VILLAGERS say the new landlords of a pub have wiped out a piece of literary history dating back hundreds of years.
The former Ben Jonson pub in Weston-on-the-Green, near Bicester, is said to have taken the name after the famous poet and playwright stayed there on his way to visit William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Now locals are fuming after the new tenants – Mark Godfrey and chef Martin Underwood – changed the historic name to The Black Sheep to fit in with branding at nearby Weston Manor – which they also run.
One resident, Dr Susan Daenke, said villagers were not consulted over the change and the situation felt like a “feudal manorial relationship”.
Parish clerk Bob Hessian, who is also chairman of Bicester Local History Society, said the pub had been called the Ben Jonson since the 1700s after the playwright and poet reputedly stayed there on his way to Stratford to see Shakespeare.
New signs went up last week and the refurbished pub is due to reopen on Monday.
Mr Hessian said: “It’s the history. It’s been called the Ben Jonson since the early 1700s at least.
“We have lost that to my mind. It’s just disappointing.
“We have no power to stop him.
“I just think they have changed the name more for a branding point of view.
“The theme at Weston Manor is sheep and they have got a couple of sculptures of sheep in the front of the hotel.
“There’s a sheep association with Weston Manor but it’s not as if Weston has got a sheep farming community.”
Dr Daenke, who has lived in the village for 20 years, wants the owners to reconsider and warned people would “vote with their feet” and go to another pub.
She said: “We were a bit dismayed to find the new owner of the manor had decided to change the name without any consultation.
“There is very strong feeling in the village against the change. He risks alienating village customers to the pub at his peril.
“The pub is the central part of the village and part of history.
“I feel as if we are moving back into feudal manorial relationship again and that’s not how it should be in this day and age.”
A spokesman for the pub said: “While we understand that some local residents were attached to property’s former name, it’s quite normal practice to change a business name on new ownership.”
Punch Taverns, which owns the pub, said its tenant made the name change decision to link the pub with “branding of the operator’s sister restaurant, Weston Manor Hotel”.