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.
1713-1754 Thomas Longworth
1754-1756 Robert Bradley
1757- 1773 John Bright
1773-1786 Robert Parkinson
1791-? David Warden (Victualler, Excise & Post Office)
?- 1798 William Janeson
1798- 1815 Stephen Winder
1817-1834 James Mckie (Born in Scotland)
1837-1840 John Dobson
1841 Joseph Rooking
1842-1849 Ellen Rooking (Widow of Joseph)
1851- ? James Henry Stanley(Excise Officer born in Cape Town South Africa) & Wife Marrianne (Daughter of Joseph & Ellen Rooking)
? Richard Walsh
1869-1882 Henry Curtis (born in Yorkshire)
1882 John Ribchester
1885-1900 Nicholas Isles (Innkeeper & Farmer) from Pilling
1901 -1902 John Philipson
1902 William Banks from Longridge & Wife Sarah, William died on 10th November 1911 and Widow Sarah took over until her death on 2nd April 1915.
William Melling 1915- 1924
1926-1929 Charles Henry Hewitt
1932 Frank Bailey
1934 John H Hamer
1935-1937 Miss Elizabeth Catterall
1938 Charles Crichton
1946 Lieutenant Commander Sutcliffe RN & Mrs Vera Sutcliffe
1952 Mr & Mrs Morley
1960 Squadron Leader Bernard James Hewitson & Wife Betty
1983 –1916 James Michael Hewitson
1916 to present day Lorraine Hewitson