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By Mike Smith, Erstwhile Mayor of Buckingham and Old Gaol Trustee

Did someone say Pub Crawl?

Here at the Old Gaol we run tours round the town of Buckingham showing where all the old pubs were. Email info@ for our next Historic Pub Crawl.


Many new-comers and visitors to Buckingham remark on how cheerful and friendly the townsfolk are. We at The Old Gaol think we may know the reason why – the town and surrounding area had (and continues to have) an abundance of public houses!


Inns & Hostels

In medieval times, religious establishments were charged to entertain and lodge travellers and pilgrims, which they did within their own premises.


As the numbers of travellers increased, however, it was found to be preferable to house them in separate premises outside the gates – and the first inns came about.


These were still run by the churches and monasteries but, as the influence of the church slowly declined, the control of the inns moved into the hands of the laity. These were inns and hostels and, although they primarily catered for travellers, they would supply drink to anyone.



Quite distinct from inns and hostels, these were originally kept by vintners, later referred to as taverners, who sold wine to their customers.


A tavern is known to have existed opposite St John’s Chapel as early as 1473.


Unlike taverns, alehouses only sold ale.


Alehouses have been in existence for over a thousand years, and were thought to have been introduced to this country by the Saxons.


It was the custom to display an evergreen bush on the end of a projecting pole whenever a fresh brew of ale was available, and these were the origin of the pub signs we know today.


In 1577 an Order in Council had been made for a return of all licensed premises in England. The intention was to tax them in order to raise funds needed to repair Dover Harbour.


From associated paperwork, we know that in 1577 Buckingham had one innkeeper-vintner, two other innkeepers, and eleven alehouse keepers. One of the earliest alehouses in Buckingham was The Bush, which we know was operating in 1636 on West Street.


Buckingham's Brewers

In Buckingham, the pioneer of brewing was Thomas Stutchbury, whose premises were in the north-east of the town, where the Masonic House former surgery stands. 


The Swan Brewery was based in School Lane. Its building was owned by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham who, from 1842, leased them to a succession of brewers.


The first was Alfred Redden of The Rising Sun in Nelson Street. By 1853 the building was being used by Revill and Thorne, brewers and maltsters. The premises were then rebuilt and leased to James Bacon for £60 a year for 10 years. At this time, Mr Bacon rented from the Duke eight other inns in Buckingham and the surrounding villages.

In 1863, the Duke leased the brewery and all eight inns to Edward Terry, a brewer from Aylesbury. This package was passed onto Terry's son John in1871. John ran the inns until 1886. Brewing continued here for only a short while longer (under Higgens and Swain & subsequently the Aylesbury Brewing Company) until brewing ceased in the 1890s.


The Woolpack and the Mitre are two names with which you are likely to be familiar. Both are still viable public houses with rich histories dating back hundreds of years. 

But what of The Colliflower, The Bell, The Dog and The Fleece?

These are the names of just a small number of the lost pubs of the town which date back, in some instances, to the early 1500’s. 

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