The Ghosts of England’s Oldest Pub, The Royal Standard of England, Buckinghamshire
Quirky, cosy, and radiating warmth, The Royal Standard of England in Penn, Buckinghamshire can easily be considered one of the most charming pubs in the southwest. With low beams, hidden nooks and crannies, and an assortment of knick-knacks, the pub’s unique aesthetic is only rivalled by it’s delicious food and homey atmosphere. And according to reports, this historic pub is not only a local favourite, but also a popular watering hole for a number of ghostly patrons.
Originally named ‘Se Scip’ (or The Ship), the first known mention of The Royal Standard was in 1213, making it the oldest pub in all of England according to it’s owners. It’s likely, as with many historical buildings in the country, a similar establishment existed on the site before the thirteenth-century. According to the Royal Standard’s website, Se Scip’s early success can be attributed to it’s ideal location along the then popular trade route for the local tile making industry and for the transportation of animals through the countryside. The Deer Hunt at Knotty Green and Penn, frequented by the Norman Kings, also helped keep the pub’s rooms full when the medieval courts moved between the various local royal residences.
Se Scip’s name was officially changed to The Royal Standard of England in 1663, a great honour bestowed by Charles II as thanks for support the landlord had given the Royalists during the English Civil War. At the time, The Royal Standard was the only pub in the country to have this respected name. A less virtuous version of the story is that the name was given by Charles II to thank the landlord for letting him use the rooms above the pub to discretely meet with his mistress.
Because of the pubs quintessentially English appeal, The Royal Standard has been used as a filming location for The Theory of Everything and The Boys are Back, as well as episodes of Midsomer Murders and Endeavour.
A Trio of Ghosts
In England, Ghost stories and pubs go together like tea and biscuits. So its unsurprising that The Royal Standard’s long history comes with a number of phantom residents. These are the three most popular ghost stories associated with the oldest pub in England.
The Little Drummer Boy
In 1643 during the English Civil War, a twelve-year-old drummer boy was among a dozen Irish Confederate Cavaliers (Royalists) executed by Roundhead soldiers (Parliamentarians) at the Royal Standard. The heads of the deceased were then raised on spikes outside the pub. After meeting a gruesome death at such a young age, the spirit of the drummer boy can still be heard beating his drum at night around the pub and carpark.
Another ghost of a Civil War Cavalier has been seen walking across The Royal Standard and disappearing through a fireplace located in the pub’s Candle Room. The fireplace is believed to have come from Gregories, the home of politician Edmund Burke in the eighteenth-century. Another interpretation says the disappearing ghost was a man killed accidentally by the Earl of Barrymore in 1788. The earl was part of a group called the Four Horse Club who would bribe coachmen to let them drive their horse-drawn carriages at incredibly reckless speeds. It’s said that the Earl ran over the man, a traveller, and that his battered corpse was brought into the pub. The landlord at the time was paid to keep the incident under wraps. Reports of this ghostly gentleman, whoever he may be, are the most frequent among the pub’s guests.
Woman in the Restroom
The third apparition doesn’t have a story associated with her, but there have been reports of a ghostly woman seen in the ladies’ toilets. Is she a former barmaid or perhaps the mistress of Charles II? Who knows. Maybe after a few pints you’ll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her as well.
Visiting The Royal Standard of England
The Royal Standard of England is located in the hamlet of Forty Green in Penn, Buckinghamshire. The pub has lots of parking available on site and, for alternative forms of transportation, places to tether your horse and secure your bike. After eating and drinking your fill, be sure to check out the public footpath (with 1km and 3km options) that starts and ends at the pub for a lovely tour of the surrounding area. If traveling from London, Beaconsfield is the closest train station and is located about two miles away.
Sources and Additional Reading
Beaconsfield and District Historical Society
Bucks Free Press: South Bucks’ most haunted pubs
NovaLoca: 5 More of the UK’s Most Haunted Properties
The Royal Standard of England: History