The Royal Oak in Hermitage Street has remained closed since its annual Oak Fest on Sunday August 5th, when five different artistes and bands took to the stage in the pub’s garden. Regular patrons of the historic inn say that it closed out of the blue without any prior notice from the landlord Martin Bolton, who took over running the pub from the late Rick and Jenny Allen.
Rick and Jenny Allen put the Royal Oak well and truly on the map of popular pubs after acquiring it in 1988. They introduced extra indoor and outdoor pub games in addition to the usual darts, skittles and cribbage. The Royal Oak participated in the Crewkerne pub quiz league, was the headquarters for a horse racing and a deep sea angling club, a sponsored football team and venue for Petanque, a French game of bowls. Rick and Jenny also started the annual Royal Oak festival, raising significant amounts for charity every year.
Historic records first show the Grade 11 listed building as an inn in 1848 although parts of the building are believed to be much older and the old maltings, stables and storage areas are understood to have originally been part of the Hermitage Brewery of Budge, Stanfield & Co, which the brewery may have used as an annexe or as a brewery tap. By 1872, the owner of the Royal Oak inn is recorded as Sarah Budge, another link suggesting a working relationship with the brewery in Hermitage Street.
A mention in a series of detective novels by international author Ian Andrew has brought a certain amount of fame to the local inn. One of Ian’s main characters in the Wright & Tran series, Kara Wright drinks in the Royal Oak when she visits her parents in Crewkerne. Ian Andrew who lives in Australia has ancestral links with the town through his actual surname of Hooper.
He last visited the Royal Oak in March 2017 after a book signing for Fall Guys at Crewkerne Library. Ian called in to thank Martin for the gift of a mounted printout of the history of the public house. At the time Ian said: “Massive thanks to Martin and the rest at the Royal Oak, who made me feel like a long lost friend. It was a great night.” The international author is just one of many visitors and locals who are saddened to hear that the Royal Oak has served last orders, maybe for the final time.