News

What’s In a Name: Paul Pry

  • 9th February 2018
We often see a name that sounds unusual and wonder what it means. One of our neighbours in the Butts is The Paul Pry and we have found that this name dates back nearly 200 years.
The name Paul Pry derives from the play of the same name, which was written by John Poole and first presented in London at the Haymarket theatre on 13th September 1825.

 

The character Paul Pry is described as a comical, idle, meddlesome and mischievous fellow consumed with curiosity who conveniently leaves behind his umbrella in order to have an excuse to return and eavesdrop, often using the catchphrase ‘I hope I don’t intrude’. In the end, however, Pry becomes a hero for rescuing papers from a well.

 

The first mention found of a play of this name being shown in Worcester is for the thirteenth of July 1826 at The Theatre Royal in Angel Street.

 

In his book’ I Hope I Don’t Intrude: Privacy and its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, David Vincent says that Paul Pry was ‘first a play and then within weeks virtually every other category of cultural practice’. There is evidence of this in Worcester, the name and image has been found to have been used in several different ways.

 

Some of these include a stagecoach named Paul Pry which ran from Worcester to London. A directory for 1829 says that it left Worcester from The Crown in Broad Street every afternoon at half-past two.

 

A periodical entitled The Paul Pry included gossip from Worcester for a period in 1840. Its short run in the city was a contentious one, which included horsewhipping of the suspected agent, court appearances and alleged libel.

 

The first mention of The Paul Pry in the Butts that we have found is in April 1834 where it is listed as a beer shop. It was sold as part of the Netherton Estate in 1854 and was issued its first victuallers licence in 1856. Planning Applications exist for additions to the inn in 1875 and for its rebuilding in 1900. Its history is far earlier than the date of 1901 suggested by David Vincent in his book.

Paul Pry: Photograph by HD Small 1962

 

There was also another beer shop called Paul Pry in Lowesmoor. An advertisement for its sale in 1833 tells us that it was located near the wharf.

 

Berrows Worcester Journal 15/08/1833

 

The Pub in the Butts is now the only survivor in the city of a character so popular in 19th century that his name would have been understood by virtually everyone.

4 responses to “What’s In a Name: Paul Pry”

  1. Sarah Manganiello says:

    It was my great great grandfather Robert Allen. As part of Robert Allen & Mumford& co Who had the Paul Pry as we see it, built. Above the windows is a cartouche with “RAM” engraved in it. Interesting to read that it was sold earlier as part of the Netherton est. As his daughter married into a family from Netherton. Who later became Mayor of Worcester, Albert Looker.

  2. Terrence chandler says:

    That was a very interesting read. Thank you.

  3. Ken Jones says:

    In 1832 the Paul Pry stagecoach began to complete the journey from Brecon in Wales to London via Gloucester, Cheltenham and Oxford, about 180 miles, in 24 hours, 7 am to 6 am. I don’t know how long this service continued.

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