Headington history: Pubs and beerhouses

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The Britannia Inn

The Britannia

The Britannia Inn on the corner of Lime Walk and London Road was built 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 as the White House, but was the Britannia by 18o5. The Headington Enclosure Award of that year describes it as a mere pub in this description of Osler Road: “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 however shown as the Britannia Inn on Bryant’s 1824 map.

Under the 1805 Enclosure Award, the inn together with its field for stabling the coach horses (Plot 26) was awarded to William Mott. Its 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.

When horses were being changed here, doubtless passengers would have taken meals at the Britannia, and those on a journey to places like Worcester may well have stayed here. (People whose destination was Oxford itself were more likely to sleep at the Angel or Greyhound Hotel in the High Street, or the Star (Clarendon) in Cornmarket.)

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. A photograph of the pub in 1957 can be seen here.

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


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 Directory for 1830. Died aged 52 and was buried at St Andrew’s churchyard on 2 February 1830

To 1821

Robert Miles, formerly of Breach Farm, Stanton St John, who died on 15 May 1821 and was buried at Stanton St John


Mrs Ann Miles, his widow
On 3 December 1829 at St Andrew's Church she married Thomas Phelp.


Thomas Phelp. His death notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal states that he died on 21 May 1837 at the age of 55 from the rupture of a blood vessel


Mrs Mary Ann[e] Phelp
The 1841 census shows Mrs Mary Ann Phelp, described as a Victualler, living at the Britannia.

During her tenure, in about 1843, the pub was sold to Hall’s Brewery

She retired in 1847, and died aged 70 on 12 March 1851



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

Mrs Phelps, Britannia

On 7 July 1849 Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported a violent assault at the Britannia on Mrs Mary Buggins and her daughter Martha Buggins


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 in St Andrew's churchyard 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


Thomas Godfrey
Licensed to keep the Britannia on 25 March 1854 until 24 June 1854


George Vallis
Licensed to keep the Britannia on 24 March 1855


Robert East
Licensed to keep the Britannia on 9 January 1858
The 1861 census shows East (59) as the victualler at the Britannia, living there with his wife Sarah.
He ceased to be landlord by 1867, but remained in New Headington and died there at the age of 86 on 1 January 1888


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


Edward Matthews
Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 13 April 1872 reported: “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”


Richard Green


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


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



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


John Andrew Stevenson


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.


Frederick George Walker


Henry George Watts


Isaac Charles Wyatt


Reginald S. Colk
(also Britannia Garage)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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