A scene looking north along Fleetgate, c.1905, with the Steam Packet Inn on the left in its unaltered state.
The Steam Packet Inn was recorded in Fleetgate in the first known trade directory for Barton in 1826, when the aptly named Thomas Brewer was the victualler in charge. It was also noted that he had ‘gigs to let’. Steam Packet ships sailed regularly from Hull to Barton from 1821 and it is from this service that the pub took its name.
In 1831, William Beech took over the Steam Packet from Mr Brewer, and he advertised his arrival in the Stamford Mercury paper:
‘William Beech respectfully informs his friends and the public generally, that he has taken and entered upon the above Inn, where he has laid in a choice stock of Old Wines of exquisite flavour, and Spirits of the best quality, warranted Excise strength, and assures them that it will be his study to contribute to the comfort of those who may favour him with their patronage, upon reasonable terms.
W.B. having made great alterations on the premises in fitting up a Retail Dram Shop and Spirit Vaults, is determined to supply every article with thetrade on such terms as will give general satisfaction.
W.B. has also purchased of Mr Brewer his Horses and Gigs, which he will Let out for Hire either by the day or journey, and most humble solicits a continuance of those favours so liberally bestowed on his predecessor.
A good Saddle Horse, far superior to thos generally let out for hire.’
The Steam Packet Inn was originally located at the very north end of Fleetgate, ust inside the old Toll Bar gate where Waterside Road began. Today this would be the site of the small car parking area of the railway station.
In March 1848, the Lincolnshire Chronicle noted an application that was heard at the Barton Magistrates:
‘Mr James Sowerby, of the Steam Packet Inn, Barton, has applied to have his license transferred to another house, as the one at present occupied by him will shortly be required for the railway station. No opposition being offered, the license was granted’.
A later report noted:
‘Workmen are actively engaged in removing a number of old buildings in Barton, to make way for the new terminus - amongst others, the public house known as the Steam Packet, and kept for many years by Mr James Sowerby, is now being levelled to the ground; the license has been transferred to a more commodious house, a few yards further towards the town, and which bears the old sign of Steam Packet Inn’. (sic)
The last part of this report suggests that the old Steam Packet that was being demolished was moving to its present site – now Charlie’s – but can also be interpreted that the new location had been at one time another old pub known as the Steam Packet Inn ... ‘which bears the old sign of Steam Packet Inn ...’. However, I have no other information to confirm this suggestion. [?] The old Steam Packet was sold to the railway company for £1,250, along with its gig-house, stables and outbuildings.
In June 1848 the Stamford Mercury reported that the ‘new’ Steam Packet was to establish a ‘News Room’ as – ‘one had long been wanted at that part of town’. This would probably have been the room marked as ‘music room’ on the plan shown here.
The licensing records state that the Steam Packet held an alehouse licence (owned by Hewitt’s of Grimsby in 1932) until at least 1972, and was latterly a Bass house. Hewitt’s carried out major internal and external alterations in 1934 to bring the pub to much the same appearance that it retains today. In an accompanying letter of explanation the company stated: -
‘… the same remarks as to increased accommodation in the public bar applies. At the present time the beer is drawn from the ‘wood’ under the counter in the servery and it is proposed to push this counter further back with a proper service bar behind same as shewn in the amended plan. The living accommodation at present is not very satisfactory and it is proposed to erect a good living kitchen, scullery, larder, and bottled beer store at the rear. The sanitary accommodation for men and women will be re-formed and brought up to date. New windows will be placed in the front, and the only extra accommodation so far as increased drinking area will be about 10 x 11 which is thrown into the bar as shewn on our plan’. (sic)
Formerly no.38 and later no.59 Fleetgate the present surviving property now has another different number, but Fleetgate was re-numbered in the 1930s, which would account for this; the property is most commonly referred to as no.73 Fleetgate. The building is older than it looks however, as indicated by its tumbled gables and other architectural details. Nearby no.51 Fleetgate, a medieval merchant’s house, was dated to c.1420 by dendro-chronology; could the bones of the Steam Packet be of an earlier period? The building itself appears to date from the late 18th century but it has been proved in other towns that the shell of a building can often hide an older core. its 1976 Grade II Listed Building description simply states ‘late 18th century’. Fleetgate is one of the oldest routes in Barton and so has the potential to contain some of the oldest property; it may be worth much more detailed investigation in and around the building following the results of the more recent research close-by.
Around the year 2000 the Steam Packet was converted to what was then Barton’s only wine bar, and renamed Charlie’s Bar. Following its conversion from a pub to a wine bar, Charlie’s received a ‘Good mark’ award from Barton Civic Society in 2000. Its owners took all due care regarding its conversion, as the former Steam Packet is also a Grade II Listed Building. Charlie’s Bar continues to trade in 2020.
As it appeared in 2018 as Charlie’s Bar. Note new ‘old’ dormer windows fitted to Charlies
The Steam Packet in the 1970s.
Some references to the Steam Packet(s):
1826-1830 — Thomas Brewer, Steam Packet, Fleetgate ‘& gigs to let’ —
1831 — W Beech, Steam Packet Inn, Barton (Stamford Mercury)
1835 — Mathew Johnson, Steam Packet,
1841-1849 — James Sowerby, Steam Packet Inn
1855-1868 — Mrs Martha Sowerby
1869-1872 — Henry Hopkins (licensing)
1876 — Mrs Mary Ann Barker
1882 — Richard Usher
1885 — Frank Middleton
1889-1926 — George Henry Rowe, Steam Packet P.H.
1891 — George Rowe, innkeeper, 38 Fleetgate (census)
1930-1933 — John Robert Howell
1934-1937 — William Gammidge, Steam Packet, 59 Fleetgate
1938 — C F Winship
1940 — A Needham, Steam Packet Inn
1969 — Charles H Lees
1971 — H Duffy
1973-1979 — L C Parks
1 Royal Vaults
2 White Swan
3 Steam Packet
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