The Rose & Crown Inn
by Wendy Austin
Although the Rose & Crown was sniffily described in 1953 by Nikolaus Pevsner, the famous architectural historian, as “architecturally deplorable” it is now considered a much-loved landmark of the town of Tring, and we await with apprehension to hear of the plans for its possible redevelopment.  What we see now is an Edwardian creation designed by Lord Rothschild’s architect, William Huckvale, but this has not always been so.

The first mention of the Rose & Crown, which was owned by the Manor of Tring, is said to be in 1620 when it was in the hands of Thomas Robinson, but it is probably older than that.  The original building was largely Tudor in origin and the overall design followed the general pattern of a complex of buildings ranging round a sizable yard.  Later on, in the early 18th century, a new frontage was erected and old photographs show three stories, a tiled roof, five dormer windows and an archway entrance to the yard at the rear, the whole standing flush to the pavement with its adjacent shops.
The Rose & Crown Inn (immediate right) in the late Victorian era.
A large area of ground behind the hotel accommodated a bowling green as well as providing a venue for fairs and circuses.  An inn of this type was considered a prestigious building and the central focus of the town.  During the next two centuries both members of the Vestry and Excise Office made consistent use of the facilities on offer, and an entry in the Vestry Minutes of 17 January 1711 records “William Gore Esq. [owner of Tring Park] proposes that this Vestry be adjourned to the Rose & Crown to consider and order all other parish affairs that shall be thought needed”.  In the 17th century the establishment was owned by a well-known Tring family named Axtell who started to issue their own trade tokens.  [These tokens came into use because ‘the man in the street’ had a problem - there was no official small change for use in the market place, and innkeepers in particular were at a disadvantage and many began to issue their own coins.]  Those from the Rose & Crown were stamped with “William Axtell. His Half Penny” and the obverse side “1668 of Tring” and the sign of the crowned Rose.  Beer and porter were brewed on the premises from the 17th century to about 1865, when the beer coolers were removed to 15 Akeman Street.  On William Axtell’s death an inventory of his possessions disclose that he was a comparatively wealthy man, the inn fully furnished on three floors; fully stocked cellars and brewhouses; a woodhouse; a chaise barn and harness room; and outbuildings for horses and cattle.
Rear view of the Rose & Crown Inn
The 18th century saw the Golden Age of coaching and, Tring being on a busy route to London, meant the fortunes of the Rose & Crown increased accordingly.  The Despatch, Sovereign, and King William from Aylesbury, Leamington, and Kidderminster called daily, and the inn’s own coach The Good Intent ran to London three times a week.  Such was the increase in traffic that two other inns close by, the Plough and the Bell, provided extra stabling. The advent of the railways must have affected trade but, ever enterprising, the landlord in 1852 opened ‘the booking office of the London & North Western Railway’, and a horse-drawn omnibus [see pictured below] carried passengers the one-and-a-half miles to and from Tring Station.
The new Rose & Crown Inn by Tring architect William Huckvale.
The horse bus in the foreground ran a service to and from Tring Station, 1½ miles distant.
In the Victorian age more prosperity came to Tring, and in 1904 the townsfolk made an approach to Lord Rothschild, the Lord of the Manor, with the suggestion that he should enhance the town with a first-class hotel which they considered would benefit all.  He readily agreed, his action being reminiscent of the medieval habit by which a landed lord erected additional accommodation to house the influx of travellers whom by custom were his guests; the new hotel had the added benefit of providing bedrooms for his personal overflow of guests from Tring Park.  When building work was complete the finished hotel, with an imposing mock-Tudor facade well set back from the road, was promptly handed over to the Hertfordshire Public House Trust, an organisation promoted by the Home Secretary, Lord Grey, to provide hotels with added sporting facilities.  And so the hotel has remained until the present day when the need for such hotels in the centre of country towns has almost disappeared, motorists preferring out-of-town travel lodges with parking facilities and standard accommodation. 

THE LATEST PLANS . . . . are indeed to abandon the hotel and convert the building into apartments with, perhaps, retail outlets and restaurants on the ground floor (Gazette 23 Nov 2011)