Through its longish history the Royal Oak seems to have sported many different signs. The first on record is that painted by Pete Nicholas’ father in 1948. Pete supplied the photo of this, which also bears the transcript of a cutting from the Evening World, October 27 1948: PUBLICAN ARTIST. Alf Nicholas, licensee of the Royal Oak Stoke St Gregory, is also a sign painter for the Hambridge Brewery. He is seen here with his Christmas geese beneath the sign he has painted depicting King Charles in the oak tree. [See the full photo here.]
The wrought iron bracket with its leaves and acorns, from which this sign hangs, was subsequently moved to the opposite end of the building.
The most recent sign read simply The Royal Oak Free House, and was probably painted over an existing sign when Dave Benatto refurbished the pub in the nineties. Trevor Daniels has provided photos from the eighties showing what looks like the same sign with different lettering.
That leaves the earlier sign (Royal Oak/Free House/Whitbread Ales) which was until recently screwed to the side of the skittle alley. It is painted on both sides, proving that it had been a swinging sign. Does anyone have photos or memories of it hanging at the front? It is in surprisingly good condition, especially the side which was screwed facing the wall.
Because it represents the history of the old Oak which we are trying to revive, and seems at one with the newly revealed brick buidling, we have decided to restore and re-hang this sign, at least for now, “Whitbread Ales” being replaced with “& Village Shop”
This process is a microcosm of the range of volunteering that has made HOTV such a successful community project. The sign was carefully removed from the wall and stored by Trevor and his indefatigable band of decorators. Robbie cleaned up and treated the wrought iron bracket (also in surprisingly good condition) before painting it green. Bradley Harris has generously adapted the hinged holder from the existing sign to fit this one. (Bradley’s wife Sophie it will not be forgotten volunteered a huge amount of accounting expertise when we were preparing for the share offer and since.) Misha Seelhoff is contributing her artistic skills by touching up the sign and adding some new lettering designed by Nick. Others will no doubt assist in rehanging the sign within the next couple of weeks. We’ll be a proper pub again by the time we are able to reopen the bar, hopefully in May.
[If anyone has further information or corrections to offer, please email Nick.]