Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Was there a second Radcliffe Arms?

I have described the history of the Radcliffe Arms in other places. It was a story of commercial greed and hasty judgement. The owners of this new venture. Joseph Clare of the Cock Inn and John Congreve, a Stony Stratford lawyer, formed a partnership and persuaded the Radcliffe trustees to allow them to build a new public house and hotel for the new railway. The Radcliffe Trust accordingly leased them a field on the east side of the new railway to the north of the canal and put a clause in the contract with the L & BR that no public houses would be allowed on railway property.  The new station was placed on the north side of the canal and Messrs Congreve and Clare hurriedly built the new Radcliffe Arms within a year, anxious to cash in on the new trade. Subsequently the railway company acquired another 13 1/2 acres to the south and decided upon a new station, which opened in 1841.

Congreve and Clare were furious but there was little that could be done. The trust reduced the rent on the acreage and provided them with another acre on their land for a new public house. Thus the Royal Engineer was born in 1841.
I raise this story again today because a map I recently discovered shows that, at the very least, a new site was considered for the Radcliffe Arms. You can see it on this map, drawn in red, at the location of the third station. Pencilled in beside it are buildings that may have been stables. On the map is written "New Public House".
Bill West, in a plan in one of his books, places the Radcliffe Arms here. The Milton Keynes Historical Environment Record also notes this (on Bill West's evidence re-drawn from a Radcliffe Estate plan) as a possible building.
Nothing can be said with certainty but the theory may be supported. The roadside location would surely have been better and the not-so-old original Radcliffe Arms could have been converted into residential accommodation. The censuses of 1851 shows the Radcliffe Arms landlord and family and servants and guests. However, the 1861 an 1871 censuses record The Radcliffe Arms and four Radcliffe Arms cottages. Theses cottages are still there in 1881 but designated "Hell's Kitchen" after the old nickname for the Radcliffe Arms.
The OS Map of 1880 shows the old Radcliffe Arms still standing in its original location and noticeably not with the initials P.H. against it. The new embankment for the railway is shown on the map, which means that whatever building was standing there had been demolished.
A second Radcliffe Arms on the roadside is plausible. The first building was isolated in the middle of a field and could only have been subject to declining trade. The roadside house would have improved trade and the old buildings could have contributed rent to the pockets of Congreve and Clare. What is needed to confirm this is a plan or some written reference from the 1860s or 1870s.

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