Tuesday, September 12, 1899
— LONGEST-LICENSED MAN —
The village of Chinnor lies on the western slope of the Chiltern Hills.
Just at the present moment it is wondering why five people out of six have never heard of it, for it has the distinction of containing the publican who has been licensed longer than anybody else in the kingdom.
This is Mr. W.T. Webster, of the Royal Oak Inn, who for sixty-four years in succession has met with the approval of the Brewster Sessions.
That anything—even a licence—connected with the place should be sixty-four years old does not appear in the least wonderful to the visitor as he inspects Chinnor. The aspect of everything in the place is suggestive of twice that period—down to the dead frog that reposes undisturbed on the high road.
The Royal Oak Inn itself is a house dating from some time in the seventeenth century. Before it is a rose garden, and in the garden is a sign board that shows that it is an inn.
The only thing of at all youthful appearance in Chinnor is Mr. Webster.
“I am eighty-seven years of age,” he told a representative of The Evening News, and the statement came as a sort of shock from a stout and upright man whose hair looked to be just turning grey.
“I was born in Chinnor,” he continued, “and have held a licence of sixty-four years. Waterloo? Yes, I remember Waterloo. I was a little boy at the time, and when I heard the recruits firing in Thame Park, I thought the Frenchmen were upon us, and hid in an oven.”
“My wife is a year older than I am. She does not carry her years quite as well as I do. I will introduce you to her,” and Mr. Webster went to fetch his wife.
The old lady, unlike her husband, looks her age, but one can quite imagine her as having been a village belle of seventy years ago.
“Who was minister when you were a little girl?” he said, turning to his wife. “I mean when you were a good little girl. Dr. Payne? Yes—there have been six—up to Mr. Howman, the present rector.
“I remember very well going up to London by the coach. We had to go to Thame to catch it. There was the Spotted Dog, I recollect, on the road at Bayswater, and the Bull at the journey’s end in Holborn. The first time my wife and I went to London together was seventy years ago—the last time, within the last two years.
“We were born in the village,” chimed in Mrs. Webster. “I remember saying once, as I saw my husband coming up the lane, ‘Now that’s the man for me.'”
According to Mr. Webster things have been very quiet in Chinnor during the time he has supplied it with beer, &c. The most recent event of any importance was the burning down of the old rectory in part. This happened eighty years ago—before the old couple were in possession of the Royal Oak.
Mr. Webster drinks beer in preference to spirits, and has been a smoker. He still goes to market at Thame. His chief recreation is shooting and surveying. On Saturday he was one of a party of four guns which bagged ten brace of partridges and seven hares.
“But I can’t walk so well as I used to,” he added.
Chinnor has shown its appreciation of Mr. Webster by making him its assistant overseer. He seems likely to go on holding this office well into the next century.—The Evening News.
Transcript © Paul Brazell 2008