Murder in the Kings Arms in Malmesbury; going to the inn for your school lessons; and why local shops sold just the froth from beer will all be revealed in the first of a series of teatime talks which start next month at the town’s Athelstan Museum.

Local historian Susan Mockler will begin the talks with stories of the history of Malmesbury’s pubs.

Susan, from Hankerton, will details how the town used to have 50 hostelries, whereas now it has less than ten.

Among the stories will be the tale of a pub brawl that ended badly at the Kings Arms.

“There was a murder involving a Cavalier,” said Susan, “and now his ghost is said to haunt the place.”

She will also talk about the “barm shops” which used to be found about the town.

“Barm is the froth from the beer and it used to be sold for making bread, for the yeast,” said Susan, who has spent four years researching the history of Malmesbury’s pubs, going back to medieval times.

She has unearthed stories of fires, phantoms, political intrigue, elegant balls, political dinners and “a mysterious society hosting well-attended meetings”.

She explained: “That society was one which was started in the 18th century for the education of adults and they met in the pubs. There were some high jinks involved in that, which I shall reveal in my talk.

“Currently the town has only nine restaurants, hotels and public houses, but at one time, there were over 50 hostelries in Malmesbury with wonderful names such as The Griffin, The Green Dragon, The Prince and Princess, The White Lion and The Slappy.”

The Slappy was the old nickname for the Royal Oak and was so called after bizarre ancient rites that surrounded becoming a freeman of the town.

“It was called The Slappy because when someone got a piece of land he would bury a coin and then be slapped on the back with an oak twig to indicate that he was now a warden or a freeman and then you’d retire to the pub to celebrate,” said Susan.

The Athelstan’s new teatime talk series starts with Susan’s on Wednesday February 16 in the Rausing Building.

Tea will served at 2.30pm with the talk starting at 3pm.

Tickets cost £5 to include refreshments and are available from the Athelstan Museum website at:

‘There was a murder involving a Cavalier and now his ghost is said to haunt the pub’