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Publican's Tales

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

Christmas festivities made us a little late with this second article about Denham's pubs, inns and beerhouses. It should have been published as the second article for December 2021. But no matter; there will still be more to come, even if a little off schedule, in January 2022.

We promised a few pub tales, stories about hostelries still here and some both long since and more recently gone from the village.

The Green Man

“That a village of a few hundred inhabitants could have supported four public houses still amazes me,” wrote Stanley Hoffman who was raised in the house opposite the Green Man that he knew as The Homestead.

Such a proliferation of drinking establishments in the village was definitely not to the liking of the lord of the manor Benjamin Way in 1842, though it seems he might have been better disposed if he had owned more than three of them himself.

The owner of The Green Man until midsummer 1842 was an Uxbridge brewer, Thomas Fellowes. His tenant who carried on the business of a beerhouse was one William Flitney.

Mr. Flitney's licence expired on "Lady Day" 25th March 1842 and he had to set about renewal. He had to demonstrate that the premises from which he conducted his business had a rateable value above the statutorily fixed amount of £8 per year. Mr. Sedgewick, a local surveyor, reported that the property easily passed the test.

But Benjamin Way did not agree and refused to support the licence renewal application. Mr. Fellowes threatened to sue but thought better of taking on the lord of the manor and promptly rid himself of the problem by selling The Green Man to another local brewer George Harman. So it was left to Bill Flitney to fight it out for himself at what was known as the "vestry" meeting, the body we now think of as the parish council.

As lord of the manor, Benjamin Way was of course a member of the "vestry" and many, if not all, the other members, the village dignitaries, were of course his close associates. It cannot have been a surprise to Bill Flitney that his licence application was refused. He sued.

It was then the new owner, George Harman, came to Bill Flitney's aid as a supporting witness. George supplied The Green Man from his brewery and he had purchased the property in the summer of 1842 together with the cottage next door as a business proposition and he was none too pleased that the beerhouse should lose its licence. He had already tried a little persuasion when he met Benjamin Way one day at Uxbridge Market, but Way dismissed Harman telling him he was a fool to have spent his money for The Green Man would never get its licence.

George tried again a short while later by visiting Benjamin Way at home. When he was a second time refused, George demanded to be given a reason. He must have annoyed Mr. Way by his demand because, as George Harman later testified to the court, Way admitted that his opposition to the Green Man's licence was to protect the drinking establishments that he owned in the village.

In 1842, unlike today disputes like this were decided by juries, but Mr. Justice Patteson had no doubt about how the jury should be directed. He hoped that the jury members would realise that what they had to decide was whether Benjamin Way was guilty of "corrupt and malicious motive" and he reminded the jury that such a verdict would cast "imputations on the character of a gentleman who had a large property in the County, was in Her Majesty's Commission of the Peace, and had served in the office of High Sheriff of the County".

The jury members wisely protected their own interests by avoiding such a damaging finding against Benjamin Way but otherwise, and to the displeasure of the judge, appear to have found in favour of Mr. Flitney. The newspaper report is a little ambiguous as to the outcome but there is no doubt that nine years later when the 1851 census was taken, Mr. William Flitney was installed as the "Victualler" in good standing at The Green Man.

Teresa and Noel have had the Green Man since 2006. Spurred to do so by the Covid restrictions they have transformed the garden into a comfortable inside/outside venue. "Today", says Teresa “the Green Man has been rejuvenated and expanded; and it is still renowned for it's warm friendly service and high quality Gastro Pub dining”. Over many years, the four Green Man chefs have added international touches. They now represent China, Portugal, and Germany as well as Scotland and UK. It is both a destination pub and traditional friendly local, that serves a wide selection of lager, ales, wines and spirits.”

Jessie Tsang, now the general operations manager of the Green Man, was a chef living in Rickmansworth when she answered an advertisement to work here. At the time, she knew nothing about “this charming, somewhat isolated village” but in the last three years, she has seen the Green Man receive several hospitality awards. Local customers and visitors alike – including celebrities from the Cool Notes, the Drifters and Shalamar are all welcomed as special guests!

The Black Donkey

Stanley Hoffman's observation about the number of drinking establishments in the village was also a reflection on the house in which he was himself brought up, the house opposite the Green Man that he knew as The Homestead. We know it as Ashbys. It too, or at least part of the house was once a drinking establishment called The Black Donkey.

A report in the Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette of Saturday, 30 July 1881 revealed that Edwin Allison, a 33 year old baker had applied for a licence "to sell at retail at my house situated at Denham, beer to be consumed off the premises". The house in question was at the corner of what was once Brook Street leading from Village Road down to the Misbourne Brook.

This time, the Benjamin Way of 1842 having been succeeded by his son, the Way family had no objections. Edwin Allison's application included the notice that "Benjamin Henry Walpole Way, Esq. of Denham Place, is the Owner of the said house, and the same is now in my occupation.” Mr. Way was also, it seems, happy to have his head coachman Mr. Garner give evidence to the licensing authority of Edwin Allison's good character.

But all was not plain sailing for Edwin Allison. His application for a licence was at first adjourned by the local magistrates for further evidence to be taken as to whether Mr. Allison was a fit and proper person after it was revealed that four years earlier he had been found still drinking at The Swan after closing time. There were rumours too that Allison kept an unlicensed dog and that he was known to quarrel loudly with his wife. Such obstacles to the acquisition of a licence to trade in alcohol suggest a determination to confine such businesses to traders of the highest morality. Certainly Lewis Bampton over at The Swan was concerned for the reputation of local business as he opposed Mr. Allison's application - or perhaps his opposition was more motivated by desire to limit competition.

Nonetheless the weight of evidence was in favour of Edwin Allison's good character. The magistrates included a barrister very familiar with the neighbourhood, Springall Thompson, once owner and occupier of Denham Cottage on the property that we know today as The White House. He and his fellow magistrates could find no reason to deny Mr. Allison his licence.

It seems Edwin Allison did not stay long. By 1891 Stanley Hoffman's grandparents had taken the tenancy of the property they named The Homestead. Their landlords were Charles Harman & Co. the brewery once owned by George Harman who back in 1842 had so supported William Flitney. Charles Harman & Co. had taken lease from the Way estate the property for a 21-year period from 29 September 1890. They paid an annual rent of £25. The alcohol sales off licence continued in force until finally it lapsed in 1922.

Stanley Hoffman remembered: “The influence of the village pub has declined greatly over the years, … but when beer was strong and cheap, the pub was a meeting place for the poor, and the lower middle classes. Most of the working men had very inadequate housing, badly lit with smelly oil lamps, and there were often large families of children crowded into the small cottage rooms. No wonder a man longed to get out into the night and visit the pubs with their bright gaslight, their good fellowship and laughter and when beer, good strong stuff, was only a few pence a pint, one could have a wonderful evening for sixpence. The railway workers of course were far away from their homes and no doubt tongues were loosened and restraints lifted when they had finished a hard day’s grind – there was much drunkenness.” No doubt there were a few unwanted or unlooked-for babies in the village during those years too for life was not so full of innocence as some have imagined.”

By 1928, the Hoffman family had moved elsewhere and taken up farming. Subsequent owners of The Homestead, incorporated the cottage next door and changed the name to Ashbys, its current name.

The Eight Bells

Little is known of the Eight Bells as a drinking establishment save for its name and the fame it has gained as the home of the artists Sir William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde and the birthplace of the painter of abstract compositions, landscape and still-life, Ben Nicholson. Had it not been for the Nicholsons it seems that the entry of the Eight Bells pub into Denham's village history would have long since been forgotten. In 1863 an advertisement appeared in the pages of the Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette inviting "Brewers and others" to contact Mr. Woolls of Uxbridge for details of an available tenancy of the property, which was said, with a certain amount of geographical licence to "abut" the intended line of the railway. Perhaps the then licensee of the Eight Bells hoped to benefit from rail traveller visitors to the village seeking refreshment but if so the venture had also a high level of optimism since no railway station was opened at Denham until 1906.

It is not known who took up the offer of a tenancy, but the time of the Eight Bells as a pub seems to have been confined to a short period in the 1860s. According to the census of 1861, in the parish and village of Denham were 1,054 inhabitants. They were already well supplied with beverages. There is no record of a victualler or beer house keeper between The Swan and Hills House in 1861 and certainly Lewis Bampton at The Swan and William Flitney at The Green Man were untroubled by competition from the Eight Bells in 1871.

As did many public houses close to churches the Eight Bells took its name from the peal of eight bells of St. Mary's Church but since the Nicholsons moved out back to London in 1896 their home has been known in the village as The White Cottage.

The Plough

It was once common for local inns and pubs to be used for auction sales. There are several records of such sales taking place in The Swan, The Falcon and in The Plough, as The King on Cheapside Lane was known for most of its history. No doubt they all gave both the auctioneers and the bidders an opportunity to satisfy their appetites well as they conducted their business. The Plough shared a reputation for good food with Denham's three other pub restaurants. In 1974 there was nothing to prevent the Buckinghamshire Advertiser from being as generous in its praise of the fare to be had at the Plough.

One possible reason for the fact that Denham Village has had so many drinking establishments is that Uxbridge appears to have been home to several breweries eager to supply nearby retail outlets. In 1874 Uxbridge brewers T and J Nash Limited were thriving sufficiently to afford a significant enlargement to their premises. The completion of the works was considered a cause for a celebration. Close at hand was Mr. Russell a former employee of T and J Nash and by 1874 the landlord of The Plough. What better place then for celebrations to take place. In a delightfully written piece of Victorian journalism, under the heading "Supper to Workmen", the Buckinghamshire Advertiser reported the event in November 1874:

The spread was, we need scarcely say, a most liberal one. T Nash Esq. presided and Mr. J. Holland occupied the vice-chair. After the party, numbering about 40, had done full justice to the meal, a number of toasts were proposed and responded to including of course their generous employers, Messrs. Nash, Mr. Holland, the brewer and Mr. Scarp, the bail

iff. Some capital songs were sung, and very pleasant evening was spent which will be long remembered by the workmen and those who had been invited to join in the festivities.

For how long the participants actually fulfilled this prediction of long memory is unknown but they probably could not have anticipated this recollection almost 150 years on.

Sadly, The King, with its adventurous combination of English and Indian cuisine, has closed. We cannot yet know whether this will mean the end of one of Denham's historic pubs

The Falcon

The Falcon was often used for local auction sales of land, woods, livestock, farm equipment, as well as furniture and personal items. As a place frequented by the general public, a pub was a convenient place for patrons to discuss the terms and other particulars of the sale properties - and surely another opportunity to stop for a drink and enter into the discussions.

As well as being in use as auction rooms both The Swan and The Falcon doubled as courtrooms for the holding of inquests - in the case of The Swan a number of inquests following a most tragic and infamous incident described below.

One of the reasons for choosing pubs for inquests was that their locations were so well known in local communities. In April 1844 for example the South Bucks Coroner, G.A.Chantey, Esq. called jurors and witnesses to The Falcon to determine the cause of death of a platelayer on the Great Western Railway who had been killed by a train while he was at work. After "careful evaluation of all testimonies", the Coroner announced a verdict of “accidental death” by a passing train.

In March 1903 The Falcon acquired a new proprietor - Arthur Weaser, Wine and Spirit Merchant, Agent for Wethered’s Marlow Beers, Bottles, Jars, and Small Casks

All orders will be Delivered and Punctually Attended to.

Arthur Weaser turned out to be grandfather of that Stanley Hoffman, Canon Hoffman Queen's Chaplain who in his autobiography would recall The Falcon of his childhood.

Arthur was a licensed victualler who considered himself a cut above the lower classes. Arthur abhorred the description "publican". That was a word never used by those actually in trade. “In trade” was a stratum of society very conscious of its position somewhere between the ranks of the rich or the professional classes such as clergyman, lawyer and doctor.

In his personal record Stanley Hoffman, Arthur's grandson wrote of the time his mother served behind her father's bar:

There was much drunkenness and for a while my mother was not allowed to serve in the bars. But my grandfather was capable of dealing with any trouble or threatening incidents and his pub had a reputation as a good house.”

No doubt encouraged by Arthur Weaser's reputation, The Falcon was much used by social groups, clubs and societies - and indeed local political parties - for their meetings and events. Amongst these was the local branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters. The Foresters Friendly Society is a British charity formed in 1834 to help its members and others in need.

In November 1908, as the local press reported, the Denham Foresters "gathered in force at the Falcon Inn on Monday, when the anniversary of Court Golden Falcon, Ancient Order of Foresters (AOF) was celebrated by a first-class dinner and a rattling ‘smoker’ ". On that evening, Arthur Weaser catered to the more than “50 trenchermen in attendance who filled the club room, then cleared the dishes like the healthy Britishers they were.” In turn, they congratulated Mr. Weaser as “an old hand at catering, and he did so with dignity and confidence providing a “capital cold collation followed by a true English plum pudding.”

A few years later, on Saturday, 28 March 1914, the Ancient Order of Foresters Court "Golden Falcon," Denham, celebrated their 67th anniversary at the Falcon Inn, this time for nearly 80 persons. By then, Mr. Weaser was himself the treasurer of the Court “Golden Falcon.”

He was also again the host serving a cold and hearty meal of: “cold joints, ox tongue, ham; roast leg of mutton, round silverside of beef and home-made brawn; vegetables and hot potatoes: followed by sweets, Christmas pudding, mince pies, jellies, blancmange; cheese, watercress, beet, etc.”

Amongst the clubs regularly using The Falcon for its meetings was the Denham Bowls Club. For ten years, from its first meeting of members in April 1924, the club's meetings were held at the Falcon Inn at the suggestion of the landlord, Mr. P. Briggs, himself one of the bowlers at the time. (For more see Jack of the green (

The pub also has a history of raising funds for charities. One particularly creative venture was, as the Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette reported on 3 November 1939, the establishment of The Falcon Penny Club. The idea was suggested by "an assistant of Mrs. F.E. Holgate (wife of the proprietor) who was appointed treasurer". As an adhesive, beer was first-rate. The drinkers would dip a penny into beer, then while it was still wet, they would stick the pennies onto the glass of the nearest picture for collection later to “purchase comforts for local men on active service”. Noted amongst the members of the Penny Club was the wife of Vincent Korda and sister-in-law of Alexander Korda, the actress Gertrude Musgrove. Miss Musgrove's claim to cinema fame included an appearance alongside Leslie Howard and her sister-in-law Merle Oberon in The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1934.

There are however sadly no other records showing the success of The Falcon Penny Club – neither for fundraising nor for distribution of the funds to achieve its objectives.

David Brench, who has been the lessee of The Falcon for almost 21 years, has lived in Denham Village since 1963. As a small hotel, The Falcon now has AA Four Star Award Rooms. All en-suite rooms have upper story views, The Stanton, The Dickens, The Green, and The Garden provide accommodation with comfort for guests; breakfast included.

The Garden at The Falcon has also been updated over the years. It is sometimes the venue for live music for diners and those relaxing with a drink. On a lucky day, if there is a Council-sponsored musical event on The Green, the Green almost becomes a front garden to The Falcon. During the filming of Matilda this past summer, the garden at the Falcon provided a respite for the cast, including Aljaž Škorjanec a professional dancer from Strictly Come Dancing. No doubt they enjoyed as much as we do the splendid displays of hanging baskets of flowers and greenery inviting us inside.

The Swan

The Swan too has been frequently the venue for meetings, in the case of The Swan perhaps of a more formal nature than those of The Falcon. In 1783 The Swan was identified as the venue for meetings of "Friendly Societies". These were bodies which long preceded the welfare state and which were established as "mutual organisations or benefit societies composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose". These societies still exist having evolved from their origins into large mutual benefit commercial companies such as the Nationwide Building Society.

The societies that convened in The Swan were very formally run. There exists, “Rules and Orders dated 1 March 1783, ... to be observed and kept by any Friendly Society meeting held at the house of Mr. Thomas Cooper at the sign of the Swan at Denham”.

The Swan was also used as a courtroom for inquests and no doubt the most highly publicised inquest was that investigating the deaths of seven members of the Emmanuel Marshall family murdered on 22 May 1870 in their home on Cheapside Lane.

In his book “The Denham Massacre: Nineteenth-Century Britain’s Most Shocking House of Horror Murders” Neil Watson sets the scene: “Situated on the north side of the main road through the village, the Swan was the usual venue for inquest hearings. A strong body of police officers under Captain Drake maintained order within and around the building, holding back the large crowds and ensuring that only those with a valid reason should be admitted.”

Frederick Charsley, from South Buckinghamshire was the coroner. Fourteen male jurors took the stand, but not before they were required to visit the Marshall house and view the bodies of the seven violently murdered family members.

Neil Watson continues his description: “The jury foreman was the Rev Charles Joyce; other jurors were from age 31 to 73 and likely represented the area inhabitants: millers, tailor, butcher, bakers, gardener, blacksmith, grooms and an agent of farm steward. At the next (second) hearing the jury would hear evidence from the doctors who had conducted the post mortem examinations”.

The adjourned inquest got under way on Friday 27 May 1870. Neil Watson describes the scene. "Once again, the Swan Inn was filled to capacity, and large crowds continued to gather outside. The coroner Mr. Frederick Charsley told the court that since the first hearing on Tuesday a man had been apprehended and charged with the murders of the Marshall family. The prisoner (John Jones) was currently in Aylesbury Gaol but he would not be present at the inquest. Because of all the ill feeling against the prisoner, it would not be safe to bring him to the inquest, and by keeping Jones in jail, he could not escape."

It was the coroner’s job to ascertain the identity of the deceased, the place of death, the time of death and the cause of death. The verdicts that a jury could arrive at were accidental death, natural causes, an open verdict, suicide, manslaughter or murder.

When all of the evidence had been submitted and reviewed, the jury “almost at once returned a verdict of wilful murder in each case against John Jones alias John Jenkins.”

In addition to serving as the foreman of the Jury, Rev. Charles Joyce also conducted the funeral services for the seven murdered members of the Emmanuel Marshall family. A refurbished gravestone is in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Church..

A significant member of the jury at the Marshall murders’ inquest was one Lewis Bampton who was listed then as a butcher. He was in fact also the long serving landlord of The Swan.

Millie Ashworth and Jack Ashmore are the current lessees of the Swan. As we reported in our previous article on Denham's pubs, Millie likes to think of The Swan as having “almost a secret garden” because it is quite isolated and private and even includes a convenient patio area as well as a substantial wooded area. Her philosophy is that she and Jack serve as “protectors of the Swan to pass on the cultural history and enjoyment of this British Pub" - and, as we previously reported they have made the acquaintance of Sarah, their resident ghost.

Happy New Year, everybody.


David Brench at the Falcon

Neil Watson, 2018 The Denham Massacre

Charlene Haar

Wikimedia Commons images - public domain


Haydon, Peter, 1994 “The English Pub: A History” Robert Hale Limited, London.

Lathbury, Rev. R.H., 1904 “The History of Denham, Bucks” Lucy & Birch, Uxbridge

Watson, Neil, 2018 The Denham Massacre: Nineteenth Century Britain’s Most Shocking House of Horror Murders, Mango Books, London

Green, David, 2010 The Buckinghamshire Historic Towns Project, Buckinghamshire County Council and Tompkins, Matt, Leicester University

2021 Cathy Soughton Bucks Research

1863 Dutton, Allen & Co directory

Hoffman, Stanley, 1995, Morning Shows the Day: The Making of a The Making of a Priest, Minerva Press, London

Lathbury, Rev. R.H., 1904, The History of Denham, Bucks,

Le Messurier, Colin, July 1974, Denham Parish News

FHL book 942 U2hk, 1980

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