Kings Head Inn, Aylesbury
Owned and run by the National Trust since 1925, the Grade II listed 15th century Kings Head on the Market Square is a fantastic building steeped in a rich history and I suppose it is only natural that it has a reputation of being haunted as well by several ghosts, including a nun.
Perhaps an explanation for the nun is the Franciscan friary which used to be adjacent Kings Head which would have offered lodgings to the vistors. According to ‘A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3 (1925)’ ‘On the high ground to the south-west of the Market Square stood the Franciscan friary, founded in 1386 by James (Butler) Earl of Ormonde, then lord of the manor. Its stone wall inclosing certain gardens faced the corner of Walton Street. The conventual church stood further north, and the friars’ cemetery had a gate opening into ‘Rether Fair’…. The friars surrendered to the Crown in October 1538 and their house was purchased by Sir John Baldwin, lord of the manor, in April 1541.’
A few sources date the Kings Head from around 1450 but some parts are older. It was described as being ‘of two stories with attics; the walls are of timber with brick filling and the roofs are tiled. The plan originally consisted of four ranges of buildings surrounding a courtyard. The south-west range contains the hall, originally of five bays, but now reduced to two. It is a handsome room of some height with moulded beams and wall posts. Behind the hall were the kitchens. The north-east and north-west ranges form the stables and have been almost entirely rebuilt. The south-east range, which was formerly the main front facing Market Square, but is now obscured by later buildings, is composed of three gabled bays.’*
In an article entitled ‘The King’s Head – ‘where a relaxed atmosphere prevails’, Roger King says ‘History records that the King’s Head has always been multi-functional. The building dates back to 1386, and perhaps even earlier. The first buildings on the site were where the Farmers’ Bar is now situated and consisted of 3 shops and a cottage. There was a cellar underneath one of the shops, accessible by steps from the street. This was a tavern called the King’s Head (Kyngshede) and would almost certainly have been named after the reigning monarch, Richard II. The shops and cottage would have had lesser buildings attached, with a ground level hall and parlour, and sleeping quarters on the first floor. All that remains of these buildings is the cellar underneath the Farmers’ Bar. These early buildings would actually have overlooked the Market Square.’
King Henry VI (Born 6 December 1421 – Died 21 May 1471) and his wife Margaret of Anjou (Born 23 March 1430 – Died 25 August 1482) are thought to have to have stayed there in 1445 whilst on their honeymoon.
There is a story that King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed at the Kings Head in 1533, though there is no evidence to support this.
Also following the English Civil War Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), it is thought that Oliver Cromwell (Born 25 April 1599 – Died 3 September 1658) may have stayed in the Solar Room at the Kings Head and although the chair he is said to have used is in the pub I am unsure whether there is any real evidence that he actually did visit. It has of course been speculated that he haunts the pub.
‘Hanging Judge’ George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem (Born 15 May 1645 – Died 18 April 1689) is said to have been one of the many Judges to preside over courts held at the Kings Head during the 17t century.
The Kings Head’s Great Hall is reputedly haunted by a Grey Lady which has been seen by the fireplace. A phantom 19th century maid is also thought to haunt the Gatehouse staircase on which she fell to her death and the aforementioned nun has been seen as recently as 2003 in the Dining Room or Tourist Information Office.
* A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3 (1925)