History of The Gate Hangs High

“The Gate Hangs High” is an old drovers’ inn located at a crossroads one mile north of Hook Norton. Despite its name, there was never a tollgate at this spot, and the road remained un-turnpiked. In fact, the road was quite rural and remained untarmacked, with grass growing down its center well into the 1930s. The name “Gate” likely referred to its historical use as a place to keep animals within their owners’ properties, similar to gated roads still seen today.

Over time, the inn’s name has evolved, appearing as “The Gate” and “Scotch Lodge Gate” on maps from the 1880s and 90s. Below the inn sign, there used to be a verse: “The Gate Hangs High and hinders none, Refresh and pay and travel on.”

The inn’s history has been shared by Tim Healey, who provided valuable insights into its origins. The pub was originally built as a beerhouse and farm in the 1830s, situated at a crossroads on the old west-to-east drovers’ road, known as ‘The Welsh Road’ or ‘Banbury Way.’ Interestingly, there is another “GHH” in Wrexham, North Wales, which suggests a connection between the two. The Hook Norton pub seems to predate the Wrexham one, so it’s possible that the Wrexham pub adopted its name from the Cotswold establishment.

Local accounts offer additional details about the inn’s history. One resident mentioned that his great-grandfather worked at the GHH in the 1890s, repairing the footwear and harnesses of Welsh drovers who passed through. These drovers exclusively spoke Welsh, and their dogs, Smithfield lurchers, were known for their poaching abilities. Even with established railways in the 1890s, the drovers would sell their livestock in Banbury, then release their dogs to find their way back to Wales.

Despite the availability of trains, some drovers chose to walk alongside their herds due to the cost of cattle trucks, which required a significant upfront payment.

A mile eastward on the same road is an older drovers’ inn, now known as Lodge Farm, originally built in 1646. It was licensed as a public house in 1831, offering accommodations for Welsh drovers during the summer months. Lodge Farm also had a pound for the drovers’ livestock.

Drovers taking a left turn at the crossroads near Lodge Farm would cross Wigginton Heath to Tadmarton and Broughton. This route was infertile, boggy, and plagued by highway robbers. Alternatively, they could continue to Milcombe, where a drovers’ barn on the western edge of the village accommodated the head drover.

(With Acknowledgements to localdroveroads.co.uk)