My Three Inns : The Spreadeagle, the Royal Hotel, the Three Swans

John Fothergill

In 1922, at the age of twenty-five, after having studied Greek archaeology for several years, John Fothergill found that he must do something for a living, so he was compelled to take an Inn. Automobile travel was just blossoming at the time and Fothergill settled on the Spreadeagle at Thame between London and Oxford, a place where motorists could break their trip. Anticipating that his clientele would want good food and good ccommodations, he had to transform the inn from one frequented by farmers in search of a quick pint to a destination for travellers. A critical success, the Spreadeagle was sold and Fothergill was hired by a brewery to showcase his talents at the Royal Hotel in Ascot, on the outskirts of London. It was a miserable experience and he and his new family decided to go it on their own again, this time much further north in Market Harborough, where they purchased The Three Swans. Here Fothergill was able to thrive and at the time of writing My Three Inns in the late 1940s, he was still proprietor. Demanding, impeccable, traditional, and aspiring, John Fothergill became a celebrity innkeeper through his attention to detail, quality of food, and consistent standards. At a time when a good inn was appreciated, Fothergills establishments attracted regular customers as well as the fashionable and wealthy - but he did not bend rules without reason or suffer fools. And here lies the charm in his idiosyncratic, subtly absorbing memories, accounts, and anecdotes of interacting with the public for decades.