Royal Oak - The Early Years
In the book accompanying William White’s map of 1787, the building that became the Royal Oak was described as ‘House & Paddock’. The copyholder was James Tucker. In 1838, when the tithe apportionments were made it was owned and occupied by a Betty Mead, but by 1841 the building was occupied by Samuel Dare Loveridge, described in the census as a farrier. In June 1838 Samuel had married Martha Pipe, daughter of local shoemaker John Pipe. Samuel’s father, Elias, was a farmer in Curry Rivel. Both Samuel and Martha were then aged 17. In the 1851 census Samuel was still described as a farrier. By now he and Martha had 6 children: Mary, 12; William, 10; Samuel, 8; Elizabeth, 4; John, 3; Henry, 2 months. In the 1861 census Samuel was described as Farrier and Innkeeper, and there were three more children, Sarah Ann, Martha Jane, and Emily.
We know that the Royal Oak was certainly open by 1853, as the landlord, Samuel Loveridge, took Thomas Langdon to court for stealing some of his beer. The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser reported on Wednesday 27 April 1853: “Thomas Langdon was charged with having stolen a quantity of ale from Samuel Loveridge, innkeeper, of Stoke St. Gregory. Defendant was asked by a boy who was working for the complainant to assist him, and was promised some ale on condition of doing so. He helped the boy to do his work, and the latter then refused to supply him with the liquor. He therefore went into the house, drew the ale from the cask, and drank it. He was committed to prison for three weeks, with hard labour, as a rogue and vagabond.”
Six years later, Samuel Loveridge was in trouble himself for allowing a fight to take place in the orchard (now the car park). “Samuel Loveridge, keeper of a beer-house in Stoke St. Gregory, was summoned for permitting drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and fighting on his premises. The Rev. Octavius Hammond, the curate of the parish, deposed that on the 4th inst. he saw a fight in defendant's orchard adjoining the beerhouse. The fight was between two men named Chedgey and Keirle. Witness saw the fight for two or three minutes, and the defendant was standing by looking on. After a little time one man went down and the other struck him. Defendant went forward and said something to them, and the fight proceeded. Witness ran in to his own house for his hat, and went at once to the Rev. Moor, the incumbent; the latter came with him, and they went into the orchard together. He remonstrated with defendant on allowing fighting on his premises, and told him he ought to have separated them; defendant answered, he was not going to interfere with other men's affairs, and laughed in his (witness's) face. Loveridge said the man was not down when he was struck, that the fight was all fair, and that he brought them into the orchard, as he would not allow them to fight in his house. Chedgey was so drunk he could not stand ; the other man was not sober. The Rev. R. W. Moor, the incumbent, spoke of the position of the orchard and premises occupied the defendant, and corroborated the evidence of the last witness as to what he saw in the orchard. He saw Chidgey on his knees bathing his face, which was bloody. Witness went into the house and found Keirle. Chedgey was so drunk he could not stand; the other man was not so bad, but it was his moral conviction he was not sober. Defendant said, the men came into his house drunk and would not supply them with any liquor; he tried to persuade them to be quiet, but they insisted on going into the orchard to fight. The Bench inflicted penalty of 20s. including costs, or twenty days' imprisonment, with a caution to the defendant to be more careful in future. James Pym Keirle and William Chedgey pleaded guilty to being drunk the above time and and they were also charged with committing breach of the peace. Fined 5s. each and costs.” - Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 12 January 1859
The following year Samuel applied for a full license. The Taunton Courier reported on Wednesday 02 September 1868: “Mr H. Trenchard applied for a spirit license on behalf of Mr Samuel Dare Loveridge, for his house in that parish. The application was resisted by Mr Taunton, for the vicar the parish, the Rev. Mr Moore, who complained of the bad state in which Loveridge kept his house at present, he having been fined for misconduct twice." The license was refused.
Samuel had obviously redeemed himself somewhat by the following year, as he was highly praised for the spread he had laid on at the Oak for the Harvest celebrations. Reported in the Taunton Courier, Wednesday 29 September 1869: “Stoke St. Gregory Harvest Home. This quiet village was, on Tuesday the 21st, roused from its state of lethargy by the merry and joyous peals of the church bells, which sent forth their voices denote that holiday was at hand for celebrating and offering up thanks to our Almighty God for the late bountiful harvest. Soon the gaily dressed inhabitants and visitors showed that they were ready to begin the festivities, they came pouring in in shoals from all directions . . . . . The procession now repaired to the rendezvous of enjoyment, where a fine marquee was erected, and a sumptuous dinner laid out by Mr Loveridge, the host of the Royal Oak. The visitors and farmers, to the number of 80, and the labourers numbering 176, sat down to do justice to where justice wanted to be done. The tables groaned under the viands upon them."
Samuel died in February 1877, but Martha continued to run the pub until her own death in November 1881. In the census of that year a Rosa Sandford, aged 14, was living with her as a general domestic servant.
In 1891 William Richards (aged 54), married to Mary (aged 62), is recorded as Inn Keeper at the Royal Oak Inn. Although Mary was a local girl, William was from Woolavington.They had previously lived in North Curry, as that is where their daughter, Ann (aged 25) was born. Ann’s occupation is recorded as Bar Maid.
Shortly after, Samuel Loveridge junior (Samuels and Martha’s son) took over. He had married Ellen Mary Chedzoy (daughter of Thomas and Edith Chedzoy), who was 21, in May 1871. Samuel had recently been widowed and he had returned from Westminster, London, with his baby son, Frederick. In 1881 he had been employed as a Hay Thresher.
On the first OS map (c1888) the building appears much as it did in the 18th century, and was presumably still a stone building with a thatched roof. By the time of the second OS map (1904), the pub had been rebuilt in brick with an extension including a wagon shed with the skittle alley above.
Not much is recorded of Sam and Ellen’s time at the Oak, but one incident was rated imprtant enough to be reported in the Taunton Courier, Bristol and Exeter Journal, and the Western Advertiser: “A rather serious accident happened in this parish on Saturday week. As Mr. Sam Loveridge, of the Royal Oak, was driving home from Taunton, accompanied by his nephew and Mr. Bird, the village blacksmith, the horse from some cause shied, when rounding Willey-lane corner, and the occupants of the trap were thrown violently into the drain by the side of the road. Luckily they escaped with nothing more serious than a few scratches and a covering of mud.”
Samuel’s death in 1936 was reported in the Somerset County Herald and Taunton Courier on Saturday 18 Jul: “DEATH OF OLDEST INHABITANT. - The death of Samuel Loveridge, aged 94, took place on Thursday. He had been bedridden for nearly two years. For a long time he was licensee of the Royal Oak, Stoke St Gregory”
To be continued . . .