The [Black Horse] pub is of timber frame construction, dating from the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century and extended by one bay in the nineteenth century. Built on a brick plinth and tiled, it is a one-storey building with attic rooms and gable dormers.It was opened as a public house in about 1780
Peter Jeevar in From Gallows Piece to Bee Garden (Millenial History of Dry Drayton) (Dry Drayton, 2000)
We are grateful to Rosemary Gardiner for providing the following short history:
When the Black Horse was opened c.1780, it formed part of the manor which was passed from the Duke of Bedford to Dr. Samuel Smith in 1785. the rector of Dry Drayton. It is doubtful whether he ever popped in for a pint as he regarded himself rather apart from the village. When he retired as Headmaster of Westminster School, he expected a rather better reward for his twenty years in education – a bishopric perhaps. As he wrote in an unfinished poem to his wife:
‘Twas not ye Prelate’s high Cathedral throne
Arrayed in lawn and big with state to climb
But if in Drayton’s humble cot secure
My full old age might find a peaceful home
Bless’d in thy care and happy in thy love..…
The bell-ringers who welcomed the new rector to his stall were rewarded with liberal amounts of ale at the rector’s expense, but this was probably at the Black Horse’s chief rival – the Three Horse Shoes – which was conveniently placed at the rectory gate.
When the manor was sold by Dr. Smith’s son in the 1840s the Black Horse passed into the ownership of Richard Foster, one of a very wealthy and influential family in Cambridge , who owned Anstey Hall, Pinehurst and Brooklands House as well as various mills and a bank. When Richard Foster died in 1859 no fewer than fifty licensed inns and public houses in Cambridgeshire were up for auction, including our Black Horse. The grand auction was held in the Town Hall, Cambridge on the 22nd day of June 1859, when ‘the Black Horse tenement. blacksmith’s shop and close of 1 acre and 3 roods’ passed into other hands. At the time the landlady was a Mrs. Dilley.
Auctions of Dry Drayton land and houses were frequently held in one of the public houses, including the Black Horse. In 1842, for example, baking premises were sold there and catalogues were available at other public houses in the village. The Horse Shoes was apparently the most popular; when it was sold by the Revd Hamilton Gell in 1886 it was described as ‘ a valuable freehold and old established public house in the centre of the village’. There are more stories in the local papers of the time concerning incidents there than at the Five Bells, the Queen Adelaide and the Black House, not always to the landlord’s credit. The Horse Shoes remained the chosen inn for Dry Drayton men until the 1960s when it was bought by the van Oosteroms and turned into a private house. ‘I suppose you aren’t thinking of opening the old place up again?’ some-one wistfully asked Judy van Oosterom.
The pubs were often responsible for useful activities in a labouring village where money was in short supply. In 1913. for instance, the Black Horse had a ‘sharing club’ which resulted in a hand-out of 2/6 (12p) at Christmas-time together with a joint of meat supplied by the rector. Perhaps charitable ventures like this enabled the magistrates to take a lenient view over minor infringements of the licensing laws. One interesting court case involving the Black Horse in 1916 made its way into the Cambridge papers when PC H. Oakridge paid a surprise visit there one Sunday afternoon in March when the pub should have been firmly locked. He tried the door and found it open and on entering he found his way blocked by the landlord, Walter Impey. who had had an unblemished record as innkeeper there since 1906. Hearing voices Oakridge forced his way in and found two men in the taproom, one of whom was distinctly the worse for wear. Even Walter Impey admitted ‘I should not say that the man was exactly sober’.
Impey, of course, was to blame for having a drunken man on his premises, as well as for being open out of hours. Various explanations were given in court: the pub door was on the latch because two of Impey’s daughters had just come back from Sunday School; one of the men was the landlord’s brother who was just out of hospital and had been invited to tea; the other
had arrived just after closing time having already had a drink. It all sounds a little suspicious. Later that year Walter Impey was in trouble again and by February 1917 he had left the Black Horse.
One final reported incident concerns the rivalry between the two leading pubs in the village. In 1920 Francis Thompson, landlord of the Three Horse Shoes, believed that Alfred Rivers, now licensee of the Black Horse, was trying, together with other residents , to undermine Thompson’s licence and ‘kick him out of his house’. To avoid a row Rivers asked Thompson to leave, whereupon Thompson struck him in the face. Rivers knocked him down and then reported him to the police for assault.. When our old friend PC Oakridge called on Thompson later that day he had appeared to be half-drunk, but his lawyer said that he was not drunk but still dazed from the blows he had received, and that Thompson admitted that he had been in the wrong and must take the consequences. He evidently feared he might lose his licence, but the magistrates agreed that this was merely ‘an aggravating conversation that ended in blows’ and dismissed the case.
But these stories belong to the golden era of the public house and now, faced with the loss of the last survivor, we are in danger of losing old memories for ever.
We are looking to add more information on the history of the pub. If you have information or old pictures you wouldn’t mind sharing please email us at: