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The Royal Oak Public House Round Green Stopsley

The Royal Oak Round Green about 1950 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/RORG1]
The Royal Oak Round Green about 1950 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/RORG1]

The Royal Oak Public House: 370 Hitchin Road, Round Green

The earliest mention of the Royal Oak at Round Green (as opposed to the Royal Oak in Leagrave and the Royal Oak in Windsor Street!) is in Slater's Directory for Bedfordshire of 1850, when the tenant was Edward Parratt. In 1860 Edward Burr's brewery and its licensed houses were conveyed to Luton brewer Thomas Sworder, who had purchased them in 1857 [Z660/D/1/4]. The purchase, along with unwise speculation in malt, bought Sworder to the brink of bankruptcy and his firm laboured under heavy debts for much of its existence. Parratt was still licensee at that date and the description of the house notes that it had use of a well in Little Close, in return for paying part of the maintenance costs of the well.

On Saturday 3rd August 1867 William Worsley and Levi Welch, two known bad characters were drinking at the Royal Oak with James Day. About midnight the landlord, Welch's father-in-law John Gazeley, shut up shop and the three left. A few minutes later Worsley and Welch assaulted and robbed a man named William Bradbury or Bradberry who was walking home to Lilley [Hertfordshire]. He was taken back to the Jolly Topers and died at 8.20 a .m. on the Sunday morning. Worsley was the last man to be hanged in public in Bedfordshire, and very nearly in England, on 31st March 1868. Welch, who turned Queen's evidence to act as a prosecution witness against Worsley was pardoned.

In 1897 Thomas Sworder's business was put up for sale. The sale particulars [X95/313] described the Royal Oak as follows:

A FULLY-LICENSED PUBLIC-HOUSE
Known as
"The Royal Oak",
ROUND GREEN, LUTON,
on the main road to Hitchin and about a mile from Luton Railway Stations. 

It is brick-built and slated and contains: -

Bar, Bar Parlour, Tap Room, Pantry, Scullery with sink and copper, Coal Place, Four Bed Rooms, Club Room approached by separate staircase, and Cellar with cask entrance. 

Yard, Two Privies, Weatherboarded Shed with slate roof and Garden at rear and side affording space for enlargement.

Tenant, Mr. S. Landsell. Rent, £12 per annum. Land Tax, 14s. 8d. Tithe, 4d. per annum

The architecture of the Royal Oak today and in the 1960s is not consistent with an early 19th century building but is consistent with public house architecture of the first years of the 20th century. The implication is that J. W. Green Limited rebuilt the house soon after buying it but there is no surviving evidence in the J. W. Green archive [WB/Green] to substantiate this, though evidence from 1917 below seems to confirm it.

In 1917 there was an investigation into the number of licensed houses in Luton and surveyors and estate agents Brown & Merry were asked to make surveys of a number of licensed premises. Rough notes on the Royal Oak [BML10/45/10] read as follows:

Comparatively new House
Capacious and convenient, built on purpose.

Public bar 17 feet by 12 feet by 8 feet 3 inches access to lavatory, counter 4 feet
Private bar 17 feet by 12 feet by 8 feet 3 inches, counter 6 feet
Jug and bottle 4 feet counter
Entrance to Public bar Right Private left Jug B front.
Large saloon or Club Room 24 feet 10 inches by 14 feet by 8 feet 6 inches.
Access to yard.
Sitting Room or Kitchen.
Back Kitchen
4 Bedrooms. Bath & W. C.
Yard Stabling & Coachhouse & Public U & W. C. s 

Yards from Shepherd & Flock.

J. W. Green Limited merged with Midlands brewer Flowers in 1954 and the new company adopted the Flowers name. This firm lasted just eight years, being taken over by Whitbread in 1962. Whitbread divested itself of its public houses in 2001. The Royal Oak initially survived and was certainly in business as late as 2005 but in 2010 the premises was closed and had undergone remodelling.

The former Royal Oak Round Green June 2010
The former Royal Oak Round Green June 2010

Sources:

  • Z660/D/1/4: conveyance of William Burr's brewery by Edward Burr and Richard Hatley Crabb to Thomas Sworder: 1860;
  • BS2234: ten year lease from Thomas Sworder and the executors of Edward Burr to William Anstee, John Cook and Benjamin Bennett: 1862;
  • X95/283: account of rents of Thomas Sworder's licensed premises: 1867;
  • X95/304: rent in barrels of Thomas Sworder licensed properties: 1867;
  • X95/270: copy mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee and Benjamin Bennett junior: 1878;
  • Z660/D/1/6: conveyance from Edward Burr and Thomas Joseph Sworder to Thomas Sworder: 1878;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • X95/287: proposed arrangement of loans for Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/309: abstract of title of Thomas Sworder: 1889;
  • X95/296: schedule of Thomas Sworder's properties held by William Anstee as security for loans: 1889;
  • X95/322/20: draft mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee: 1889;
  • X95/332a-b: abstracts of title of Thomas Sworder to licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/299: schedule of deeds of Thomas Sworder's licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/313-314, Z210/84 and WB/S4/1/1/5: sale catalogues of Thomas Sworder's brewery and licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/315 and WB/Green4/1/VP1: draft conveyances of licensed premises from Thomas Sworder to J. W. Green Limited: 1897;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of articles of association and licensed houses owned by J.W.Green Limited: 1897-1936;
  • BML10/45/10: draft report for the licensing magistrates: 1917;
  • WB/Green4/1/VP6: List of papers handed to Barclays Bank Limited to be placed with deeds: 1919;
  • WB/Green4/2/2: certificate of title to licensed properties of J.W.Green Limited: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis ledger of J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of licensed properties of J.W.Green Limited: c.1936;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter from J.W.Green to solicitors Lawrance, Messer & Company asking which licensed properties had been in continuous occupation: 24 Jul 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: Trust Deed of J.W.Green Limited with list of licensed premises: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: Various loose schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Lu/RORG1: photograph: 1960s.

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known 

1850: Edward Parratt;
1864: W. Day;
1867: John Gazeley;
1873: Richard Green;
1873: George Cumberland;
1877: David Brinkworth;
1885: George Powell;
1889: H. Hamilton;
1890: Septimus Cobb;
1892: Mrs. Louisa Mary Holland;
1894: Simpson;
1894: S. Landsell;
1897: William Howe;
1902: Riley;
1903: Thomas George Palmer;
1903: Truncheon;
1904: Cooke;
1908: Robert Girling;
1911: Cook;
1912: George Devonshire;
1934: Minnie Hyphemia Devonshire;
1946: Dora Florence Major;
1967: Frank Charles Parker;
1970: Norman Arthur Hards;
1972: Norman Arthur Hards and Edward James Fisher;
1974: Norman Arthur Hards and John Varney;
1975: Norman Arthur Hards and Anthony Paul Avent;
1980: Anthony Paul Avent;
1983: Stephen Weir Myles;
1983: Stephen Weir Myles and David John Janes;
1983: Michael James Sutherland Wilkins and David John Janes;
1985: Stephen Benjamin Gill and Joseph Patrick Seaten;
1986: Colin Paul Stewart;
1989: Alex Michael Hayter and Douglas Vickers;
1989: David Joseph Hough;
1989: David Joseph Hough and Alex Michael Hayter;
1989: Alan Murray Jones;
1990: Alan Murray Jones and Alex Michael Hayter;
1990: Alex Michael Hayter and Timothy John Courtney;
1991: Alex Michael Hayter and David Joseph Hough;
1991-1992: John Kincaid