Smith's Tavern is a highly traditional alehouse in the centre of the attractive and distinctive town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire. The name of the pub stems from the Smith family who owned it from at least the 1850s almost continuously to 1935.
Although parts of the building itself are several centuries old, it has been a public house for only around 75 years. It is possibly the only surviving original burgage plot in the town - the original town plan laid out plots of land (burgages) each 19 feet wide, hence the narrow appearance of the building. It has been identified as the former site of either a monastery or, more likely, a boarding house for monks. Its history can be traced back accurately to 1851, where it is recorded as being named Smith's Wine Vaults, owned by John Smith, Wine & Spirit Merchant, assisted by his brother Samuel, assistant Spirit Merchant, albeit until no later than 1861 when Samuel is recorded as a Solicitors General Clerk. John Smith seems to have lived and worked at the premises from 1851 until he was recorded in 1871 as living in Church Street, but still owning the Vaults. By 1881, John Smith had died.
There is a small gap in the timeline until 1888 when it was recorded that the property was sold by the Trustees of Mr D Ashmore to WD Smith and John Smith, the sons of the elder John Smith, so it would seem that it was sold by the family to Mr D Ashmore after the death of the elder John Smith and then bought back by the family. In 1902, the property was conveyed by John Smith to his brother William Dawson Smith, who therefore became the sole owner. He died in 1930 and the property known as The Wine Vaults was put up for auction on 24th July, but was withdrawn without being sold after bids appear to have reached only £1900. We have information dated as October 1930 that the ownership was split into three parts, although this may well have happened before the auction. Half was left to Harold Tom Smith, one quarter to Clarence William Smith, both of Ashbourne and one quarter was left to Arthur Cyril Smith of Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
In 1934, the other two parties sold their shares to Harold Tom Smith, the new sole owner of the property. The following year, he sold the property to Messrs. Haworth & Airey Ltd, of Elton Fold Winery, Walton-le-Dale, Preston, Lancashire. It is not quite clear when the business switched from being a wine & spirit merchant to a public house, but it became known as Smith's Wine House just after the war and was by then operating as a pub. The licencees between 1946-1950 were Arthur & Alice Swain. We also have a newspaper report from October 1946 concerning the formation of the Ashbourne Town Darts League (still going strong today) at a meeting at the Smith's Wine House. It was sold by Haworth & Airey in 1970 to Marston, Thompson & Evershed Ltd - now known as Marston's, the current owners. It is also not quite clear when it was renamed from Smith's Wine House to the current name of Smith's Tavern.
If anyone has any extra information or can confirm any dates of change of name or usage, please contact us - we will be delighted to build up a complete picture of our pub.