The Royal Standard of England in Forty Green, Buckinghamshire, is an 800-year-old haunted pub. ASHLEY DARKWOOD, from Wycombe Paranormal, tells us about some spooky evidence of a previous unknown haunting he discovered during a recent visit…
Opportunities to investigate 800-year-old haunted pubs don’t come around too often. Opportunities to investigate 800-year-old haunted pubs that have been used in hit TV shows and films come around even less.
History of the Royal Standard of England, Beaconsfield
The Royal Standard of England in the village of Forty Green near Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, was built in 1213, laying claim to be the oldest pub in Britain.
Originally called Se Scip “The Ship”, owing to the fact it was built from ships timbers, this seemingly quaint and isolated pub was on an incredibly busy trade route. The nearby villages of Penn and Tylers Green produced high quality bricks and tiles, their journey to Hedsor Wharf and onto various markets going directly passed the inn.
The town of Beaconsfield, being roughly equidistant between city of London and Oxford would provide dozens of coaching inns, allowing weary travellers to rest after a hard day’s travel. The Standard, being just that little bit out of the way, would attract its own fair share of travellers looking for shelter. However, some of these travellers would be of the type who would seek to avoid the attention one might gain in larger settlements.
The Civil War years (1642–1651 combined) would be quite significant for The Royal Standard. Although Buckinghamshire was on the side of Parliament (Roundheads), the landlord of the establishment was for the Crown (Cavaliers).
During the Civil War, the inn was used as a mustering point by Lord Westworth’s Royalist Cavaliers before the Battle of Wycombe Rye in 1642, this was a particularly bloody battle lasting days. Just one year later 12 Irish Confederate soldiers (with loyalties to the Crown) were executed on the site, with their heads placed high on pike’s outside the inn for all to see. One of those executed was a 12 year old drummer boy. Dozens of people hear his spectral drumming to this very day.
It is commonly held that Prince Charles, later to be restored as King Charles II in 1660, used the inn as a hideout, even engaging in romantic liaisons with various women under the oak roof beams. It was King Charles II who granted the title The Royal Standard of England to the inn as thanks for the varied loyalty. It is the only pub in England to bear the name.
Drummer boys and Highwaymen
The drummer boy is not the only unexplained occurrence at The Royal Standard. An apparition described as a Civil War Cavalier soldier is seen walking from a door and through a wall in The Candle Room, so called because it didn’t have any electrical wiring until the 1950s. A woman is seen in the area of the toilets. Some have speculated that this is a mistress of Charles II. There is no way of proving who this is, however, it does seem that these hauntings are very much of a residual type haunt.
Highwaymen would be frequent visitors to the pub, as would the much lower class footpads, the nearby Cut-throat Woods gaining it’s name the good old fashioned way. It is more than probable that some landlords tipped off certain highwaymen as to which customers were worth robbing down the road in exchange for a healthy reward. After the war skilled Cavalier soldiers were left without a cause and many would turn to highway robbery, relying on their skill of horsemanship and weaponry. One such highwayman was Captain James Hind (1616-1652) was a Cavalier Soldier, a Royalist, from Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Buckinghamshire would make rich pickings for him.
Hind liked himself as a Robin Hood kind of character, and would ask those he held up, “Who are you for?” if they answered “The Crown” he would leave them in peace, or if poor give them some of his ill-gotten gains. If they answered for Cromwell or government, he would rob them. One particular day, Hind was making his way through the narrow roads around Beaconsfield and came across a dishevelled old man with a worse looking horse. Hind took pity on the pair and gave them a gold piece.
Unbeknown to Hind, he had just given to a government committee member who was making his way to the Royal Standard of England. When this committee member reach the inn he bragged how he had fooled Apt James Hind, cursing his name to all who could hear. Sadly, this committee member had failed to recognise that the landlord of the inn was still loyal to the Crown.
When Hind reached the pub that evening, his friend the landlord revealed the committee member’s true identity and the boasts made. The next morning, Hind caught up with the old man, robbed him of £50, plus the gold piece.
The Royal Standard of England began to fall out of favour as the production of bricks and tiles moved elsewhere, the road from London going to Beaconsfield, onto High Wycombe and eventually Oxford becoming easier to travel and much safer. The inn operated without a license for some time, supplying builders of the new local railway line with a potent home-brew in the early 1900s.
Tragedy would befall the area in August 1944 when the American B17 Bomber “Tomahawk Warrior” developed serious engine faults and crashed into a field opposite the pub killing it’s 9 occupants. The pilot 2nd Lt. Charles J. Searl steering the plane away from populated High Wycombe saving potentially dozens of civilian lives.
So, now you begin to get a picture of the rich history of this one pub. To know all the stories from within would take just as long again, millions of memories have been lost to time.
I had of course visited The Standard dozens of times in my younger days, absorbing the tales of the legends and spooks. However, in terms of hauntings,
The Royal Standard of England really didn’t stand out. There are over a dozen haunted hostelries with a 5 mile radius of this one. Amersham, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe; if one were to have a pint in each haunted pub within this radius things would get quite messy.
The Haunting of the Royal Standard of England, Beaconsfield
After a long absence I visited the pub in 2010. During the absence, I had concentrated on the development of my mediumship and my name as an investigator was getting out a bit more.
I arrived at the pub in the evening, it was quiz night. I stood at the end of the bar with my drink, looking around, becoming reacquainted with the wonky beams, uneven flooring, a row of pewter tankards hanging above the bar etc. The father of my friend Louise ran the place in the 90s.
She herself witnessed the sound of the drummer boy in the car park area, her dad admitted to making up just a couple of stories for tourists, which got out of hand and became part of the legend. I posed a question in my mind “Come on, is this place really haunted? Is anybody still here?”
A chef came from the kitchen and bent down behind the bar, as if getting a glass, a pewter tankard fell from the ceiling, bouncing off his head. He stood up rubbing his head, looked at me, then looked at where the tankard had come from. The hook that it hung from was still in place, the tankard had come up and off the hook. I responded with, “Well, that’s answered my question.”
Over the next few years I would focus my research on the bigger towns previously noted, gaining enough information on the histories and hauntings to run ghost tours on a regular basis, speaking on local radio stations, assisting with documentaries and such. One documentary was actually produced using my Amersham ghost tour script as the synopsis.
A new disease began to spread and by March 2020, the majority of the world is locked down. The screening of the Amersham documentary had been a ratings success in North America, I was receiving messages and emails from the other side of the pond. They were quite taken by the beauty of the old buildings and the compelling history behind the hauntings. I wanted to get back out, investigating these old pubs and inns in the surrounding area. Never before had these buildings stood empty, yet with lockdown I was powerless to do anything.
By March 2021 restrictions were being lifted, I heard that The Royal Standard of England would not be reopening just yet as the landlord was using the time for some repairs and maintenance. I asked if I might be able to go in, poke around a bit, do some investigating. The landlord kindly agreed, and I was set.
The evening was actually quite unremarkable. All device readings were within expected ranges, I didn’t see anything of interest, no noise phenomena that I couldn’t explain. It did feel very homely however, not at all scary or unnerving. At times I felt as if I was among friends, comfortable and content. Maybe I was among friends. A great feeling, but not what I was looking for. I decided to do a spirit box session, I’m usually distrustful of such devices, but it would be unlikely I would ever have the place all to myself again, so what the heck.
A series of words came out: Justin, Steep, Peggy, Niece, Play. Of course, they meant absolutely nothing to me. I feared I had actually wasted my time doing the spirit box session. So I moved onto a session with a digital dictaphone in the area the tankard fell from the ceiling. I eventually left feeling just a little disappointed, but nonetheless happy to have been allowed in. I would go over the footage over the next few days.
The review of the dictaphone audio was quite interesting. I had been directly asking whomever, or whatever had caused the tankard to fall to communicate with me. I heard what I can only describe as some sort of interference, a garbled voice, almost like a broken radio transmission.
This was loud, louder than my own voice, and it seemed to completely overlay my recording. I listened again and again, the voice seemingly with an American twang to it. Could this be connected to ill-fated Tomahawk Warrior? If so, was one of the crew responsible for the falling tankard incident? As always with the paranormal, you are left with more questions that answers.
Was this a direct response? Had I encountered a sentient being with intelligence? If so it clearly had sense of humour, albeit a bit twisted.
Some answers did come however, from my friends Louise. I informed her of the spirit box session, told her the names Justin and Peggy came through. To my amazement she replied “Oh my God! Auntie Peggy! She used to play with us!” It transpires that Peggy had worked at The Royal Standard of England when Louise was a child. A lovely warm woman. I informed Louise that the next words were Auntie and Play.
For a piece of kit I don’t usually have faith in, it seems this spirit box session was getting some significant hits, three words in a row that were not only verified, but actually in an order of sense. Was Peggy aware of my friendship with Louise and wanted to make herself known? It’s quite possible that I had met Peggy myself, both in the pub and locally as I had elderly relatives who lived nearby who would have been Peggy’s neighbours.
On a mediumship level, I knew I was not alone, but I wanted hard evidence of who was with me that night. I’m open to interpretation of the possible EVP, but I firmly believe Peggy communicated with me that night. Do I believe Peggy is responsible for all the activity in The Royal Standard of England? Certainly not. I believe she is one of many who visit and that night, I was familiar enough for her to come forward.
This is the first time this information has been made public. You will see a paranormal documentary using my research at some point, Peggy is about to become very famous!