created in the early 20th century by consolidating a series of earlier roads and tracks. In the early to mid 1800s Salisbury to Devizes stage coaches took the road up past Rollestone Camp and the Bustard inn, this was long before the army came to Salisbury Plain. If you follow the road past the Bustard and continue straight out onto the plain, you eventually come (after about 7 miles) to the Devizes to Upavon road (the A342) somewhere near Chirton. So, in pre-army days this was the main route to Devizes. It is about the same distance as the A360 road we use now, but nowadays, the plain road is very rough and dangerous, and anyway it is often out of bounds to the public. Readers are not advised to try this route for themselves on their next shopping trip to Devizes! Also, the large open area in front of the Catherine Wheel that we might suppose was for coaches to pull in, was in fact a fairly recent thing. The next picture CW1shows the village giving a great send-off outside the Catherine Wheel to the first local volunteers for the army on August 5th 1914 – the day after war was declared! This is one picture of a series of five – probably taken by Albert Marret (who published under the name A. F. Marret).

A few years ago, Dennis Compton came across an old auction sheet for the Catherine Wheel, dated 13th May 1890, [image no longer available] and he has kindly contributed it to the Shrewton Archive. Among other things, this document tells us that the pub then belonged to Joseph Goddard Parsons who had died in 1886. The pub was being sold at the order of Mr Justice Stirling of the Chancery division in London. Could this mean that Joseph Parsons had died without leaving a will, or perhaps had died a bankrupt? The reference to “Parsons vs Parsons” may point to a disputed legacy between heirs? In any case, by 1890 the court had instructed John Wooley of Salisbury (very likely a forerunner of the current Salisbury auction house Wooley and Wallace – established 1884) to auction the property – no, sorry, we have not been able to find out how much the buyer paid! We believe that Joseph Parsons was – at the time of his death – patriarch of the Parsons family who kept the farm on land behind The Catherine Wheel site – what is now Parsons Green. The whitewashed house site at the right of the entrance to Parsons Green was – in Joseph’s day – the farmhouse. So, the large car park that is evident in the 1999 pictures was partly created by clearing a small row of houses that stood there – probably up until the 1930s(?). Shrewton old-timer Geoff Young was born in one of these cottages. Geoff now lives in Salisbury, but for many years he ran Young’s Transport from the site in Tanners Lane on which “The Butts” now stands. When the houses adjacent to the Catherine Wheel were demolished (we think in the 1930s), their place was taken by a larger car park and around about this time the village got a part-time branch of Lloyds Bank (Yes, before widespread car ownership, some villages used to have their very own bank branches!). First of all, this bank was set up in an add-on to one of the houses behind the Catherine Wheel site. Then, probably in the 1940s, the bank was relocated into a new square structure that stood almost opposite the Roundhouse. From this building, the bank operated on an ever more part time basis until the late 1980s when it was closed down completely. Presently, in the 1990s it reopened as a bric-a-brac and antiques shop – the pictures showing this in operation in August & November 1999 respectively.


Throughout most of the 20th Century, the Catherine Wheel was at the centre of village life in one way or another. Our next picture shows it in full glory in the 1970s. catherinewheel3Older readers will recognise the Watney’s Red Barrel symbol hanging over the pub sign.

Can you add to the story of The Catherine Wheel?  Do you have any old pictures to share?  If so send your contribution to

John Dudman April, 2016


4 thoughts on “The Catherine Wheel

  1. As a tourist from Holland I spent quite a few nights in this once so lovely English pub, eating and drinking and meeting nice local people.
    I visited Shrewton for several times in the seventies, eighties and nineties.
    Twice I stayed for a few nights at a B&B which was owned by a nice woman called Margareth. She had a son called Lesly.
    It is a pity that The Catherine Wheel does not exist anymore. Which is not the only thing I miss in this beautiful country.
    Thank you very much for sharing this information.

  2. My mother and father, Geoff and Margrit Young were so pleased to read this. They now live in Evesham to be near their family. Dad ran F. Young and Sons Haulage Contractors with his brothers Andrew and Keith for many years. They also had a piggery in Tanners Lane where the lorries were also based. Dad and his mother Iva and father Fred lived in Bank House opposite The Blind House. I remember it in the 1950’s before it was demolished to make way for the new Lloyds Bank building. Dad also had a sister Enid who married RAF Officer Jeff Thomas. Best wishes, Mark Young.

  3. I was wondering if the photos are still available as the link to them is unavailable??

    • Peter,

      I have been back to the archive and located almost all of the pictures – except for the copy of the auction sheet – and these are shown in the updated page.

      Thanks for prompting me on this.

      John Dudman, Webmaster

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