Brewing, Alehouses, Inns, Pubs and Hotels of Kirby Muxloe

Brewing in Kirby is mentioned in the Desford Halmote Court records in the 16th century. However, the first reference to an alehouse appears to be in 1608. Initially, the licence was granted to a person, not to a place, so we have no inn or pub names from the earliest times.

Today, we have the Royal Oak and the Castle Hotel on Main Street. The Red Cow in nearby Leicester Forest East also has connections with Kirby. Many of the licenced victuallers and their families from the 19th century are buried in St. Bartholomew's churchyard.

We are indebted to the late Jonathan Wilshere for much of the research which we have reproduced on this and other pages on our website.

The Royal Oak Public House

The Royal Oak Pub was first licensed in 1810. It was a cottage type property once trading as The Sheriff before it became the Royal Oak. In 1970, the building was dilapidated and was superseded with a brand new Pub known as The Spanish Blade for 11 years, before reverting back to The Royal Oak in 1981. It has been part of the Everards’ estate since 1901. Before 1913, it was the local venue of choice for the Atherstone Hunt meets.

Today the public bar is popular with local anglers and many of them fish at the local reservoir at Thornton.

We have written an article about the history of the Royal Oak as part of our series "A Stroll Down Main Street", here.

The Castle Hotel

This was built in the 1630’s as the Castle Farmhouse, which replaced an even earlier farmhouse dating back to the Middle Ages. The current Grade II listed building appears in the register of listed buildings under its original title of the Castle Farmhouse. This may lead to some confusion, as the newer extension part trades under the name of the Castle Farmhouse B and B. The hotel currently trades under Greene King’s Chef and Brewer brand as part of the Spirit Pub Company.

The interior of the pub has retained many of its original features. Of particular interest are two large black slate flagstones, both of which are fluted with a cross set with two concentric circles. Local lore accounts that pigs to be slaughtered were hung from hooks above the flagstones and that the purpose of the grooves was to disperse the blood.

Another school of thought is that the fluted symbolism is a representation of Norse Paganism. Odin, the highest ranking god in Norse mythology, has as his symbol a cross in a circle (Odin’s Cross).

The Red Cow

The Red Cow is known to have been in existence by that name in 1780, since in that year, Henry Hitchcock mentions it in his will, leaving it to his daughter, Jane Brewin. Henry himself owned two houses next door, called Frank’s Nook and Long House. A license had been granted to a Henry Hitchcock of Leicester Forest in the Register of Recognizances of alehouse keepers, innkeepers & victuallers for 1752, so it seems likely that it had been around at least since then, and perhaps much earlier. In the 1780 Land Tax assessment, Henry is shown as an Occupier, with Mr. Goode being the Proprieter. The tax amounted to £3 5s 2d half yearly.

Henry died on 31st Oct 1782, aged 79. He is buried in Kirby Muxloe churchyard, along with his wife, Jane, who died a couple of years later, aged 78. In his will, he describes his property as an estate farm with an orchard, so we can imagine it spreading over quite a large area. He also owned several other properties, some of which were occupied by his children.

Now Henry Hitchcock had a son, also named Henry, who was older than his sister, Jane. So why did father Henry choose to leave the inn to Jane and her husband ? Well, perhaps his son was ill and Henry could foresee that there might be problems. In any event, his son Henry died on 6th Dec 1781, aged 45, after his father’s will had been written in 1780, but before his father was to die in the following year. The will appears to have been left unchanged with his son’s demise. After leaving various properties to his wife Jane and daughters, Catherine and Susannah, and giving £40 and £60 to his other daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, he leaves the residue to his son, Henry, his “executors and administrators”. What that amounted to and where it eventually ended up is not clear. Susannah was to die a spinster on 21st Jun 1824, aged 83.

When Jane Brewin inherited the Red Cow, she was living there with husband, James. The Cow was to remain in the hands of the Hitchcock and Brewin families for many years to come. In “Scenes from Kirby Muxloe History”, local author Jonathan Wilshere says that John Wells Hitchcock was first mentioned at the Red Cow inn in 1815. By 1825, the licence for the Red Cow is being granted to John Brewin. He died on April 16th 1828 and was buried in Kirby churchyard. His will mentions premises in High Street, Leicester and states that he is “of the Red Cow”, but the value of the estate is less than £100, so it is unlikely that he actually owned the Red Cow and its surrounding lands. Although John Brewin is the licensee in 1825, it may be that ownership remained with the Hitchcock family. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the censuses show that the head of household at the Red Cow is always a Hitchcock.

By 1841, the national census is showing that the Publican at the Red Cow is once again John Wells Hitchcock, who is living there with wife Ann and son Robert. In 1851, they are still there, but now Robert has married and his wife Catherine and children Henry and Robert have joined him. John was born on 16th Nov 1769 and died on 14th Nov 1858, aged 88. His wife Ann had been born on 2nd Dec 1795 and died on 28th Nov 1858, aged 82. They are buried together in Kirby Muxloe churchyard. So from the evidence so far, it seems that running an inn certainly did nothing to shorten the lives of those concerned !

Author: Mike Gould, first cousin, 7 times removed, of John Brewin (1765-1828), licenced victualler at the Red Cow in 1825.