No sooner had the April issue of this Newsletter come through the letterboxes with its piece on the Duke of York pub than a member of the Society, Louis Musgrove, pointed out that an article by him in the Newsletter four years ago (April 2011) had brought to light a visit to Ipswich by the same Duke of York in person in November 1797. This was accompanying the British troops returning in a prisoner exchange after an unsuccessful venture to the Netherlands. The Duke was in Ipswich again several times for large reviews of troops on Rushmere Heath. But the critical one, that almost certainly confirms that he was the subject of both the naming of the Duke of York pub in Woodbridge Road and the writing of the nursery rhyme, was in 1811 when he reviewed 10,000 troops on the Heath to celebrate his re-appointment as Commander in Chief. It was reported in The Reformists' Register No.5, 26 October 1811, as part of an attack on the Duke by the satirist William Hone in which Ipswich features: "The Ministerial Papers are at their old work again and are endeavouring to procure County Meetings to congratulate the Regent on his reappointment of the Duke of York to the office of Commander-in-Chief. Only one place in England, we believe - the Borough of Ipswich - has yet disgraced itself by such a proceeding, and there, we are informed, the people at large were hostile to the measure, which was carried into effect by a set of interested Courtiers."
Just up the hill from the Duke of York on the same stretch of the Woodbridge Road in Ipswich is another pub with an interesting name, perhaps with military connections also - The Case is Altered. There are half a dozen or more explanations for that name. The most likely one, given the nearness of Harmony Square Barracks, is that it is a corruption of the Spanish La Casa Altera (the other house) or alternatively, as suggested in English Inn Signs, La Casa de Saltar (the dancing house) where the soldiers enjoyed themselves.
The more likely but duller version is that the name reflected a significant change in the building, its landlord or sometimes his financial circumstances. There are a number of instances of its use scattered round the country. They reflect a famous saying by a distinguished Elizabethan lawyer, Edmund Plowden. He was a Roman Catholic and a leading jurist under Queen Mary, but on her death refused to accept the post of Lord Chancellor under her Protestant successor Elizabeth. Instead of executing him, she continued to use him for legal advice. He particularly defended fellow Roman Catholics. In one case, a man was accused of attending a Mass held in a private house. Plowden discovered that the Mass had been conducted by a layman, acting as an agent provocateur to entrap Roman Catholics. He immediately argued "the case is altered: no Priest, no Mass" and the man was acquitted.
A variation of this tells of a West Country pub sign showing a farmer and a lawyer sitting at a table with a bull in the background. The farmer says his bull has gored and killed the lawyer's cow. "Well," said the lawyer, "the case is clear, you must pay me her value." "Oh," said the farmer," I have made a mistake. It is your bull that has killed my cow." "Ah! the case is altered, quoth Plowden". It became a popular saying of the time and was used as the title of a play published in 1609 by Ben Jonson.
Another book, British Inn Signs, maintains there was a The Case is Altered in Woodbridge itself with a totally different origin; it was built, after the Reformation, on the site of a former nunnery where a Father Casey used to take confessions and was given as a name a garbled version of 'Casey's Altar'. There was no obvious trace of it in the tithe records of 1836. Fifty years ago, a colleague in Charrington's Brewery in London insisted that 'case' refers to the wooden cases that held the metal type used then by printers. The printers off Fleet Street where there was a pub of that name were certainly good customers but otherwise it is difficult to see a connection. Perhaps it just shows that pub tales must be treated with a degree of caution. But it takes on more meaning for the future with The Case is Altered in Bentley, just south of Ipswich, which successfully re-opened last year as a community pub.
[Ken Wilson also wrote to the Editor pointing out Louis's 2011 article.]