The Antelope Inn has already been mentioned in this blog quite a lot as one of the town’s leading inns and possibly its oldest. The inn dates from at least the 15th century and a stone fire place of this date plus some Tudor Dutch floor tiles uncovered in the early 20th century confirm this. In the 17th century, the inn had a long association with the Melledge or Milledge family, particularly some of the women of the family.
John Melledge was a prosperous grocer in Dorchester in the early 1600s. As a widower with at least 8 children, ranging in age from 8 to over 20, he married a widow, Margaret Eyres in 1620. From the terms of his will we know that Margaret was a property owner in her own right and the marriage must have increased the family wealth.
By the 1620s, John Melledge was trading in Dorchester, Puddletown and Poole and owed properties in all three places. One of these properties seems to have been the Antelope as a later will (of Alice Melledge) mentions an Indenture of Assignment for the premises dated 6thJuly 1624 granted by Richard Philipps the younger of Corfe Mullen Gentleman to John Melledge of Dorchester, Grocer.
John was Sheriff of Poole in 1631 but died in office. In his will he granted his widow, Margaret the property in Dorchester that she had brought to the marriage. His Puddletown property he left to his eldest surviving son, Mathias and his house in Poole to his youngest son, Johnson. He also made provision for his unmarried daughters. There was no mention of the Antelope, but it may have been previously made over to his middle son, Micha, as there was no specific property assigned to him in the will.
The 1640’s Civil War decade proved to be a difficult time for the Melledge family. It is likely that they had royalist sympathies which became a problem when Poole declared for Parliament and became a garrison town for Parliamentary soldiers. In March 1643, Johnson Melledge, Innkeeper and Collector of Customs, was arrested as a ‘delinquent’, suspected of disloyalty to Parliament. We don’t know his offence but he was stripped of his office of Collector and ‘kept Prisoner aboard the Ship that lies in the Harbour of Poole’ until he could be sent up to London. In April he was examined and his case referred to the Committee for Examinations. After that, the record is silent for 6 years. Was he back in Poole or elsewhere awaiting the verdict or was he in custody?
Whether Johnson was innkeeper of the Antelope or another establishment, we do not know, but his wife, Alice may have had to run the inn for some years during his absence.
Mathias Melledge had graduated from Oxford University and entered the church, becoming clerk at Hamworthy church. In 1635, he married a widow, Bathsheba Williams and in 1642, he took the Protestant Oath as minister at Hamworthy. By September 1643, Poole was one of the few strongholds holding out for Parliament in the whole of Dorset and a plot was laid to deliver the town to the Royalists in which Mathias Melledge is said to have acted as a messenger. In fact the plot was betrayed and defeated and the plotters rounded up. If Mathias was involved, what happened to him? We don’t know, but by 1647 he was dead, because his widow was granted the administration of his estate. At some stage during the war, the church at Hamworthy was demolished and the stone used to build fortifications on the Hamworthy approach to the town.
In 1649 a curious incident appears in the records of the Dorset Standing Committee, the organisation that was handling local affairs and finances. It seems that ‘plate’ (silver) worth £20 had been found in a well and was determined to be the property of the children of Johnson Melledge. This was sold and the proceeds given to the mother of his children to hold for them (clearly suggesting that Johnson was not in Poole at the time). It would be interesting to know where the well was and under what circumstances the plate had been hidden. In May of the same year, 1649, Johnson Melledge was at last allowed to ‘compound’ (pay a fine) for his delinquency, the large sum of £11 8s.
The next mention that we have of the Antelope is in 1662 when the divisions and enmities of the war were presumably no longer so bitter. In a tax record of that year, the widow Mrs Melledge was listed as holding the ‘Antholip Inne’, valued at £12 a year and thus one of the most valuable properties in the town. The Mrs. Melledge referred to was probably Elizabeth, the widow of Micha Melledge, as a trade token of 1666 connects her to the inn. The token has the initials ‘EM in Poole 1666’ on one side and ‘Elizabeth Milledge’ with the picture of an antelope on the other.
Another token of the same year has the words ‘At the George in Poole IAH’ on one side and on the other ‘His Half Penny 1666’ with a picture of St. George killing the dragon. This was issued by James and Anne Hollybread who kept the George Inn (now Scaplen’s Court). Anne Hollybread was the daughter of Johnson and Alice Melledge.
At some time in the next 12 years, the Antelope must have changed hands to another branch of the family because by 1678 it was in the possession of Alice Melledge, Johnson’s widow. In her will of that year, she left her daughter Mary Emerson a dwelling house and shops in Church Street and bequeathed her other daughter Alice Melledge junior, ‘all that my now dwelling house Inne or Taverne called or known by the name of the Antelope, situate, being in or next adjoining to a certaine Street called the High Street in Poole’ together with all its outbuildings, passages and gardens.
The will also mentioned a passageway from the Antelope ‘from one street to another’, presumably right through from High Street to Church Street where Mary’s property was situated. This was to be used by both sisters. It also allowed Mary ‘free liberty to lay her ashes in the place where the stable formerly stood’ and gave Alice ‘all that plot or parcel of ground where I now lay my ashes and soil’ as long as she permitted her sister Mary to dispose of her ashes there as well. In fact the will put so much emphasis on each sister allowing the other to enjoy her legacy without any hindrance, that the reader gets the very strong impression Mary and Alice didn’t get on!
Other small legacies were made to Elizabeth and Jane Hollybread, Alice’s grandchildren by her daughter Anne. With her valuable legacy, Alice Melledge junior became a very eligible young woman and in 1680, she married John Allen. The tax list of 1690 listed no Melledges, Emersons or Allens eligible to pay tax. James and Jane Hollybread were the only members of the family mentioned.
Andrew Hawkes, A Pint of Good Poole Ale
Wills of John Melledge and Alice Melledge
Family history notes on the Melledge family
House of Commons Journal 1643-6
Taxation Lists 1662 and 1690