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The Gate Hangs High to Banbury



“The Gate Hangs High” (#1) is an old drovers' inn on a crossroads a mile due north of Hook Norton at SP 355349.  The name is misleading as there was never a tollgate there, in fact the road remained un-turnpiked: a lonely road which was still untarmacked, with grass growing down the middle, in the 1930's. 
So any 'gate' would have been to retain beasts inside their owners' properties, as in gated roads one still sees today.

The pub is called "The Gate" and "Scotch Lodge Gate" on maps of the 1880's & 90's.  The verse below the inn sign used to read: The Gate Hangs High and hinders none/Refresh and pay and travel on. 1  

The story of the inn has been emailed to me by Tim Healey.  Thanks to him for so much information.  He says:



“The pub was originally built for William Luckett as a beerhouse and farm in the 1830s, becoming known as The GHH after 1888.  The beerhouse lay at a crossroads on the old west to east drovers’ road sometimes known as ‘The Welsh Road’ or ‘Banbury Way’2.  Interestingly, there is a GHH at Wrexham in North Wales – a great droving centre – and there’s a clear connection between the two.  The Hook Norton ironstone quarries were in operation from 1899 till 1946 supplying iron ore to the Brymbo Steelworks in Wrexham.  The Hook Norton pub seems to have been the earlier one so perhaps the Wrexham pub took its name from its Cotswold sister.


“A local (HN) man Paul Pickering told me that his great grandfather used to work at the GHH in the 1890s.  He was a snob – a shoemaker – and would repair the clogs, boots & harnesses of the Welsh drovers passing through.  They all spoke Welsh, he said, and you couldn’t understand them.  Their dogs were really feral – Smithfield lurchers, which were favourite dogs for poachers as they were so good at catching hares & rabbits.  You were never short of hares & pheasants with them on a drove.  This was in the 1890s when the railways were well established.  The drovers would sell their stock in Banbury and catch a train home, setting their dogs loose to make their way home to Wales.  Though prized for their poaching ability they were never stolen on the road – much too fast & agile.”

(Interesting point: why go on foot with the beasts when a train was available?  Possible answer: a cattle truck would have cost at least £15, payable in advance, a problem that disappeared as soon as the beasts were sold.)



A mile to the east on the same road lies an older drovers’ inn, now called Lodge Farm3, built in 1646.  It was licensed as a public house in 1831 (says Tim again) for the accommodation of Welsh drovers "who pass with their cattle in the summer time". That too had a pound for the drovers’ beasts (#2).  


If they were brave – or had the lurchers with them – they would turn left at the crossroads soon after Lodge Farm and cross Wigginton Heath to Tadmarton & Broughton.  The heath was infertile, boggy and infested with robbers (#3).  Otherwise they would have carried on to Milcombe, where there was a drovers’ barn to accommodate the head drover on the western edge of the village (#4).  (I say ‘was’ because it has now been pulled down to make way for a housing estate.)


The road near Lower Tadmarton is a stunner in the spring (#5) and the combination of rolling countryside and ironstone cottages make the area one of the most beautiful I have ever visited. 

1 I have found many rhymes with the same, or almost the same, wording outside inns from Kirkham down to Cookham.  The Gate Inn in Barnet is a good example.


2 Their route from the west could have been Bridgnorth, Worcester, Pershore and Broadway.  That would avoid Brum & Wolverhampton, which was a huge conurbation by the 1890’s.  But it’s a puzzle to me why they approached Banbury from the south-west rather than the north-west.


3 Previously Hook Norton Lodge and before that The Fox and Hounds.  Or vice versa!  The inn, like so many others, has Dick Turpin connections: the highwayman is supposed to have had fast horses stabled there & could "disappear into the mists" if the constables came along.  That legend expanded: he was supposed to have vanished down a tunnel from the stables of the inn to Lodge Pool, a pear-shaped stew for the monastery in Swalcliffe Wood.  The pool has connections going even further back: when it was drained, Roman coins were found on the blue clay bed.  Enough!

The Gate Hangs High to Banbury image 1
The Gate Hangs High
The Gate Hangs High to Banbury image 2
Lodge farm
The Gate Hangs High to Banbury image 3
Wigginton Heath
The Gate Hangs High to Banbury image 4
Drovers' Barn at Milcombe
The Gate Hangs High to Banbury image 5
The Road to Banbury