From ancient times Faringdon has been an important crossroads. The road from London to Cirencester, via Abingdon and Oxford, and then on to Gloucester, Bristol the West Country and South Wales crossed the road from the North of England, via Coventry and Burford, to Marlborough, Winchester and Southampton. Note that the streets in the town centre are named after the principal coach destinations. From 1635 a courier service ran between London and Bath and the Crown was where the mud-spattered post-boy riders changed their horses; but, because of their drinking habits, they were appallingly unreliable. By 1773 Faringdon was connected by a turnpike to London and Gloucester, and by 1752 to Wantage and Wallingford. By the 1780s stagecoaches were used for delivering mail, which was more reliable than the post-boys and Faringdon is where the gummed envelope was invented! By 1813 coaches to London from the West Country came through on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and by 1840 coaches were coming through twice 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.
It has been alleged that Rosa May James wrote 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.’
The following are some of those 20 pubs mentioned above, only 6 now remain open.
c.1880s & 1995. Salutation Hotel, Church Street. 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 picture. The coach and horses used to go through the entrance into a yard and then exit into the Market Place between Mr Pether’s house and Crowdy & Rose. 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. It was later given a new, its current, frontage in the 1890’s. More recently it became Faringdon Hotel. It closed in the late 1990’s and is now converted to flats.
1953 & 2000. The Old Crown Coaching Inn in the Market Place is a Grade 2 listed, 16C coaching inn, 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. The County Court held monthly sessions in the Crown until it moved to the Court in Coach Lane, The Crown was also used as an Excise Office. In the foreground on the left is Jack Davis from Langford’s coal-yard in Bromsgrove, and the man holding the bike is Arthur (Stoker) Edgington. The man on the right, in breeches, is Stanley Liddiard from Liddiard’s shop. Just in front of the Portwell is Burtwell & Drew’s Raleigh three-wheeler van.
There is a cobbled courtyard from which 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 until the 1920’s. 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 which was there 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.
1953 & 1970’s. The Wheatsheaf, London Street. 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 was Mr Chandler who had been a cowboy in the U.S.A. and decorated the bar with his memorabilia of those days.
19?? & 2000. The Marlborough Arms, London Street. Closed before the 1980’s and became the Viceroy Tandoori Restaurant. The photos also show #21 next door when it was either a hairdresser’s 1930-60s or later a picture gallery, and then a private house.
Early 1900s, in both photos, The Bull Inn, London Street is on the right and The Star Inn on the left. The Star closed before the 1980’s. The Bull closed during the 1990s. Both now private houses.
1953 & 2012. The Folly Inn, London Street. An early C19 listed building.
The Bakers Arms in Ferndale Street, also known as Back Street. This street used to be called Union Street because Faringdon Poor Law Union, commonly known as the Workhouse, was situated there. The Union building was demolished in 1968 and is now the site of Brackendale and the Pitts Estate. Closed during the 1990s, now a private house.
1953. The Bell Inn, Market Place, on the right, was once a tenement of Beaulieu Abbey where the Cistercian monks ran a hospice in the 12th and 13th Centuries.It was re-fronted in the late 17th Century when it was a famous coaching inn with stables at the back. The buildings on London Street are occupied by Noel Wilkes’ ladies and gents outfitters; Mr Thair’s boot arid shoe shop; W.H. Smith’s paper shop; Shenton’s sweet shop; a private house; Chamberlain’s grocery shop. 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. 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. The end of the building shows where Mr Taylor’s fish shop was demolished to create the site for the Post Office. 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.
Before 1863. Green Dragon Coaching Inn was opposite the Volunteer, where the Corn Exchange exists now.
1953 & 1989. The White Hart, at the corner of Marlborough Street and Gravel Walk. 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 St. and Gravel Walk. The licensee was Michael Giannadrea. Closed and demolished, the United Church was built on this site.. 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. Closed before the 1980s, now two private houses. Almost hidden behind the house next door is the Methodist Church. 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, was originally The Queens Arms, on the right at #40 Coxwell Street. It became The Riddle for a short time then closed down in the late 1990s and became a piano shop. In 2014 it was converted to a private house.
2000. The Snooty Fox (previously the Fox & Hounds), situated just outside Faringdon on the A420 towards Oxford. It has since become the Snooty Mehmaan, a revamped pub offering Indian and Thai menus, plus live tribute acts.