Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Angels of Stony Stratford

From the north, the first house on the right was The Barley Mow
For a period there was a trend, almost amounting to a craze, to name inns and alehouses The Angel. Quite what prompted this is unclear but there was a period when there was an Angel at the north end of the High Street and another at the south end, causing one wag to observe that Stony Stratford was protected by angels at both ends.

There is a long history of an inn on the site of the Barley Mow going back to the 14th century when it was called Grik's Herber (The Greek's Auberge). We are not told the location in the deed of 1317 but we an infer it from 17th century documents which locate this parcel of land here and call it "Gregg's Arbour". Being on the west side it was part of the Calverton manor but during the 13th century, when there were a number of disputes between the de Veres and the de Wovertons, Sir John de Wolverton acquired a strip of land on the west side to safeguard his market tolls.

It was on record as The Angel in 1677 but by 1770 it was known as The Barley Mow - a name it kept until it was converted to a private residence. It is quite possible that its tenure as The Angel did not last long. At the time the manor changed hand in 1713, Gregg's Arbour was "in Sir Edward's hands" and in succeeding years it was leased by one of the millers, with mooring rights. So while there has been a long history of an inn on this site, it should not be assumed that there was continuity. We might guess that as roads improved in the 18th century some entrepreneurial spirit decided to try his hand once more and the new inn was named The Barley Mow.


The Plough on the left in the 1930

At the other end of town, on the London Road, was an inn called The Rising Sun. This was on record in 1770. Later it changed its name to The Angel. It probably changed its name to The Plough in the 19th century. It still has this name except that when the school closed in the 1930s The Plough moved into the premises. Thus at one time you could have gone to school in Stony and enjoyed a pint in the same premises a few years later. Actually, since it was a girl's school, that would have been a gin and Britvic. A late 18th century foundation for this inn seems about right as there would have been no compelling reason to build south of the Wolverton Road before this date.

Which brings me to another curiosity. In 1629 Lettice Ashby, the widow of William Ashby, transferred her lease for The Angel Inn, east side, to Richard Hearne. In the course of this deed we learn that it had been originally leased by Sir Henry Longueville in 1613 to George Walton, a saddler. We can't necessarily assume that George Walton ran it as an alehouse, although he could have combined both jobs. Richard Hearne does not make a further appearance and there is no mention of The Angel in any early 18th century documents.

However, there is a record in 1713 to a Michael Garment: "The Queen's Head Inn, has held it 19 yeares without lease, and has it now." His annual rent was £5 10s. (for comparison the Three Swans was paying £67 14s.) There was no land attached to The Queen's Head. Apart from it being on the east side it is difficult to place.

The most obvious area to look is that section between New Street (Ram Alley) and the Wolverton Road. To the north they were all older burgage plots with a fair strip of land at the back. On that basis I would be inclined to look for it somewhere in the vicinity of the Rose and Crown. By the same logic The Nag's Head should be also nearby. Neither establishment would be very grand. They might call themselves inns but they were not in the same class as The Cock or The Bull or The Three Swans. I would consider them to be in the category of alehouses, with limited provision for food and cheap accommodation. The fact that neither of these names survived for very long would suggest that they were businesses operating at the margins.

One last fragment of information: in 1700 Sir Edward Longueville sold n inn known as The Gate  to one Joseph Bird. Sir Frank Markham has determined that this lay at 12 High Street and was demolished  during rebuilding in 1872. Given its location near the beginning of the town this might well have been the former Angel.

Let me try to summarise this. It is outright speculation, an attempt to join the dots, but with no confidence that any of this is a supportable conclusion.

In 1629 we learn that an inn called The Angel had been operating, probably since 1613. It may have gone out of business at some time in the 17th century. There is no record of any lease to an inn of any name until 1713 when we learn that Michael Garment has been renting a building since 1694; it is known as The Queen's Head, possibly re-named in 1702 after Queen Anne came to the throne. It may have been in the same building as The Angel or it may have been another converted house. You could even make a case, based on the slender evidence we have, that it was The Angel when Garment took over and he re-named it it 1702. I think it unlikely that this building was across the road where the later Rising Sun/Angel/Plough came to be, partly for the reason given above and partly because we would expect it to have some land attached on the undeveloped side of the Wolverton Road.

On balance I incline to the idea of The Gate being the location of the former Angel. The location does fit in with the reported tale of there being two Angels at the entrance to both towns and it is possible that the Angel survived through various owners in the 17th century before Joseph Bird, coming into a more secular age, decided to modernise the name.
On the right hand side, the location of The Gate and possible site of  The Angel.



The third (or even fourth) Angel is one of recent memory. It appears on a street plan of 1806 and operated as a small pub until recent memory.



The Angel, on the left

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