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Mischievous MP & a Boozy Barber

Francis Fane was the silent but rather mischievous Dorset MP who loved a joke and can  also be regarded as the founder of the village of Spetisbury. Francis Fane was born in the village in 1750 and served as the Member of Parliament for Dorchester from 1790-1807. In line with his taciturn reputation, there is only one record of him speaking in Parliament where he raised just a single question.

One day Frances Fane was travelling up to London sitting comfortably inside a horse drawn mail coach when sitting above, in the open, was a barber from Dorchester. The latter’s heavily laden coat pocket hung temptingly over the MP’s open coach window. Francis could not resist slitting the inviting pocket and salvaging its contents which turned out to be a large bundle of bank notes. These had been entrusted to the barber to deliver safely to London. When the Dorchester hairdresser realised his loss he was in a state of apoplexy and extreme desperation. The mischievous MP then produced the banknotes and by way of recompense offered to treat the unfortunate crimper to a splendid meal at the White Horse Cellar hostelry in London’s Piccadilly.

This ‘grande bouffe’ was arranged for the afternoon of the barber’s scheduled return to Dorset. In its heyday, the White Horse Cellar was one of the best known coaching inns in England. It was the starting point for many westbound mail coaches and was renowned for its huge, juicy beef steaks and extensive wine cellar. During the splendid feast, the Dorchester barber was plied with and enjoyed much liquor so much so that Francis Fane had to help the sozzled inebriate up onto the Dorchester bound mail coach. However, when the hung over traveller finally arrived in Dorchester he could not find the town water pump next to which was his hairdresser premises. This was because the mischievous Spetisbury born MP had placed his unfortunate former travelling companion on the mail coach to Dorchester in Oxfordshire rather than Dorchester in Dorset.

Francis Fane lived at Spetisbury House and can be regarded as the founder of the village of Spetisbury. The place name has Anglo-Saxon origins meaning 'the ancient earthwork frequented by the green woodpecker.' The village is an amalgamation of three separate manors and it was Francis Fane who brought these manors together under a single ownership.

Francis Fane died in November 1813.

Illustration: White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, London.

(Source: Western Gazette December 21st 1900)


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