Standing in the cobbled market place by the Market Cross, the Royal Oak has been a public house since the 15th century.
The actual history of the building is very sketchy, but as far as it is known there has been a building on this site since the early 14th Century, probably starting life as a farmhouse.
In the 15th Century a Public House was introduced into the building. It became an important Coaching Inn where weary travellers would stay on route to Edinburgh or London.
Famous people who stayed here include Celia Fiennes, an English travel writer who journeyed on horseback all over England in the 17th century. She travelled alone, apart from two servants, and rode sidesaddle. She published a journal of her travels, The Journeys of Celia Fiennes 1685 – c1712.
Sir Walter Scott also stayed here in 1828, and recorded in his journal dated 4th April 1828 that he “slept at Garstang; an indifferent house.” In 1794 the building also housed the Post and Excise Office.
The Royal Oak Field
The Royal Oak owned a lot of land which went past St. Thomas’s Church and down to the river. The field next to the river was known locally as the Royal Oak field and many events took place there including several Garstang Agricultural shows.
The story of the sword swallower
In 1827 a man called Vera Bedra died at the Royal Oak. He was part of a group of 3 men, who came from India and who were jugglers and sword swallowers. The men were perfoming in the town, probably at the Town Hall.
On Friday 28th October 1827 Bedra complained that he was not feeling well while at breakfast. He was later found collapsed at the Town Hall.
He was taken to his room at the Royal Oak but despite a doctor being called he died soon after. He is buried in the graveyard of St. Helen’s church at Churchtown.
More about the hotel
In 1836 when the hotel was up for rent it boasted 32 acres of meadow and pasture land.
In 1840 the hotel had 11 bedrooms and 3 servants’ rooms, a stable for 14 horses, a brewhouse, pigsties, 2 coach houses a harness room and a shippon listed in the description.
Originally it was part of the Garstang Manor Estate, and it was sold by auction in 1919 when the estate was broken up.
In 1946 the Royal Oak was bought by Frederick Robinson Ltd.
During the alterations which have taken place over the years a large well was found in the cellar.