Sarah Purse becomes Sally Pussey

on Tuesday, 25 February 2014. Posted in Wiltshire People

The other day we received a visit from a gentleman who was a direct descendent of Sarah Purse of Wootton Bassett. Now Sarah is the lady after whom Salley Pussey’s Inn at Wickfield on the outskirts of Wootton Bassett was renamed in the 1970s and he was interested in her family. Sarah was born to William and Anne Garlick and baptised on 16th April 1815. She had at least five brothers, Joseph (1803), Thomas (1808), William (1812), Mark (1818), and Matthew (1821); four Biblical names with a boy named after his father in the middle. She had two sisters, Ann (1806) and Jane (1829) and father William was a cordwainer (shoemaker).

In 1812 another William and Ann had a son, Thomas, who was baptised on 8th March 1812; their surname was Purse and in the early 19th century they were living in Lydiard Tregoze, in which parish lies Sally Pussey’s Inn. William was a farm labourer. On 16th November 1835 Thomas married the 20 year old Sarah Garlick and when the Great Western Railway came to Swindon I believe Thomas sought work there. It seems that was injured while working for the GWR and went back to Lydiard Tregoze, taking a beer house called the Wheatsheaf, which was said to have been in the Purse family from 1841. The first reference I can find in a directory is in the Kelly’s Directory of Wiltshire for 1867, the previous one was 1859, when Thomas Purse is listed as a beer retailer. This would mean that he did not have a full license but paid an annual fee for on and off sales of beer under the Duke of Wellington’s Beer House Act of 1830 and its successors. In directories premises that had a beer only license were not normally listed under their name but that of the license holder.


Thomas is still listed in 1875 but in 1880 it is his son, Francis (born 1857) who has taken the license. Throughout the whole period it is recorded that Sarah Purse was a formidable presence in the Wheatsheaf while also giving birth to four children between 1846 and 1857 in Lydiard Tregoze. The Purse connection ended by 1885 and other names appear as beer retailers at Wickfield. In 1896 the house was leased to Richard Bowley, brewer of Swindon, and in 1906 it was bought by Arkells of Swindon. In 1907 Charles Smith was their tenant. It was not until the latter part of the 1930s that a full license was granted and in the 1939 directory it appears as The Wheatsheaf, with Frank Padgett as landlord.

It is said that local pronunciation turned Sarah Purse to Sally Pussey and in the 1960s the name was changed from the Wheatsheaf to Sally Pussey’s Inn to commemorate the indomitable character who had ruled the bar and the household for the middle part of the 19th century and the sign now depicts Sarah.

Mike Marshman
County Local Studies Librarian

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