Headington history: Pubs and beerhouses

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The Mason’s Arms

Mason's Arms

The Mason’s Arms at 2 School Place (renamed Quarry School Place in 1955) was built in the early twentieth century on the site of an earlier thatched beerhouse understood to date from 1760.

A forthcoming auction of this pub was advertised thus in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 5 October 1867:

The Public House and 1 Cottage, in the occupation of Mr. Rivers and Mr. Pritchard, are situated in a large enclosed Garden, from which a good quantity of valuable stones may be obtained, and the 7 Cottages and Gardens are adjacent thereto, in the occupations of Mrs. Snow and others.—This Property is held in perpetuity, on payment of a peppercorn if demanded, so that it is equal in value to Freehold.

The first directory to name the beerhouse as the Mason’s Arms is Shrimpton’s Oxford Directory of 1875. It is probably named after the Mason’s Pit that stood behind it.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the pub was owned by Allsop’s Brewery; it transferred to Hall’s, and is now a free house. It brews its own beer, and holds the Headington Beer Festival each September.

Masons Arms, Boxing Day 2007
Crowds gather for the morris men’s mummers’ play, Boxing Day 2007. See the video

Some landlords of the Mason’s Arms

Old pub


W. Hedges is listed as a beer retailer in Quarry in directories for 1852 and 1854. As all the other known Quarry pubs in 1851 can easily be identified in these directories, it seems possible that he was already running a beerhouse on the site of the Mason’s Arms as early as the 1850s.

The 1851 census shows William Hedges (40), a Quarry-born labourer, living in Quarry with his wife Sarah (39).

By 1861–1881

Nathaniel Rivers
The 1861 census shows Nathaniel Rivers (35) and his wife Charlotte (34) living in Quarry, and Nathaniel’s occupation is given as “Labourer & Beer House”. It therefore seems likely that Rivers was running the Mason’s Arms as early as 1861, but the first definitive evidence that his beerhouse was called the Mason’s Arms is in a directory of 1875.

The couple were still at the Mason’s at the time of the 1881 census, and appear to have remained childless. They moved out of the pub soon afterwards, as there is a new landlord by 1884.

Charlotte died at the age of 58 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 24 January 1885. According to Raphael Samuel “Natty” Rivers was remembered in his retirement as a “very old” man in a little cottage near the bottom of the Mason’s Pit; but in fact he was only 68 when he died. He was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 25 October 1894.


Edward Nutt
Listed as a beer retailer at the Mason’s Arms in Valters 1884/5 directory.


Edmund Neale or Niel or Neil
The 1891 census shows Edmund Neil (aged 30 and born in Shabbington) living at the Mason’s Arms, but although he is listed in directories from 1887 to 1892 as the publican here, he gives his occupation as “Gardener”.

Listed with him in 1891 are his wife Mary Ann (aged 30 and born in Kidlington) and their three young chiildren, who were baptised at Holy Trinity Church: Ernest Edmund (25 January 1885), Eveline Emily (29 May 1887), and Florence Mary (30 December 1888).


George Batten
Batten is described as a painter living in Quarry at the baptism of his children at Holy Trinity in 1893 and 1894, but as a publican on 28 June 1896. He may have lived in the building in 1893/4, but only ran it as a pub from c.1895.

The 1901 census shows George Batten (aged 47 and born at Rose Hill) and his wife Mary (aged 47 and born at Cumnor) as beerhouse keepers here at the Mason’s Arms. They have three surviving children: Eva (9), Ethel (8), and Arthur (6).



No listing: it was probably being rebuilt at this time

Present pub


William Goodall
The 1911 census shows William Goodall as the beerhouse keeper here, assisted by his wife Rose. They were both 34, and of their ten children, only six still survived. Raphael Samuel (in Village Life and Labour) records that Goodall, as well as being landlord, “went round well-digging, contracted for walnut-bashing jobs…, did some carrying work for the local laundrywomen, and in the ‘Mason’s Arms’ itself carried on a supplementary trade in fish and chips, pickled salmon, potted meat and sweets”.

Mrs Goodall (1916)


W. W. Coppock is listed as running a beerhouse in Quarry during this period, and it seems likely that this was the Mason’s Arms

1926– 1952

Albert East (1926–1949)
Albert East died at the Mason’s Arms on 5 September 1949, and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard after a military funeral.

Mrs Rose H. East (1949–1952)


William J. J. Spencer


Clifford Gurl (died 2011)

Evidence that the Mason’s Arms was already in existence with that name in mid-1875 is shown in the following article in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 24 July 1875:

Trouble at the Mason's in 1875

The following extract from Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 21 July 1877 describes an assault on the landlady of the Mason’s Arms:

Masons Arms 1877

© Stephanie Jenkins

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