Over the years many Walthamstow pubs have undergone changes in ownership and management, and also in name. The Tavern on the Hill on Higham Hill has recently experienced this trio of changes, opening its post-lockdown doors following a refurbishment by Wild Card Brewery. Many will remember it as the Warrant Officer and, before that, as the Higham Hill Tavern.

There was a relatively high turnover of landladies and landlords in the pub’s early years. The Tavern opened in 1867, and the first publicans were recently married couple Charlotte Casey and her husband, George, the son of a farmer. Charlotte was a local, but George was originally from Marylebone, and had moved with his parents to Higham Hill when he was still young. They ran a large farm of 84 acres in the still very rural Higham Hill area, and although George was also working as a farmer at the time of his marriage in 1866, he decided to follow a different path, albeit briefly.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

George Casey's engraved tankards from his time at Higham Hill Tavern. Picture: Private collection

In 1867, the same year as the birth of their first child Stephen, George was working as a brick seller, a potentially lucrative business at a time when Walthamstow was beginning to be developed with streets and streets of new houses. But the offer of running a new pub was evidently a more attractive prospect, and by autumn 1868 the young family were resident at the Higham Hill Tavern where they lived for several years. Their second and last child Florence was born there in 1870, but the publican life was evidently not for them after all, as they relocated to Maynard Road shortly afterwards.

Sadly George died aged just 36 few years later, in 1875, leaving the widowed Charlotte to raise their two young children. Like many parishioners, he was buried in the parish churchyard of St Mary’s. Charlotte outlived George by some 45 years, and never remarried; she was buried with her husband in 1920.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Advert placed in the Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian 14 May 1892. Note the equine rental sideline

The Caseys weren’t the only publicans to run the Tavern with no previous pub experience. Their successors were Devon-born Elizabeth and Henry Lee, a couple in their fifties who had been living in Carmarthen in Wales for a while where Henry worked as a butcher. And in the 1890s the Tavern was run by Geraldine and Arthur Pollard who lived there with three of their teenage children Arthur, Geraldine, and Thomas. Arthur senior had been working as an oilman, selling oils for lamps and paints and household hardware goods from premises in Bow. But things had gone rather awry, and he was declared bankrupt in 1888 following a move to Hackney.

Relocating to Higham Hill to run the Tavern potentially provided the fresh start the family needed, but within a few years Geraldine and Arthur left their Higham Hill venture behind and were living with daughter Geraldine who ran an off licence in Dulwich Road, Brixton. The older couple were soon back on their feet, however, and parted ways with their daughter when they moved to Kilburn to manage a licensed premises, where Arthur died in 1911. Geraldine continued to run the business with the assistance of her son Thomas and his wife Mary, and the younger Geraldine went on to marry a publican and relocated to Southwark.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Ordnance Survey Map published 1896

The final years of the 19th century at the Tavern were overseen by Bertha and William Woodward, both Londoners, he from Bayswater and she from Dalston. Like his predecessors, William had been working in a completely different occupation before taking up his position as landlord of the Tavern, having begun his working life as a clerk. He had taken up the Tavern’s helm by 1896 and married Bertha two years later. They ran the pub with four live-in employees, including sisters Emma and Ruth Smith who were the cook and general servant, and barman William Simmons. Their tenure at the Tavern ended in the early years of the 20th century, just under a decade since William had taken up the landlord position. The couple moved to Woodford where Bertha died in 1906 aged 39.

Karen Averby is a seaside-loving historian and research consultant specialising in researching histories and stories of buildings, people and places. She researches house histories for private clients and collaborates in community heritage projects (karenaverby.co.uk). She is also director of Archangel Heritage Ltd, an historical research consultancy providing research services for the commercial heritage sector (archangelheritage.co.uk). Also found on Twitter @karenaverby and @archaheritage