Considering it is a venerable old building, it has to date proved surprisingly difficult to track down the history of the Greyhound, but the best estimate has it that the pub is about 400 years old. It was a former coaching inn that stood on one of the major turnpike roads from Oxford to the West Country, and as such at one time it had a blacksmith's forge attached to the pub to the facilitate re-shoeing of horses.
Above is a photograph of an outing from the Greyhound at the turn of the century. Organised outings to places of interest were common and were often arranged by Friendly Societies as in this case. Working people joined these Friendly Societies in order to enjoy the social occasions, as well as for the important aspects of saving and sickness benefits in an era when the NHS didn't exist.
It is believed the Greyhound was a Morland Brewery property. A farmer, John Morland, set up a brewery in 1711 in West Ilsley in Berkshire, and the local ale and porter was sought after in London's public houses. During the 1860s, Morland acquired the Child family's Abbey Brewery in Abingdon and then the Eagle Brewery, also in Abingdon and the whole operation re-located there in 1880. Over the following century, the brewery took over and closed some seven breweries in the area, before itself being purchased and closed by Green King in 2000. Such is the predatory nature of the brewery business.
1818, the Innkeeper at
the Greyhound was Alfred White
In 1818, the Innkeeper at the Greyhound was Alfred White. He was a busy man, for he also ran a bakery, the village shop and a forge. He became interested in the workings of bells following his instruction in the art of campanology when the three bells at Appleton Church were recast into a ring of six, and he decided to use the forge to facilitate his work with bells, and many oak bell frames were constructed in the yard at the rear of the pub. He started trading as A. White, Bellhanger and eventually took his sons into the business and traded as A. White & Sons. Even in these early days he was doing work all over the country, including work at several Cathedrals, and to this day Whites of Appleton Ltd is the oldest continuously trading bell hanging company in the United Kingdom.
In the second world war, American Troops were billeted in a tented camp in Besselsleigh. Peter Nurse describes his time at Besselsleigh as an evacuee during the second world war: "Then there was the arrival of the Americans - I believe it would have been during 1942 that they were first sighted. They were so different to our troops - their uniforms were so much smarter and their accents were very strange to us then. They established a tented camp just up the road from the Greyhound at Besselsleigh and naturally it became their local. This was viewed with mixed feelings by the locals as beer was in short supply and the Yanks were drinking most of it!"
This photo was taken a little later in the 1950's when the road came right up to the front of the pub. This photo was supplied, very kindly by Jeffrey Heavens who has also given us a brief description of his time as landlord:
My family had a 61 year connection to The Greyhound. My Grandparents, William and Edith Cook took over the tenancy in 1927 and after William died Edith carried on until I took over in 1963.
My wife Isobel and I ran the pub until 1988 when it had become famous for the jacket potatoes that we sold, in fact most of the people around here referred to it as the "Spud Pub".
He has also provided us with a great piece of information about the Greyhound sign: The Greyhound depicted on the sign is part of coat of arms of the Lenthal family, The First Speaker of the House of Commons, who, at one time owned the pub as part of their estate.