AT the end of the 19th century, if approaching Wantage on the present A417 road from Rowstock, the view at Charlton crossroads would have been vastly different from today's – as you can imagine.

You would have just passed the barn on the right hand side of the road and the wheelwrights on the site of Charlton Court.

There were a few cottages at the corner of Charlton Village Road and on the corner opposite Palmer’s farmhouse and pond, on the site of the old turnpike gate, was an attractive thatched public house – The Lord Nelson.

This is not, however, the Lord Nelson which stands in this part of town today – so what fate befell this early inn?

Read also: James Welch, the master baker of Wantage

A public house existed in Charlton Road in 1851, then called The Admiral: Thomas Buchan was the publican.

By 1861 the name had changed to the Nelson Inn, and Cornelius Mulford was the inn keeper.

By the 20th century it had become the Lord Nelson Inn and was owned by Messers Lewis and Co of the Rockwell Brewery Wantage.

In 1902 the thatched roof of the inn was found to be on fire.

The Wantage Fire Brigade were called, arriving soon after 6.30pm, and left between 9pm and 10pm thinking the fire was eliminated.

However, shortly after 1am the fire started again and despite the further efforts of the brigade (fireman Hiskins working on the roof was almost overcome by the flames but was rescued by Fireman Pert) the building was burnt to the ground.

The landlord, a Mr Jolly, and his wife and family escaped in their nightclothes. Almost all the furniture was destroyed but the building was insured.

The report sent to the Town Property Committee stated that the firemen did not use the engine but attempted to put out the fire with buckets of water filled from a pond in the field opposite and also attempted to cut away the burning thatch.

Read also: how Wantage fire station became the school armoury

Council members made the following comments.

Mr Unwin felt the public hindered the efforts of the fire brigade and wondered if the police could have done more He said: "It was nothing but swill-swill all the time. I myself saw a man go up and throw a bucket of water on the building and then go to the bar and have a drink."

Mr Candy supported the action of the firemen in leaving when they thought the building safe, saying they would have been criticised if they had stayed longer – after all, it was a public house!

Mr C Ivey said: "The house was only a public house and there are plenty of them about now"!

The Lord Nelson was rebuilt in 1903 and the photo above shows the new building then. It is now a Hungry Horse restaurant.