John Taylor: A load of old Bull...

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There’s no better place to hear a load of old bull than down the pub, where ‘experts’ on all subjects abound, and wherein lie solutions to all the troubles of the world.

So it is apt that many pubs are called the Bull, including in the days of the stagecoach, that at Stony Stratford.

Of the many inns which have been noted in the town, the most famous of them are undoubtedly the Cock and the Bull which, from their proximity to each other, supposedly gave rise to the saying a ‘Cock and Bull story.’

The reason allegedly stems from the time when the Watling Street was the main route to the Midlands and the North, and the Cock and Bull became favoured locations for changing stagecoach horses.

Whilst this was done tales told by travellers in one inn would, according to tradition, be retold by travellers in the other, but with a distortion of the facts. Hence the saying a ‘Cock and Bull story.’

However, since there’s a mention of ‘a story of a cock and a bull’ in 1621, the origins may be even earlier, in which case the Stony connection may itself be a cock and bull story!

Of the other pubs in the town, on the left in the archive photo is seen the 18 Horse, and it was here Aubrey Barby came around 1933 when his brother in law, a former inspector of police at Limehouse, became the licensee.

Some time later Aubrey then took over the licence. Originally from Wicken, he had been one of the last employees at the Roberts foundry at Deanshanger, and when this closed he went to London and found work as a barman.

For three years he was then a barman at the famous ‘Charlie Brown’s in the West India Dock Road.

The inn was really called the Railway Tavern, but was made famous by the landlord’s enormous collection of antiques and curios, brought back by the seafarers who used the pub.