Pubs of Thame Oxfordshire

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Abingdon-Arms  

The Abingdon Arms is located in Thame's Cornmarket. The building was originally known as The Greyhound but just to make things confusing the Greyhound name was transferred to another tavern. And to add to the perplexity of Thame's pubs, there was more than one Greyhound drinking den. Things get worse.... The Greyhound that evolved into the Abingdon Arms was the headquarters of the pugilist Jimmy Figg. In recent years another pub was named the Jimmy Figg in honour of the man who some regard as the first world heavyweight boxing champion. Born in Thame in the late 16th century, James Figg was a bare knuckle fighter who gained a wide reputation on the fairs circuit. Certainly a London celebrity, if not a national figure, he was later portrayed by William Hogarth in two notable works of art: Southwark Fair and A Rake’s Progress. However, Figg was more than a fist fighter - he was regarded as an expert with a number of weapons. It was for this reason that he was courted by the upper classes.

The Prince of Wales is known to have associated with Jimmy Figg, probably to learn the art of self defence. Always up for a bit of self promotion, Figg declared himself the Champion Prizefighter of England in 1719. He died in London in December 1734 and was buried at St Marylebone cemetery, not a million miles from where most of his bouts were staged. Why the name of the pub moved to another building is something of a mystery - though not unheard of, as many publicans took the name with them when they moved premises. The building traded as the Chequers Inn for a number of years before the Abingdon Arms appeared in 1832. At this time, the 5th Earl of Abingdon, Montagu Bertie, owned substantial amounts of land and property in Thame. Born in April 1784, Montagu Bertie was the son of Willoughby Bertie, 4th Earl of Abingdon and Charlotte Warren. A law graduate from Oxford University, he held the office of High Steward of Abingdon and Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire. In 1807 he married Emily Gage, daughter of General Thomas Gage and Margaret Kemble. His second marriage in 1841 was to Lady Frederica Augusta Kerr, daughter of Vice-Admiral Lord Mark Robert Kerr and Charlotte MacDonnell, Countess of Antrim. He died at Wytham Abbey in October 1854. The Abingdon Arms was operated by the wine and spirit merchant Jacob Watson for much of the mid-19th century. The pub later formed part of the tied estate of the Banbury-based brewery of Hunt, Edmunds and Co.Ltd. In 1907 Arthur Hearne was documented as licensed victualler and agent for the Sun Fire Insurance Office. He was also a wine and spirits agent. Born in South Weston in 1865, he kept the Abingdon Arms with his wife Daisy who hailed from just down the road in Sydenham. The couple enjoyed a measure affluence and employed a servant and nurse. Hired in the latter role, Lizzie Humphries was probably charged with the care of the children whilst Daisy Hearne worked in the family business. Arthur Hearne was an individual who followed a diverse business path. Prior to moving to the Abingdon Arms he lived at the family home next to the Bell Inn at Moreton where he worked as an estate agent. His father had worked as a farm bailiff when the Hearne's lived at Amersham in the early 1880's. During the 1980's the Abingdon Arms was an outlet for Usher's brewery.
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