Public house with historic core dating to around 1600 with extensions from the early C19 to the south and a substantial northern brick range added by 1898.
Reasons for Designation
The Plough public house, Reading Road, Shiplake is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for the clear arrangement of the original two-bay plan and the timber-framing to the building’s core dating to around 1600, which includes distinctive features demonstrative of this date; the structure retaining substantial curved bracing, chamfered tie beams, jowled wall posts and heavy, clasped purlins to the largely complete roof structure.
* the historic core constitutes a clear example of a modest, two-bay house with a central stack from around 1600. The original plan is legible despite its conversion and enlargement over the course of the C19 and is illustrative of post-medieval vernacular building traditions in this part of the country;
* for the survival of key elements of each phase of the building’s expansion, which clearly demonstrate how the public house evolved over time to meet changing commercial demands.
The earliest part of the Plough dates back to around 1600. The dormered pair of bays to Reading Road form the historic core of the building, as identified by features of the timber framing here, including jowled wall posts and broad curved braces. It is probable that this part of the building was a lobby-entry house, with the central stack dividing the two rooms over both floors. There is some evidence of potential earlier origins in the smoke blackened rafters, suggesting the existence of an open hall house which would push the date back into the medieval period, though from the evidence of the rest of the framing it is more probable that these timbers were reused from an earlier structure, either on the site or from elsewhere. The transition from domestic use to an ale house can be traced back to 1749, with Church Overseers’ records showing payments by Robert Nash for supplies of beer from this date. The earliest recorded name of the ale house is ‘The Plough’, which is noted in 1775 when Robert Brakspear, of the Brakspear Brewery in Henley-on-Thames, paid an annual surety on behalf of the landlord. In 1783, the landlord of the Plough changed his alliance from the Bell Street Brakspear brewery to that of a rival firm in New Street, owned by Robert Appleton, according to surety payments. However, into the C19, Brakspear directly acquired the Plough, together with the New Street brewery premises and several other local pubs. Significant expansion of the Brakspear brewery estate was overseen by William Brakspear during this period; by the time of his death in 1881 the brewery owned 80 pubs in Henley and surrounding villages, including The Plough.
Into the C19, under the ownership of Brakspear, the Plough was enlarged. The Shiplake tithe apportionment plan of 1840 shows the historic central bays of the present building together with a rear (west) and a side (south) extension wing and what is probably the present adjacent outbuilding to the south (joined more recently by a connecting block). By 1872, the Berkshire 1:1,250 Ordnance Survey map shows an extension to the southern block and a modest extension to the main range to the north. It is probable that the central stack was partially rebuilt at some stage in the mid-C19, possibly as part of the same phase of work that added the southern extension bay. Between 1872 and 1898 the red brick northern extension was built, replacing the small pre-1872 addition and probably also the western extension (now the kitchens). This phase of work provided rooms for let, with the name accordingly styled ‘The Plough Hotel’ at this stage. This name remained until around 1930 when the pub was renamed the Plowden Arms, in reference to the local Plowden family of Shiplake Court, whose family crest is still displayed on the pub sign. Several alterations were undertaken over the course of the C20, with a link block added to connect with the southern outbuilding by the early 1960s and internal rooms appear to have been opened-out and remodelled at around this stage. The southern range of approximately 1870 was demolished in the 1970s.
The public house closed in January 2019 and was taken-on by new owners who reverted the name to The Plough. Refurbishment and internal remodelling of the C19 northern range of the pub (the former publican’s accommodation) was undertaken in 2021-22 to provide increased kitchen facilities and dining space.
Public house with historic core dating to around 1600 with extensions from the early C19 to the south and a substantial northern brick range and western extension added by 1898.
MATERIALS: timber-framed structure with both brick and lath-and-plaster infill to the historic core, with a range of brick extensions. Clay roof tiles throughout of varying date.
PLAN: the historic core consists of a symmetrical two-bay, lobby-entrance plan building, divided by a central stack over two floors. There are two public rooms to the ground floor and two bedrooms above in this part of the building. The ground-floor bay to the south of this is a single-storey pitched extension added prior to 1840, serving as the southern part of the restaurant area, and connected via a link block of around 1960 is an outbuilding for WCs, also built pre-1840. To the rear (west) wall of the historic two-bay core is a dual-pitched range, functioning as the pub kitchen. The two-storey northern range built by 1898 is square in plan and, at ground-floor level, consists of a lounge bar area of two interconnected rooms to the east and part of the kitchen and public WCs to the west, with a dining room (converted from two bedrooms) above. There is a cellar beneath the northern range, which broadly corresponds with the floor plan of the eastern rooms here.
EXTERIOR: the Plough essentially consists of three buildings strung together along Reading Road; the variety of building heights, pitches, stacks, and materials indicating the different campaigns of construction over approximately four centuries. The most substantial portion of the pub is the two-storey northern range, built by 1898. This is of red brick with a symmetrical principal elevation to the junction with Plough Lane, formed of three bays with sash windows set under segmental arches with a central gabled porch; this retaining its original chamfered timber posts and boarding, clay tiles and leaded side windows. Paired bands of blue brick run above and beneath the windows, continuing round to the Plough Lane and Reading Road elevations. To the Reading Road elevation there is a central public entrance, covered by a gabled canopy, with further worked timbers and clay tiles matching the form of the porch to the north elevation. Further sashes set under arched heads flank the entrance at both levels. The shallow pitched roof to the north range is hipped to both sides with the two stacks to the west.
The central bays that form the core of around 1600 have rendered walls and a clay-tile roof. A pair of gabled dormers with casement windows are set either side of the central brick stack. A canopied central entrance is flanked by a bay window with sashes to the north and a mullioned casement to the south. The lower-set south extension bay is also rendered with an end stack and a matching mullioned casement to the centre of the front wall, indicating that the casements from the historic range also date from the time of this later phase, probably undertaken in the early C19.
The southernmost single-storey structure was added pre-1840, originally an outbuilding but since connected. This has a double-hipped roof, principally of red brick laid in Flemish bond with blue headers. A replacement door flanked by two early casement windows are set-off to the north end of the elevation.
To the rear elevation to Plough Lane there is a dual-pitched range set-off the central bays of the historic core of the building. This range was added in the C19 and is of red brick with opening to both bays set under segmental brick arches; this probably rebuilt at the same time as northern range which was completed by 1898.
INTERIOR: the historic core has a central lobby entrance with separate plank-and-batten doors to the left and right and an arched passage ahead, this having been cut through the central brick stack to give access through to the back part of the building, though blocked to create an alcove as part of the work of 2021-22. The left (south room) was extended through into an additional bay, built in the early C19, meaning much of the timber-framing to the southern gable-end wall has been removed, though the tie beam remains with open mortices for the removed wall studs to demonstrate its original form. The back (west) wall of this room has visible timber-framing, with a corner wall post on a sole plate with a curved upper brace and several wall studs to a middle rail. The spine beam and joists, which are laid on their ends, are both chamfered and stopped in alignment with the walls and stack in both of the bays. The stairs up to the attic rooms are in the kitchen extension block to the rear of the bar in the northern room, these replacing what was probably a winder stair set behind the stack. The brick stack has open hearths on both sides, the southern being blocked. There is a further brick hearth with a beaten copper canopy to the south end wall of the early-C19 extension bay. A bar counter and servery has been inserted in the former northern entrance lobby to the later-C19 portion of the pub, added as part of the 2021-22 refurbishment; this replacing a former 1980s counter on the west side of the north bay of the range of about 1600. Matchboard dado panelling is fitted in the southern restaurant extension bay, which also has a boarded ceiling. At the north end of the late-C19 range a new set of stairs up to the first-floor dining room have been inserted in place of the narrower stairs that formerly connected to the publican’s private apartment.
The two attic rooms to the historic core of the building have plaster ceilings below the collar level of the truss, but elements of the roof structure are visible, including two tie beams, the principal rafters, wind braces and two jowled wall posts to the south gable wall. To the south tie beam there is a bevelled recess cut into its underside, indicating the position of what may have been a hoist door in this southern gable end prior to the C19 additions here. The central tie beam has been cut on its west side for ease of access to the room, but the east end is intact and has mortises for studs to its north face. Into the loft space further elements of the roof structure are visible, including heavy purlins with bridle joints clasped between the collar and principal rafters. The rafters are halved into each other, with several demonstrating smoke blackening and some displaying carpenter’s numbering marks, which are shown in sequence. There is a complete lath-and-plaster partition to the sides of the stack in the loft. To the upper level of the late-C19 northern range, a dining room and separate service area have been created from what was formerly the publican’s accommodation.
There are WCs to the southern range and the 1960s connecting block. To the top end of the lounge there is also a further set of recently refitted customer WCs. The kitchens to the western single-storey range have modern fittings throughout. To the north-west corner of the building is a separate, externally accessed laundry room.