The foundations of The Ostrich were laid in 1106, when Henry I was on the throne by Milo Crispen. It stands opposite the 17 mile stone from London. It was originally named ‘The Hospice’ but over the centuries it has been corrupted to it’s current name; The Ostrich.

As with most historic buildings, The Ostrich has seen it’s fair share of murders and they say that over 60 were committed here. Most famous of all were those committed in the 17th century by the landlord of the time, Jarman, who with his wife made a very profitable sideline by murdering their guests after they had retired for the night. Yet per an article clipped from the Daily Telegraph, 31 October 1989 the story goes like this:

In the shadow of one of London’s ghastliest locations, one of England’s oldest pubs is on the market – together with a ghastly history.The Ostrich Inn, a Grade II listed 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 hog sty till tomorrow.” The victim would then fall through a trapdoor into a vat of boiling water.Present owner Derek Lamont, who has never boiled a guest in 25 years at the Ostrich, is retiring. The Business Sales Group, which is handling bids, expects historical interest to push the price over the £1 million mark.

So – a new, earlier date, no ghost, a detailed method of execution… and a compelling commercial reason for promoting the Jarman tale. Everything seems to tie in to Murdie’s observation that there are two separate traditions here, a murder tale and a spook story, and that “the haunted status of The Ostrich is comparatively recent.” But is there anything more to the legend of the Ostrich Inn than this?

‘Moreover,’ the tale continues, that part of the chamber whereupon this bed and bedstead stood, was made in such sort that by the pulling out of two iron pins below in the kitchen, it was to be let down… in the manner of a trap door; moreover in the kitchen, directly vender the place where this should fall: was a mighty great cauldron, wherein they used to see the their liquor…Cole, inevitably, meets the horrible fate Jarman intends for him. But the clothier’s horse, meanwhile, 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 captured soon thereafter hiding in Windsor Forest. He confesses to the murder of 60 people and is hanged.

That would seem to be that – a fictional origin for an unlikely tale – but Westwood and Simpson beg to differ. “The circumstances of Deloney’s story,”suggest, “and his own working habits, make it unlikely he made it up. As a traveling 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 nineteenth century traveler, whose History of the Parish of Wraysbury (1829) p.271 notes the following piece of local folklore, which seems to have originated as a tale to explain the curious division of land between the neighboring parishes of Horton in Buckinghamshire and Datchet, Berks:

Tradition, sometimes the channel of truth although disguised and garbled, avers that at one time, temp. Edward I [1272-1307 – MD], 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 – very well-known in its day – could have inspired the penny dreadful writers who equipped Fleet Street’s homicidal Sweeney Todd with a very 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.

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