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Background History of Lowsonford
Initially one of three hamlets, it was established by a group of Saxons of Hwicce heritage. Their settlement was named after their leader Hroca and Hrocingatun, meaning “Homestead of Hroca’s People” which gradually became corrupted over the centuries to Rowington. Lowsonford rests partly in the parishes of Rowington and Preston Bagot. It was originally separated from Rowington and Preston Bagot by a stream of the River Alne which the locals had to ford when travelling between the hamlets. In 1863 Lowesenford was named Lonesomefords which means “The Lonely Streams crossing place”, from the solitary character of the village and the area near the ford. In fact ‘solitary’ is a word often used to describe Lowsonford and its neighbouring hamlets. Semi-buried, deep in the remains of the Forest of Arden among a maze of long lanes, if you close one eye you might miss it as you travel on your way to Henley In Arden or Stratford Upon Avon… and speaking of Stratford, part of the land once belonged to the family of its most famous son William Shakespeare. In fact “As You Like It” was set in the Forest of Arden.
History of the Fleur De Lys
Dating back to c.1690 the Fleur De Lys was originally a row of three cottages and an adjacent barn. The barn doubled as the village mortuary from 1877, where bodies awaited carriage to nearby Rowington for burial. The mortuary in fact only closed in 1936. The Fleur De Lys was being paid £670 per annum by the 1930′s for ‘candles and service’ – ‘laying out’ to you and me. Presumably this little job fell to the licensee as the Chapel of ease was on the pub land. Gradually, over a long period of time, the pub converted the cottages and finally the mortuary into the present building. Not surprisingly, the smell of lye soap, a substance used to prepare the bodies for burial at this time, has been scented in the area of the mortuary which now forms the lower bar area.
A Ghostly tale
“Abigail’s been seen in the corner of the room, which is always cold, even on the hottest of days…”
The present landlord’s wife Gail has been asked “…who lights the candles during bright, hot summer days when it isn’t necessary?” The answer may lie with the little girl (who they’ve named Abigail) who appears to haunt the upper back bedroom, the room above the old mortuary. Abigail’s been seen in the corner of the room, which is always cold, even on the hottest of days. One of the previous landlords’s had a daughter who became reluctant to leave her room, the room in question, from time to time. When asked “Why?” she replied that her friend would cry. “What friend?” “My friend over there.” “Where?” “Over there” “Over there where?”… “There in the corner! The little girl over there!” The girl in question is about 8 or 9 years old from the 1800′s and very frail looking. She seems to have an aversion to women as she cowers when approached by adult females but not by children or men. Her thinness suggests lack of care. Perhaps she could be the child who fell to her death down the staircase that used to rise where the passage between the two inglenook fireplaces. Perhaps she was one of the children from a ‘pauper’ family. It was common practice for these children to be bound as apprentices. The parish would pay their master so much per year to take them on and teach them a trade. Their own family would be relieved of their expense and they would eventually have a trade which they could use to make a living. Maybe she had been apprenticed to the mortician as a domestic servant and perhaps she liked to play rather than work? Perhaps the wife of the mortician would reprimand her? Perhaps she would cry when a new playmate had to leave – even if the playmate in question lived centuries later, because she wanted her to stay and play? And moving back to the candles… these were lit in the section of the pub that was once the mortuary, a job that little Abigail would probably have had to do!
Home of the Pies
It really is the pub where Fleur De Lys pies, well known throughout the land’s chip shops, originated. Lillian Eggleton, the licensee and baker, is recorded as being at the tavern between 1932 – 1936; the remains of the bread oven can still be seen at the side of the central fireplace. Whether due to her influence or perhaps to an inspirational moment Mr Brookes, licensee from 1950 – 1958, began cooking his now famous Steak & Kidney and Chicken & Mushroom Pies. At this time it was unusual to find food available in public houses. The pies became so popular that he bought Emscote Mill in Warwick and began making pies there so that the whole of England and not just Lowsonford could benefit. Obviously he couldn’t settle to being just a pie maker because he also bought the Elephant & Castle pub on Emscote Road, Warwick next to his factory, called it the Simple Simon and spent the rest of his life serving pies and pints there until he died.
Although the Simple Simon still exists unfortunately there is nothing left of his pie factory, although the Fleur De Lys Court housing complex commemorates where it once stood.
A Gory Tale
Long ago in bygone days when the French court used the Fleur De Lys as its emblem, it is told that there was much talk of plotting against England by those French who would upset good relationships between the two countries. The two courts were joined by marriage and so this made it very hard for the King of England to make any accusations. To discover the truth he sent a spy to the French court. When the French king found out that his relative by-marriage had done this, he was insulted. He beheaded the spy and sent the bloody body parts back to England baked in a pie with the French Fleur De Lys sculpted in pastry on the top. From that day forwards any pies containing unknown meats were known as Fleur De Lys pies!
Needless to say, that tradition has long broken, and we now tell you exactly what you’ll find inside our pies!!
Do you have any stories of ghostly goings-on, or information about the pub’s past? Please leave a comment or get in touch via email. We’d love to hear from you!