The arrival of a new landlord at a village pub was a time to celebrate – and eye up who was now in charge.

When Sydney Scales took over the Chequers Inn at Churchill, near Chipping Norton, in 1969, it stayed opened all day.

His son, Mick recalls: “He was 57 and in those days, when nearing retirement, some people thought it would be nice to have a quiet life running a pub in the countryside!

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“My mother wasn’t so keen on the idea.

“The magistrates would conduct the formalities for the change of licensee, with the old and new landlords, the police sergeant and brewery officials in attendance.

“This was followed by a booze-up at the pub to celebrate.

“The magistrate joined in too!

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“The pub never closed on the day of change and most of the village attended.

“My mother, Maro, put in a guest appearance - it proved to be her last after an old farmer asked her for a pint of cider and she gave him a pint of sherry for sixpence.

“My father saw him eyeing up the strong looking liquid and admonished my mother, much to the amusement of the assembled company, after which she resigned from further pub duties, except to empty the till before shopping trips.”

Mrs Scales was not left totally unemployed.

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She bought a bloodhound and started breeding them, erecting a kennel in the pub’s backyard.

It proved to be a worthwhile enterprise - she later met a BBC producer and her hounds appeared in many productions, including Jackanory, That’s Life!, Caterpillar Trail and The Invisible Man as well as on the front cover of Country Life magazine and in many newspaper articles.

However, the pleasure of raising hounds made little difference to her enthusiasm for pub life, and her interest in it waned still further when the pub stayed open after hours.

Her son recalls: “Customers always wanted to have late drinks, an ‘after’ or a ‘lock in’ as it was known.

“Dad was always willing, but mother took a dim view of afters as her bedroom was above the lounge bar.

“She would start banging on her floor.

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“When that didn’t work, she would turn the bar lights off from the private sitting room where there was a switch until, for some unknown reason, it later failed to operate!”

Servicemen from RAF Little Rissington, who regularly attended the pub, devised a “cunning plan” to get Mrs Scales on their side.

Son Mike, who now lives at Kentisbeare, Devon, writes: “Before closing time, they would ask if she could bring one of her bloodhounds into the bar.

“One of the RAF lads would engage in a lengthy conversation with her and buy her a drink or two.

“With her thoroughly distracted, the after-hours booze-up could continue.”

Village life at Churchill reminded Mike of the popular TV series Heartbeat, based in Yorkshire.

“The police used our pub on and off duty. There was a garage and petrol pumps across the road and many similar village characters.”

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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