The George Inn has a half-timbered appearance, but the 16th century building is actually stone built and has a facing to give it the appearance of being timber-framed.
The original building dates from c.1580. The present facade dates from c.1920 and the inn was further modified in both the 19th and 20th centuries. As an early inn, fronting the market place, its name was the George and in 1651 Charles II stayed here when he was fleeing after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester. In 1861 the inn and surrounding property was leased to and later sold to the Chafyn Grove family of Zeals House. In the latter 18th or early 19th century it was renamed the Talbot from coat of arms of the Chafyn Grove family depicting this early breed of black talbot dog, an ancestor of modern foxhounds.
The Inn is right in the centre of Mere, facing “The square” with its historic clock tower and war memorial.
The square was the market place for Mere and the site of the clock tower (built in 1868) was where the 15th century market house stood. This was a two storey building with a covered open ground floor for perishable market goods. The market ended in the 18th century but the upper floor, the Croos Loft, continued to be used as a school and it was here that the poet William Barnes had his first school in Mere. The market house was pulled down in 1863 and was replaced by the present clock tower, opened by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in 1868.
Mere borders Dorset and Somerset and the town’s name is thought to have derived from the Anglo Saxon Maere which means boundary.
In 1253 the manor of Mere belonged to the Earl of Cornwall, Richard son of King John and the younger brother of Henry III. He obtained permission to build a castle on a hill (Castle Hill).
He was granted timber from Blackmore Forest and the castle was built in Chilmark stone and roofed with lead. It covered the top of the hill, was rectangular, 390 feet long by 102 feet deep, and had six towers, a chapel, a deep well and a dungeon. The castle was built fairly quickly in anticipation of the troubled period that pitted the barons against the king and in 1300 it needed extensive repairs after the north tower fell down.
Later the castle began to fall into disrepair and stone from its walls was used to build several of Mere’s 15th century houses. When the castle was abandoned in 1398, it gradually disappeared, because its stone was salvaged to construct many of the town’s buildings.
By the later 17th century the Wiltshire based traveller Celia Fiennes wrote that the Castle Hill was all grassed over but that a small cell or vault had been uncovered in the hill. This seems to have provided the stimulus for further use of stone from the castle in the early 18th century when dressed stone was dug out from the castle foundations for use for new buildings.