After becoming editor of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Oxford Drinker magazine, Dave Richardson decided to write a book about the city’s pubs. He told Andrew Ffrench how he focused on their unusual traditions and histories

When Dave Richardson was approached to write a new book about Oxford pubs he thought it was a “no-brainer”.

The 64-year-old became editor of CAMRA’s Oxford Drinker magazine about two years ago and, as a result, he was approached by Amberley Publishing to write a book covering city hostelries – the tenth in a series.

Mr Richardson knew he was following in the footsteps of previous overviews of Oxford boozers so he was anxious not to go over the same ground they covered.

As a result, his guide does not cover every single pub, concentrating instead on those with quirky tales to tell and fascinating histories.

Derek Honey wrote An Encyclopaedia of Oxford Pubs, Inns and Taverns, published by Oakwood Press in 1998.

This was followed by Oxford Pubs Past & Present by Paul Marriott.

Mr Richardson praised their efforts and said following the work of these “pioneers” there was no need for him to trawl back through centuries of archives.

Instead, he has concentrated on giving a flavour of what pubs are like today, to act as a guide book as well as a historical record.

The writer from Kennington has included only a few former pubs – the Golden Cross, now Pizza Express; the Roebuck Tap, now Wagamama restaurant; and the Swindlestock Tavern, which closed more than three centuries ago.

Mr Richardson, who lives with wife Victoria, added that his first major challenge was to decide which pubs to include, as the publishers suggested a limit of about 50, and there are about 90 within the ring road.

He added: “This is not a CAMRA publication so the availability of real ale wasn’t an issue – nearly all the pubs I featured now sell it.

“I decided to concentrate only on traditional pubs, whatever their atmosphere might be like today, and most of those in the city centre are included.

“I didn’t include any modern pubs, or either of the Wetherspoons, although they respect the history of their areas.”

After starting out in the city centre Mr Richardson’s pub journey provides chapters on Jericho and North Oxford, Around the Plain, and Around Oxford, including the main riverside pubs such as The Perch in Binsey and The Trout at Wolvercote.

“Research was long and hard, but as my wife Victoria reminded me someone had to do it,” Mr Richardson joked.

“I ventured into pubs I had never been in before, despite living in Oxford for 35 years, including the two gay pubs, the Jolly Farmers and Castle Tavern/Baby Love, where the dancing pole in the basement was a revelation.

“I might be the only CAMRA member to try out the Cricketers Arms on Iffley Road since it became the Mad Hatter cocktail bar, but despite the absence of real ale I admire greatly what they are doing here.”

The real ale enthusiast, who also works as a travel and tourism writer, said some landlords were keen to help him but others were not.

He added: “It took me about three months to research and write the book. The reception I received varied from keen interest and a willingness to help, to total indifference.

Oxford Mail:

  • Author Dave Richardson on the site of the former Swindlestock Tavern

“The most helpful landlords included Andrew and Debbie Hall at the Rose & Crown in North Oxford and Jacqueline Paphitis at the White Horse.”

Mr Richardson took pictures of the pubs’ exteriors while his friend Phil Gammon, a professional photographer, took pictures inside.

The author said the pub trade in Oxford city was healthy, but it was suffering in some suburbs.

“Many pubs outside the centre and around the county are still struggling and some have fallen into the hands of developers.

“I don’t think my book is as comprehensive as Derek Honey’s but I hope it gives a good flavour of Oxford pubs past and present.

“While the ancient history of some pubs is well known, I was very pleased to come up with some modern history too, such as the bands that played at the Jericho Tavern before they became famous, and the giant photo inside the Angel and Greyhound showing customers when it was a punk pub.”

Sam Madder, 32, general manager at the Victoria pub in Walton Street, said: “I think Dave’s book is an excellent idea – I’m interested to find out more about the history of the Victoria and other pubs around Oxford.”


Dave Richardson has selected St Aldates Tavern, The Chequers and The Royal Blenheim in the city centre, the Rose & Crown in North Parade Avenue in North Oxford, and The General Eliott in South Hinksey.

He said he was pleased The General Eliott had “come back to life so impressively” after being closed and derelict for six years. 

* Oxford Pubs is published by Amberley, price £14.99. Visit for further information.