Shops & Businesses

Here we take a stroll down Main Street and a walk into the past

The Royal Oak, 35 Main Street, Kirby Muxloe

There have been “alehouses” in the village since the 16th century and probably earlier. One of the earliest known ones was in the Old White House on Main Street. It was not unusual for widows to become beer sellers and we find Widow Boyer selling ale in Kirby, probably her own brew, at the end of the 17th century. The early alehouses would not have had a formal name as such, so we only find the “Royal Oak” mentioned when we get to the early 19th century. It was then that we can see the property being licenced, rather than the person. Prior to that, the Quarter Sessions papers would include Licensed Victuallers' Recognisances, which licensed the alehouse keeper to sell beer. Keeping a public house was often a part-time occupation, so for example, we find Jonas Poyner, a tenant of the Royal Oak in 1816, working as a blacksmith.

The Royal Oak appears in the trade directories for 1861, showing that the tenant at the time was James Colpas, who ran the pub until 1880. He was followed by the Spiers family, who were listed as joint tenants with Albert Davey. By 1904, Philip Bosworth has taken over. For many years, the Royal Oak was known as a “spit and sawdust” pub. At the time, the building was at the edge of the road with only a very narrow footpath in front.

One of the best remembered publicans was George Upton, licensee from 1943 until 1963. He was known as a great prankster and caused much mirth with the jokes he played on his unsuspecting customers. One such story concerned a military gentleman, who often came from Ratby on his horse to visit the Royal Oak. On one occasion, he became rather inebriated, so George decided to play a trick on him and turned the saddle around, so that it was facing the wrong way! On leaving the pub, some men used a ladder to help him onto his horse. The story goes that he then went all the way back to Ratby riding his horse, but facing the wrong way!

In the 1940’s, an upstairs room in the pub was used for various meetings and for the collection of rates – a forerunner of Council Tax. It was located at the rear and accessed by a spiral metal staircase. In WWII, the Royal Oak is recorded in the Air Raid Protection Warden’s record book as having a shelter or a cellar measuring 12’ x 8’ x 9’ (some 4m x 2½m x 3m in metric) and showing that the public house was inhabited by Philip and Beatrice Bosworth.

As the years went by, the building became more and more dilapidated and in 1970 it was demolished, by all accounts by using “a big ball and chain”. It was replaced by a “modern” building and renamed the “Spanish Blade”. Somehow, the name just didn’t fit the village and in 1981, much to most villagers’ approval, the name reverted to the Royal Oak.