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inns. The most prosperous period for inns was the 200 years from the middle of the 17th cent., when the first regular stage coaches began, to the 1840s when the railways began to put them out of business. During those years they were a vital part of the network of communication—as important for the changing and care of horses as for the welfare of passengers. In the Victorian period, they gave way to railway dining-rooms and hotels, and in the late 20th cent. to motels and service stations.

In the later Middle Ages there were numerous inns, but monasteries also provided accommodation for travellers. Inns were to be found mainly in London, at busy ports, bridges, and ferries, in county towns where there was business to transact, and along the great pilgrim routes to Canterbury and Walsingham. Chaucer's pilgrims set out from the Tabard at Southwark. Few genuinely medieval inns survive, though there are cellars, staircases, windows, and bays. One of the oldest is the Angel at Grantham, where in 1483 Richard III signed the death warrant for Buckingham: it had originally belonged to the Hospitallers and was probably a much earlier hostelry. Another is the George at Glastonbury, built by the abbot in 1475 and previously known as the Pilgrim's Inn. More of the great Tudor and Stuart inns are still in business: the Feathers at Ledbury (c.1560), the Feathers at Ludlow (1603), the George at Southwark (rebuilt 1676), and the Bell at Tewkesbury (1696). The basic pattern was a courtyard, with galleries on the first floor, and extensive stabling. The many fine classical inns include the George at Stamford, in existence by 1568 and given its frontage in 1724; that most aristocratic of inns, the Duke's Head, at King's Lynn, built by Henry Bell c.1680 as a private house, and converted; and the George, Penrith, where Prince Charles Edward lodged in 1745.

By the 1840s many of the old inns were losing their struggle against the growing railway network, and in the 1960s and 1970s most of the remainder were bypassed by the motorways, leaving them to varying fates.

J. A. Cannon

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inn / in/ • n. an establishment providing accommodations, food, and drink, esp. for travelers. ∎  [usu. in names] a restaurant or bar, typically one in the country, in some cases providing accommodations: the Waterside Inn. ORIGIN: Old English (in the sense ‘dwelling place, lodging’): of Germanic origin; related to in. In Middle English the word was used to translate Latin hospitium (see hospice), denoting a house of residence for students: this sense is preserved in the names of some buildings formerly used for this purpose, notably Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn, two of the Inns of Court. The current sense dates from late Middle English.

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inns Inns of Chancery the buildings in London formerly used as hostels for law students.
Inns of Court the four legal societies having the exclusive right of admitting people to the English bar; the sets of buildings in London occupied by these societies.

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inn †dwelling-place OE.; hostelry, hotel; lodging-house for (university or law) students XIV. OE. inn, f. base of inne IN1; cf. ON. inni.