© David Hallam - 2008
Individual Inns & Pubs in Beeston - R-S
This page is still under construction
We hope to have completed it by late 2008
Details of Individual Beeston Pubs: B - C
D - J
M - Q
R - S
T - W
The Royal Oak - this small "local" pub (shown in its current form on the right) can be found on Villa Street, Beeston -
hardly a "street" at all these days having been sliced up by large-scale modern day developments - but once situated in the heart of the lace
making area of Beeston.
The pub was founded around 1853 by Emma Burnham, the widow of John Burnham who had operated as a joiner, based on Villa Street. Johnís whole estate had been
left to her for life, after which it was to be passed equally to their six children.1 The "Oak" would be part of this progression and, although
subsequent generations were to continue their joinery business - through to comparatively recent times - the Royal Oak was to play a major part in the
prosperity of the wider family.
See the story and genealogy of the Burnham and associated families.
It seems that the Burnhams saw the potential of the changing face of Villa Street in the middle of the 19th century - which has been well described by
Ernest Pollard in his account of his Pollard family lace business Although the framework
knitters in the area would have suffered badly from the general downturn in the hosiery trade in the years up to the middle of the century - a decline which
was to continue relentlessly until it was eventually superseded by machine knitting - the parallel growth of a lace making industry in Beeston - with
Thomas Elliott's mill the centre in Villa Street itself - was, by 1850, after a couple of depressed decades, providing replacement jobs a-plenty.
To further this change, William Felkin, an entrepreneur of huge stature in the industry, had opened a lace factory at the top of the street in 1848 and -
using steam power, probably for the first time in Beeston - was operating over 90 plain net lace machines with the help of his two oldest sons, William
They probably decided by instinct but, if - as one would do now - the Burnhams had carried out a market survey, it would have soon confirmed that it was a
good location for their new venture. At the time it was being contemplated - the middle of the nineteenth century, the area bustled with activity in the
factories and numerous smaller workshops and there was crowded terraced housing on Cross Street, on Villa Street itself, on Albion Street and through onto
the bottom end of Butchers Lane (Wollaton Road) - all a stone's throw from the High Road. In 1851, Villa Street alone was home to over 10% of the population
of the village - and this rose to 22.5% when the surrounding streets were included. But it went much further than that ! For the fastest growing sector of
the economy - lace making - the statistics show that almost 30% of those employed in the trade lived in the Villa Street area - half of those in Villa Street
itself.2 Taken together, it would have been very clear that there was plenty going on and, in turn, plenty of demand for another ale-house - to join the old
Commercial Inn which had operated on Butcher Lane since before 1841.
Although Emma Burnham was the earliest recorded licensee, by 1861 she had retired to live on Chapel Street, Beeston and her eldest son Edward had taken over as the publican - presumably
anticipating his share of his fatherís estate. Edward, born in 1816, like many within the family, was a joiner by trade and, for a time, continued to
describe himself as that in addition to his role as publican. It was he who managed the Royal Oak through a period of over twenty years when its reputation
in the neighbourhood was being established and when the lace trade was gathering apace all around. He appears to have been a decisive man - such that when
his first wife died he in 1845, he had remarried within three months - and an innovative businessman - diversifying into farming by 1871, whilst retaining
the Oak. It is likely that he retained these secondary sources of income as a response to the challenging changes that did occur locally - growth in the
lace trade was not always in a straight and rising direction. During Edwardís time in charge, the Felkin operation failed financially (in 1864) and it wasnít
until 10 years later that Frank Wilkinson arrived in the village to take over the derelict factory - where he was eventually to rebuilt and extend the business
to reach heights that far exceeded anything that went before. This period also saw the establishment of the Pollard family as major players amongst the
Beeston lace manufacturers - and right in the centre of the Royal Oaksís catchment area - although there was increased competition too, with the Cricketers
opening nearby, around 1870.
By about 1883, Edward was ready to retire - he was by than about 67 - and we would have expected him to look to his oldest son to take over but in this case, it
seems, this was not an option. Edward, junior had already established himself as the landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton in Hyson Green and its seems that chose
to turn the chance to return to Beeston. His second son, George was well established a joiner and was also, it seems, not interested and, rather then offer it
other sons, Edward turned to his son-in-law, Alfred Elliott, husband of his younger daughter Elizabeth, then in his mid-30s and, it seems with little licensed trade
experience - though born in Beeston, he had been working in Yorkshire as a printerís machinist.
As it turned out, Elliott - seen left, standing at the entrance to the Royal Oak with his wife and two daughters3 - established himself well, was able to ride
the boom years of Wilkinsonís Anglo-Scotian mills - which continued and grew despite two major fires, until folding shortly after Wilkinsonís death in 1897 - and Pollardís
growing operations - which continued that growth well into the 20th century.
On one particularly memorable day in 1898, the victorious Nottingham Forest team paid an early visit to the Royal Oak after winning the FA Cup against Derby County at Crystal Palace.
Children for miles around had been invited for free lemonade to celebrate the win and the players had joined them for a drink after a training session in the fields below Beeston
Station4 - and had even brought along the Cup. As it was being packed away, the Club Secretary - Henry Hallam - turned to Lily Elliott, then only 15, who was helping behind the
bar, and offered her one of the red ribbons from the Cup, with the words, "Keep this - it might be something to remember in your old age." And 60 years later she did when she
recalled the incident - and proundly confirmed that she still had the ribbon - for a feature in the Nottingham newspapers when Forest had once again reached the final in 1959 - against
Luton who they beat 2-1.5
Alfred Elliott was to continue as a popular licensee of the Royal Oak, supported by his wife and daughters, until his death in 1912. Then, the license was continued by his widow
Elizabeth - certainly to 1920 and possibly until her death in 1933 - and then by their youngest son Harold Burnham Elliott. When Harold died at a young age in 1944, the Elliott
family had been licencees at the Royal Oak for over 60 years.
Meanwhile, Edward Burnham, lived out a retirement of about 18 years, no doubt offering an occasional word of advice but from a comparative distance - having moved away, first
to live with his daughter Mary's family on the then fashionable Queens road and then, in deteriorated health into lodgings on Dagmar Grove. He died in 1901 at the age of 85
leaving an estate valued at £6,597 - which would the equivalent of over half a million Pounds in todayís values.
Nowadays, the pub sits fairly incongruously at the edge of Sainsburyís car park. Villa Street itself - or what is left of it - gives little indication of how it must
have appeared in its hey-day. Swiss Mills, the villa housing that once housed the owners and managers and the various small workshops have gone, the Anglo-Scotian across
what remains of Albion Street is now converted for stylish apartments and modern office units now replace the terraced housing on Cross Street and Wollaton Road. Much of
this change is inevitable and welcomed - but the hotchpotch of the streets that remain is a poor memory of a key part of Beestonís past. But the Royal Oak, still an
attraction for real ale enthusiasts, music nights - and, of course, its loyal regulars. Itís a survivor - and a reminder, for those who remember, of a different
1 John Burnhamís will dated 15 September 1853, left everything to his "dear wife Emma Burnham" for life, then equally between their
six children It was valued at under £300 (equivalent to about £21,500 in todayís values). He died nine days after making the will, on 24 September 1853.
2 These statistics have been derived from a transcription of the 1851 Census which is part of authorís Beeston database. The methods used and overall Beeston
statistics can be seen at by clicking here
3This picture, probably dating from about 1910, shows Alfred and his wife Elizabeth (née Burnham). Next to Alfred, to the right, is their younger daughter Emma who never married.The
lady on the exteme right appears to be their eldest daughter Lily Ann who married later in life, aged 40.The lady on the left is possibly Sarah ((née Eaton) who married their eldest son
Alfred in 1909.
4This area, which was also used for cricket, had been the venue for an FA Cup first round match in the previous year, against Notts County; Forest had won 3-1.
5Details of the 1898 match, names of the team and a photograph can be found at http://www.fa-cupfinals.co.uk/1898.html. Henry Hallam, aged 32, can be found lodging at 40 Kirk
White Street, Nottingham on the 1901 census (Piece 3171/127). He was the son of Thomas (a farm labourer) and Elizabeth from Ruddington, Notts. It seems that Henry left home at a very young age - in 1881, age
13, he was a tap boy at the "Adjutant White" pub on Hungerhill Road in St Anns, Nottingham. By 1891 he was an overlooker in a hosiery warehouse and living in the same Kirk White Street lodgings.
The incident at the Royal Oak was recalled in an interview with Lily - then Mrs George James, aged 75 - in a currently unidentified Nottingham newspaper clipping featuring the run-up to the 1959 Final.
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