the history of yeovil's pubs





royal oak (2)

11 Wine Street


This pub was originally known as the Queen's Head, changing to the Queens Arms around 1840 and had been trading at least since 1766. By 1866, after the demise of the beerhouse named the Royal Oak, it was known as the Royal Oak or the Royal Oak Inn. During the late 20th century it was renamed the Hole In The Wall and became a restaurant called the Green Room circa 2005.

It is shown as 'C' on the map at left.
A very old building still retaining its 16th century cellar and much-repeated, yet apocryphal, stories of tunnels linking the cellars to the crypt of St John's church. A couple of months ago I was chatting to my friend Bob Banfield, the Verger of St John's, as he was showing me around the crypt and he mentioned the tunnels. Then just this week I was chatting to a guy in the Pall who mentioned the tunnels, and he turned out to be one of the Hole in the Wall's last landlords.

Strangely, no one has discovered the tunnels recently - there's a surprise since they have never existed. Think about it - the crypt is only partially set into the ground and has fairly large windows. There were also graves six feet deep close to the church wall. Then stand outside the Pall and look up Silver Street towards today's Green Room and you'll realise that had there been any tunnel it would have had a slope of something like thirty degrees and at the church end would have required a staircase. Who in their right mind would dig a tunnel like that and what on earth would they use it for?

Wine Street (which originally comprised of both today's Wine Street and lower Union Street as far as South Street) had been called Grope Lane and is even mentioned in the Woborn Muniments of 1431. The name Grope Lane probably refers to nothing more salacious than having to grope, or feel, one's way along in the dark, narrow lane.

It only changed to Wine Street between 1813 and 1831, probably around the time Peter Daniell built Union Street. It is thought that the change to the new street name was in reference to the Wine Vaults, at the time simply the retail outlet and store of a wine merchant and not the pub we are used to seeing today. In 1879, 1880 and 1882 the Post Office Directory noted that Mr Dalwood ran a carrier service to Stoke from the Royal Oak every Friday.

The following description is from the Somerset Historic Environment Record

"Inn. Middle C18. Cut and squared local stone, now colourwashed; with undulating plain clay tiled roof, the North end gable having a coping - to the South a large brick chimney stack. Set in an angle of the road, with infill wing at right angles Eastwards. East elevation has a modern door and casement window under a timber fascia - return a modern doorway with fanlight over, and right a 12-pane sash window in plain opening from which the bottom casement glazing bars have been removed. East front first floor has, left, an 8-pane sash window set in an architrave, and then two 12-pane sashes in one architrave separated by a plain mullion: on the return a single 12-pane sash window in plain opening. Timber framed central dormer to main roof with 3-light casement window, probably a late C19 addition. The interior not seen."

The animation at left shows the development of the Grope Lane / Wine Street premises from 1800 through 1880.

The Royal Oak operated throughout the period although, of course, was called the Queen's Arms until the 1850's.


Yeovilians remember...

Thanks to Geraldine Locke for the following information "Mr Clarence Henry Perkins (It may well be Henry Clarence, mum and I aren’t sure!) but he was known as Harry, was the landlord. He was definitely there in 1968 to 1971 but the rest we are unsure. They moved down from the Mendips after selling their farm, whether this was 1968 or before we are not sure, and again I know I was taken into the upstairs after I was born which was 1971 and I know they had moved to Beer Street by the time my sister was born which was August 1973."

From me - " I dread to think of the sheer number of pints I consumed in these premises under the tenancies of 'Mad' Liz and Annie, from 1973 onwards. The main thing I remember is that there were two bars, saloon to the left and public to the right and a bar-to-ceiling post on the corner of the bar delineated the two. We used to buy our beer in the public bar because it was a penny cheaper and then take a step to the left to drink it in the 'saloon' just to annoy Annie - I got threatened with banishment several times for this prank."


George Leach, the first recorded licensee of the premises when known as the Queen's Arms, was born about 1806. He ran the pub with his wife, Sarah, and their five children and was listed in the 1841 census as the innkeeper at the Queen's Arms and was noted as such in Pigot's Directory of 1842. However by the time of the 1851 census George, now described as a glover, was living with his family in London Road (today's Sherborne Road).

The following licensee, Robert Tucker, was born about 1810 at Purleigh, Somerset (between Bristol and Chippenham) and in the 1851 census was listed as innkeeper and living at the Queen's Arms with his wife, Elizabeth, their three young daughters, his mother-in-law, Jane Foan, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and no less than eight lodgers. Robert died in July 1853, aged about 43.

Interestingly the 1851 census shows that the small building sandwiched between the Queen's Arms / Royal Oak and the Case is Altered was an almshouse in which lived five (mostly) elderly women, all of whom were listed as 'inmates' in the census.

The 1861 census shows that William Brown, aged 41 and from North Perrott, was living at the premises with his Crewkerne-born wife, Elizabeth, and their three young children. William's occupation is given a victualler - whether this was supposed to be licensed victualler (ie publican) or plain victualler (ie grocer) is not clear and it may be that at this time the premises lost its license and traded as a shop and, when it reopened as licensed premises (by 1866) was re-named the Royal Oak - we'll probably never know.

In any event Kelly's Directory of 1866 names the premises as the Royal Oak for the first time and lists Mrs Mary Chamberlain as the licensee. Mary, born in Yeovil around 1818, had been married to Matthew Chamberlain, a glove cutter and in 1861 they were living in Rake's Buildings on Reckleford with their two daughters; Emily aged 20 and 17-year old Albetina. Matthew died in April 1862 and by 1866 Kelly's Directory was listing Mary as the licensee of the newly-named Royal Oak. The 1871 census lists Mary as an innkeeper and 53-year old widow. Emily and Albetina had left home, but also living on the premises were an ostler (presumably working on the premises as well) and four lodgers - a costermonger, a glover, a domestic servant and the County Court Bailiff. Mary had left the Royal Oak by 1875 and died in the winter of 1876, aged about 58.

Kelly's Directory of 1875 listed William Seabright at the new licensee of the Royal Oak. William was born around 1844 at Lyndhurst, Hampshire, the son of agricultural labourer Charles Seabright and his wife, Sarah. William was also an agricultural labourer but he moved to Yeovil and married his Yeovil-born wife, Emily, in 1866. They and had a son, William, and a daughter, Albertena. By the time of the 1871 census the family were living at the Somerset Inn in Preston Road, where William was the licensee. By 1875, however, Kelly's Directory was listing him as the licensee of the Royal Oak where he was to remain the licensee until at least 1903. Sadly, however, Emily committed suicide in 1885 (see newspaper report below). The 1911 census listed William as a retired inn keeper living with his new wife, Mary, at 131 Gold Croft.

Following William Seabright as licensee, Urban Albert Pavitt was born about 1871 in Barwick, near Yeovil, the son of waiter William Anstice Pavitt and his wife, Sophia. The 1901 census found Urban living in his older brother George's pub in Canning Town, West Ham, London. George and his wife, Nellie, were both listed as licensed victuallers and Urban, aged 29 and still unmarried, was described as the bar manager. It must have been a fair sized establishment as there were no less than six live-in barmaids and a cook. By 1904 Urban was living in Yeovil and in April he married Eliza. In 1907 he was listed in the Yeovil Directory as the licensee of the Royal Oak, a listing repeated in the 1912 Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser (where he was also listed as a carrier) although Urban Albert Pavitt died in July 1912, aged about 41.

William Ricketts was the next licensee but there were at least four men named William Ricketts in Yeovil at the time and it's not really possible to tell which was which. It is likely that the William Ricketts of the Royal Oak was either the William Ricketts who ran the Anchor Inn in Vicarage Street or William Ricketts of the Duke of Wellington in Sherborne Road.




A report of the annual dinner, with catering by William Seabright, of the Yeovil Volunteer Band of the 16th Somerset Rifle Volunteers at the Royal Oak as reported in the 31 January 1873 edition of the Western Gazette.


The report on the suicide of Emily Seabright at the Royal Oak, from the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette's edition of 22 September 1885.


This photograph of the Royal Oak dates to the 1960s.


Courtesy of Derek Phillips

Regulars in the bar of the Royal Oak, c1952. Standing at far right is landlord George 'Jimmy' Neill - but can anyone put a name to any of the other faces?


Courtesy of Derek Phillips

Virginia Neill - landlady of the Royal Oak - photographed around 1952.


Wine Street, seen from Peter Street in the 1960s. Originally (before Union Street was constructed in the 1830s), Wine Street continued to the left as far as South Street.


Courtesy of Susanne Sodo

Liz behind the bar when it was the Hole in the Wall.


Courtesy of Chris Rendell

The Hole in the Wall photographed in 1989.


In its guise as the Hole in the Wall.


An aerial photograph of the Borough in 1988. The Royal Oak in its guise as the Hole in the Wall (arrowed) stands on the bend in Wine Street. The Borough (technically still High Street) is right of centre with Middle Street running to bottom left and the entrance to King George Street, before pedestrianisation, at top right. St John's churchyard, still known locally as 'The Beach' is at bottom right of the photo.


Courtesy of Bill and Audrey Robertson

Photographed in the 1990s.


Photograph by Trevor Hussey, courtesy of Mrs Anne Hussey

Photographed in 1990.


Courtesy of Vivien and John Cornelius

Closed, boarded up and for sale in 2002.


This photograph features in my book "Yeovil In 50 Buildings"

In its guise as the Green Room. This photograph 2017.


This photograph features in my book "Yeovil In 50 Buildings"

The quaint return of the building actually seems older than the main elevation even though it is much later. Photographed in 2017. 


The bar area of the Green Room. Photographed in 2019.


Now part of the Green Room restaurant, the original sixteenth century columns supporting the vaulted cellar ceiling remain. Photographed in 2022.




Licensees as Queen's Head
1766 – Licensee not named (Land Tax Returns 1766 - SRO Q/REI) Recorded as Queen's Head
1766 – Licensee not named (Poor Rate Book) listed as the Queen's Head
1785 – William Eglen (Land Tax Returns 1766 - SRO Q/REI) Recorded as Queen's Head
1785 – Mr Dunn, Proprietor, William Eglen, Occupier (Land Tax Returns 1766 - SRO Q/REI)
            Recorded as Queen's Head
1792 – Mr England, Occupier (Land Tax Redemption Register)

Licensees as Queen's Arms
1841 – George Leach – Innkeeper (1841 census) pub name not recorded
1842 – George Leach (Pigot’s 1842-4 Directory) listed as Queens Arms
1847 – W Bide, owner, Robert Tucker, occupier (Church Rate Book)
1850 – Robert Tucker – Beer Retailer (Hunt & Co 1850 Directory) listed in Wine Street
1851 – Robert Tucker – Inn Keeper (1851 census) pub name not recorded
1852 – Robert Tucker – Inn Keeper (Slater’s 1852 Directory) listed as Queen's Arms
1861 – William Brown – Victualler (1861 census) pub not named

Licensees as Royal Oak
1866 – Mrs Mary Chamberlain (Kelly’s 1866 Directory) listed as Royal Oak, Wine Street
1871 – Mary Chamberlain (53 year old widow) – Innkeeper (1871 census)
1872 – William Seabright - Temporary license (Borough Petty Sessions, February)
1872 – Mary Chamberlain - License transfer (Borough Petty Sessions, March)
1872 – W Sebright - License transferred (Borough Petty Sessions, March)
            William Seabright moved from the Somerset Inn
1875 – William Seabright – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1875 Directory) listed as Wine Street
1881 – William Seabright – Publican (1881 census) listed as Royal Oak.
1889 – William Seabright – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1889 Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1891 – William Sebright – Licensed Victualler (1891 census) listed as Royal Oak
1895 – William Seabright (Kelly’s 1895 Directory) listed as Royal Oak PH
1892 – William Seabright - fined 10s for selling 30° under-proof whisky (Petty Sessions, June)
1901 – William Seabright – Inn Keeper (1901 census) listed as Royal Oak at 10 Wine Street
1902 – William Seabright (Kelly’s 1902 Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1903 – W Seabright (Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser 1903) listed as Royal Oak
1907 – UA Pavitt (1907 Yeovil Directory)
1911 – Urban Albert Pavitt – Licensed Victualler (1911 census) listed as Royal Oak
1912 – Urban Albert Pavitt (Whitby's 1912 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser)
1914 – William Ricketts (Kelly’s 1914 Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1915 – William Augustus Ricketts (Whitby's 1915 Yeovil Almanack Advertiser)
1919 – George Hardy (Kelly’s 1919 Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1923 – George Hardy (Kelly’s 1923 Directory) listed as Royal Oak PH
1935 – George PA Hardy (Kelly’s 1935 Directory)
1936 – PA Hardy (1936 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1938 – PA Hardy (1938 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1939 – George Hardy (Kelly’s 1939 Directory) listed as Royal Oak PH
1945 Sept - George and Virginia Neall
1947 – S Neill (1947 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1949 – S Neill (Kelly’s 1949 Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1951 – F Neill (1951 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1954 – F Neill (1954 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1957 – EJ Barnicott (1957 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1960 – Licensee not named (1960 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak
1964 – Albert E Williams (Foord's 1964 Directory)
1965 – Licensee not named (1965 Yeovil Directory)
            listed as Royal Oak
1968 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1968 Directory)
            listed as Royal Oak Inn
1968-71 – Clarence Henry "Harry" Perkins (from
             correspondence above)
1969 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1969 Directory)
            listed as Royal Oak Inn
1970 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1970 Directory)
            listed as Royal Oak Inn
1971 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1971 Directory)
            listed as Royal Oak Inn
1972 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1972 Directory)
            listed as Royal Oak Inn
1973 – Licensee not named (Kelly’s 1973 Directory) listed as Royal Oak Inn
1974 – Licensee not named (1974 Yeovil Directory) listed as Royal Oak Inn
1974 – DAK Hill (Kelly's 1974 Directory)