The Plough story

by Shaun

The Plough Inn, situated in The Bottom is a Grade II listed building. It bears the date 1772 inscribed in the keystone of the voussoirs lintel above the entrance door. The building was originally a house of modest proportions with a two-room plan and central through passage, probably built for a husbandman (small farmer). The left hand room has an inglenook fireplace and the building was extended substantially in the late 18th or early 19th century and again in the 20th century. If the date-stone is correct, within five years of being built it was being used an alehouse. Jackson’s Oxford Journal reports that on 27th September 1777 there was a sale by auction at the Plough of Home Farm. William Harris was the proprietor.

The Victoria County History of Oxfordshire states “the Plough … was probably one of the two premises licensed in Finstock in 1780”. Until the enclosure of land, which came very late to Finstock in 1861, substantial parts of the village were held by the Manor of Charlbury, which in turn was owned by St John’s College, Oxford. In the 1786 Land Tax assessment William Harris was assessed at £1, being shown as an occupier. He is also appears in the 1799 Terrier of the Vicarage of Charlbury (a record of manorial land holding).

A series of records from the Court Baron of Charlbury Manor reveal a series of tenants held the Plough and adjacent land by Copyhold, or customary tenure in the early 19th century. Copies of these can be seen displayed on the walls of the Plough.

On 23rd April 1821 St John’s College sold the Plough to William Hall, esquire of the City of Oxford. He had purchased the Swan’s nest Brewery, later the Swan Brewery and The Plough was acquired as a tied house. Henry Hall succeeded William as proprietor of the Swan Brewery in 1837 and it was not until 1896 that the brewery became a company, known as Halls Oxford Brewery Ltd. Halls was taken over by Allsopps in1926, and further consolidation through Ind Coope and Allied Breweries took place. Although the Halls name survived for many years, brewing moved from Oxford to Burton-upon-Trent. In the 1970’s the Plough was sold into private hands where it remains today.

The 19th century history was dominated by two publicans. Alfred Eeles, born in Leafield in 1817, became landlord in c. 1840 aged just 23 and remained the innkeeper at the Plough until 1874. He also ran a grocer shop in High Street to where he moved. Ann Archer, at 34 years old was publican the Plough on his behalf in 1871 and after her marriage just three years later her husband Jason Bowerman took over. However, both Alfred Eeles and Jason Bowerman died just a few years later leaving Ann to take on the role of licensed victualler again. She remarried in 1883 to Lewis Pratley, a retired Police Constable but her death in 1897 ended a 26-year association with the Plough.

In 1863 the Finstock Independent Benefit Friendly Society was formed with the registered office at The Plough Inn. It initially had 41 members rising to 72 in 1874. Membership fell back to around 42 when a Methodist based society was formed in the village in 1883 and membership remained constant until it was dissolved in 1911. Monthly meetings were held at The Plough representing the clubhouse where members were required to pay their dues and purchase a set amount of beer from the landlord. An annual club day and feast was held on Ascension Day with festivities commencing with a church service and march round the village for all members, led by a Brass Band. A dinner was then held in a barn next to The Plough, since demolished. The afternoon saw festivities that included various stalls and entertainment. Copious amounts of alcohol was drunk by all throughout the day, often marred by unseemly behaviour.

The 20th century saw Walter Benfield in charge for the first two decades, with the Langford family through Albert, Harold and Sidney for four decades.

Dates Victualler, Innkeeper or publican
1777 - 1799 William Harris
Margaret Bowerman
Before April 1804 Richard Cooper
April 1804 John Stayt of Bledington, Glos.
April 1805 George Watson
July 1808 Thomas Davis of Milton-under-Wychwood, a maltster
March 1812 Isaac Newton Lawrence of Witney, a brewer
23rd April 1821 Owned by William Hall
9th May 1824 Thomas Johnson, owned by Esquire Hall
1839 John Hawkins, owned by Esquire Hall
1841 - 1874 Alfred Eeles
1871 Ann Archer
1874 -1880 Jason Bowerman, and Ann (nee Archer)
1880 - 1883 Ann Bowerman (widow)
1883 - 1897 Lewis Pratley, and Ann (nee Bowerman)
1899 - 1920 Walter Benfield Victualler

1931 - 1939 Albert Langford
1939 - 1953 Harold Langford and others
1953 – 1975? Sidney Langford

1967 - 1982 Philip Cooper
1982 Dave Keetch
1983 Mike Clarges
1984 John Lambert
1985 ? Moffatt
1986 - 1996 John and Val Baxter
1996 to Nov. 2004 Keith and Nigel Ewers
Nov. 2004 to Nov. 2005 Darrell Lord and Louis Burridge
Nov. 2005 to present Joe McCorry and Martin Range

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