No. 52: White Horse

The White Horse


This tiny pub is squeezed between Blackwell’s main shop and its newer small shop to the west. The building dates from the sixteenth century, although its stuccoed timber-framed fronting probably dates from the eighteenth. Its front was rebuilt in 1951, when a painted wall was revealed on the first floor.

It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1185470). It belonged to the city from 1629 to 1773, and was then owned by Exeter College up until 1980, when it was taken over by the brewery which owns the pub.

It is one of Oxford’s oldest pubs, and according to the Encyclopaedia of Oxford Pubs has had many different names: it was called the Mermaid when the whitebaker Roger Scott was given a licence for it in 1591, and was later known as the White Mermaid, and then the Jolly Volunteer.

Then it took the name of the White Horse, but when the Elephant to its east closed down in 1820, it appears to have adopted that name for the next fifteen years.

By the late 1830s, however, the pub is listed categorically in directories as the White Horse.

This was originally a Hall’s pub, but was taken over by Mitchell’s & Butler in May 2006.

Sign of the White Horse

In 1772 a survey of every house in the city was taken in consequence of the Mileways Act of 1771. No. 52 was then in the occupation of a Mrs Norris (the widow of John Norris, who had moved there in 1748), and its frontage measured 4 yards 1 feet 9  inches. Later that year the house was sold by the city to Robert Curtis, a cook.

By the time of the 1841 census James King was the victualler at the White Horse. The 1851 census shows him living upstairs with his wife Ann and son Thomas. The latter is described as a “coach porter”, which suggests that the building may already have become a cab office, as it certainly was in the 1860s when John Jones was landlord. By 1861 James King had died, and his widow Ann is listed as the publican.

The 1881 census shows John Harper, the licensed victualler, living upstairs with his wife and four young children.

From 1957 to 1978, the sign at this pub showed a mounted policeman on a white horse holding back the crowds when they broke the barriers at the Cup Final between West Ham and Bolton at Wembley in 1923.

In 1980 a fire in the kitchen badly damaged the White Horse, but it was carefully rebuilt and reopened in 1981. It has appeared several times in the Inspector Morse television series.

Occupants of 52 Broad Street listed in directories


1823: B. Clarke
1830: Adam Owen

White Horse

1839: Richard Preston
1846, 1852: James King
1861: Ann King
1866–1871: John Jones (Beer retailer & cab proprietor)
 1875–1900: John Harper
1901–1908: Mrs Harper
1902–1912: Albert C. Rawlins
1913–1919: Gilbert G. Humphreys
1921–1935: Richard George William Wilkins
1936–1942: Mrs H. Wilkins
1943–1952: Albert George Pill

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Stephanie Jenkins

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