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Headington history: Pubs and beerhouses

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The Chequers


The Chequers, Headington Quarry

The Chequers at 11 Beaumont Road, Headington Quarry is a stone building, part of which dates from the eighteenth century. It has a sunken garden that was created from a disused stone quarry.

The pub was extensively remodelled in 1930, as can be seen by comparing the photograph above with the nineteenth-century engravings below. Its front wall was taken down; the club room on the right was removed; and it was greatly extended on the right-hand side and given a new entrance.

Old picture of the Chequers

Free School and quarries

Before the First World War, the Chequers was the centre of Quarry village life, and Quarry’s first post box was set in its wall.

It is interesting that St Andrew’s Church opened its first school, the Free School, not in Old Headington but here at the Chequers (in its outbuilding, shown on the right of the above engraving). This was the home of the school from 1807 to 1874. The Master was James Waring, but a George Phillips is recorded as being a schoolmaster when he and his wife Mary Silver had their first seven children baptised at St Andrew’s Church. Phillips is, however, described as a publican at the baptism of his last two children in 1828 and 1830, implying a connection between the school and the pub.

The building was later used as a club-room, where the Quarry morris-dancers practised. The club-room was pulled down in 1930, around the time Quarry got its own village hall in Margaret Road.

In 1847 the landlord of the Chequers was the stone-cutter Thomas Goodgame, but he died of paralysis at the age of 67 on 28 February that year, and his wife Charlotte took it over. She can be seen living there alone, aged 70, at the time of the 1851 census.

The Headington Rate-Book for December 1850 shows that the Chequers was then owned by the brewers Henry Hall & Co and occupied by Charlotte Goodgame. It is described simply as a “House & Garden” with a rateable value of £7 and a gross estimated value of £10 per annum.

The Chequers was always a family pub, and remained in the hands of three local families (the Goodgames, Coopers, and Meesons) for over a hundred years. The early landlords (as in most other Headington pubs) combined working at the pub with other occupations: Thomas Goodgame was also a stonemason, while Thomas Cooper was also a hay and straw dealer.

The Chequers pub closed in January 2007, but was reopened by Scottish & Newcastle the following November. That brewery then put the Chequers up for sale for £550,000, advertising it as having “development/ refurbishment potential”. It was bought by Steve Jenkins, landlord of the Red Lion in Old Marston, and reopened after refurbishment on Saturday 12 April 2008.

Morris dancing at the Chequers
Crowds watching the Boxing Day morris-dancing at the Chequers

Some landlords of the Chequers

1847–1885

Thomas Goodgame (Listed as Landlord in 1847)
Goodgame (60) is listed in the 1841 census as a stonecutter, and was probably already living at the Chequers with his wife Charlotte (55). He died at the age of 67 and was buried in St Andrew’s churchyard (Quarry was then still part of the Old Headington parish) on 4 March 1847

Mrs Charlotte Goodgame (Landlady 1847–1851+)
Mrs Goodgame (70) is living alone as a widow at the Chequers in 1851. She died at the age of 85 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 19 February 1865

Stephen Goodgame senior (Landlord by 1860–c.1880)
Thomas and Charlotte Goodgame’s son Stephen is listed in directories as being a “Beer retailer & stone merchant” at the Chequers, but in the 1861 census he is described as a “Quarry Man and Publican”. He was then 48 and living at the Chequers with his wife Hannah (47), his son Stephen (23) who was a stonemason, and his daughter Emily (19). In 1871 Stephen is described only as a “stone merchant”; his wife Hannah is described as Annie, and they have two granddaughters living with them, and one servant. By 1881 he had handed the pub over to his son of the same name and had retired to Wesleyan Terrace in Quarry. He lived until the age of 85 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 12 April 1900

Stephen Goodgame junior (Landlord c.1880–1883)
In 1881 Stephen Goodgame junior (43) was living at the Chequers with his wife Ann and children Frances, Walter, Harry, Herbert, and Reginald. He did not, however, remain landlord for long, and after a few years he became the shopkeeper in Quarry High Street. (As he was also a quarryman, his wife must have looked after most of the shop business.) He died at the age of 89 at 27 Quarry High Street and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on on 14 December 1927.

1887–1913

John Cooper (or Cowper) (Landlord 1887–1901)
In directories John is listed as a hay and straw dealer as well as a publican, but in the 1891 census he is described as a mason. Aged 37, he was born in Barton, and he and his wife Emily. lived at the Chequers with their four children (George, Rosa, Arthur, and Harry) and John’s father George. In 1891 John is still described as a mason, and the only child still at home at the Chequers is Harry (17). John Cooper died at the age of 47 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 5 May 1901

Mrs Emily Cooper (Landlady 1902–1913)
Emily took over running the pub, and as her husband had been a mason as well as a publican, it can be assumed that she had done much of the work even when he was alive. The 1911 census shows her living at the Chequers as a widow of 60, with three of her five children still alive. She is described as the innkeeper, while her unmarried son Harry (26) was assisting in the business. Mrs Emily Cooper retired in 1913 when she was 61, and died at the age of 73 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 30 September 1922

1914–1947

Walter Meeson (Landlord 1914–1936)
Walter J. Meeson had been landlord of the Britannia from 1904 to 1908. He was landlord at the Chequers for 22 years, and died there at the age of 60 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 13 July 1936.

Mrs Maud Meeson (Landlady 1936–1947)
Maud took over the pub on her husband’s death and ran it until her retirement. She moved to Divinity Road, where she died at the age of 84 in 1958

1949–1951

Cyril D. Benefield

1951–1976

                      

Charles F. Eden (Landlord 1950–1960)
Charles Eden (who had previously been Head Barman at the George Hotel in Oxford) and his wife Rosa took over the Chequers on 13 November 1951. During their time Darts, Bar Billiards and Aunt Sally teams teams from the pub won many cups. The pub was a focal point of the village, and Charles became President of the Quarry Nomads Football Team. William Kimber and the Morris Men used the front of the pub for dancing on many occasions.

Rosa Audrey Eden (1960–1976)
Following her husband’s death in 1960, the tenancy was in Rosa’s sole name until she retired to Old Marston in October 1976; she died in 2003.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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