Headington history: Pubs and beerhouses

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The White Hart

White Hart

The White Hart pub at 12 St Andrew’s Road (opposite St Andrew’s Church) dates from the late seventeenth century, and is believed to have been the inn then known as “Joan of Headington’s”. It is a listed building, and retains some of its original panelling and doors. Its outbuilding at the back (facing on to the Croft) is also listed.

In the seventeenth century, Headington was a favourite destination of Oxford academics wishing to take a walk into the country. As the present main road through the centre did not exist at this time, after reaching the top of Headington Hill they would have had to go along Cuckoo Lane. This passed to the north of this alehouse, which was then kept by the infamous Joan of Headington, who apparently offered students other services along with their ale.

By 1750 the inn had become more respectable and it was around this time that it was given the new name of the White Hart.

In 1829 the White Hart was purchased by Hall’s Brewery.

The White Hart, which had stabling for six horses round the back, was the annual meet for the South Oxfordshire Hounds, who used to hunt around Marston. It was also a centre for the mummers. A 26 feet-deep well was discovered in the back courtyard in 1976, but it was covered for safety reasons.

The pub was owned by Six Continents in the 1990s, but was bought by Everards of Leicestershire and refurbished by them in 2003.

Some landlords of the White Hart

By 1784–1802

Mark Shirman (to 1797)
Shirman was baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 18 April 1742, and he and his wife Alice had their five children baptised there: Martha (1764), William (1766, buried 1768), Ally (1767, buried 1768), William (1768) and Mark (1773). Jackson’ s Oxford Journal reveals that in 1780 Shirman was a gamekeeper for the Manors of Headington and Marston, and in 1784, 1785 and 1790 he allowed auctions to be held at the White Hart.

Shirman’s wife Alice died in 1776, and he himself died at the age of 56 and was buried at St Andrew’s churchyard on 6 August 1797.

Mrs Shirman (1802)
It appears that Shirman may have had a second wife, as Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 5 June 1802 announced that a Headington farmhouse will be sold “at Mrs Sherman’s, the White Hart, in Headington”. This could also be his daughter, as unmarried women were often described as “Mrs”.


William Carter
Jackson’s Oxford Journal On 22 October 1803 advertised that William Carter of the White Hart Inn was handling the sale of two or three hunters and a pack of harriers, and on 30 July 1808 announced the sale of pasture land “at Mr Carter’s, the sign of the White Hart, at Headington”


Mr Taylor

Jackson's Oxford Journall of 11 January 1812 advertised an auction at “Mr. Teylor's, the White Hart, Headington”

Before 1830–1854

John Tew
Tew is first listed as a publican in Pigot’s Directory for 1830. The Headington Rate Book of 1851 shows that he was the occupant of White Hart, owned by the brewer Henry Hall & Co. Its gross estimated rental was then £10, and its rateable value £12. He and his wife Elizabeth had one live-in servant in the pub.Tew also farmed 140 acres of rented land in Headington, employing nine farmworkers.

Tew’s wife Elizabeth died at the age of 72 and was buried in St Andrew’s churchyard on 3 January 1869; he lived to the age of 83 and was buried there on 8 November 1869.


William Berry
Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 12 May 1855 recorded that at the Petty Sessions, “William Berry was empowered to Keep the White Hart, Headington, till next transfer day, June 23rd”, and his tenure was confirmed on 30 June 1855. Berry’s retired from the White Hart at the beginning of 1862, and he and his first wife Ann (who died in 1863) moved to Mather’s Farm, becoming a well-known local baker. He remarried and had twelve children by his second wife, Sarah.


William Wyatt (1863–1885)
Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 11 January 1862 recorded that “William Wyatt was authorised to keep the White Hart at Headington, in the room of William Berry, who has retired.”

The same newspaper on 30 October 1875 reported: “William Wyatt, landlord of the White Hart, Headington, was charged with opening his house for the sale of intoxicating liquors at a quarter past two on the morning of the 1st inst. – P.C. Harrison proved the case, and the defendant was fined 8s. 6d. only, and 11s. 6d. costs, in consideration of his good character.”

Wyatt features widely in the Headington Parish Magazines during his tenure. He supplied tea for 400 in a tent at the Harvest Festival in 1872, and a Christmas treat for the choir consisting of beer and a “substantial hot repast” in 1877, at 3s.6d a head (but the choir ordered extra beer, gin, and whiskey for themselves, which did not please the Vicar, who refused to pay). Wyatt also provided tea and cake for 280 children at the Field School at their school treat in 1878. He died at the the White Hart at age of 56 on 17 January 1885, and was buried at St Andrew’s churchyard three days later.

Mrs Sarah Wyatt (1885–1890)

Miss Sarah Anne Wyatt (1891 only). Sarah won prizes for her flower arranging at the Headington Horticultural shows of 1886 and 1887


Charles Francis Thomas (1891–1927)
Charlie Thomas, born about 1861, kept bantams at the pub, and bred them for cockfighting. He died at the White Hart at the age of 67 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 14 August 1926. The 1911 census shows Charles Thomas (51) living at the pub with his wife Annie (47) and his three children: William (20) was a cycle repairer working from home; Frank (18) was a plasterer; and Jane was only 12.

William John Thomas (1928–1949)
Bill Thomas, born in 1891, was the son of the previous landlord.


Charles H. Huckin


Mr Hanks
Hanks took down the partition to the left of the main entrance, which had previously enclosed the regulars’ room where each had his seat


Maurice K. Jacobs


Tim Hall


Neil Pigg


Linda Vinall and Dick Underwood

© Stephanie Jenkins

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