The George Inn, Bathampton
The Grade II listed George Inn on Mill Lane in Bathampton dates from the mid late 17th century and is thought to be haunted by Viscount John Baptiste Du Barry who was killed on Bathampton Down on18 November 1778 during the last legal duel in Britain. His mortally wounded body is said to have been brought into The George Inn where he finally died.
Robert Edward Myhill Peach gives the following account of the fight in his ‘Historic houses in Bath, and their associations’ (Volume 2) (1883). ‘In BATHAMPTON CHURCHYARD, a gravestone is to be seen on which is inscribed —
“Here rest the remains of JOHN BAPTISTE DU BARRE. Obiit 18th November, 1778.”
This unfortunate gentleman was slain in a duel on CLAVERTON DOWN. The particulars are as follows: — In the year 1778, many foreign nobles made Bath their residence, and, among others, were the. Viscount du Barre, his wife, and her sister, two ladies of great beauty and accomplishments, and COUNT RICE, a gentleman of Irish extraction, who had borne arms in the service of France. A house was taken at No. 8, ROYAL CRESCENT, where for a time the party lived together on the most amicable terms. They kept open house, where play was allowed to a ruinous extent. Quarrelling at cards, words ran high between Du Barre and Rice, and an immediate challenge was given and accepted. At one o’clock in the morning, a -coach was procured from the Three Tuns, in Stall Street, and Claverton Down was reached in moody silence, at the first dawn of day.
A contemporary account describes the combat as follows : — “Each armed with two pistols and a sword. The ground being marked out by the seconds, the Viscount du Barre’ fired first, and lodged a ball in Count Rice’s thigh, which penetrated as far as the bone. Count Rice fired his pistol, and wounded the Viscount in the breast He went back two or three steps, then came forward again, and both, at the same time, presented their pistols to each other, the pistols flashed together in the pan, though only one was discharged. Then they threw away their pistols, and took to their swords ; when Count Rice had advanced within a few yards of the Viscount, he saw him fall, and heard him cry out, ‘ Je vous demande ma vie,’ to which Count Rice answered, ‘Je vous la donne ; ‘ but in a few seconds the Viscount fell back and expired. Count Rice was brought with difficulty to Bath, being dangerously wounded, though now he is in a fair way of recovery. The coroner’s inquest sat on the Viscount’s body last Saturday, and after a mature examination of the witnesses and the Viscount’s servants, brought in their verdict Manslaughter.”
The Viscount’s body was left exposed the whole day on the Down, and was subsequently buried in Bathampton Churchyard. Count Rice recovered, was tried at Taunton for murder, and acquitted. He died in Spain in 1809. At that part of the Down where the Yeomanry were formerly reviewed, a bank slopes towards the wall. It was on the other side of this wall, and a few yards from the gate, that the duel took place, where a stone slab marks the spot. The ivory hilt of the sword once belonging to Count Rice is now attached to the city seal in the Town Clerk’s office.’
An apparition reputedly seen in the standing by the bar is thought to resemble the Viscount.