The Royal Oak public house has been an important part of Collingham life since at least 1803, although there is some evidence that parts of the building may date back to the 17th century.
In the 19th century the Royal Oak offered livery stabling, hunters and carriages for hire as well as luncheons and dinners for commercial travellers and pleasure parties. It is still possible to see where the original entry arch was, although this is now bricked up.
Until c1900 the Royal Oak was known as the Railway Hotel, but for some time it boasted two names at the same time. It was called the Royal Oak and Posting House (1864) and subsequently the Royal Oak and Railway Hotel (1879).With the decline of the carriage trade, the posting house facility became secondary to servicing the customers of the railway, competing with the Railway Inn, an ale house closer to the railway station.
Royal Oak Hotel old.jpg
In the late 19th century the Royal Oak was an important meeting place and hosted a number of property auctions (including that of the Crown, further down the High Street). North and South Collingham was a thriving village and at that time with around 30 shops carrying out a variety of trades.
The name of the pub derives from the English Civil War. After Charles I was executed, his heir, Charles Stuart (later Charles II) had to go into hiding after he failed to usurp Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester. With the help of supporters, he hid in an oak tree at Boscobel in Shropshire until he was able to flee to France. At the Restoration, Charles declared that the 29th May, should be celebrated as Royal Oak Day in memory of the oak tree that hid him from the pursuing Roundheads nine years earlier.
In 1894 the Royal Oak was a Posting House . You can still see the arched brickwork where the Coach went through if you look carefully.
THE STORY OF THE HIDDEN BODY
There are a lot of stories about things that have happened in the past at the Royal Oak. One of the most amusing occurred some years ago and resulted in both the pub and the lady, who was the tenant at the time, featuring as headline news in Newark Advertiser.
On the day in question a regular customer on his way there for a quick lunchtime pint found his access barred by Police Scene of Crimes Tape and a small Police presence.
“What’s going?” on he asked the Landlady who was standing outside.
“Well” she explained, “when the brewery made their delivery yesterday the drayman forgot to put the large bumper at the bottom of the barrel runway. A barrel rolled down and being un-check crashed into the wall opposite. The wall cracked open and on close inspection a large cavity was revealed. Inside were the remains of a body. I am not allowed to tell you anymore than that”.
Armed with this shocking news he made his way to the Grey Horse to meet his friends and fellow drinkers. Of course the tale grew with each telling.
A crowd of regular patrons of both establishments started to speculate on the event. In great demand were those who had lived in the village for a long time. All previous tenants of the Oak were discussed but none could name any who would have been either guilty or capable of whatever heinous crime had taken place. Then someone recalled the two brothers whose family had run the pub early in the 2nd world war. Soon it was agreed that they hated one another and that one had disappeared, never to return. The excuse given by his brother at the time of, Call Up followed by desertion, was never believed said one old wag. Nasty piece of goods he was volunteered another. So by evening the crime had been solved, suspect and victim named and approximate date agreed.
Following day enter a reporter from Newark Advertiser making and following up enquiries. Having noted all the information that the collected wisdom of the village could provide, she interviewed the Landlady.
First question “Was she shocked at there being a body buried in the wall of the pub?”
“No” she said, “since there was actually no body”.
She was just trying to help the police, she explained. There had been a break-in via the cellar door. One of the items stolen was a framed painting of a Lancaster Bomber given to the pub by grateful aircrew from Swinderby and Winthorpe who had used the pub extensively during WW2. As there was an Antique fair imminent the Police had asked her to find an excuse to keep the robbery quiet to give them more chance of finding the stolen painting.
Everything else was down to fertile imaginations.
The Advertiser Headline was “ Landlady Hoaxes Village”.
There was, of course, lots of amusement as well as some disappointment. That included both those who regretted the loss of the painting as well as those who would have enjoyed the hunt for a murderer.
There may be bodies hidden in the fabric of the Royal Oak but all we can say is we didn’t find any during the recent building works. Nor have we seen any ghosts yet!