The former Lion Hotel, High Street (largely demolished)
The former Lion Hotel, High Street (largely demolished)In its heyday this popular establishment in High Street was formed from two previously separate businesses, the Lion and the King’s Head. Only the latter survives – in part – today (2020), as a restaurant at No.15.
The original Lion was within the four-gabled building to the left in the historic view, and was demolished in 1936, along with the tall Victorian gabled structure which linked it to the King’s Head, the twin-gabled building to the right. This building dates from 1291 and was jettied both to the High Street and to a passageway to the left.
The earliest recorded date for the Red Lion and the Kings Head is 1734. Later, the Lion was one of the places from which coaches left Abingdon for distant destinations, though by 1844 these were largely ferrying passengers to and from the nearest railway stations at Culham and Steventon.
Around 1866 the two inns were amalgamated to become the Red Lion and later, simply the Lion. Its position in the centre of Abingdon was important. It was near the cattle market and traders gathered at the Lion to arrange deals. Its rooms were used for balls and auction sales.
In 1911 the Lion was bought by William Henry and Alice Mayhead. Their story is told in the article on The Mayhead family & the Lion Hotel.
After the demolition of the old Lion building, the King’s Head continued to trade as The Lion public house, but it closed in 1987 and almost suffered the same fate as its neighbour, but while the building was being stripped out evidence of an early structure was found and demolition work was stopped. The evidence can be seen in the upper room, which has a remarkable roof structure, the earliest part of which dates from 1291, making it so far the earliest reliably dated domestic building in Abingdon.
It is of a type known as a crown-post roof, enhanced two hundred years later in 1501 by the replacement of one of the crown posts by a pair of curved scissor-braces. These have grooves to support a plaster ceiling.
This roof is within the left-hand gable as viewed from the street. In the right-hand gable is a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century plaster barrel-vault with a moulded cornice, obscuring the timber structure above.
See Glossary for explanation of technical terms.
© AAAHS and contributors 2020