LOOK BACK WITH LITTLE: Banbury town centre pubs make their case for market day licence extensions

The Struggler sought a Market Day exemption because of canal connections. NNL-170926-113156001
The Struggler sought a Market Day exemption because of canal connections. NNL-170926-113156001

On March 5, 1947 the Banbury Advertiser, the Guardian’s main rival newspaper, ran a fascinating article on market day licence exemptions. It revealed the importance of these to a large proportion of Banbury’s many public houses but also opened up discussion about anomalies caused by a particular interpretation of market catchment.

Before 1925 Banbury’s Market Place and the surrounding streets were where both produce and livestock were bought and sold. After that date Midland Marts sales yard was established in Grimsbury and farmers responded accordingly. A distinction then arose between people who attended animal sales and those intent on more general business in town.

Certain public houses such as The Crown in Bridge Street were close to the centre of market activity.

It is not surprising licensees wanted to seek extensions of hours. This they did in person or through legal representatives to Banbury magistrates.

Some public houses were excluded. The Case is Altered at the junction of South Bar and the Bloxham Road was less fortunate as it was considered to be beyond the confines of the market. By contrast The Cricketers, in the Middleton Road, was well placed to take advantage.

At the magistrates hearing in 1947 some licensees made a strong case for the prized market day extensions. Arthur William Pearce who was landlord of The Crown claimed his hotel served 70 to 100 lunches from noon to 2.30pm. He wanted an extension from 2pm to 6pm. Pearce strengthened his case for a favourable hearing by stressing how long he had been landlord of The Crown. Unsurprisingly the majority of his lunchtime drinkers were regular customers. Those who were farmers frequently transacted business in the saloon bar, a logical follow up of activities at the Banbury Stockyard. Support came from Frederick William Dullingham who preceded Pearce (1932-45) who said Thursday was the busiest day of the week. In his time, from 80 to 130 lunches were served from noon to 2.30pm.

Similar comments came from Harry Raymond Matthews at the Fleur de Lys in Broad Street near the High Street junction. He said two-thirds of his week’s takings came from 2pm to 6pm business on Thursdays. This response was echoed by the licensees of the Catherine Wheel, the Horse and Jockey and the Vine.

In the wake of the support for Arthur William Pearce, BW Law who was a solicitor at the hearing, called six licensees. Two were Mr Hunt of Watson’s Bar in the High Street and Mr Smart of the White Hart on Bridge Street. The former stressed his customers came from villages within a six to eight mile radius while the latter was able to call upon 93 farmers who were willing to sign a petition supporting the application.

An interesting exception to public houses was the GWR Refreshment Room at Banbury’s Great Western Station. In 1947 Harriett Counsell made a late appearance before magistrates and was granted the 2pm to 4pm extension she asked for. A similar, successful application had been made in 1936.

The Advertiser report concluded with a list of the establishments granted Thursday exemptions spanning 2pm to 4pm. A few including the Crown Hotel merited an extra hour.

The list embraces a range of locations in the town. It is interesting to seek reasons why certain public houses had specific sources of market day trade. The Struggler and the Leathern Bottle were strongly connected with the Oxford Canal and those who used it. The Albion in Bridge Street and the Elephant and Castle on Grimsbury’s Merton Street were able to count on considerable numbers of railway workers who worked up a thirst. Places which were or acted as hotels could lay claim to even greater numbers of users of their bars. Such circumstances covered renowned establishments such as the White Lion, White Horse and the Whateley Hall.