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The Britannia Inn


The Britannia

The Britannia Inn on the corner of Lime Walk and London Road was built as a coaching inn around the time that the new London Road was cut through the fields of Headington in the 1770s, making Headington’s former coaching inn, Titup Hall on the Old London Road, quite redundant.

The inn is shown on Davis’s 1793–4 map of Headington, when it still had its original name of the White House. By the time of the Headington Enclosure Award of 1805, the inn had been christened with its present name: in that Award, Osler Road is described as “one other public Carriage Road and Driftway … branching out of the said new Turnpike Road near to a certain public House called the Britannia”. It is shown as the Britannia Inn on Bryant’s 1824 map.

Under that Enclosure Award, Plot 26, comprising the inn and its field for stabling the coach horses, was awarded to William Mott: the land then measured 8 acres 3 roods and 14 perches, and included the area now occupied by the top end of Lime Walk to the south, and the Mount Pleasant Hotel to the east.

This coaching inn would probably have accommodated travellers passing through Oxford; those needing to visit the city itself would have been more likely to sleep at the Angel or Greyhound Hotel in the High Street or the Clarendon in Cornmarket. But when horses were being changed, passengers would have taken meals at the Britannia.

The diaries of Mary Latimer of Headington House that cover the years 1817–1824 give a good picture of the London coaches stopping at Headington, and she mentions three: the Blenheim, the Angel, and the Star. Many friends of her family broke a long journey by staying overnight at Headington House, which then conveniently had a lodge on the London Road overlooking the Britannia, including her brothers’ young companions on their way to and from boarding school.

Horses were evidently changed at the Britannia, because on 18 December 1817 Mary writes: “Mrs Cooper and Miss Ricketts from Charlton took a luncheon, on their road to London, but only remained while the Coach horses were changed.” The other passengers would doubtless have taken their luncheon at the Britannia itself.

It is evident from Mary Latimer’s diaries that the Star Coach, which travelled from London to Cornmarket via the Britannia, was also used by the Headington gentry for short trips to and from central Oxford.

The Britannia coaches also feature extensively in the later diaries of 1830–1836 written by Mary’s mother Eliza. She mentions nine coaches that picked up and dropped off passengers in Headington (presumably at the Britannia): there were the Blenheim and the Star as before, plus the Champion, Union, Regulator, King William, Alert, Wonder, and a very fast coach called the Age. There is an interesting vignette of Eliza Latimer’s husband Edward waiting in vain at the Britannia on 6 September 1831: “Mr L intended setting off for London & Dover by the King William Coach, but owing to the approaching Coronation the coaches were all full, and after waiting till past one he set off in his gig with the coachman for Wycomb, from whence he proceeded in a chaise to London.”

Britannia in 1905

On 6 February 1830 Thomas Mott, son of William and owner of the inn, died: he was described as a “brewer, maltster, and farmer”. The inn was held by his Trustees, Thomas Knowles and William Parsons, who in 1836 put up for sale the land now occupied by Mount Pleasant and then seven years later sold the inn itself, inserting the following advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 7 October 1843:

Britannia for sale in 1843

It appears that the Britannia was bought by Hall’s: the Headington Rate Book for 1850 shows that the inn was then owned by the brewer Henry Hall & Co and occupied by Richard Lindars, and its land (now the top part of Lime Walk) comprised four acres and two roods, with a rateable value of £32 and a gross estimated rental of £38 4s. This was only half the size it had been in 1805.

The development of the railway spelt the end of coaching. Even as early as 1841, the census shows only one guest staying overnight at the Britannia: the wood engraver Henry Burrows, who would recently have arrived in Headington to join Orlando Jewitt. Similarly at the time of the 1851 census only one person, a dealer in silk goods, was staying at the inn.

In 1861 there were just two guests (and a live-in ostler) at the Britannia. By 1871 there were no guests, and the innkeeper was supplementing trade by operating as a fly proprietor from the inn. No landlords stayed for long during this period of decline (see table below).

Britannia and its field

 

The Britannia Field (shown on the left in 1899) occupied the area now covered by the houses at the north of Lime Walk. By 1902 the days of the coaching inn were over and few horses needed stabling, and in that year the Britannia let out its field to Headington (later Oxford) United.

An old stable building still stands to the south of the inn.

In 1910 Dring the carrier started his horse-drawn coach service from Windmill Road to Oxford, and this may have been the final nail in the coffin of the coaching side of the Britannia, whose field was sold in 1914 for the development of the north end of Lime Walk.

The 1911 census shows Harry George Watts (41) as the licensed victualler here, living with his wife Annie (48). They had been married twenty years but had no children, and they had two nephews living with them: William Jennings (29), a cowman employed by Mrs Newall of White Lodge, and Albert Edward Jennings (8).

 

The postcard below shows the Britannia in about 1940.

Britannia Inn in 1940

The building was completely refurbished in mid–2003 and is now part of the Mitchell’s & Butler Ember Inn chain.

Postcard showing the Britannia in c.1905

Some landlords of the Britannia

1805

William Mott (1805)
William Mott married Mary Collinson or Collison at St Andrew’s Church on 8 October 1773 and they had six children baptised at St Andrew’s Church: Henry (1775), Thomas (1777), James (1780), Elizabeth (1782), Edmund (1785), Mary (1788), and Martha (1792)

Thomas Mott (to 1830)
Son of William Mott. Listed as retail brewer and maltster in Pigot’s 1830 Directory. Died aged 52 and was buried at St Andrew’s churchyard on 2 February 1830

1828

Mrs Miles

c.1843

The pub was sold to Hall’s Brewery

1841–1847

Mrs Mary Ann Phelp
The 1841 census shows Mrs Mary Ann Phelp (6) described as a Victualler living at the Britannia

1847

 

Mrs Buggins. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 28 October 1847:

Mrs Phelps, Britannia

1850–1853

Richard Lindars
The 1851 census shows Richard Lindars (31 and born in Burcot) and his wife Jane (25), both described as Victuallers, living at the Britannia with their son Arthur (6) and two servants. The next year Jane had a baby girl, and mother and baby were buried at St Andrews in September; Jane (28) “after a long and painful illness” according to Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 4 September 1852

On 29 May 1853 Richard Lindars married his second wife Elizabeth Mott (daughter of the labourer Joseph Mott) at St Andrew’s Church

1854

Thomas Godfrey

1861–1864

Robert East
The 1861 census shows Robert East (59) as victualler at the Britannia, living there with his wife Sarah

1867–1872

William Tanner
The 1871 census shows William Tanner (53), described as an “Innkeeper & Fly Proprietor”, living at the Britannia with his wife Ann (52) and his son and assistant William (22). His younger son William (22) is described as a carrier, and his daughter Mary (16) and his father William (87) and his wife’s elderly aunt also live at the inn

1872–1876

Edward Matthews
Jackson’s Oxford journal of 13 April 1872 records, “The licence of the Britannia Inn, Headington, was transferred from Mr Turner to E. Matthews of Stanton St John. Matthews is listed in directories as “beer & spirit retailer, and fly proprietor”

1877

Richard Green

1881

James Frayling
The 1881 census shows James Frayling (37), described as a Publican, living at the Britannia with his wife Jane and Arabella Frayling, their 12-year-old servant and presumably a relation.

1884–1890

Arthur Wild or Wylde
Arthur and his wife Jane had two children baptised at St Andrew’s Church: Arthur John (1885) and Ethel (1888).

1891–1902

 

Walter James Taylor
The 1891 census shows the retired tax-collector George Taylor (61) and his wife Lavinia (60) living at the Britannia, and it is their eldest son, Walter (30), who is listed as the licensed victualler. Their other children Arthur (26), Rose (2), and George (17) also live there.

At the time of the 1901 census, Walter is living with his parents and his sister Lavinia (31), who is described as a helper in his business as a licensed victualler

1903

John Andrew Stevenson

1904–1908

Walter Meeson
Walter and his wife Maud had three children at the Britannia: twins Arthur William and Maud Ellen born on 10 April 1904, and Hannah Amy, born 10 August 1905, all baptised at St Andrew’s Church. Meeson was later landlord at the Chequers in Headington Quarry from 1914 to 1936.

1909

Frederick George Walker

1910–1925

Henry George Watts

1926–1947

Isaac Charles Wyatt

1952–1956+

Reginald S. Colk
(also Britannia Garage)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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