The Crown Inn, Nantwich South Cheshire, is a black and white timbered building, grade two listed and over four centuries old. Landlord Roger Crockett was murdered in a brawl on 19 December 1572, in a case that involved many of the town’s gentry and was heard in the Star Chamber. The original ‘Crowne’ was one of seven inns destroyed in the Great Fire of Nantwich of 1583.
It has its share of ghostly manifestations including a mortally injured policeman and a Welsh sheep drover who came to market but never went home. Thomas Piggott, the proprietor in 1881, was world-famous jockey Lester Piggott’s great grandfather!
Once you leave the ground floor and head upstairs to the ballroom you need to have your wits about you because there is little that is straight or level – and that’s before drink is taken. Entering the ballroom is a pleasure and a surprise, not least the minstrel’s gallery behind the stage, the chandelier, fireplace and the big Georgian windows. Get there early enough or reserve a seat and you will pretty much be able to shake hands with the artist. It’s a seated venue that holds just over a hundred people and you might feel like you are in a school assembly, an ambience that organiser Nigel Stonier always does his best to complement. There is a bar at the back and some standing room at the sides and rear. Above all it’s an intimate and beautiful room; it’s definitely not the NEC.
The ballroom is used, not surprisingly for a variety of events and I’ve enjoyed works outings there as well as wedding receptions – musical events are not regular. The highlight of the year is the Words and Music Festival organised by Nigel Stonier, Thea Gilmore and Claire Smith. They celebrated their twelfth event last October though clearly this years looks to be in some jeopardy. It is a week-long event and covers a variety of genres and venues, some larger than this (the local Civic Hall for instance) but the ballroom is always my favourite. I have been lucky enough to see King Creosote, Frazey Ford, The Magic Numbers, Mary Gauthier, Danny and the Champions of the World (complete with Bob Harris talking about his biography), Cara Dillon and the excellent Stornoway. It has to be remembered that this is about words and music so you may well hear poets, Lem Sissay, John Cooper Clarke for instance, as well as musicians. And why not?
I can recommend the Crown Hotel / Ballroom on a twofold basis. Firstly, as the heart of an event that offers a diverse and interesting range of artists in an area that is certainly not over faced with options; secondly as a singular and beautiful building with a wonderful history.
Just to be clear neither I nor anyone I know has seen anything of either ghost.