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The King’s Head

The King’s Head

The King’s Head is the oldest pub in Aylesbury still standing. When first built it would have faced onto Market Square, with subsequent construction leaving it in its present position set back a little. When first built it was thought to serve partly as a private house and partly as inn, providing accommodation as well as food and drink. Travellers staying there would require a place to keep their horses as well as a bed, hence the provision of stabling around the courtyard. It was one of several inns on Market Square (including the White Hart, the Bulls Head and the George) looking to use their proximity to the market to attract those visiting the town to buy or sell produce.

As a large inn it was used in different ways at different times. In the early years, it was very likely used as a headquarters by Ralph Verney when he was steward for the then lord of the manor the Earl of Essex. It was an ideal candidate for billeting soldiers during both the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War because of the number of troops to be housed and the size of the premises.

Troops in the courtyard of the King’s Head, around 1914
Troops in the courtyard of the King’s Head, around 1914 (reference D-X 1305/1/1).

In more modern times, it was the base of a Friendly Society and was used by auctioneers as a venue for the sale of lands. The inn served the starting point for carrier deliveries to Stone, Kimble, Dinton, and Ford. It was acquired by the Rothschilds when they came to the county in the 19th Century, who gifted it to the National Trust in the 1920s.

It is unusual among medieval pubs in that we can date its construction fairly accurately using documentary evidence. A deed dated 1455 among the papers of the Pakington family (Lords of the Manor of Aylesbury 1545-1802) refer to houses ‘lately built’ at the inn called “le kyngeshede super le hoop”.  The meaning of ‘super le hoop’ is unclear, and was dropped from later descriptions of the property. The remarkable stained glass windows giving the arms of Henry VI and his queen Margaret of Anjou are another indicator of the 15th Century heritage of the building. Archaeological evidence also suggests that there might have been a further building that predated the courtyard that was destroyed by fire.

The Pakington papers are held at Worcestershire Record Office, but microfilm copies are at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies.

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