History of Hungerford’s Down Gate Pub

The Down Gate pub, situated in Down View and overlooking Port Down (part of the Hungerford Common) at the eastern end of Park Street, was variously known as the Spotted Cow (around the 1840s) and the Royal Exchange.

Originally the pub was called a beer shop and had a licence to serve beer only and it was not until 1958 that it was granted a full beer, wine and spirits licence. Up until the late 1980s, there was always an off-sales counter on the exterior of the building.

Early trade directories reveal that the pub was called the Spotted Cow and that it was situated in Cow Lane. It is fair to assume that cows would be brought back from the Common for milking in the dairy sheds in Fairview Road which backed onto the High Street. There is a very old cottage called Cow Lane Cottage opposite the Police Station.

Hungerford Common looking towards Down Gate 1960s

The census of 1871 reveals that the pub was then called The Royal Exchange and it retained this name for over 100 years. However, having lived in Hungerford since 1961, I know that the locals always called it the Down Gate. The only time it was referred to as the Royal Exchange was in advertisements and for pub games such as dart leagues. Why the pub was ever called The Royal Exchange remains a mystery since neither pub nor Hungerford has an obvious connection with the stock exchange in London or anywhere else.

Around 1989, the new tenants Derek and Pat Green renamed the pub The Down Gate: they were, perhaps, tempting fate since changing a Hungerford  pub’s name seems to herald its demise (examples include The Angel, The Red Lion and The Lamb). No such misfortune befell The Down Gate, however.

The pub was privately owned until 1925 when it was bought by Ushers, the Brewery. Over the next years it was bought and sold by a number of breweries including the Phoenix Brewery of Newbury, South Berks Brewery and Watney Mann. In March, 1994 it was bought by Arkell’s Brewery of Swindon who refurbished it and restored it to a traditional hostelry.

Until the above refurbishment there was a mysterious sign on a passage way leading down to the outside toilets which read “Commit No Nuisance” !

A list of some of the landlords is given below:
• Thomas Washbourne
• William Pontin
• Augustus Hidden
• Thomas Jessett
• Anna Jessett (wife of Thomas)
• William Dyke
• Mr Cook
• George Robinson
• Ruth Robinson (wife of George)
• Claud Brind (Son-in-law of Ruth Robinson)
• Tony and Evie Scarlett
• Steve and Margaret Collet
• Derrick and Pat Green
• Andy Vine and Colin Davis
• Dave and Helen Hughes
• David and Janet Yates
• Lauren Weir

For more information about The Down Gate, please see this article on the Hungerford Virtual Museum.

Jimmy Whittaker


4 Responses

  1. Jim nice work. By way of explanation many may not know, Off Sales counter, means take away beer. Off licences were sometimes more difficult to secure than a pub licence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post


For: local positive news, events, jobs, recipes, special offers, recommendations & more.

Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale