From ancient times Faringdon has been an important crossroads and a busy market town. By 1813 coaches to London from the West Country came through on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and by 1840 coaches were coming through twice a day. Horses needed to be changed, which explains the large number of mews and stabling around the town and the coaching inns for the travellers; Faringdon was a town known for its hospitality, ales and good food.
Rosa May James has been quoted for writing the following for her son in 1896 to show how many pubs there were in Faringdon.
‘Driving into the town of Faringdon this morning I was delighted to find an old and valued friend The Duke of Wellington and having shaken hands with him by way of Salutation we proceeded down Glos’ter St escorted by the Volunteer and made the best of our way to Marlborough Arms. We had just seated ourselves for a drink when the Landlord informed us that the Angel had seen the Crown* knocked out of the Queens Arms by the Duke of York. Determined to see if such a thing was true we started away to Coxwell St where we met the Gardener with the Wheatsheaf* in his arms just preparing to feed the Swan*. He told us he had never heard of such a thing but since our arrival in town there has been a desperate fight between the Red Lion and the Eagle and that the eagle was at the top of the street and the lion was chasing the White Hart all round the Folly*. Off we set again and getting to the Market Place we were alarmed at the tolling of the Bell*. Enquiring what was the matter we were told that the Tap had been stopped and the old Bull had kicked the Star over into the Bakers Arms.’
Most of the 20 pubs mentioned in the above quotation were still here in the 1960s & 70s and served a population of a little over 3000 – it had been around that figure as had the pubs for at least the past 150 years. Only 5 pubs within the town (marked with *) now remain open in 2022 with more than three times that number of people now living here. With the decline of the livestock market and travellers needing to pass through the town, Faringdon is no longer what it was.
The Lost Pubs of Faringdon
The following early pubs did not make it into the 20th century and have either been demolished, renamed or changed use. Some have yet to be located and may not have been in Faringdon. The dates given are from various sources and the pubs may have been in existence earlier than so far recorded:
Anchor, 1864, unknown location.
Blue Boar, unknown location.
Craven Arms, 1864, unknown location. There was one on Fernham Road in Uffington. Now a private house.
George, Bull/London Street, 1824-81
Green Dragon, Gloucester Street, 1830-61, on site of the Corn Exchange.
Harp, 1830-52, Gloucester Street, renamed the Welsh Harp, 1854-81.
Kings Head, Bell?/London Street, 1700.
Masons Arms, Southampton Street, 1841-81.
Plough, Market Place, 1842-51.
Rising Sun, appears as a pub sign in an old photo from around the 1870s at the start of Southampton Street behind what became Barclay’s Bank. It may have been a tap room for the Faringdon Brewery that was there.
Royal Oak, London Street, 1809-68.
White Horse, London Street, 1844-47.
Windmill, Windmill Hill/Street, Faringdon, 1847-63. This may have been at or near an ‘old windmill’, which is marked on an 1842 map on Stanford Road – at the end of a short track opposite the footpath leading to Folly Hill.
The Prince of Wales, Faringdon Road Station. Recorded landlords 1847-81. It is often listed mistakenly as a Faringdon pub but it was in fact 5½ miles away at Challow on the road to Wantage. Faringdon Road Station was renamed Challow Station in 1864 when Faringdon got its own railway station. The pub continued trading even after the closure of the station in 1964 but was destroyed by fire in 1999 and demolished.
Pubs into the 20th Century
The following are the 20 pubs mentioned in the above quotation, presented in a circular pub-crawl kind of route that you might have taken before most of them closed; plus three more that are or were situated on the outskirts of the town: Sudbury House Hotel*, The Plough, and The Fox & Hounds* (now Snooty Mehmaan).
2000. The Old Crown Coaching Inn in the Market Place is a Grade II listed, 16th century building. It was built on the site of an early hostelry and was re-fronted in Georgian times. This was the chief inn in Faringdon as far back as 1681 when Thomas Baskerville visited the town. Note the arch for the entry of horses and coaches. There were stables behind the inn for the horses. Through the archway there is a cobbled courtyard now used for outdoor seating.
There is a fine example of an Elizabethan external stairway, called the Judge’s Staircase, one of only two such remaining in England. This gave access to Manorial Courts which sat in the courtroom on the first floor. It is said that Judge Jeffreys held a court here after the Monmouth Rebellion, in 1685, when he hanged four or five local residents. The County Court held monthly sessions here until they moved to the Court in the Police Station on Coach Lane. It was also used an Excise Office.
A tunnel leading off towards the church from the cellars, and then to Wadley Manor, enabled Royalist soldiers in the Civil War to move in safety. The garages and storerooms at the rear were once stables. The stained glass window in the downstairs bar is probably of 14th Century glass and features a Lancastrian red rose which predates the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 (after which the Yorkist and Lancastrian houses merged under the Tudors). Some other windows have the emblem of Queen Eleanor of Castile (widow of Edward I) who died in 1214. Before the Civil War, England had no standing army and men were pressed into service. In 1640, there was an incident in the Crown when pressed men from Dorset sought out a Lieutenant Mohun for striking off the hand of a drummer boy who had threatened him and whom they believed had died as a result. The mob found Mohun and his fellow officers in the Crown; he tried to escape by climbing out of an upstairs window and clinging to the pole of the inn sign; but they poked him off with an 18 foot pike. He was then half drowned in an open sewer (now culverted under Cornmarket) but he survived. Unfortunately, a boy saw him climb out and told the Dorsetmen who then beat him to death. A hue and cry ensued and five Dorsetmen were hanged in Abingdon for the crime.
2004. The Portwell House Hotel to the right of the Crown used to be part of the Crown and was called the Angel Inn as far back as at least 1847 until the 1920’s. Also a Grade II listed building. It was where the drivers and labourers drank whilst their ‘betters’ patronised the Crown Inn. Around the side of this building is the doorways to the inn and also to the old Post & Telegraph Office and PO Savings Bank, which occupied the corner of the building between 1860’s-1900’s until the new Post Office was built in Marlborough Street in 1898. The bar was known as the Portwell Angel when it closed in 2018. There have been variously titled disco bars, wine bars or cellar bars on the ground floor over recent years.
2016. The Crown Tap was a semi-detached building in the car park behind the Crown. The earliest landlord record dates back to Henry Tuck 1891. Like the Angel Inn, but probably even more so, it was obviously there for the coach drivers and stable hands to be kept well away from their passengers who were generally of a much higher class. Access to the building is up a narrow lane, shown on the right in the photo, which comes from beside the newsagents at 22 Market Place in ‘The Narrows’. A ‘tap’ room was historically a place for the local brewery to sell its beverage, ‘tapped’ from the barrel to the local people, usually on-site or in a nearby building. In this case that would probably have been the Eagle Brewery that was situated where the town car park in Southampton Street is today. During the late 1940s and early 1950s the Tap was owned by the same people that had the Crown who’s name was Taylor and it was managed by Mr & Mrs Tipler. In the early 1960s it was converted into a private house called Crown Cottage.
c.1880s & 1994. Salutation Hotel, on Church Street opposite the church. Landlord records date back to Moses Pike 1830. More recently it became Faringdon Hotel. The building is on the site of a monks’ lodging house, which dated from when the Cistercian Order was given the Manor of Faringdon by King John in 1203. It is thought to be the site of a hunting lodge used by King Alfred the Great and his son Edward the Elder who succeeded him in 901. This was a coaching inn, the entrance visible in the middle of the older picture, which is around the side in Church Street opposite the church. The coach and horses used to go through the entrance into a yard and then exit into the Market Place between the old houses that used to be on the corner. The left-hand side of the hotel was later a doctors’ surgery. The hotel required numerous staff to run it and here are some of them photographed with mein host. The landlord is dressed in a frock coat and his wife is next to him holding a dog in her arms. In the 1890s, the hotel was extended by taking over and rebuilding the old house on the corner that had been occupied by Mr Pettifer, the builder. The hotel closed in the late 1990’s and was converted into flats.
1953 & 1970’s. The Wheatsheaf, 5 London Street. Grade II listed building. The earliest landlord record dates back to James Tinson 1830. The stables were at the rear of the pub so the horse had to be taken down a narrow passage to reach them. The landlord in the 1950s was Mr Chandler who had been a cowboy in the U.S.A. and decorated the bar with his memorabilia of those days.
1950s? & 2000. The Marlborough Arms, London Street. Grade II listed building. Records of landlords exist between 1864-1931. Being on the corner of Swan Lane it was originally called The Swan (recorded as Bull Street in 1830, London Street in 1840-1854). The pub closed before the 1980’s and became the Viceroy Tandoori Restaurant.
Early 1900s, in both photos, The Bull Inn, London Street is on the right and The Star Inn on the left. Both have records dating back to 1854. The Star Inn closed around the early 1970’s. The Bull closed around 1992 when the licensees Jim and Heather Smythe went into voluntary liquidation and a new buyer could not be found. Both are Grade II listed buildings and now private houses.
1953 & 2012. The Folly Inn, 54 London Street. An early C19 Grade II listed building. Records date back to landlady Elizabeth Shaylor, Bull Street, 1830.
1990s. Sudbury House, since 1989 a hotel, restaurant and conference centre is the last property on London Street, on the corner with Stanford Road. The old house at the front, a Grade II Listed building, was built in 1703. It was originally the private home of Samuel Sadbury (not an error) and later a home and school run by Rev Bradley then Dr. Bowles. In the second photo London Street is to the right of the hotel and the Highworth Road and Badbury Hill are visible in the distance beyond the town. In the third photo, taken from London Street, the Folly Tower can be seen on the top of the hill across from the hotel car park.
1993. The Bakers Arms in Ferndale Street. This street used to be called Back Street, then Union Street because Faringdon Poor Law Union, commonly known as the Workhouse, was situated there, just on the other side of the road to the pub. The pub closed during the 1990s and is now a private house.
c1900s, 1953 & 1995. Grade II listed building. Records of landlords of ‘The Bell’ exist from 1830-1931. However, the older photo taken some time around 1900 shows that it was called T. Franklin Commercial Hotel at that time. The bell is a prominent feature on the wall but there appears to be no traditional pub signage with that name. Originally it was once a tenement of Beaulieu Abbey where the Cistercian monks ran a hospice in the 12th and 13th Centuries. There are traces of a tunnel from the Bell leading towards the church. A stone mullioned window looking onto what is now the Quad, formerly Barclays Bank, is thought to be Tudor.
The building was re-fronted in the late 17th Century when it was a famous coaching inn with stables at the back. The stables have since been converted into kitchen and accommodation, and the cobbled courtyard where the coaches used to stop provides a pleasant sheltered area for today’s less equestrian customers.
When the Faringdon Railway branch line was opened in the 1860s the Bell advertised “every train arriving at Faringdon Station will be met and any person desiring to stay at the Bell Hotel will be conveyed with their luggage to the Hotel”
The Red Lion, Corn Market. Grade II listed building. This is possibly the oldest pub in Faringdon. It started trading in the 14th Century and became a famous coaching inn with extensive stabling. It is featured in the book Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes of Uffington, as the inn where the bully Flashman drank. The cut-off end of the building shows where Mr Taylor’s fish shop was demolished to create the site for the Post Office. After many changes of ownership and periods of closure, the pub finally closed in 2021 and is due to be converted into a cafe.
1953 & 1995. The Swan Hotel, Christopher Square, Station Road on the corner of Bromsgrove. The first recorded landlord was William Shave 1877. The first photo shows Station Road before it was straightened and widened to provide a main route to the new A420 bypass. Note the Folly Tower poking up in the background of the last photo, taken from the Eagles across the road.
1953 & 1989. The White Hart, at the corner of Marlborough Street and Gravel Walk. The first recorded landlord was Joseph Rixon 1830. In the older photo, Ann’s garage can be seen on the right. That has been demolished and is now the Faringdon Garage (Peugeot) showroom. On the left in the newer photo is Aladdin’s Cave, an antique centre, which used to be Boffin’s butcher’s shop. That has since been demolished and replaced with a block of flats looking somewhat similar to the old pub next door. At about the same time, the pub closed in 1990 and was converted into flats.
1953. The Duke of York Inn at the corner of Coxwell Street and Gravel Walk. The first recorded landlord was William Bradfield 1830. Since 1920 the licensee was Michael Giannadrea. The pub was still there in the late 1960’s but was eventually closed and demolished for the United Church to be built on this site. In 1900 it was reported that George Webb who for many years had been landlord of the inn committed suicide on the first day of the new year and that the inn was used also as a lodging house by most of the hawkers and others of the travelling fraternity who visited the town.
On the other side of Gravel Walk can be seen Boffin’s butcher’s shop with the public weighbridge in front. Out of shot to the right is the White Hart. Crossing the junction is Cadel’s milk churn lorry en route to the Express Dairy, Mervyn Carter, butcher’s boy, is on his delivery bike. On the right, the iron railings enclose Mr Absolom’s outfitter’s shop in Station Road.
1953. The Gardeners Arms, #10 Coxwell Street. The only inn keeper on record was Joseph Warman 1891. The pub closed sometime before the 1980s and was converted to two private houses. Almost hidden behind the house next door is the Methodist Church. Then the last building on the corner is the Duke of York and across the road (Gravel Walk) is the White Hart. All three pubs now gone.
1994. The Pink Elephant, at #40 Coxwell Street. It was originally The Queens Arms, landlords recorded 1844-1931. It later became The Riddle for a short time then finally closed down in the late 1990s and became a piano shop. In 2014 it was converted to a private house.
c1910 & c1992. The Eagle Inn, #56 Coxwell Street. This is the last property in Coxwell Street as hereafter it becomes Coxwell Road. Elizabeth Sheppard was recorded as innkeeper in 1891. The Eagle closed down in the 2000s and is now a private house. The pub is just visible on the left in the older photo looking back towards the town. The Queens Arms (became the Pink Elephant) is half way down on the left and the Gardeners Arms is further down near the bottom of the street.
The Duke of Wellington,at the beginning of the Lechlade Road and before the infants school. Grade II listed building. The first recorded landlord was John Woolford 1830. It closed down in 2012 and is now a private house.
2000. The Plough, situated just outside Faringdon on the A420 towards Swindon. At this time it had recently been denied permission for a 10 bed extension and was soon sold to become converted to a private house.
2000. At this time called The Snooty Fox Inn but it was originally known as the Fox & Hounds. It is situated just outside Faringdon, past the turning to Littleworth on the A420 towards Oxford. It has since been renamed the Snooty Mehmaan, a revamped pub offering Indian and Thai menus, plus live tribute acts.
* still open to the public
- The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Bk1 p66-71. By Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications. Now out of print.
- Public Houses, Inns & Taverns of Faringdon, Oxfordshire – https://pubwiki.co.uk/Berkshire/Faringdon/index.shtml
Researched by Ian Lee, November 2019.