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Built in the early 1700’s the original building has been an Inn, Hotel and Public House throughout its three hundred year history.
Originally named the Anchor Beer House, the first landlady Anstis Faulkner can be found in the Licensed Victuallers Record Book of 1753-1759. It is not known if her husband Henry had been the publican before his demise in 1733 but Anstis continued in the trade until her death in 1759 when the licence passed to John Watts who was the publican here between 1760 until his death in 1784.
His wife Elizabeth was the youngest daughter of Henry and Anstis Faulkner, and continued as landlady until her death in 1793 when their son James took over. James was born in the pub in 1764 and died there in 1814 he lived long enough to see the Oxford Canal built on his doorstep in 1790 and would have no doubt made a few shillings from the navies employed to do so. Some time between his death and the Enclosure Awards 1818 James’s widow Ann (nee Davis) moved to The Dog (then in School Road) She probably took the anchor that had stood outside with her as the Dog had become The Dog and Anchor by 1891. John and Elizabeth had 10 children while they kept the pub. James Watts and Ann added 9 brothers and sisters for Thomas, who had been born in 1788, while they were the publicans.
With the coming of the Great Western Railway in 1850 Kidlington had its own station and by 1855 the name the Anchor had been changed to the Railway Hotel to reflect this new modern form of transport. Solomon John Cox was the name above the door in 1939.
Two world wars later Kidlington was to lose its Station when Dr Beeching cut more than 25% of British Rails network in the mid 1960’s at this time the name over the door was Wilf Hillier and much of the pubs gardens were then used by Finchers Coal Merchants.
It was in 1967 that the name was changed again, this time in the honour of a former British Rail employee Frank Wise who operated the nearby signal box until his retirement in the early sixties. Frank had been a highly respected Parish Councillor and in due course an Alderman which was a title bestowed upon senior members until local government procedural changes in 1974.
It was then known as the Wise Alderman or locally “The Wise” and at this time Tony and Diane Lane with sons Kevin & Paul who had previously been the hosts at the Kings Arms the Moors took over until they in turn moved on to the Woodstock Arms to be replaced by Dennis and Brenda O’Donnovan.
The 1990’s saw significant changes with the development of the Barn (formerly used for stabling horses for the Stage Coaches) and outbuildings into letting rooms and grounds used by the Caravan Club. A father daughter combination, Michael and Ann Croft took on the Licence in 2005.
In 2009 Nick and Sharon Duval took over the Lease and embarked on a series of alterations and refurbishments. Unfortunately Sharon was tragically drowned in the Maldives while on holiday in 2010 but before this the Pub changed its name for the fourth time and duly became The Highwayman Hotel. In 2015 the external Staircase facing Banbury Road was added to service letting rooms above the Pub previously the landlords flat. The 1st Floor went through extensive alterations as four en-suit Double Bedrooms were added in late 2017 and is now still in the hands of Nick Duval and his son Mark.
There is very little knowledge regarding the brewing of ale at the Pub but an old Scullery with Copper Fire to the rear of the barn probably means this was the case in very early years. Its well known that Soloman Cox (1939) used to bring Jugs of Ale up from the Cellar via a staircase under the entrance to the Gents Toilets in the early fifties.
The Cellar which has a vaulted ceiling is 5 feet 9 inches, being below ground maintains an almost constant temperature of 12 degrees in all but the hottest days of the year. The delivery stairs is a steep ramp with wooden runners and inset steps, previously with doors at ground level but covered for ease of access in 2011.
The Pub was a part of the Halls Oxfords and West Brewery which dates back to 1795 and a simple four ceramic tiles with there name upon it have been laid into the stone wall by the original entrance that faces Banbury Road. Halls were acquired by Samuel Allsopp & Sons who were in turn merged with Ind Coope in 1934. A further merger in 1961 with Ansells and Tetley Walker formed the massive pub chain nationally known as Allied Breweries. Ind Coope was to be eventually sold to Bass Charrington in 1997 and it was this chain who became Punch Taverns in 2003.
The Pub was serviced by one of two Oxford Breweries up until the late 1970’s being the now defunct Ind Coope Distributors in Park End Street Oxford. The other being Morlands who brewed from within the City centre up until the eighties before moving to Ock Street Abingdon where they finally were acquired by Green King.
As of 2017 Punch Taverns 5000 pubs in the UK are were supplied by Carlsberg out of the Distribution Centre at Gravelly Park. However a bid for some 1900 of these pubs as been agreed by Heineken or Star Pub & Bars in 2018.
The main building has been extended twice before reaching the Barn which was previously home to the horses. The original A frame Elm and Oak building was created off site and clearly has the primary beams and rafters joined with numbered dovetail joints corresponding to each joint in Roman numerals. Various stairs have been added and removed over time as has the Front Door believed to have been moved now no fewer than three times.
It is fairly certain that the A4260 Banbury Road which runs to the North East of the building originally ran on the other side, or the South West of the building which probably accounts for the buildings best features pointing towards the Car Park.
Its believed that the arrival of the Canal and later the Railway brought about a significant change of route for the Banbury Road that saw bridges for both filled in-between so that the road is now some 20 feet higher than the pub. Thus creating our steep entrance down to and around the building.
Prior to the development of Station Road Approach, the car park was a good deal larger and there used to be a circular route for cars in (existing) and out by the rail bridge. This was used extensively as a Coal Yard. Remnants of the coal bunkers can be found surrounding the Children's play ground and swings and there is an ancient concrete wharf from which the coal was delivered out of narrowboarts from the Oxford Canal.