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The Royal Oak Public House Potton

The Royal Oak Public House: 4-6 Biggleswade Road, Potton

The Royal Oak March 2007
The Royal Oak March 2007

The Royal Oak was listed by the former Ministry of Public Buildings and Works in October 1966 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing states that it was two separate properties dating from the 11th century and 18th century! The first date is obviously an error, presumably it should read 17th century. The structure consists of colourwashed roughcast over a timber frame, much of the right hand building was rebuilt in the 20th century (see below) but the warped framing of the left-hand building must be original.

The south-west part of the Royal Oak August 2013
The south-west part of the Royal Oak August 2013

The countywide licensing register of 1876 simply states that the public house had been licensed over a hundred years before. The first reference to the Royal Oak is the licensing register of 1822 to 1828 [CLP13]. By 1834 it was owned by Biggleswade brewer Samuel Wells, who devised it in his will to Frederick Hogg and William Lindsell and the firm was later known as Wells and Company. The public house continued in Wells and Company ownership through the nineteenth century. In 1899 Wells and Company was purchased by Kent businessman George Winch for his son Edward Bluett Winch, becoming Wells and Winch Limited.

The sale catalogue for Wells and Company described the Royal Oak thus [GK1/36]: “occupying a prominent position, with tile-paved entrance; Tap Room, Parlour, Club Room, Scullery, Cellar, four Bed Rooms, and three Garrets. Also Bar, Stables, Coach-house and Store, large Garden. In the occupation of Mr. G. Summerfield, at £9 per annum. Two Four-Roomed Cottages on left, with a very spacious Yard, approached by pair Gates, and about 3 acres Cropping Land. Let to Mr. G. Kitchiner, at £23 per annum. Freehold”.

The countywide licensing register of 1903 states that the building was in good repair. It was 73 yards from the nearest licensed premises and had one front and two back doors. The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Potton, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Royal Oak [DV1/C9/37] found it had "very low pitched rooms" and was "very old fashioned. Dark. At cross roads".

The pub had three bedrooms and a box room upstairs. On the ground floor were a tap room, a parlour, a living room, a sitting room and a kitchen and, below that, a cellar. It sold a barrel of mild weekly and nine gallons of bitter. It only sold a quarter of a gallon of spirits a month.

In 1961 Wells and Company merged with Suffolk brewers Greene King, becoming Greene King (Biggleswade) in 1963, the Biggleswade reference was dropped in 1990. The Royal Oak was in a poor state by 1979 and had to be substantially repaired. It is still [2007] a Greene King public house.

The Royal Oak in the 1970s [X758/1/8/78]
The Royal Oak in the 1970s [X758/1/8/78]

References:

  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Licenses: 1822-1828;
  • GK0/1: conveyance of Samuel Wells’ brewery: 1834;
  • Z1039/34/1: epitome of conveyance: 1835;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Licenses: 1822-1828;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • GK1/36: sale catalogue of Wells & Company of Biggleswade 1898;
  • Z1039/34/2a: conveyance of Wells and Company to Wells and Winch: 1899;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • X758/1/10/21: photograph of darts team: c.1940s;
  • PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  • X758/1/17/39: photograph post reconstruction: c.1970;
  • X758/1/8/81-85: photographs: c.1970s;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980

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

1822-1830: Ann Seamer;
1839: David Seamer;
1847: James Seamer;
1853-1854: William Kitchener;
1861-1896: George Kitchiner;
1896-1904: George Summerfield;
1904-1905: Sarah Summerfield;
1905-1928: Frederick George Summerfield;
1931: John Arthur Poole;
1936-1940: Walter S. Arney;
1957-1958: Frederick George Wright;
1958-1963: Arthur Edwards Simmons;
1963-1970: Sidney Walter Thomas Coleman;
1970-1976: Arthur Francis Daglish Richardson;
1976-1995: John Barry Hare