Nostalgia: Inn perspective

PUBLISHED: 11:52 06 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:25 06 May 2010

The Royal Oak as it was in the 50s

The Royal Oak as it was in the 50s

The Royal Oak at Biggleswade WHEN Wells and Co sold Biggleswade Brewery to Wells and Winch Ltd, the Royal Oak was still a large and important inn. On the ground floor was a taproom, market room, bar, kitchen, cellars, sitting room plus four stock and st

The Royal Oak as it was in the 70s

The Royal Oak at Biggleswade

WHEN Wells and Co sold Biggleswade Brewery to Wells and Winch Ltd, the Royal Oak was still a large and important inn.

On the ground floor was a taproom, market room, bar, kitchen, cellars, sitting room plus four stock and storerooms.

There were 12 rooms on the upper floor.

Groups of cyclists could be accommodated in the large attic.

Outside was a spacious back yard with extensive stabling, coach houses and other buildings.

A large kitchen garden provided fresh vegetables and fruit.

On the other side of the river was a one-acre water meadow.

Facing Shortmead Street was a six-roomed dwelling house that was possibly the ostler's cottage.

Contemporary reports refer to the old brewhouse, harness rooms and blacksmiths shop.

In the taproom was a vast open fireplace with the description Ye Olde Dick Turpin's Corner 1735.

The original turnpike tollhouse was adjacent at the common entrance.

A notable licensee of the inn from 1883 to 1909 was William Albone, brother of Dan Albone, who was able to use the Royal Oak meadow to demonstrate his agricultural motor.

William then moved next door into the old Sun Inn.

He died in 1914, but his wife Mary Ann lived there until 1937.

During the inter-war years, William Abbis, a coachbuilder, rented some of the outbuildings and Jack Page kept his herd of cows there.

The old stables were burned in 1918 and there was a spectacular blaze in 1967 when straw was being loaded into one of the barns.

Alfred and Arthur Shaw, the last members of a well known family of show people, parked their caravans in the yard and sold substantial amounts of stacked firewood in the winter.

Lorry drivers were also accommodated with ample parking facilities in the yard.

Harris's travelling fun fair had wintered in the Dolphin meadow in Hitchin Street until 1931 when the brewery sold it for a cattle market.

They moved into the spacious Royal Oak yard until they acquired the nearby Sun Place after the war.

The inn closed in 1970 and in 1971 was turned into a clothing factory.

The planning authorities, recognising the historic significance of the building, imposed restrictions on its use. The next development was a planning application in 1976 to demolish the building and build offices, a joinery shop, vehicle maintenance building and car park.

Next week: The demise of the Royal Oak and mystery of the Tudor tapestries.


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