Thursday, February 12, 2015

The White Horse


The White Horse looks as if it has been in Stony Stratford for a long time, and at one level it has. The present building was built in the late 18th century and first licensed in 1773. The site was probably occupied by earlier inns  and it would be reasonable to assume that there had been other inns there that preceded this one. They were, however, not called the White Horse.

The use, some might say overuse, of certain names in Stony Stratford's inn history can be confusing. There are several reports of a White Horse in Stony Stratford.

A White Horse gets mentioned in state papers in 1540, during the reign of Henry VIII. The Stony Stratford Guild apparently owned the house and there was a dispute between the wardens of the guild and the lessee. As is often the case with these disputes, the outcome or settlement was not recorded. Presumably there was one. In 1608-9 the White Horse (possibly the same one) was inherited by the son of William Matthew. If this was the same house then the Guild must have disposed of the property at some time during those 60 years. Its location will probably remain unknown.

A White Horse gets mentioned in the Overseers accounts between the years 1672 and 1680 and again in the Bridge Charity accounts of 1734.

We have to wait until 1770 before we can say with some confidence that the White Horse mentioned in the Constable's book, which recorded military billeting, was very definitely on the east side of the High Street and this is corroborated by the licensing register of the period. The licensee was Samuel Gayton and he had been there for  some years. It either closed down or became something else in 1772. Prior to 1761 the house had the sign of The Ship and was in the hands of William Ashpool (Ashpole) and curiously, Ashpool had changed the name from the White Horse to the Ship in 1754.

We don't have a lot to go on. Was this White Horse on the East side the same one that had been mentioned in the 17th century and the 16th century? Possibly, but we cantons with confidence because  Stony Stratford's inn names did change with some regularity.

The inferred location of this White Horse, taking the Constable's book as a guide, is that is was somewhere around where the Kardoman Restaurant is, possibly on that site itself. prior to New Street being built in the 19th century, the former Ram Alley would have been at the corner of Kardoman.

That particular building underwent a number of rebuilds. It opened in 1820 as a new inn called The Swan. Later in the century the name was changed to the White Swan, which it held for most of its life as  a pub, apart from a brief excursion as the Stratford Arms towards the end of its life. The present building, although it looks quaintly half timbered, is only 100 years old, being rebuilt on the site in 1915.

As you can see from this photograph, taken circa 1911, the former White Swan has a very different frontage.

Back to the present White Horse. This is now approaching 250 years of continuous operation. The arch to the yard is quite high to allow the spring 18th century coaches to pass through. It is worth comparing that to the much older Cross Keys further to the north, which has a low arch. When it was built carriages sat on the axle and were quite low to the ground.

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