Landlord’s surprise bequest spurs Corfe Castle museum refit

An unexpected but very welcome bequest from a local pub landlord – known for his popular ‘lock-ins’ – will help towards improvements at Corfe Castle museum.

Graham White, the landlord of The Fox opposite the town hall – known as the smallest in England – has left £10,000 in his will to the Corfe Castle Town Trust.

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Graham White

Graham White, the popular landlord of The Fox

“Surprise”

Chair of the Corfe Castle Town Trust, Louise Haywood, said the bequest came ‘as a complete surprise’.

This has been added to £5,000 from the National Trust and to another earlier bequest from former Corfe Castle Town Trust chair Bill Carter. The combined sum means that the museum can now get what it calls a long overdue refit.

Display at Corfe Castle museum

Corfe Castle museum is situated in the smallest town hall in England

“Create a more modern looking museum”

Louise said:

“It will help us create a more modern looking museum with user-friendly displays that tell the remarkable tale of the village.”

Graham White, who ran the pub with his aunt, died in May 2021. He is remembered as a bearded ‘larger than life’ character who always wore sandals.

The Fox

Graham White ran The Fox with his aunt

“Lovely character”

Melissa Beresford, the current landlady of The Fox, said:

“Graham was a very well-known eccentric in the village. He was a lovely character, very much larger than life, quite quirky. He had his set ways of doing things.

“He ran the pub with Annette Brown, his auntie. She was born there, and it had been in the family for ages. He was well known for wearing sandals or flip flops whatever the weather. If he knew you, he would do anything for you, but he didn’t like the tourists, or grockles as he called them.

“It was very much a locals pub. They looked after their locals, and it was well known for its lock-ins and ‘after-hours socialising’. He would get up to open up for lunch and go back to bed, and then get up for the evening. He very much fitted the Fox.”

The Fox

The Fox in Corfe Castle where lock-ins were common

“His beer wasn’t always the best”

Pub regular and neighbour Tony Bryan said:

“As a landlord it could be said that he was eccentric, his beer wasn’t always the best and his wine list was limited but there was always a warm welcome and his hospitality was second to none, especially after closing time!”

He added that over the years Graham had collected many thousands of pounds for local causes and provided ‘entertainment, education and counselling’ to many people on both sides of the bar.

He rarely had a day off, except for the occasional trip overseas, and was known as ‘the ultimate Royalist’.

Corfe Castle market cross

The market cross in Corfe Castle is owned by the town trust

Rotten borough

The Corfe Castle Town Trust was formed in 1889 to administer the remnants of the property of the Mayors and Barons, when the former rotten borough was dissolved.

This includes the town hall, the market cross and two wells in the town that no longer work. The lower part of the town hall houses the museum.

Louise Haywood became chair of the trust in 2014 at a time when it was losing money and facing the prospect of having to sell the town hall. But a major bequest from a former Corfe Castle Town Trust chair, Bill Carter saved the day.

He left nearly half a million pounds to be divided between the village hall, which now has a room named after him, and the town trust.

Investment income from the bequest and rental fees from the village hall has enabled them to keep going.

Pump in Corfe Castle market square

Pump in the market square. Another is situated in East Street. Neither work.

A quart of ale and a loaf of bread

The annual meeting of the Purbeck Marblers and stone cutters on Shrove Tuesday is perhaps the biggest event of the year for the town hall.

The Fox pub is an honorary member and opens up early for refreshments and members then go across to the town hall for their meeting.

The apprentices have to stay in the pub and wait to be called over, carrying a quart of ale and a loaf of bread to gain admission. It all ends up in a game of football in the street.

Work on the museum is expected to start in the winter, subject to planning permission.

Corfe Castle market square 1897 Jubilee

Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria in Corfe Castle market square in 1897

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