Back to the past with Ed Grimsdale: The tale of the two Crossed Keys Inns

The Cross Keys, Buckingham. Copy owned by Roger Short. PNL-140509-141825001
The Cross Keys, Buckingham. Copy owned by Roger Short. PNL-140509-141825001
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Recent pieces based on an 1852 view of Buckingham brought helpful comments from Advertiser readers about the Cross Keys Inn – the railway inn that wasn’t true to type.

As railways bestrode the land they brought in train metropolitan architectural ideas that contrasted with local vernacular designs handed from builder fathers to their sons and successors.

Picture from the 1980s of the other side of West Street. The Cross Keys Inn was in the two-storey, Georgian brick range beside Butler's furniture emporium; its coaching entrance, now 'bricked up', may be glimpsed near to the white car beyond Selaire (hairdressers) PNL-140509-141835001

Picture from the 1980s of the other side of West Street. The Cross Keys Inn was in the two-storey, Georgian brick range beside Butler's furniture emporium; its coaching entrance, now 'bricked up', may be glimpsed near to the white car beyond Selaire (hairdressers) PNL-140509-141835001

From the 18th century, ‘greater’ Buckingham had two Cross Keys Inns – in West Street, and on the corner of Lenborough Road and Nelson Street.

Multiplicity causes confusion. To make matters worse, I reckon that West Street’s Cross Keys Inn wasn’t the property that sports a Cross Keys nameplate but opposite to it!

Andrew O’Byrne has told me his ‘named’ property has been a guesthouse, offices, and a retail unit before becoming a home.

Now look at my picture from the 1980s of the other side of West Street. I believe the Cross Keys Inn was in the two-storey, Georgian brick range beside Butler’s furniture emporium; its coaching entrance, now ‘bricked up’, may be glimpsed near to the white car beyond Selaire (hairdressers).

Roger Short has told me the photo of Lenborough Road’s Cross Keys Inn that I published: “Was taken at around 1908 to 1910 not 1880…it is a photo of my grandfather Frank Short and his family.

“Frank Short did not own the horse and buggy, it was loaned to him by one of the Buckland family just for the photo”.

Roger has supplied a scan of his family’s copy of the image – much brighter, detailed and more redolent of the 20th century than the faded version which I used. Do look at it and note the inn’s sign with F. Short (licensee) under the crossed keys.

Roger’s edition has a crease line but that doesn’t detract from the charm of the scene. The Bucklands’ recycling yard remains, tucked away behind the row of cottages that adjoin the ancient inn, The Mitre, seen behind Mrs Short’s right shoulder.

Joy Boughton adds: “The Crossed Keys is now two cottages and … the larger one, nearest to Hunter Street, retains some of its old features: low ceilings, inglenook fireplace, etc.”

When Buckingham’s railway was built, the chief engineer, Mr Brassey, chose the Inn as his HQ. His team left the pub in 1848 to cut the first sod, and returned to its bar to celebrate their deed.

In those days, the inn sported a meadow at its rear. It rolled down delightfully to the River Ouse that gurgled as it tumbled through rocks known as the ‘Cascades’. But in a case of the Beauty of Nature versus the Beast of Progress, Mr Brassey’s navvies moved the river 100m and then filled in the Cascades to form a foundation for the imprisoning embankment and viaduct.

In the year of train revolution (1848), there were no compensation payments for loss of amenity. Contrast that with today and HS2! Were it not for the coming of the railway, I bet the Crossed Keys would remain open as Buckingham’s pub with the finest riverside garden.