We caught up with Floyd Mason, publican of The Bath Arms in Horningsham to talk about local history, good food and great pubs across the county, and what visitors can expect since it's refurbishment. 

Tell us a bit about The Bath Arms and its history
The Bath Arms is in Horningsham, a small village with population of around 300 forming part of the Longleat Estate. The name ‘Horninges-Ham’ means ‘Horning’s Homestead’ in Old English. We actually have an ale on tap named after the village.

Entries in the Domesday Book describe Horningsham as very small, being occupied by one cottager and four small holders. The Parish of Horningsham changed hands many times before the Thynne’s purchased it for the second time in 1716. 

The Vernon families owned Horningsham during the 12th century and were founders of the village church. The Stantors then owned it for the next 200 years before selling it to Sir John Thynne c. 1550. Sir John Thynne increased the size of the Parish by buying more land. His descendant Thomas Thynne, the 1st Marquess of Bath was very interested in forestry and engaged Capability Brown to plant large plantations throughout his 900 acres of land. 

The village pub was built in the 17th century. It became a public house with rooms in 1732 when it was then known as the New Inn. It later changed to the Lord Weymouth Arms and then the Marquess of Bath Arms in 1850. It was also an off-licence.  At the turn of the century there were 4 pubs in the village and The Bath Arms is the last remaining one.

What changes can visitors expect to The Bath Arms since you took over a few months ago?
The pub reopened back  in August with sixteen bedrooms. We took our time carefully refurbishing the inn. The interiors are what guests talk about most, they’re a lovely mix of old antiques, modern art and statement lights and sofas, it feels very homely. The rooms are equally as important to us, although we keep these very simple so guests can walk in and feel very at home. In the bedrooms you’ll sleep on big beds and Bramley products in the bathroom. You’ll be able to have a full size pot of tea in the morning, a must for any stay! Jack in the kitchen has done an incredible job at creating a menu that is comforting and seasonal. We actually source most of our ingredients from the Longleat Estate and local farms.

Tell us a bit more about your Outside Dining Options
We have just finished building a marquee over our terrace area, just in time for these colder nights! The idea of the marquee was to extend our dining offer, allowing guests to adequately socially distance, without sacrificing the experience. The marquee has windows all around, heating, music and lots of potted plants, it feels like a big greenhouse. The menu is exactly the same as the dining room too. I’d actually rather sit out there, it’s really lovely. 

What do you like best about your role at The Bath Arms?
I have to say the people, it’s the reason I choose a career in hospitality. I actually moved here from our other pub, The Lord Poulett Arms and I was at The Talbot before that and I’m not alone in coming from another Beckford pub, we have a mixture of everything and because of that I like to think guests can feel they’re in safe hands. Michelle in the office has actually been here for thirteen years and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that has allowed us to be one step ahead at all times, we’re so pleased she stayed with us and the locals are too! We really are a close family (not too close though, social distancing and all!) It feels like we’ve been working together for years.

Where are your favourite places to visit in Wiltshire and why?
It would be completely wrong if I didn’t say The Beckford Arms. This is our sister pub and the first in the Beckford family. It’s everything you’d want from a great pub with incredible hospitality to match (for the record I’ve never worked there so I can say that!) The Beckford aside, I think Wiltshire has some of the best pubs in the country; The Bunch of Grapes in Bradford On Avon, The Angel in Lacock. Anywhere with an open fire and great beers on tap, that’s where I’ll be. 

Do you have any hidden Wiltshire gems that you’d like to share with our readers?
The Rectory Hotel in Crudwell is an absolute gem. It’s a lovely mix of locals and the city crowd relaxing at the weekend. You’ll usually find me in The Potting Shed, the pub that’s part of the hotel but just down the road from the main house. The Potting Shed burger with sriracha relish is a must! 

The Bath Arms, Horningsham is now available to book for accommodation and food. The Bath Arms is a great place to stay or stop for a meal if you are visiting Longleat, Stourhead or Warminster. You can read about some of the other great pubs and inns in Wiltshire here. 

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