Quick thinking by a Banbury rail enthusiast has resulted in the sign for the, now closed, Admiral Holland pub being saved and donated to a group preserving artefacts related to the real life Admiral.
Vice Admiral Lancelot Ernest Holland CB was born in Middleton Cheney and served in the Royal Navy for 38 years. He died commanding HMS Hood, the then flagship of the Royal Navy during WW2. It was sunk in the Denmark Strait by the Bismarck with the loss of 1,415 men including the Admiral, who was reported by Ted Briggs, one of only three survivors of the Hood, to be last seen, ‘sat in his chair making no attempt to escape the sinking vessel’.
When the Bretch Hill estate was being built in the 1960s, Hunt Edmunds, the local brewery had relations of Admiral Holland on the board and it was decided to name their flagship pub in his honour.
The pub maintained both its presence and name at its Woodgreen Avenue location until its closure in December year, when Banbury resident Darran Gough had an idea.
Mr Gough is a member of ‘The Fifty Fund’; a group of rail enthusiasts who over 25 years ago began fundraising and then bought three class 50 diesel locomotives from British Rail who were selling them for scrap.
The 100mph class 50 locomotives were built between the mid 1960s and the early 1980s and the entire fleet of 50 locomotives were all named after Royal Naval ships - the ill-fated HMS Hood being one of them.
Locomotive 50031 Hood was first named in 1983 and dedicated by British Rail to the ship along with the HMS Hood Association and the ship’s three survivors in attendance.
In 1991 the locomotive was withdrawn from service and bought by members of The Fifty Fund. After some repairs and refurbishment it was rededicated in 1993 with the HMS Hood Association on the Watercress Line. The locomotive has been running ever since on main line and preserved railway lines.
In 2014 it was taken out of service and over the following two years has undergone a major refurbishment and repaint by the enthusiasts.
This year marks both the 100th anniversary of the laying of the keel of HMS Hood and the 75th anniversary of its sinking. Following the successful completion of the refurbishments the fund decided to rededicate the locomotive again to the HMS Hood Association.
When Mr Gough heard of these plans he approached Cherwell District Council, and in particular councillors Kieron Mallon and Mark Cherry with a request to save the Admiral Holland pub sign and present it to the HMS Hood Association.
On September 17 at Bridgenorth station on the preserved Seven Valley Railway, Mr Gough along with Cllr Cherry presented the sign to Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks, president of the Hood association and Jackie Miller, the association secretary.
Jackie Miller said: “The committee and members of HMS Hood Association are delighted by the donation of the ‘Admiral Holland’ pub sign, presented to Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks by Darran Gough and Cllr Mark Cherry. It will be a valued and much appreciated addition to our archive.”