Sunday, January 20, 2013

A possible date for The Bull at Stony Stratford

Documents that refer specifically to The Bull begin to appear in the late 17th century. These have been noted in the Hyde-Markham book on the History of Stony Stratford in the appendix. From that time the Bull is fairly well documented but because of its destruction by fire in 1742 there is no way of identifying an earlier building until some archaeological work is undertaken on the foundations.

Marion Hyde's map of Stony Stratford circa 1680, drawn over 50 years ago and much reproduced, shows a date of 1609 against The Bull. I cannot trace any documented reference to this date unless it is in one of the several versions of Michael Hipwell's will and I have missed it. The date 1609 most probably comes from that source. I should also note at this point that the same map suggests a date of 1480 for the Rose and Crown. This does fit in with the belief that many people held 50 years ago that the inn was there when the two Princes were abducted by Richard of Gloucester in 1483. Modern research is less supportive of that idea today.  Much of the present building at 26-28 High Street  is 18th century although it does contain some 16th century elements.

Back to a date for The Bull. I have come across this document in the Nottinghamshire Archives which was prepared in 1710 for the prospective sale of the Wolverton Manor.
The Bull Inn has been lett for as much this 80 years, no land about the Town of Stoney Stratford but what letts for forty-fifty shillings an Acre, when any to left; several are Courting for it their being not Ground anough to supply the Occasions of ye Towns people.
The italics are mine, but this figure allows us a start date of 1630. By comparison the same writer refers to the Three Swans inn has been lett time out of mind. We know that at the very minimum the Swan  was in business in 1526 when it appears in Bradwell priory records, and Browne Willis in the 18th century was of the view that it was this inn where the royal party were staying in 1483. (I have discussed this question in an earlier post.)

If we take this reference as an approximate foundation date for The Bull Inn this does raise the question of what may have been there before? The medieval burgage plots (long strips of land going back from the Watling Street) do continue southwards to approximately where New Street now sits, so there would have been something on the site of the Bull. Was it an inn under a different name? Possibly.

However the innholder lists of 1577 indicate that there were 4 innholders on the east side. If, as I argued in my earlier post about 1577 innholders. we take the Cock, The Three Swans, the Red Lyon as three we know were there in the 16th century and we accept the Rose and Crown as the fourth, then there would have been no place for the Bull in that list - which may support the idea that it was indeed a 17th century foundation.

Nothing is absolute here, but on the basis of what I have showed, you could make a case for The Bull  dating back only to 1630

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