Headington history: Pubs and beerhouses

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Former Crown & Thistle pub, Old Road

Crown & Thistle from the east

The present Crown & Thistle at 132 (formerly numbered 62) Old Road was built just before the middle of the nineteenth century, but there was an inn called Titup Hall on this site for at least two hundred years before that.

Crown & Thistle from the west

A seventeenth-century survey of Oxfordshire coaching inns shows that “Hiddington” could offer six guest beds and stable twelve horses, and as Old Road was then the only route to London, the inn offering this accommodation must have been Titup Hall.

The Flying Coach, the first coach to reach London in just one day, left from Titup Hall on 26 April 1669 with Anthony Wood on board.

Titup Hall’s importance as a coaching inn was greatly diminished, however, as soon as the new London Road opened towards the end of the eighteenth century, and the Britannia took over as Headington’s coaching inn.

Titup Hall



Left: Titup Hall and the junction of Old Road with the Slade and Windmill Road in 1820.

The old stables behind the inn were used as Headington Workhouse until the new building opened on the London Road in 1838.

The auction of Titup Hall was announced thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 28 October 1809:

A good Stone-built House and Premises, with large Garden and Orchard, situate at the foot of Shotover Hill, and known by the name of Titups, together with a Tenement and Garden, situate at Headington Quarry, in the occupation of James Jones and others, subject to the life of the said James Jones, aged about 60 years.

The first mention of the pub with its current name occurs in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 17 November 1827, which announces that an auction of underwood from Wick Coppice will be held “at Mr Hancock’s, the sign of the Crown and Thistle, Headington, near Oxford”. A similar sale took place in 1836, when Mr Town was the landlord.

On 11 April 1840 the new landlord, J. Fruin, inserted the following advertisement:

Mr Fruin takes over in 1840

In the Headington Ratebook of December 1850, the Crown & Thistle is named and shown as being owned by the brewer James Morrell and occupied by George Coppock senior. Its gross estimated rental was then £10 and its rateable value £7-10s.

Crown & Thistle

Crown & Thistle, c.1900


Above: The Crown & Thistle in about 1905, and left in about 1930. The building to the left must have been demolished to make way for Titup Hall Drive.



After a series of short-term landlords, the pub was run by the Lee family for 82 years from 1891 to 1976.


When Morrell’s closed, the pub was taken over by Greene King


The Crown & Thistle closed permanently on 31 December 2011.


Three men from Marston bought the pub from Greene King for £425,000 at the beginning of 2013, and planning application 13/01588/FUL that they submitted in June to build three four-bedroomed houses on its car park was approved.

Some landlords of the Crown & Thistle


Mr Hancock


Mr Town


J. Fruin


George Coppock senior (listed as landlord in 1850, 1852, 1854)
In 1841 George Coppock was living in Headington Quarry with his wife Charlotte and children Robert, John, Richard, Elizabeth, William, Thomas, and George. He is described in the census as a stonecutter. In 1851, at the age of 50, he is described as a publican at the Crown & Thistle. He died at the age of 72 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 1 May 1873

George Coppock junior (listed as landlord in 1854)


Elizabeth Bryan
Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 19 July 1856 records: “Elizabeth Bryan was authorised to keep the Crown and Thistle at Headington Quarry, in the room of George Coppock, till transfer day.”


John Bushnell
Jackson’s Oxford Journal , 3 April 1858: “Petty Sessions Bullingdon Division — County Hall, Oxford, Mar.27. This being the day for transferring licenses, the following transfers were made:— … John Bushnell, to keep the Crown & Thistle, at Headington Quarry, in the stead of Elizabeth Bryan”


George Watts
Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 5 January 1861: “George Watts to keep the Crown and Thistle at Headington.” In the 1861 census George Watts (25), born in Kingston, Berkshire, is listed as “Victualler” at the Crown & Thistle. He had married a widow 14 years his senior, Holton-born Mrs Ann Hall, and her shepherd son Arthur Hall (19) was living with them, as well as their three children Helen, William, and Jane.


Robert Hawkins
Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 4 January 1862 records: “Robert Hawkins was licensed to keep the Crown and Thistle at Headington, in the room of George Watts, who has left”.

By 1869–1871

Leonard Massey
The 1871 census shows Leonard Massey (28), born in Arncott, as publican at the Crown & Thistle. Living with him at the pub are his wife Elizabeth and daughter Eleanor (3). Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 2 September 1871 reported that he had his licence refused following a caution for trading on the previous Good Friday.


James Frayling
Frayling is listed as landlord here in directories of the mid-1870s, but by 1881 he was landlord of the Britannia


David Brownsill
The 1881 census shows David Brownsill (50), born in Marsh Gibbon, as Publican at the Crown & Thistle in Titup. He was living at the pub with his wife Harriet (30) and their three children Francis, Laura, and William


Richard Green


Elias Kimber


William Lee (landlord 1891–1917)
The 1891 census shows Cowley-born William Lee (53) as publican at the Crown & Thistle, living there with his wife Rebecca and children Percy, Kate, Walter, Edmund, and Edward Frank (known as Frank). In 1901 William is still listed as the publican, and the only children at home are Edmund (23) and Frank (17). By 1911, only Percy (42), a bricklayer’s labourer, was living with his parents at the pub. William Lee died at the age of 79 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 15 January 1917; Rebecca died at the age of 87 and was buried there on 8 April 1926

Frank Lee (landlord 1917–1927), son of William above
Frank Lee died at the age of 43 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 7 March 1927

Mrs Elizabeth Lee (listed as landlady 1927–1934), wife of Frank above
Mrs Lee died at the age of 52 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 12 December 1934

Frank W. R. Lee (landlord 1935–1976), son of Frank & Elizabeth above
Frank William Richard Lee was the son of Edward Francis and Elizabeth Jane Lee. He was born at the pub on 27 July 1907 and baptised in Holy Trinity church. He started serving behind the bar at the age of 10 in 1917 and retired in 1976. The pub then passed out of the hands of the Lee family

© Stephanie Jenkins

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