Travellers depended on Wheatley for shelter, hospitality and fresh horses. It was a ‘service station’ for two main roads and it has a memory of 20 inn names. The London to Oxford road passed over Shotover (Old Road), replaced by a new road in the 1700s along the present A40 valley. The London to Worcester road ran across Park Hill, towards Stanton and Islip. At the fork of the two roads, The King’s Arms made up for falling trade on one side with rising trade from the other: see picture. (Edward VIII drank there as Prince of Wales)
A road ran behind The Plough, where packhorses and horses could take the High Street (‘Wheatley Street’) for Shotover or follow the sheep drovers over the hill behind Elton Crescent and by Coombe Wood to the top of Ladder Hill.
Alcohol has always been licensed and taxed. The old Church licences had a wax or lead seal (bulla), making The Bull England’s commonest pub name. Next most popular in England was The George: ours in Wheatley was opposite the Manor House, next to the Old Parsonage, and at the start of the Shotover road. Some Georges were pilgrim hostels: northwest of Wheatley until 1536 lay St Frideswide’s shrine at Oxford, and southwest lay St Birinus’s shrine at Dorchester. King and Queen, White Hart and Crown may be nearly as old as The George, the Crown being the Royal Mail Posting Office for 200 years from the mid-17th century.
(To be continued)