Several of Waugh’s pre-war venues have been in the papers recently. The Abingdon Arms in Beckley (near Oxford) was frequently visited by Waugh in his student days and thereafter, sometimes accompanied by his friend Alastair Graham. He wrote some of his early works while staying there (Letters, pp. 36-37). According to an article by Katherine MacAlister in the Oxford Mail:
Evelyn Waugh famously drowned his sorrows at the pub on hearing that he’d got a third in his Oxford finals and the view from the pub across the chequered fields inspired Lewis Carroll’s giant chessboard in Alice through the Looking Glass.
The pub had fallen on hard times in recent years and ran through several unsuccessful managers. As reported in an earlier post, it was ultimately taken over by a consortium of locals who refurnished it and found a new manager. The results as reported by MacAlister seem to have been successful:
The pub has been run by brother and sister Aimee and Tom Bronock since May, who have since refurbed and restyled the business and its menu, so we popped down for dinner to find out how they are getting on. It’s a much more serene and simple set up, a tad too quiet if anything, lacking that addictive hustle and bustle of yesteryear, but it was busy none-the-less. The menu followed suit – soup, fishcakes, charcuterie, pigeon or a tomato plate – countrified, seasonal and devoid of frills.
There follows a fairly detailed description of the new menu which sounds like it would be worth a trip if you’re nearby.
Another recently renewed venue reported as having been visited by Waugh is the Lygon Arms Hotel in Broadway, Worcs. This had also suffered an extended period of decay. As reported by Fiona Duncan in the Daily Telegraph:
…those dark days are now over and Broadway can once more be proud of its historic coaching inn where both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell dallied during the Civil War and whose former guests also include Edward VII, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Evelyn Waugh and Prince Philip. The rot set in when it was sold by the Savoy Group in 2003; since then it has changed hands no less than six times, but two years ago it joined Chewton Glen and Cliveden House in the stable of Iconic Luxury Hotels, owned by the billionaire Livingstone brothers and run by hotelier Andrew Stembridge. A multi-million pound programme of refurbishment and redecoration is now complete.
Evelyn Waugh’s association with this hotel seems somewhat doubtful, however. This may have been based upon his close connection with the Lygon family who lived at Madresfield Court, Worcs., during the early 1930s, but when he visited them he stayed in the County Hotel in Malvern, which was much closer to their house (Letters, pp. 56-57), or in their house itself. That family’s connection to the hotel in Broadway (if any) is tenuous, and how it came to bear their name is not explained in the history posted on the internet. There is another hotel of the same name in Chipping Campden, Gloucs., which explains its name through its acquisition in the 19th c. by a retired butler who had worked for a member of the family.
Finally, one of Waugh’s London clubs (The Savile) recently made the news by allowing one of its members to retain his membership after he decided to undergo a sex change. As explained to the Sunday Telegraph by one of the other members, Jerry Hayes, a former MP and practising barrister:
“He’s not joining as a woman, he joined as a man. It would be unfair to a terrifically friendly guy to expel him just because he’s become a woman. That was never considered…This is not at all setting a precedent for who can become a member because this individual applied to join as a man…”