The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.482000, -0.519000

3 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Colnbrook is a large village in the unitary authority of Slough, in Berkshire, England. It is situated 3.5 miles (5.5 km) southeast of central Slough, 9 km (5.5 miles) east of Windsor and 19 miles (30 km) west of London....Mentioned in William the Conqueror's Domesday Book, Colnbrook is on the Colne Brook, a tributary to the river Colne, hence Colnbrook. Coaching inns were the village's main industry. In 1106 the first one was founded by Milo Crispin, named The Hospice (now the Ostrich Inn). By 1577 Colnbrook had no fewer than ten coaching inns. Colnbrook's High Street was on the main London to Bath road and turn off point for Windsor and was used as a resting point for travellers.

One 17th century landlord, Jarman of the Ostrich Inn, installed a large trap door under the bed in the best bedroom located immediately above the inn's kitchen. The bed was fixed to the trap door and the mattress securely attached to the bedstead, so that when two retaining iron pins were removed from below in the small hours of the morning, the sleeping guest was neatly decanted into a boiling cauldron. In this way more than 60 of his richer guests were murdered silently and with no bloodshed. Their bodies were then disposed of in the Colne River. The murder of a wealthy clothier, Olde Cole, or Thomas of Reading, proved to be Jarman's undoing, in that they failed to get rid of Cole's horse, leading to their confessing. Jarman and his wife were hanged for robbery and murder....On an episode of "Ghosthunters International" that aired on July 21, 2010, it is mentioned that the Jarman murders at the Ostrich Inn were the inspiration for the story of "Sweeney Todd".

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In 2010 the Blast from the Past Blog had a long article by Mike Dash on the subject. This is an edited version:…

The Ostrich Inn, a freehouse near Heathrow Airport, is said to date back to 1106 and was the scene of 60 grisly murders committed by 12th century landlord John Jarman and his wife.
After inviting wealthy travelers to sleep on a specially-made hinged bed, Jarman would say to his wife, “There is now a fat pig to be had if you want one.” She would answer: “I pray you put him in the hogsty till tomorrow.”
The victim would then fall through a trapdoor into a vat of boiling water.

The Victoria County History of Buckinghamshire (vol.3, 1925) pp.246-9, notes that the Ostrich probably dates only to about 1500.

There are at least four competing explanations for the pub’s unusual name:
that it is a corruption of an inn called Oyster Ridge (Forster Zincke, Some Materials for the History of Wherstead (1887) p.99),
that it comes from the French pieds poudreux, meaning dusty-footed (Seabrook & Seabrook, Miniature Coloured Cottages (1996) p.85),
that it was originally called the Eastridge Inn (the County History of Buckinghamshire again),
and that the place was originally known as the Hospice Inn (Henry Parr Maskell, Old Country Inns of England (1911) p.37).

The latter seems likely, since it ties in with the idea, reported by Jacqueline Simpson and Jennifer Westwood in The Lore of the Land (2005) pp.38-9, that one Miles Crispin gifted the ‘hospice at Colebroc’ to Abingdon Abbey in 1106, and the hospice stood where the inn now is.
That explains how the inn dates to the 12th century as well.

As for the murderous John Jarman and his wife and their hinged bed, that story can be traced back to one of Britain’s earliest novels, Thomas of Reading, a bestseller by Thomas Deloney, a Norfolk silk-weaver, published in 1602.
The 11th chapter tells how the hero, Thomas Cole – a wealthy clothier from Reading – arrives for the night at the inn (then known as The Crane), where the host is named ‘Iarman’. He is given the best room in the house – over the kitchen, with a bed that is nailed to the floor.
... the tale continues, ‘that part of the chamber whereupon this bed and bedsteede stoode, was made in such sort that by the pulling out of two yron pinnes below in the kitchin, it was to be let downe… in the manner of a trap doore; moreouer in the kitchin, directly vnder the place where this should fall: was a mighty great cauldron, wherein they vsed to see the their liquor…’
Cole, inevitably, meets the horrible fate Jarman intends for him.
But the clothier’s horse escapes from the inn’s stable, and when it is recaptured and led back to The Crane the murder is discovered.
Jarman’s wife is arrested, and the innkeeper is soon captured hiding in Windsor Forest. He confesses to the murder of 60 people and is hanged.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Part 2

That would seem to be a fictional origin for an unlikely tale – but Westwood and Simpson argue: “The circumstantiality of Deloney’s story, and his own working habits, make it unlikely he made it up. As a travelling artisan, going from town to town, and county to county, he probably picked up local tradition and gossip on the way.”

If that is so, then it is possible that the original version of the story is the one told by Gordon Willoughby Gyll, the noted 19th century traveler whose History of the Parish of Wraysbury (1829) p.271 notes the following local folklore, which originated as a tale to explain the curious division of land between the neighboring parishes of Horton, Bucks., and Datchet, Berks:
“Tradition, sometimes the channel of truth although disguised and garbled, avers that at one time, temp. Edward I [1272-1307], there were 13 bodies of murdered persons taken from this identical inn to be hurled in the Thames, one of which corpses slipped off the cart on a strip of land called Welly, now on the Horton side of the Fleet Ditch, which divides the parishes.
"Horton refused to bury the body, and Datchet buried it, and hence they claim a piece of land, and now receive rates for it.
"As the conveyancers, paid by the superintendents of the Ostrich Inn, were counting the corpses, they found only 12, and a Wraysbury fisherman, who had been laying eel-wheels, said, 'if you are so disconcerted about the loss, throw in one of yourselves, and that will complete the number.'
"The conveyancers, dismayed, shot some arrows at the fisherman, and one pierced and lodged in his boat, and in a brief space he walked with the arrow, using it as a stick, to Colnbrook.
"A little boy at The Ostrich claimed the arrow as belonging to his father, and this was the proximate cause of the discovery of the assassinations, and the dissolution of the fell gang.”

It remains only to note that Deloney’s story of The Ostrich’s trapdoor leading a murder victim to his horrible fate – well-known in its day – could have inspired the penny dreadful writers who gave Fleet Street’s homicidal Sweeney Todd a similar contrivance … and to observe that the County History of Buckinghamshire supplies, without apparently realizing it, one possible explanation as to how this strange bit of local folklore originated.

For The Ostrich Inn, the History’s author explains, once lay on one of the main coach roads out of London, and, as late as 1925, visitors to the pub could view
in a room on the first floor … the remains of a curious arrangement whereby a flap could be let down from the window to enable passengers to enter the room directly from the top of a coach.

[Afterword:] A detailed history of the Ostrich Inn, by G. Daniel, titled The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook, Bucks: Its Place in History, apparently appeared in 1969, but there is no copy in the British Library.


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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.