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pubs in Eynsham - history


There are nine pubs in Eynsham now - thirty years ago, when the population was less than half its present level of about 5,000, there were thirteen. That was 13 pubs for maybe 1,500 adults - or about one pub per 115 adults. Even today, with 9 pubs, there's a pub for every 350 adults - double the national average.

In the Middle Ages most drinking was done in cottages - on condition that there shouldn't be any drunkenness - and no liquor on sale at the time of church services. Mostly it was widows - alewives - who brewed beer for sale (most people just brewed for home consumption). There was no need in those days to have a painted sign - just a bush outside the door ("A good wine needs no bush" etc).

Inns (as opposed to pubs) were more important, sophisticated places, where people could eat and stop the night - with their horses. Since Eynsham was on a main route west from London - to Gloucester, Wales and Ireland (via Fishguard), and near an important ford (Swinford), it had an inn at least as early as 1587 - The Red Lion.

Pubs which still exist today are listed below, with some notes on each. Click here for more information on pubs which no longer exist.
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The Red Lion

The Red Lion, known as The Angel until about 1750, is the oldest known pub in Eynsham. Between 1700 and 1800 it was known for its cockfights and auctions.

It was quite a rough pub 150 years ago, with lots of drunkenness and fighting, and in 1881 the landlord got into trouble for opening out of hours and having "unjust measures".

Around 1900 it was known for its good stabling and lock-up coach-house. It was then also the headquarters of the Cyclists Touring Club.

In the 1950s it was said to be the only place left where Tipit was played - a sort of Hunt-the-Slipper played with a threepenny bit. It was then also the domino and cribbage centre of Eynsham. In those days too it was the headquarters of the Eynsham Football and Cricket Clubs.


The White Hart

The White Hart is probably the oldest building in Eynsham, although it didn't become a pub until the 1750s. It was originally used as a Court for the Newlands. The New Lands were set up in 1215 (more on this) - but the first note of this building is not till 1366. It was originally a single large hall, open to the roof. It was in use as the Newland Courts until the 20th Century.

In the 1750s it was licensed as The Rose & Crown. Thirty years later the name was changed to The Haunch of Venison. In 1835 it became The White Hart.

In 1828 a stable block was built at the back and it became a coaching inn. In 1829 it was sold for £510. It then had a piggery and a skittle alley.


The Swan

Since Eynsham was on the main route west it had several coaching inns - The Swan was one of them. It existed as a pub by 1720. The pubkeeper wasn't actually the landlord in the property sense; he was the tenant of another man who actually owned the pub. By 1891 the pub kept "very good accommodation for cyclists, boating and fishing parties".

The Queens Head

The Queens Head opened in 1850 - but there is supposed to have been some kind of alehouse on the site since the 1600s. In 1854 a disastrous fire destroyed a lot of it. The name refers to Queen Anne (1702-14), who gave Blenheim to the Duke of Marlborough.

Pete Jones, the present landlord, took over in 1983 when Morlands of Abingdon bought the pub. It's currently the Headquarters of the Eynsham Cricket Club and the Eynsham Royals junior league football team.


The Newlands

The actual building dates from 1580, but it didn't become a pub until the 1860s. It used to be 2 cottages - the bigger corner one, and smaller one next to it which is now the dining room. There's bread oven in its west wall. The pub has two ghosts - a` lady with a green face in the west cottage, and a complete lady in the bigger east part.

In the '80s the sign outside showed people landing on the moon - a modern version of New Lands. But it has since been replaced by a more conventional sign showing Captain Cook-type sailors exploring New Lands.

There used to be a "Tavern Clock" in the bar; in 1797 a tax was imposed on all clocks and watches - 5/- a year on clocks, 10/- on gold watches, and 2/6 on silver watches. That was quite a lot of money in those days, so people took to using the tavern clock. The tax only lasted a year, but the clock of course lasted much longer.


The Jolly Sportsman

The Jolly Sportsman is supposed to date from the 1600s, but the date may refer to the building rather than the pub - the building is certainly old, but the earliest date for a pub is 1875.

There used to be a 200-year-old Spanish gun (or musket) hanging on the wall in the bar. One day a customer offered to buy it for £120. Since it was only valued on the pub inventory at £5, the landlord rapidly accepted, and the gun hasn't been seen since.


The Talbot

The Talbot, like The Evenlode (see below) at the other end of the village, was a traveller's inn. It was close to the Tollbridge - the first building that travellers from the East (London and Oxford) met after crossing the river. It was also close to the Wharf on the Thames, where the Oxford Canal Company (which owned the pub at the end of the Nineteenth Century) did a lot of business. It was opened in 1774, and indeed at one time was known as The Wharf Inn.

The Oxford Canal Company was very controlling about its tenants; they had to paint it in the proper colours every fifth year, they were responsible for the wharf and the weighbridge, and also for the weir and the wharfgate.


The Evenlode on the A40 is almost the first sight of Eynsham for travellers from the west - and the only major building of Eynsham visible from the A40 in either direction. So perhaps some people think that Eynsham is the Evenlode.

It was built in 1935 (Eynsham's newest pub), and sold to Simmonds, the Reading brewers. It ws designed as a travellers' pub, to take advantage of the new (as it then was) A40. It's now owned by the Beefeater Group.

The Evenlode


Lost pubs - which don't exist any more

The Black Boy - last heard of in 1674

The Eagle and Child - last heard of in the Seventeeenth Century

The Green Dragon - later The George and Dragon - opened by 1650, closed in 1780. It may have been where the Co-op now is.

The Maltster and Shovel, or Malt Shovel - opened in (or maybe by) 1750. It's not clear when it closed - probably in the 1860s. It was on the west side of Mill Street, opposite the junction with Thames Street.

The Windsor Castle - a rather short-lived pub; 1762-1788.

The Crown - 1785-1868 - may have been an earlier name for the Jolly Sportsman.

The Royal William - opened in the 1830s - situated where Lynwood in the High Street is now. The name was changed to The King's Arms in the 1870s. Highwaymen used the pub, leaving their horses at the saddler and blacksmith across the road while they had a drink. Since highwaymen were mostly before the 1830s, the pub may have been called something else before then - maybe The Windsor Castle (see above).

In 1830 the duty on beer was abolished, and anyone could get a licence to sell beer on payment of two guineas a year (perhaps £100 at today's prices). Not surprisingly, beer-drinking increased - by 1876 the average national consumption was 344 gallons a year per head - that's nearly a gallon (8 pints) a day for the whole population ! In the 1890s bottled beer was introduced, leading to a further increase.
The Plough - another short-lived pub; 1842 - 1861.

The Board Hotel - opened by 1842. It was owned by the Gibbons family, who owned a brewery on the site of 33 High Street. Although called a hotel, it never offered accommodation. The Gibbons sold the pub to the Co-op in 1945, and the Co-op continued to operate it as a pub until 1979, when Kenneth Cope the actor bought it and turned it into an up-market restaurant The Epicure. It has continued as a restaurant ever since, variously as Lombard's, then Baker's, and now The Bay Leaf Indian restaurant.

The Britannia - opened 1847 - probably closed in the late 1860s.

The Fountain - 1864 - it was "the house in Crown Crescent with the big ol' window" (Tom Harris, 1995). It may have closed in the '30s

The Royal Albert - another short-lived pub; 1864-1868.

The Railway Inn - opened 1871 - it was on the corner of Station Road and Acre End Street. On Sundays it was patronised by bikers. It was badly damaged by fire in 1976 when a hay lorry caught fire as it turned the corner into Station Road. It was converted into flats soon after that.

The New Inn - situated next to the Malt Shovel - it was open by 1872 and continued at least until 1917, when a School Dinner Kitchen was opened there by the War Savings Committee; on the first day 20 children got mashed potatoes, stewed peas and gravy for 2d.

The Star - opened in 1863. In 1880 the landlord was a gardener. Like the landlord of the Red Lion in 1881, he was found to have "unjust measures" and fined.

The Star had its own football team - and it's where the carnival started.

In 2007 it had a major make-over and became Eynsham's first gastro-pub. It closed in 2009, and has been "re-developed" as a group of houses


Most of the information on this page comes from Do you Remember an Inn ? a Good History special issue, published by the Eynsham Junior History Group, 1997.