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The Royal Oak Public House Woburn

The Royal Oak around 1900, the sign in the distance is that for the Sun [Z50/135/66]
The Royal Oak around 1900, the sign in the distance is that for the Sun [Z50/135/66]

The Royal Oak Public House (previously The Red Cow): 40 George Street, Woburn

The Royal Oak was previously known as the Red Cow. The Royal Oak was listed by the former Ministry of Works in October 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. It dates from the 17th century, with 18th and 19th century reworkings. It is built of colourwashed brick which partly encases and partly replaces timber-framing. The central and left hand sections have thatched roofs and the roof to the right hand section is tiled. The central section is one storey with attics; the sections either side are two storeys. It is possible that the building was once three separate dwellings.

The first mention of it in a document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is 1774. At that time the public house was a copyhold property, that is held from the Manor of Woburn Abbotts. On 27th October Henry Land was admitted tenant [GA296]. He was the son of Ann (née Shefford), late wife of Rev. Henry Land of Tiverton [Devon], who had been the previous tenant. At this date the inn was still known as the Red Cow.

Land sold the pub to Woburn solicitor Richard Ambrose Reddall in 1796 [GA297-298] and by this date the name had changed to the Royal Oak. Reddall held the property until his death, when his wife Ann succeeded him in 1817 [GA301]. She leased the place, with a number of other licensed premises she owned in Woburn and Husborne Crawley, to George Higgins, the Bedford brewer, in 1862  [GA305].

By 1868 the Royal Oak and passed to Henry and Charlotte Land on the death of Ann Reddall [GA307]. They were admitted to other property as well as the Royal Oak, being a cottage in occupation of George Kemp in Cock End and a small piece of ground at the rear of the premises firstly described [i.e. Royal Oak] with a barn converted into a brewhouse now or lately in occupation of Edward Harnell.

Charlotte Land died in 1870 and her half of the property went to John Land [GK90/4]. Henry also died in 1873 and his half of the property was devised to his nephew William Henry Land [GK90/6]. William Henry died in 1875 and was succeeded by his executors [GK90/7]. John Land died in the 1870s and was succeeded by Jane Wickett who sold her half to William Henry Land's executors in 1879 [GK90/7] thus uniting the property in one ownership. Land's executors enfranchised the public house (i.e. converted it from copyhold to freehold) in 1888 [GK90/9]. The Royal Oak was then sold to Higgins and Sons in 1893 for £750 [GK90/11]. That firm was taken over by Wells & Winch in 1931 who merged with Greene King in 1961, adopting the Greene King name in 1963.

In 1927 the public house was valued for rates under the 1925 Rating and Valuation Act. Its rent was £42/18/10 per annum, comparatively high compared to other pubs in the district, though rent included a small field which accounted for £10 of the total. It was, the valuer noted an "Old fashioned place. Small bars. Long narrow house". It consisted of a small bar with two pulls, bar parlour, small taproom, kitchen and scullery downstairs with two cellars beneath and four bedrooms upstairs. Outside were a large barn with loft over, a woodshed and two closets. Trade consisted of six dozen half pint and six dozen pint bottles and two barrels of beer and up to one gallon of spirits per fortnight. Gas was supplied throughout the ground floor and mains water was laid on.

The aftermath of the January 2006 fire
The aftermath of the January 2006 fire

The Royal Oak has suffered two fires in its thatched roof in recent years, one in March 1985 and the other, more seriously in January 2006 [see photograph taken in February 2006]. The Royal Oak closed for the last time in 2015 and in Summer 2016 became an Italian restaurant called Fratelli.

After restoration - February 2007
After restoration - February 2007

List of Sources Held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service:

  • GA296: admission of Henry Land: 1774;
  • GA297: admission of Henry Land: 1796;
  • GA298: admission of Richard Ambrose Reddall: 1796;
  • R6/29/2/6: exchange of gardens and property adjoining Royal Oak from Duke of Bedford to Richard Ambrose Reddall: 1799;
  • P118/28/2: parochial assessment book: 1802-1833;
  • R1/78: Thomas Evans' map accompanying R2/691821: 1810
  • R2/69: Detailed survey of Woburn made by Thomas Evans for the Duke of Bedford: 1822;
  • GA299 and 301: admission of Richard Ambrose Reddall and Ann Reddall: 1817;
  • QSR1827/295-296: robbery at the Royal Oak: 1827;
  • GA300: admission of Richard Ambrose Reddall: 1839;
  • GK89/10: admission of Ann Reddall: 1839;
  • R6/29/2/8: devised in will of Richard Ambrose Reddall to Henry and Charlotte Land: 1841 (proved 1842);
  • GK90/3: admission of Ann Reddall: 1849;
  • QSR1853/3/5/9: theft of a tumbler from the Royal Oak: 1853;
  • GA305: lease from Ann Reddall to George Higgins: 1862;
  • GK90/1: Succession Duty certificate: 1864;
  • GK90/2: presentment of the death of Ann Reddall: 1867;
  • GA307: license to Henry Land and Charlotte Land to demise: 1868;
  • GA309: lease from John Land to George Higgins: 1868;
  • GA310: lease from Henry Land and Charlotte Land to George Higgins: 1868;
  • GK90/4: Succession Duty paid: 1870;
  • GK90/6: admission of John Land: 1872;
  • GA312: lease from John Land to George Higgins: 1872;
  • GA313-314: lease from John Land to George Higgins: 1872;
  • GK90/7-8: admission of George Lyddon and James Walter Friend: 1879-1880;
  • GK90/9: enfranchisement: 1888;
  • GK90/11: conveyance: 1893;
  • ST/U4/13 and 15: valuation: 1893-1894;
  • Z50/135/66: photograph: late 19th/early 20th century;
  • GK4/4: part of agreement to raise shares in Higgins and Sons Limited: 1902;
  • GK4/6: included in schedule of deeds of Higgins and Sons Limited: 1927;
  • GK4/7: agreement for lease of water and sewerage rights: 1927;
  • GK297/1: conveyed, with other properties, from Higgins & Sons Limited to Wells & Winch Limited: 1931;
  • BTNegOB50/5: negative: 1931;
  • Z818/86: photograph: c.1930s;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/279: civil defence training in club room: 1952;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/295: civil defence tenancy: of club room: 1956;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form: 1963;
  • PY/PH79/1: photograph: 1979;
  • FSD/PC31: fire at premises: 1985;
  • PCWoburn30/10: transfer of license: 1991;
  • PCWoburn30/27: transfer of license: 1995;
  • PCWoburn30/29: transfer of licensee.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1802-1818: Edward Hammell [Hannell];
1828: John Freeman;
1839-1843: Thomas Judge;
1847-1854: William Bell (also cattle dealer and horse hire);
1861-1877: Joseph Barnwell;
1883-1884: Henry Sinfield;
1884-1889: David Giltrow;
1889-1893: George Fryatt;
1893-1901: John Bowles;
1901-1906: Ann Bowles;
1906-1915: Samuel Berry;
1915-1921: Arthur James Pettit;
1921-1922: Robert Edward Mackenzie Heanley;
1922-1924: Edward Fripp;
1924-1932: Walter Charles Scoot;
1932-1936: Mrs.Martha Jane Scoot;
1936-1938: Percy Charles Cunningham;
1938-1939: Charles Henry Cunningham;
1939-1947: Harold William White;
1947: Percy William Walton;
1951: Peter Rowe;
1966: Peter J. Bennett;
1970: Carol Anne Bennett;
1970-1971: George Frederick Moorcraft;
1971-1981: William Pilkington;
1981-1985: Brian James Adlam;
1985-1991: David Walter Elkin;
1991-1992: Howard John Thomas;
1992: Christopher Roy Spooner;
1992: Christopher Roy Spooner and Janet Spooner;
1995: James Robert Rudgley and Nigel Charles White.