Thame signified The Spread Eagle as strongly as, say, Glastonbury calls up King Arthur or Melton Mowbray its pork pies – so writes Hilary Rubinstein in her foreword to the latest reprint of a remarkable book: An Innkeeper’s Diary┬áby John Fothergill.

Relayed in the book are the anecdotes of John Fothergill, pioneer amateur Innkeeper as he described himself, who was landlord of The Spread Eagle during the 1920s and early 1930s. He transformed The Spread Eagle into the first respectable hotel – upsetting dozens of people on the way! The likes of Shaw, H G Wells, Evelyn Waugh, G K Chesterton and others stayed there. The tales of their visits, his encounters with local people and his continual battle against those who rushed in to use his toilet without saying please or thank you, made An Innkeeper’s Diary a runaway bestseller that has also been dramatised on television or radio. A blue plaque on the wall of The Spread Eagle commemorates this remarkable man and remarkable hostelry.

You may often hear people claim that Thame has the second or third widest High Street in the country but John Fothergill tells what may be the truth behind the legend: “When we first came here they often told me that the High Street, 190 feet across, is the ‘second broadest street in England.’ As it is usual for people to boast about rather than belittle their town I was puzzled till I discovered that the Thamensians avoid all occasion for strife. Hence if they tell a foreigner (and you are a foreigner here for your first generation in the town) that the street is second broadest, the man from Marlborough or Oxford or elsewhere grants it you and there is no strife.”