The White Horse looks as if it has been in Stony Stratford for a long time, and at one level it has. The present building was built in the late 18th century and first licensed in 1773. The site was probably occupied by earlier inns and it would be reasonable to assume that there had been other inns there that preceded this one. They were, however, not called the White Horse.
The use, some might say overuse, of certain names in Stony Stratford’s inn history can be confusing. There are several reports of a White Horse in Stony Stratford.
A White Horse gets mentioned in state papers in 1540, during the reign of Henry VIII. The Stony Stratford Guild apparently owned the house and there was a dispute between the wardens of the guild and the lessee. As is often the case with these disputes, the outcome or settlement was not recorded. Presumably there was one. In 1608-9 the White Horse (possibly the same one) was inherited by the son of William Matthew. If this was the same house then the Guild must have disposed of the property at some time during those 60 years. Its location will probably remain unknown.
A White Horse gets mentioned in the Overseers accounts between the years 1672 and 1680 and again in the Bridge Charity accounts of 1734.
We have to wait until 1770 before we can say with some confidence that the White Horse mentioned in the Constable’s book, which recorded military billeting, was very definitely on the east side of the High Street and this is corroborated by the licensing register of the period. The licensee was Samuel Gayton and he had been there for some years. It either closed down or became something else in 1772. Prior to 1761 the house had the sign of The Ship and was in the hands of William Ashpool (Ashpole) and curiously, Ashpool had changed the name from the White Horse to the Ship in 1754.
We don’t have a lot to go on. Was this White Horse on the East side the same one that had been mentioned in the 17th century and the 16th century? Possibly, but we cantons with confidence because Stony Stratford’s inn names did change with some regularity.
The inferred location of this White Horse, taking the Constable’s book as a guide, is that is was somewhere around where the Kardoman Restaurant is, possibly on that site itself. prior to New Street being built in the 19th century, the former Ram Alley would have been at the corner of Kardoman.
That particular building underwent a number of rebuilds. It opened in 1820 as a new inn called The Swan. Later in the century the name was changed to the White Swan, which it held for most of its life as a pub, apart from a brief excursion as the Stratford Arms towards the end of its life. The present building, although it looks quaintly half timbered, is only 100 years old, being rebuilt on the site in 1915.
As you can see from this photograph, taken circa 1911, the former White Swan has a very different frontage.
Back to the present White Horse. This is now approaching 250 years of continuous operation. The arch to the yard is quite high to allow the spring 18th century coaches to pass through. It is worth comparing that to the much older Cross Keys further to the north, which has a low arch. When it was built carriages sat on the axle and were quite low to the ground.
This great find turned up yesterday – a rarely photographed corner of the Market Square at Stony Stratford taken before demolition. On the right of the photo is the present Market House (no. 8) and a private dwelling (no 7). The rest has been redeveloped.
The two houses at numbers 5 and 6 were probably one building in the 18th century and was known as the Green Dragon. The Green Dragon closed in 1756 and it is not known if it was subsequently licensed under another name.
The building at the back of the White Horse was probably The Plough. This was operating for most of the 18th century, as the Plough until 1764 and the White Lion until 1784. The Sun on the London Road was re-named the Plough two years later and had retained this name ever since.
After the Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War, the defeated Prince Charles escaped the scene with the Roundheads on his tail. He managed to reach Bishops Wood in Staffordshire, where he found an oak tree, known locally as the Boscobel Oak. He climbed the tree and hid in it for a day while his obviously short-sighted pursuers strolled around under the tree looking for him. The hunters apparently did not look up and gave up. Prince Charles later climbed down and escaped to France. Nine years later was became Charles II on the Restoration of the Monarchy. To celebrate this good fortune, his birthday 29 May was declared Royal Oak Day. After that innkeepers who were caught with patriotic enthusiasm put up inn signs for The Royal Oak.
With this in mind we should not look for any of the Stony Stratford Royal Oaks until after 1660. The first Royal Oak of record appears in the 1753 licensing records for one year only. The licensee was Diana Williamson. This is a fragmentary record since the recording of licences in Buckinghamshire began only in that year, but from this we may reasonably assume that the inn had some prior history. We might guess that Diana Williamson was a widow who had taken over from her deceased husband and operated the inn for a few years until either she found it too much for her or died in harness, as it were. The inn or alehouse may have gone out of business in 1754 or may have changed its name under a new innkeeper.
After that, no Royal Oak makes an appearance until 1776, and then to confound us all, a second Royal Oak emerges in 1780. One of them, the Royal Oak on Horesfair Green we know about because it had a life until the 20th century; the second, also in the Calverton Parish remains a mystery. Sir Frank Markham believed that the house was further north on Silver Street, or Cow fair as it was known at one time.
Let me mention here that the old parish boundary followed a line from the Watling street down the middle of Horsefair, tuning north along Silver Street to Horn Lane and the down Horn Lane to the river. Everything to the south and west of this line was within the parish of Calverton.
Both Royal Oaks appear in Calverton’s licensing records. In 1753 there were three licenses held in Calverton – Francis Cave, who had no inn sign and only lasted a few years, Comfort Roberts, who was at the sign of the Cheshire Cheese until 1756. And Edward Samson (sometimes written as Sampson, Simpson, Sympson) who was at the sign of the Swan until 1767. For a decade he was the only license holder in Calverton and the he was joined by Henry Nokes, a new licensee in 1765. Nokes was only in the picture for three years and since no inn sign was recorded it is impossible to deduce anything from these entries.
Once again, we cannot know where the Swan was located, but since the village itself, at least in Lower Weald could probably support an alehouse, it is probably fair to say that the Swan was located there, possibly on the site of the future Shoulder of Mutton.
By 1768 Calverton is back to a single licensee, Sands (Alexander?) Johnson, who emerges a few years later when the recorder returns to noting the name of the inn, as the proprietor of the Green Dragon. In 1776 Mary Ganthorne is the licensee of the Green Dragon and the Royal Oak makes its appearance in that year with John Jeffs as the landlord.
This now looks straightforward. The Green Dragon continues until 1778 and in 1779 a new landlord William Maydon makes his entrance as the landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton. John Jeffs is still at the Royal Oak. Therefore we are not pushing the evidence too hard to conclude that the Green Dragon, previously The Swan, became the Shoulder of Mutton in 1779. It bears this name today. If this is so then Calverton’s second inn would most probably be found at the Calverton End of Stony Stratford. Horsefair and Cow Fair were lightly populated at the time but if, as may be likely, the Calverton parish had more benign regulations for alehouses, there would certainly be an advantage to setting up on the border of St. Giles parish.
It would therefore be easy to identify the Royal Oak opened by John Jeffs in 1776 as the pub which was still there in the 20th century but for an anomaly which crops up only a few year later in 1780 when George Lineham established another Royal Oak in Calverton. John Jeffs’ Royal Oak is now described as the “Old Royal Oak”. Quite why the new house would want to take the name of an existing house is something I will try to address a little later.
To make matters more confusing the licensee register of 1781 records Jeffs at the “New” Royal Oak and Lineham at the “Old” Royal Oak. However, for the next few years no such distinction is drawn between the two and they are both simply Royal Oak. In 1786 Jeffs disappears for a year but is back in 1787 as the New Royal Oak, leaving Lineham with the claim to the old. Those distinctions continued for the remainder of their joint history.
In 1798 Thomas Palmer replaced George Lineham at the Old Royal Oak and John Jeffs continued at the New Royal Oak. In the 19th century new landlords come and go but the designations which were established in 1787 were fixed by the tradition established in 1781.
The last mention of two Royal Oaks is in the 1830 Pigot Trade Directory: The New Royal Oak, Thos Powell; The Old Royal Oak Jas. Ridgeway.
One of them had closed by 1841 when Bartholemew Higgins is listed in the census as an innkeeper. He is also in the 1844 Pigot as the landlord of The Old Royal Oak. Thereafter there is only one Royal Oak.
To sum up this confusing story, the first, and at one time the only, Royal Oak in the Calverton Place area, was opened by John Jeffs in 1776. In 1780 a second Royal Oak appeared, nearby. After a few years jockeying for precedence the John Jeffs’ Royal Oak became the New Royal Oak and George Lineham’s Royal Oak became the Old Royal Oak. These designations continued to the 19th century until one of them closed in the 1830s. Which one closed is impossible to say. The survivor was briefly styled the Old Royal Oak and then settled into becoming the Royal Oak. This one we know about and its location, but there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not it was the one founded by Jeffs or Lineham.
As to why this unusual duplication came about we can only speculate. Possibly there was some rivalry between Jeffs and Lineham, perhaps even a vendetta. Lineham’s choice of the same name for his neighbouring house must have been deliberate and perhaps was intended to spite Jeffs. Jeffs was certainly the first licensee to use the name but Lineham must have felt some entitlement. He may have been a descendant of the Williamson family of the previous generation and believed that this family had first claim on the name which John Jeffs had usurped, and the evidence that we do have does suggest that they agreed that Lineham could use the “old” designation. After years passed and landlords changed this no longer mattered but the names stuck and no one made any effort to change them.
The surviving Royal Oak building has undergone much change and renovation. The original thatched roof has been replaced and bay windows were added at the front. There is evidence from the wall at the back that the original was timber framed with brick infill. There are some outbuildings, one of which was probably used as a brewhouse. This building is now a private residence. The adjoining cottage to the north is also a private residence but at the back is a rubble stone and brick building which was once a brewhouse. The British Listed Buildings Register describes both buildings as dating from early to mid 18th century. If this is accurate then both pre-date the opening of the Royal Oaks.
There may be some piece of evidence out there which will tell us where the second Royal Oak was actually located but for the moment we are left with the intriguing possibility that the two rival houses were next door to each other. The cottage at 34 Silver Street is not very big, but in an age where people required less private space it could have functioned as an alehouse. There are some hints in the existing deeds to the property at No. 34 that the Royal Oak had an interest in the property so it is possible that Bartholemew Higgins settle the matter of two Royal Oaks by purchasing both houses in the 1830s.
From 1841 the story of the surviving Royal Oak is straightforward. There were several changes of landlord but within the family. Bartholemew Higgins, as noted above, was the landlord in 1841 and his successor was probably a nephew, Charles Higgins, aged 25 in 1851 and the son of a Stoke Goldington farmer, who went on to become a farmer himself in Tattenhoe a few years later. John Bliss, who was most likely a relative of Charles Higgins’ wife, Caroline, succeeded and was followed by Francis H. Bliss.
We may get some idea of the extent of the brewing activity here when the landlord Henry Willison in 1877 styles himself as a publican and brewer. Presumably he was brewing on a small scale for some of the beer shops in Stony Stratford and district.
In 1883 Mrs Emily Smith was the landlord and she was succeeded by George Banton who held it until1895, when Thomas Gee entered possession. The Gee family were there until 1911 when Frederick Washbrook took over. Harry Gable was the landlord in the 1920s until Joseph Jelley, former manager of the Co-op, purchased the property in 1928 as a retirement project. One of his sons, Percy, carried on until the 4th August 1961 when the license was allowed to lapse, thus concluding its almost 200 year history as a licensed public house.
Some while back I discussed the name changes at the old Swan on the High Street The post is here.
However, after looking at new evidence from the 18th century licensing register I have changed my opinion.
Let’s start with the facts. The Swan, located on the High Street at what is now Nos. 92-94 was almost certainly a medieval foundation, although it does not appear in documentary records until 1526, or possibly in an unnamed document cited by Markham, 1470. It was always a part of the Wolverton Manor and remained so until the end of the 18th century. Therefore it was always rented to tenants. It was never owned by anybody other than the Lord of the Manor. This point is actually crucial, and I will come to it in a minute.
The will of Michael Hipwell, probated in 1609 after his death contains a reference to his house the “Swan with Two Necks” which he bequeathed to his wife. This place was identified by Sir Frank Markham in his 1948 book as identical to the former Swan, and was merely a change of name. I accepted that until I came across 18th century licences naming both the Three Swans (as it was then called) and the Swan with Two Necks, both under different landlords. Furthermore, the Swan With Two Necks, is identified in 1754 as being on Stony Stratford’s west side. The Swan or Three Swans was always on the east side.
I then realised that the The Swan, if it had ever been in Michael Hipwell’s hands, was not his to bequeath to anyone. It was rented property. He could have happily bequeathed all the furniture and contents of the house but not the buildings themselves. They were always the property of the Longuevilles and later the Radcliffe Trust.
It is plain now that the Swan With Two Necks, which was probably Stony Stratford’s wine shop for many years, was a separate building and nothing at all to do with the Swan or Three Swans.
The Three Swans finally ceased to trade in 1782. The sale of all the contents, the furniture, the linen, the plate and so on, took three days. Mrs. Ann Whittaker, a widow and the last licensee, then retired. There were probably no tenants available to run the premises as an inn and they were converted to residential use. The Radcliffe Trust sold it in 1802.
The Swan with Two Necks meanwhile, survived to 1790. It had been run for several years by Ann Mulliner (sometimes written Mullender), herself a widow. At the moment I have no idea where it was located or what became of the building.
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.
In many towns the square is often the centre of all commercial activity, so Stony Stratford is a bit of an oddity in this respect. The main street, the main thoroughfare was also the centre for almost all commerce. Anything off the main street was always in a secondary position, and I think that remains true today. It is probable that no inns developed on the Market Square until the 17th century. Those on the High Street were sufficient and only when traffic increased did it become necessary to find new land. The actual market on the square was an occasional activity throughout the middle ages and there would be no commercial advantage in building there while high street lots were available. Compare, for example, Horse Fair, which has never been of commercial interest.
The earliest of record may be The White Hart which gets a documentary record in 1625. This building was a Working Men’s Club in the first half of the 20th Century.
The Crown is still functioning. It first appears in parish registers in 1666.
The King’s Head is also mid-17th century. It is the building at No 11 market Square.
Smaller places, possibly alehouses
The Barley Mow 10 Market Square. Functioned between 170 and 1790
The Bell Early 18th century. May have been at 16 Market Square.
The Crooked Billet. Makes its first appearance in 1684. Between 1821-5 changed its name to The White Swan. Markham says the building was demolished in 1937 but he doesn’t give a precise location
The Green Dragon makes an appearance in the 18thcentury. It was probably an alehouse. Markham suggests 5 or 6 Market Square.
The Fighting Cocks was at 14 Market Square in the 18thcentury. There is no 19th century record.
The Plough is mentioned in 1770. It was the house at No. 2 Market Square.
The was one 19th century addition, just off the Square on Silver Street. This started off as a beer shop in the 1860s and later got a proper pub licence. It was known as The Red Lion. This is now a private house.
This is a most unusual name for an inland pub. While this name is often found at coastal towns, it strikes me as rather odd to find it in Stony Stratford. But here it is.
It was probably and alehouse rather than an inn; therefore little more than a house of sorts with the front parlour open to customers. Robert Edge, who is named in the deed, was a gardener by trade and his alehouse provided him with an additional source of income. What he gets in this deed is “all that messuage, or tenement, with the appurtenances situate on the east side” and “a pyghtle of pasture” – meaning a small plot of land. A “messuage” is Norman French, still in use in the 17th century, for a house, any outbuildings and the yard.
The date of this document is 1678. It is the only time The Blue Anchor appears in a document.
Following on from the previous post here are three more inns which make a brief appearance in Stony Stratford’s history.
The Rowbuck Inn
This was leased to William Sheppard in 1642. That is is only appearance ever. It was on the Wolverton side and it might possibly have been the same building that appeared later in the century as The Queren’s Head. We don’t know that, but a change of name is more likely than the idea of an inn appearing out of nowhere and then disappearing.
The Crown Inn
This was leased in 1654 by Sir Edward Longueville together with “parts of Mill Meadow and Bridge Meadow, totalling two roods.” Sir Frank Markham identifies this with the Crown on the Market Square, but I am not so sure. To start with I am not aware of the Longuevilles ever owning any land around the Market Square. Secondly the land attached to this lease is meadow on the east side of the Watling Street – in other words part of the Wolverton estate. Now although it was not unknown for innkeepers to lease fields in other parts of the manor it does seem odd in this instance for James Barnes to lease a property on the Square together with relatively small strips of land in the north east of Stony Stratford. I am therefore inclined to believe that this was another Crown altogether, possibly in the north end of town on the east side. It was short lived because it does not appear in the documents of 1710-15 which detail all the leases associated with the Longueville estate.
There was a Bell on the Square at one time, but this is not it. Again this was a lease from the Longuevilles on the east side. For the privilege he is paying 22s 8d per annum and two fat capons at Christmas. It is obviously more money than the rent for the Nags Head I wrote of in the previous post but falls way short of the £5 10s paid for the Queens Head, so my guess is that it was more of an alehouse than an inn.
Once more we cannot locate it. Pubs with the name The Bell are often found close to churches so it might have been in the vicinity of St Mary Magdalen.
Although there have been some great survivors over the centuries, such as The Cock, The Bull, and The George, there have been those which have come and gone, leaving minimal trace.
Here are three of them.
The Queen’s Head I can tell you a few things about this place, except where it was located. It first appears in a document listing all the properties owned by Sir Edward Longueville, together with the tenant’s name and the rent. Michael Garment is the tenant of The Queen’s Head Inn and in 1710 was paying £5 10s. a year in rent. We can only assess prices by comparison with other costs at the time, but none of the other figures are helpful. A house on Gregg’s Arbour, which might have been the forerunner of the Barley Mow, rents for 10 shillings a year, whereas the the Bakehouse Cottage with some land rents for £8. There are other houses which rent for 10 and 13 shillings. One might conclude that land was worth more than property.
So £5 10s a year for a commercial property is probably about right. There would have been the inn itself and several out buildings – stables, brewhouse, kitchen and privies. Michael Garment had been renting on a year-to-year basis since 1694 so one assumes that he was successful.
It was definitely located on the east side of the High Street as it was part of the Wolverton Estate. It was most likely to be found in that section that ran from Ram Alley (New Street) to the Wolverton Road. argue this because by this date most of the land in the centre and north of the town had either been sold or in an identifiable lease.
It might also have been at the same location as one of the Angel Inns recorded later in the 18th century. Sir Frank Markham believed that this might have been at the site now occupied by The Retreat.
Which Queen the inn was named after will remain another mystery. As a name, The Queens Head has never been popular in Stony Stratford and this is its only known instance.
The Nag’s Head Another inn which appears in the same documents, and possibly near to the Queen’s Head, was The Nag’s Head. The Nag’s Head property, which included a small close or back yard let for 12d. per annum cost Mr. Waggstaff the princely sum of 17 shillings a year which would suggest that the Nag’s Head was neither very large or prosperous and may have been not much more than an alehouse. Like the Queen’s Head this inn disappears from record in the 18th century. Was it renamed? Possibly. The name never again appears in Stony Stratford’s history.
The Black Boy
Here is another inn which only makes a brief appearance, under a name which would not be acceptable nowadays. The location is unknown, apart from inferring that it must be on the east side.
Here is a transcription of the document, dated 1625:
Michael Boughey of Stony Stratford, innholder, and Margaret his wife, convey to John Parsons of Passenham, County Northampton, Gent., and inn called The Black Boy in Stony Stratford in the Parish of Wolverton.
Michael Boughey was a relative of Michael Hipwell and was probably at this time the Innholder of the Swan with Two Necks.
The Swan Inn at Stony Stratford can trace its origins to the 15th century. It was in a prominent position on the Wolverton side close to the church of St Mary Magdalene. At least one 18th century reference rated it as the best of the Stony Stratford Inns. It was originally the Swan and in the early 17th century it is referred to as “The Swan with Two Necks“. When it starts to appear in 18th century estate documents it is always called The Three Swans. The inn remained part of the Wolverton Estate until 1802 when it was sold to Thomas Harrison. It did not survive the railway era and was converted to residences.
Extract from Michael Hipwell’s will 1609
The first reference to the building as The Swan with Two Necks is to found in Michael Hipwell’s will, dated 1609. I have copied it above and highlighted the relevant phrase.
Why the change? And what did this mean? The change of pub name I will come to, but let me first explain where the phrase Swan with Two Necks comes from.
Swans were kept in plentiful supply at one time as a source of food and quite early the royal prerogative was asserted over swans, which still prevails today. In the 15th century the King agreed that the Vintners Company and the Dyers Company could keep for themselves a number of birds on the Thames. To distinguish the Royal Swans from the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Swans a system of marking was developed. The Vintners chose to mark the bills of their swans with two notches or nicks. Subsequently they adopted a sign of a swan with two nicks at the entrance to Vintners Hall in London. In time the Swan with Two Nicks became corrupted to The Swan with Two Necks.
Like most guilds the Vintners Company strove hard to regulate and control the trade and they could usually ensure that only their members across the country could deal in wine. So it must have come to pass that the inn holder of The Swan became a member of the Vintners Company and as a consequence may have had a monopoly on the retailing of wines in Stony Stratford. Therefore an inn sign advertising not just a swan, but a swan with two nicks would be a way of asserting his status as a member of the Company.
By the end of the 17th century the Vintners Company had lost influence and exclusive control and possibly the name mattered less. At any rate it appears in early 18th century documents as The Three Swans although the secondary name does crop up from time to time in later 18th century references.
The inn and its associated land were always part of the Wolverton estate and inn holders took out leases. In 1802 the Radcliffe Trust sold it with several other properties to meet a new Land Tax,
The Swan was probably a 15th century foundation. Like many other Stony Stratford properties it was rebuilt after 1742 and it is that building which can still be seen today at 92-94 high Street.