The History of Twickenham Licensed Premises 1700-2012

Over 200 public houses, beer houses and other forms of licensed premises have existed at some time Twickenham’s history over the past 300 years. A few of those that were around in the eighteenth century are still with us today and what this blog will do is to give you an insight into the premises that have come and gone over the years.

The following pages relate to my forthcoming book to be published by the local history society, BOTLHS later in 2012.

We shall begin with a glossary of the types of premise that appear;

1) Alehouse: This describes a humble premise from 17th-18th century that would offer ale, cider, port or wine. Food was very basic and quite a lot offered nothing. accommodation would have been the stables and the furnishings of premises vary spartan with rudimentary furniture and a flagstone or dirt floor.

2) Beer house: In 1830 an act was passed that allowed the ordinary householder to apply for a licence to sell beer and cider only. If he also wanted to sell tobacco then that would require a separate licence. There was no catering in the smaller ones indeed, some were nothing much more than glorified off licences and customer would sit outside in the street or back garden to drink his fill.

3) Beer-retailer: The licensee of the above listing.

4) Inn: A place where beer, wine and spirits could be consumed along with substantial food and accommodation.

5) Public House: A catchall for licensed premises.

6) Recognizance: A legal obligation before a magistrate, a registered licence.

7) Tavern: A place where beer, wine & spirits plus food was sold but with no accommodation.

8) Victualler: A licensee.

Abbreviations; BL – British Library, LMA – London & Metropolitan Archives, LVR – Licensed Victualler Record, PRO – Public Records Office.

The cover picture is from an early view of the Red Lion now sadly a Tesco Metro but more of that premises later.

This view of the centre Twickenham taken c.1904 was near the time that the Angel closed. As we can see it was placed next to the large coaching inn the King’s Head and stood on the corner of Water Lane. It is first mentioned in the census of 1851 when the licensee is listed as Mary Tapps. Her husband John was the licensee of the King’s Head next door until his death in 1844. Mary herself held the licence of the Angel until close to her death in 1864 and had employed a William Muff to run the bar. There followed a string of six licensees with George Preece being the final one. A number of signs can be seen outside the pub, the two at the top front advertise Watney’s beers and stouts, at the front there is a sign advertising teas and accommodation for cyclists (this presumably was next door) and round the side is another “To Eel Pie Island Hotel & Gardens”. When King Street was widened in 1928, the building and the adjoining King’s Head were pulled down and the new King’s Head rebuilt on the corner.

The King’s Head by comparison was a much grander affair. It was originally called the Feathers which was a reference to the then Prince of Wales later to be George II, the feathers being part of his insignia. The Feathers started life sometime prior to 1722 but by 1726 had closed. Just when it was demolished and the King’s head built-in its place is a matter of some conjecture and it could quite easily have changed its name as there are plenty of premises listed between 1727 and 1743, when the King’s Head is first mentioned. The plans taken from an indenture show the pub & area around.

To the far left we can see the Angel and the Angel’s garden. Then follows the bar and hotel followed by a shop for off-sales. Next is the entrance for the coaches with stabling, coach house, harness room, hay lofts and right at the back, the garden which ran down to the river. The first recorded licensee was one Samuel Wood in 1743 and there followed another eight licensees. By 1814 it was owned by Ann Roberts who in 1837 sold it to Cole’s who were brewers in their own right and owned a brewery where the ex-Royal Mail sorting office stood. By the time the picture was taken it was part of Watney’s and in 1914 was run by Joseph Mayo who was the son of Elizabeth Mayo who ran the Eel Pie Hotel. In 1928 the old pub was again demolished and a new smaller building was erected in its place. In the late 1960’s the pub changed its name to the Bird’s Nest and boasted of among other things, a stainless steel dance floor and internal telephones at every white plastic table. In the 1970’s it reverted to its old name but was finally closed towards the end of that decade.

The Eel Pie Hotel / White Cross in the AitShip in the Ayte / Island Hotel to list just a few of the names that refer to this premise has had a lot written about it and a lot of legends attributed to it. One of these stories concerns the

Mistress Mayo who made eel pies for King Henry VIII. This like a lot of legends is totally false. Elizabeth Newman Mayo 1800-1895 lived a ripe old age indeed but NOT long enough to have catered for Henry VIII! The Mayo family had owned the hotel since 1837, seven years after it was rebuilt by one Henry Horn. Mary’s husband Thomas ran it until 1841 when his son James took over. James died in December 1862 and the reins passed to Elizabeth who carried on until 1882.

  The earliest mention of a drinking establishment was in 1729 when Richard Blake appears in the LVR for that year and premise is named as In Ye Ait. Although an entry in a parish book dated 1608 refers to Jeremy Holmes being in charge of One Ayte. The building in its early life was a lot more smaller but was obviously profitable. Henry Horne acquired it in 1780 and demolished it and rebuilt in 1830. Throughout the Victorian period and into the Edwardian era it remained a popular place for the wealthy to stay and more alterations were made in 1891.  During the 1940’s and 1950’s it became popular for couples to visit the ballroom where jazz and swing bands would play. It remained a popular music venue into the 1960’s hosting groups such as the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and the singer Long John Baldry.  In the latter part of that decade, it fell into disrepair and later became a hippie squat. It was mysteriously destroyed in a fire in 1971 and flats now accommodate the site.

This brings me on to some of the more outlandish stories that are attached to some of Twickenham’s pubs.  The Jolly Blacksmith now the Old Goat on the corner of Sixth Cross Road and Hampton Road was once reputed to have been the haunt of Dick Turpin who used the inn as a hiding place whilst fleeing the law across Hounslow Heath. Bong! The original building was built  in 1853 and the unfortunate Mr Turpin was hanged in 1739, 114 years before the pub was built.

The George in King Street is another pub of legend and in this case the perpetrators were the owners at the time Henekey’s. A booklet was produced in the 1930’s that included an article about the pub. The blurb stated that when Henekey’s were reconstructing the pub an ancient bed was found behind some panelling in one of the rooms. It goes on to say that “legend has it that Anne Boleyn once slept in it on her way to Hampton Court”. Now the pub is certainly a very old one but it is definitely not Tudor. The first mention of the pub is in a newspaper from 1709 so it is safe to assume that the building 17th century. Curiously there is no mention of it in the LVR until 1737. One possible explanation for this could be that the larger inns offering stabling and accommodation were in some way exempt. The George was one of the larger coaching inns of Twickenham with extensive stabling to the east side and a large wine store in the back yard. There were to entrances, one a cobbled path that led off of King Street and another in Holly Road (then Back Lane) at the rear. Then inn was used for a great many purposes including an auction house and a place to hold inquests. In 1798 the then owner Thomas Maddocks also ran the coaching company with coaches leaving every day to Hayes at 8am and 2pm, fare 2 shillings and sixpence. During the 1960’s the cobbled path was concreted over and the pub interior extended.

A sign outside the Ailsa Tavern in St. Margaret’s reads thus; “Tradition has it that the Ailsa was named after a young woman of that name who was once the landlady of pub. The story goes that she and a local dignitary would meet via an underground passage, which ran from the tavern to his house some distance away. The couple could not meet in public because of the differences in their social positions would have scandalized public opinion at the time. The tale is probably based on fact because rumours about the tunnel exist to this day”. This is a real corker, total pure fantasy by a pub chain trying to romanticise the pub. The Ailsa Tavern was first opened c.1859 by Benjamin Burtenshaw and was named after Archibald Kennedy, the 12th earl of Cassilis who became the 1st Marquess of Ailsa in 1831. Ailsa Craig is a volcanic plug 10 miles west of Girvan in the Firth of Clyde. The Marquess resided for a time in the area and Cassilis Road is also named after him. There was an underground tunnel in the area that connected Lord Tobermorey’s mausoleum to Gordon House but not to the pub. Interestingly, the blurb seems to have admitted what the pub was called prior to the landlady meeting her swain. The original name of the pub was in fact the Ailsa Park Tavern but the “Park” was dropped from the name many years ago.