The Case is Altered

The Case is Altered

The Case is Altered is a rare pub name, although it is found in places other than Stony Stratford. Quite why it was ever adopted as a pub name will probably remain a mystery.

The phrase originated with an Elizabethan lawyer, Sir Edmund Plowden, who died before 1585. He was called upon to defend a gentleman who was charged in those sensitive religious times with hearing Mass. This was against the law, but Plowden discovered that his client had been set up and the man conducting the mass was not an ordained priest. therefore he argued, if there was no priest there could be no mass. “The case is altered!” he triumphantly announced and all of Elizabethan England was buzzing with the news. The phrase slipped into the language as a sort of catch phrase and frequently in tavern arguments  a man would assert the rights of his argument by saying, “The case is altered!” It later became the title of a Ben Jonson play, written in 1597. This play is a somewhat haphazard confection of intertwined comic plots and is thought by some critics to be the work of several authors, and has no special bearing on the naming of a pub in Stony Stratford.

Quite why this title should resurface four centuries later as a pub name may not be easily explained. Possibly by this date the phrase had come into general usage as a way of asserting one’s rights in an argument.

The Case is Altered got its first license in 1867, and was one of three that started up along the Wolverton Road at this time. The other two took their names, The Prince of Wales and The Duke of edinburgh from the titles of Queen Victoria’s two eldest sons, Albert and Alfred. The Case is Altered started out with a beer shop license and this seemed to continue for many years as the landlord appears in the trade directories as a “beer retailer”, so I presume it was not licensed for wines and spirits, which may have mattered not at all to its clientele.

The first landlord was John Franklin, a bricklayer by trade, which would suggest that the pub did not provide a full source of income.

It is not clear to me if the Case started out life as two terraced houses knocked into one, or whether that transition took place later. Clearly, from the external appearance, this was built originally as two separate domestic cottages.

The Prince of Wales

This building at 68 Wolverton Road offered clear attractions for the would-be publican. The three storeys provided two floors of domestic living space and a ground floor for a public house. However, the first incumbents, Thomas Gregory and his wife Pamelia, were both, as far as I can tell, childless. In the 1871 Census Thomas is 28 and Pamelia 30. They were still there in 1881 but were gone by 1891 and can’t be traced after that. It is possible that Gregory died and his widow re-married. I suspect, although it is not clear from the census that they sub-let part of the house.
The Prince of Wales ceased to be a pub around the time of WWII and became a private residence. It is now a lock-up shop with separate living accommodation above.

The Duke of Edinburgh

The pub on the corner of King Street is the sole survivor of the Wolverton Road trio, except that it has now been re-named after the Duke of Wellington. As mentioned above it was named for Queen Victoria’s second son and when he died in 1900 the title fell dormant until it was revived in 1947 for the present Duke. In recent years the owners must have decided that the former Duke of Edinburgh was completely unknown to the drinking public and thought that the Duke of Wellington was a more recognizable name from the 19th century. I don’t know how important that distinction is.
The first landlord, like John Franklin at the Case is Altered, had another trade. William H Cowley was a mason. A decade later, the new landlord was Walter Sykes, who doubled as a commercial traveller. Unlike the other two premises on the Wolverton Road, the Duke of Edinburgh had a full public house license from the very beginning.

One thought on “The Case is Altered”

  1. The Case is Altered (No83 Wolverton Road) was our family home from 1957 until 1976. It was bought by my parents Derek and Irene Leslie, and my sister Pat brother James and I grew up there. From memory the pub was only ever a beer house.
    I believe it was built as a pub because the beer cellar runs the full width of the house, and had a single gas mantle to light it.
    The front door as shown on the original photo went into a small vestibule with doors either side and a serving hatch for the off licence "jug and bottle". The left door led into the lounge bar and the right to the public bar. Beneath the left of the two windows the Lounge bar was the cellar trap which was covered over by my Dad to stop the rain flooding the cellar.
    It was a great house to grow up in with masses of room to hide and play.
    We visited a couple of years ago and it is now 4 separate dwellings, the old garage and what was our kitchen and dining room have been demolished. I can remember also finding various flags and bunting in the attic which must have hailed from the Coronation of Queen Victoria. Posted by David Leslie

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