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

The former inn on the site called Titup Hall

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

The inn was obviously also used by local people, and the following notice about a barbecue and an “ordinary” (a fixed-priced meal) was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 26 May 1759:

JOJ 26 May 1859

In 1762 a fossil club was formed at Oxford, and it was announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 22 May that year that its members “intend to meet at TITTUP Hall near HEADINGTON Quarries”.

Titup Hall’s importance as a coaching inn lessened towards the end of the eighteenth century when the new London Road opened with a new coaching inn, the Britannia.

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

The extract below is from a painting believed to date from 1840. It shows Titup Hall on the left, with Windmill Road leading off to the right. Titup Hall must have been demolished and replaced by the present Crown & Thistle shortly after this, as the pub was up and running by 1850.

Titup HallBodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Top. Oxon b. 90, fol. 16r, No. 33

The Crown & Thistle

In the Headington Ratebook of December 1850, the current 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 of the pub must have been demolished to make way for Titup Hall Drive, a new road created in the 1950s.

From 1903 the headquarters of the Quarry Pig Club was here. The purpose of the club was insure pig-owners for a charge of 2d. a month (later 3½d.) against loss of stock through disease: in the early days it had 220 members, but ths had dropped to 45 members by 1933.

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.

Photographs of morris dancing at the Crown & Thistle on Boxing Day 2011


The Crown & Thistle closed permanently on 31 December 2011.


The freehold of the building was purchased from Greene King for £425,000 by S. P. Singh, S. J. Kaur, and G. Kaur of Marston. on 30 November 2012, and three four-bedroomed houses were built in its car park (13/01588/FUL).

On 23 September 2022 the following application was rejected: “Permission in principle application for the re-development of the former public house for between 7no. and 9no. dwellings (Use Class C3) (All matters of design including scale, demolition and/or conversion and all technical matters reserved for future application)”


Some landlords of the Crown & Thistle

Beware: The Rose & Crown pub in Old Headington was also sometimes called the Crown & Thistle (e.g. in the 1841 census). The Mr Hancock at the sign of the Crown & Thistle, Headington, for instance who was selling underwood from Wick Farm area was presumably at the Old Headington pub, as were Mr Town in 1836 and J. Fruin in 1840.


George Coppock senior (listed as landlord in 1850, 1852, 1854)
Back in 1841 George Coppock was living in Headington Quarry with his wife Charlotte and children Robert, John, Richard, Elizabeth, William, Thomas, and George and was described 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


John Kempson
Jackson's Oxford Journal of 19 July 1890 reports that when Kempson was convicted of a breach of the Licensing Act, Morrell's gave him a good character


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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