History

Serving since the 1930’s

The following information has been taken from Headington.org.uk

The original, seventeenth-century Black Boy stood nearer the corner of Barton Lane and Old High Street than the present one: see postcard above (supplied by Ian Garrett). This and the postcard below date from around 1930.

The old Black Boy had a large backyard (now occupied by the present pub) and also a large garden (now owned by the Priory) where fêtes were held. The board above the door showed a black boy-servant, a sign commonly hung outside coffee houses in the seventeenth century. The famous elm tree that used to stand on this corner had already been removed at the time the above photographs were taken.

The pub had a bad reputation in the mid-nineteenth century. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 26 November 1870 reported that the landlord James Honey was charged with allowing “drunkenness and disorderly conduct in his house, on the 29th of October last” when Mrs Honey sent for P.C. Smith to stop a fight between Thomas Ward and his brother William. Police Inspector Yates reported that “the house born an indifferent character before the defendant took it, and one man was killed in a fight outside”.

The present Black Boy at 91 Old High Street (below) was built in 1937.

Former pub

The old pub was already on this site in 1667 and may well be the inn known as “Old Mother Gurden’s” that was frequented by Anthony Wood in the late seventeenth century. It may also be the inn kept by Mother Shepherd that is depicted in the play about Joan of Heddington as being a rival to the White Hart in 1712.

It is specifically named as the Black Boy in the Headington Enclosure Award of 1805. Its gross estimated rental was then £13, and its rateable value £18.

In 1847 Charles Jeffcoat was reprimanded at the Court of the Manor of Heddington for lopping the elm tree that stood next to the old stocks outside the Black Boy, and the Headington Rate-Book of December 1850 shows that he was then the owner of the pub, but that it was occupied by Mark Powell.

The landlords in the nineteenth century were only part-time beer retailers: for instance in directories William Powell is described as “‘Black Boy’, & brickburner” in 1847: he died aged 45 on 11 December 1848. In 1876 James Honey was described as “coal merchant and victualler ‘Black Boy’”; and in 1898 William Somerville as “Black Boy P.H. & wheelwright”.

In 1907 Headington Baptist Church held a mission with many special meetings both inside and outside the church. It was so successful that Mrs Carter, then the landlady of the Black Boy, complained to the Sergeant of Police that it was affecting her livelihood.

Present pub

In 1937 the present pub was built in the backyard of the old pub, and then the seventeenth-century building in front was demolished in order to widen Old High Street. The new pub was given the same number as the old one (55 High Street, Old Headington; the address has now been changed to 91 Old High Street).

The rebuilt pub used to have a sculpted figure of a black servant in the niche above the entrance (shown right in June 1983), but this was smashed in 1990 and was replaced by the painting of a chimney-sweep’s boy (bwloe), which was (arguably) more politically correct. Even so, in 1997 there was an unsuccessful attempt by Oxford students to get the pub’s name changed on the grounds that it was offensive. Since about 2008 the niche has been empty.

When Morrell’s Brewery closed in 1998 it was taken over by Greene King. In 2007 it refurbished as a Mustard pub: their lease from the brewery ran out on 15 July 2008 and was not renewed, and the pub reopened under a temporary manager.

In 2013 the pub was sold by Greene King to Everard’s


Headington, Oxford. Retrieved Thursday 19th December 2019, from http://www.headington.org.uk/history/pubs/black_boy.htm

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