02 May 2022

Searching for the old inns
and the closed pubs
of Stony Stratford

The Barley Mow closed in 1970 … it stands on the oldest site of an inn in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Stony Stratford enjoyed its ‘golden age’ during the coaching era that arrived in the 18th century, and the first turnpike in England was on Watling Street, between Stony Stratford and Hockcliffe.

Stony Stratford was a convenient stop on the road north from London, and this town in north Buckinghamshire soon became a coaching town, with many travellers changing horses or staying the night at one of the town’s many inns and taverns.

I was writing yesterday about the Cock and the Bull, two neighbouring coaching inns or hotels on the High Street that gave rise to the phrase ‘a Cock and Bull story.’

The ready supply of horses and the facilities to change them at Stony Stratford means that the old children’s nursery rhyme, ‘Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross,’ may refer to the Cock Inn.

Many of the old inns and hostelries in Stony Stratford, however, did not survive when the coaches gave way in the 19th century first to the canals and then to the railways.

The site of Grikes Inn or Grilkes Inn … first mentioned in 1317, making it the oldest recorded inn in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Grikes Inn or Grilkes Inn once stood near the bridge that crosses the Great River Ouse, separating Stony Stratford from Old Stratford and Buckinghamshire from Northamptonshire. It was first mentioned in 1317, making it the oldest recorded inn in Stony Stratford.

Early accounts refer to a chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and a leprosy isolation hospital behind this building. Inns continued on this site for centuries, and by 1677 it was known as The Angel. The last pub on the site was known as the Barley Mow when it closed in 1970.

Today, this is a private family home, but the name Barley Mow survives over the entrance door at the side of the house.

The former Cross Keys at 97 High Street is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The former Cross Keys at 97 High Street is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Stony Stratford. It still bears its old signs, and its mediaeval timber structure, dating from ca 1480, with its moulded archway.

It was also known as Saint Peter’s Keys, and may originally have been a church-related lodging house.

This was once the town’s Guild Hall, and it later became the town’s first courtroom. The murderers of Grace Bennet, Lady of the Manor of Calverton, were tried there in 1697. Later it was tea house and curiosity shop, and today it is a hairdresser’s shop, Hair Master.

A little further south on High Street, the Fox and Hounds is another surviving inn on the west side of High Street that dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. Its features include a steep early tiled roof, a hipped dormer and a brick chimney.

Nos 92 and 94 High Street … once the Swan with a high central archway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Cross Keys and the Fox and Hounds stand opposite Nos 92 and 94 High Street, which still shows the signs of an impressive and prosperous coaching inn, with a high central archway.

The Swan, which stood on this site, also had dormitories at the rear to accommodate people travelling by coach.

This was also known, over time, as the Swan Inn, the Swan with Two Necks, and the Three Swans. The building is closed these days, although there are signs that offer the promise of reopening in the near future.

The former Rose and Crown Inn on High Street is associated with the stories and legends about the ‘Princes in the Tower’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

At the other end of High Street, Nos 26 and 28 stand on the site of the Rose and Crown Inn. This is where the uncrowned 12-year-old ‘Boy King’, Edward V, was met Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester and later King Richard III, on 29 April 1483.

The young King Edward was taken by the two dukes from Stony Stratford to the Tower of London, and it is there, it is believed, he and his younger brother, ten-year-old Prince Richard, Duke of York, were murdered.

Their disappearance has given rise to many of the stories and legends about the ‘Princes in the Tower.’

No 11 Market Square was once the King’s Head Inn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Market Square also had a number of inns and hostelries, although the Crown, close to the corner of Silver Street, is the only one that remains to this day.

No 11 Market Square was formerly the King’s Head Inn. This low, two-storey house dates from the early 17th century, with later additions. It is now a private residence, but still retains its steep early tiled roof, with brick verges and kneelers on the south gable, two brick chimney stacks, and two hipped dormers.

All the walls are cement rendered, but the windows are wooden casements in stucco reveals, with three two-light, three-light and four-light window. The wooden doorcase has two plain pilasters and a hood on two shallow cut brackets. Good door with 4 fielded and 2 incised panels.

Inside, the house retains many of its original features, including a large inglenook fireplace and a fine four-centred arch lintel with mouldings, dating from ca 1600.

Nos 12 and 13 Market Square form an interesting 17th century stone house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Nos 12 and 13 Market Square forms an interesting, later 17th century two-storey stone house.

The stones forming the heads of windows on the ground floor have sloping sides and curved tops which, with a raised keystone, give the forms of a crown. The doorway has a good moulded eared architrave, with a carving of long leaves spreading out and down from a boss with a head of a putti above a carved keystone.

Above the front door and resting on the band is a rectangular plaque with the letters ‘IAM’ above an heraldic shield and the date 1790. The letters IAM may refer to Joseph and Amelia Malpas.

Perhaps the Malpas family gave their name to the Malpas Hotel, later the Commercial Hotel, at Nos 14 and 15 Market Square. Today, No 14 houses the Alliance Fran├žaise de Milton Keynes.

The Malpas Hotel, later the Commercial Hotel, stood at Nos 14 and 15 Market Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

I sometimes wonder what these old inns, hostelries and taverns looked like in their heyday. I catch a glimpse of this, I imagine, when I visit the Crown on Market Square and the Old George on High Street, one of the oldest surviving inns in Stony Stratford.

A former posting house, the Old George dates back to 1609 and has 18th century, two-storey bay windows.

The sunken floor level indicates the original level of Watling Street and how the road through Stony Stratford has been built up and raised over the centuries.

The Crown on Market Square … a reminder of the old inns and hostelries in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
2 May 2022 (Psalm 68)

‘As the smoke vanishes, so may they vanish away’ (Psalm 68: 2) … smoke at a mountain railway station in Wales (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today (2 May 2022) is a public holiday, marking the May Day holiday. During this season of Easter, I am reflecting each morning on the Psalms, and in this Prayer Diary on my blog I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 68:

Psalm 68 begins in the Latin version: Exsurgat Deus et dissipentur inimici eius. In the slightly different numbering in the Septuagint and Vulgate, this is Psalm 67.

It has 35 verses in most English translations, including the NRSVA, and the Latin Vulgate version, but 36 according to the Hebrew numbering. It has been called ‘The Great Redemption Accomplished’ and ‘one of the greatest Psalms.’

God’s name is found in seven different forms in this psalm: YHWH, Adonai, El, Shaddai, Yah, Yahweh-Adonai and Yah-Elohim.

This Psalm is sometimes difficult to interpret. It consists of snippets, each a few verses long, commemorating how God has looked after the people. For the Early Church, this psalm foretold the ascension of Christ.

It may have accompanied a liturgy or drama in the Temple depicting the escape of the people from Egypt (verse 7), through their presence before God on Mount Sinai (verses 8, 16) to the promised land (verse 9-10) and to Jerusalem, where God dwells (verse 17). However, this movement is difficult to see in the selections of verses in the lectionary readings.

The opening verse echoes Moses’s words whenever the Ark was moved (see Numbers 10: 35).

The language in verse 2, ‘as wax melts,’ is the language of God’s presence. In Canaanite culture, the storm god, Baal, ‘rides upon the clouds’ (verse 4), but both here and in verse it is the Lord God who does his. This is God who is the defender of orphans and widows, the needy and the prisoners (verses 5-6).

Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed Exsurgat Deus (H. 215) ca 1690, set for soloists, chorus, two treble instruments and continuo, based on this psalm. Handel’s oratorio Messiah cites verses 1 and 18. There are settings by many other composers, including Johann Pachelbel and John Stainer.

The second part of verse 31, ‘Let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God,’ was part of the coat of arms of Emperor Haile Selassie, and was once used as the national motto of Ethiopia.

‘Lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds’ (Psalm 68: 4) … small clouds and clear skies over Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 68 (NRSVA):

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. A Song.

1 Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
let those who hate him flee before him.
2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
as wax melts before the fire,
let the wicked perish before God.
3 But let the righteous be joyful;
let them exult before God;
let them be jubilant with joy.

4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds—
his name is the Lord—
be exultant before him.

5 Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a parched land.

7 O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,

8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;
you restored your heritage when it languished;
10 your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

11 The Lord gives the command;
great is the company of those who bore the tidings:
12 ‘The kings of the armies, they flee, they flee!’
The women at home divide the spoil,
13 though they stay among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with green gold.
14 When the Almighty scattered kings there,
snow fell on Zalmon.

15 O mighty mountain, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with envy, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
where the Lord will reside for ever?

17 With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands,
the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place.
18 You ascended the high mount,
leading captives in your train
and receiving gifts from people,
even from those who rebel against the Lord God’s abiding there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.

20 Our God is a God of salvation,
and to God, the Lord, belongs escape from death.

21 But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
‘I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 so that you may bathe your feet in blood,
so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.’

24 Your solemn processions are seen, O God,
the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25 the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them girls playing tambourines:
26 ‘Bless God in the great congregation,
the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!’
27 There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in a body,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

28 Summon your might, O God;
show your strength, O God, as you have done for us before.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings bear gifts to you.
30 Rebuke the wild animals that live among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample under foot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
31 Let bronze be brought from Egypt;
let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God.

32 Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;
sing praises to the Lord,

33 O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
34 Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel;
and whose power is in the skies.
35 Awesome is God in his sanctuary,
the God of Israel;
he gives power and strength to his people.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Truth Tellers,’ and it was introduced yesterday by Steve Cox, Chair of Christians in the Media.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (2 May 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the work of Christians in the Media, a network which supports Christians who work in our media industries.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org