News Archives - Nov. 21, 2007
Hampton's Royal Society Bridge Club thriving
Tavern tied to history with it's prestigious club
RSBC staff and Diane Paquet Seacoast Online  ET, Nov 21, 2007

HAMPTON, NH - On Route 1 in the heart of downtown Hampton, there is a restaurant rich in English tradition with its food and old-style camaraderie around the bar. The Widow Fletcher's Tavern is owned and operated by Parker Ryan.

Prior to opening the Widow Fletcher's Tavern, Ryan was involved in opening other people's restaurants — building them, designing them, or running them.

Widow Fletcher's is Ryan's first restaurant. It opened in 1984, and while doing his research on English pubs, Ryan came across an old story. In the 1750s, Private Fletcher, a grenadier in the Hampshire English Militia, died. His buddies assumed he died from drinking cold beer on a hot day. They immortalized him and buried him in a local cathedral. Private Fletcher left behind a wife who became known as the Widow Fletcher. Widow Fletcher turned her home into a successful pub, supporting herself and her 3-year-old daughter with the profits of her business.

"I thought it was unique, especially in the 1750s, for a woman to own a pub, a successful pub," said Ryan. "I thought it was an interesting story and it would translate well to this post-and-beam building."

The Widow Fletcher's Tavern has developed a lot of its own history.

Several of the bar and wait staff have worked there since the beginning, and customers have been traveling from as far as Newburyport and southern Maine for their English country chicken and bangers and mash for just as long.

"Also a number of notable customers, both local leaders and civically minded people, have used Widow's Tavern over the years as a place to create a lot of local activity," said Ryan.

There have been several wedding proposals at the Widow Fletcher's , and many of these couples return to the restaurant year after year on their anniversary, requesting the same table where they became engaged, Ryan said. "We've had a very loyal following in the tavern since we've opened," said Ryan.

Then there is the Royal Society Bridge Club, which is an organization that has been running out of the tavern for the past 22 years. Some of the more notable members of the club are: Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Al Franken and Patrick Kennedy. But the core of The Royal Society Bridge Club is group of like-minded local business people who meet every Friday afternoon. The club that has raised more than $250,000 over the years for worthy organizations and charities.

"We have no bylaws, we have no board of directors, we have no charter to speak of, but nonetheless, we are a fairly serious organization when it comes to having fun and raising money," said Ryan. "We are not allowed to play cards."

In a world that is continually changing, the Widow Fletcher's Tavern prides itself on staying the way it has always been.

Owner Parker Ryan takes a moment to relax.

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