the history of yeovil's pubs





heart of oak

90 Huish / 12 Huish / 12 Westminster Street


Westminster Street was originally called Porter's Lane and was an extension of Huish, becoming part of Huish later. Westminster Street was, apparently, named after the Westminster Bank when it was widened in the 1920's. The Heart of Oak (marked 'A' on the map) therefore, although being the same building, has enjoyed a range of addresses as the street name changed through the years, its location finally settling to be called 12 Westminster Street.

For most of its existence it was owned by J Brutton & Son Ltd but had been trading as a beerhouse since at least 1861, with a short break in the late 1960's when it was used as offices by Bass Charrington. There have been very few licensees with a tenure of ten years or more.

The name of the pub has changed too over the years, starting as the Heart of Oak and changing to the Hearts (plural) of Oak after the Second World War. It spent a while in the late 1970's as the Yeovil Wine Bar when it was owned by David Young and it had a fortunately brief spell as the Chopper Bar in the late 1980’s, since when it was called the Westminster.

The Westminster closed its doors for the final time in the spring of 2022.

October 2023 and the building is being renovated - for me the most pleasing aspect is that the lovely red Yeovil bricks have been exposed for the first time since the 1930s, if not earlier (see Gallery for photos).




The first licensee was Edmund Lewis Clark (1799-1862). In Robson's Directory of 1839 he was listed as a beerhouse keeper of Porter's Lane and the beerhouse in question was the Heart of Oak. In the 1841 census Edmund, his wife Phoebe, together with their sons, were listed in Porter's Lane and Edmund gave his occupation as an inn keeper. Pigot's Directory of 1842 listed Edmund as a beerhouse keeper of Porter's Lane. However Edmund was in severe financial difficulty and in 1844 he was declared bankrupt and spent some time in Wilton Gaol, near Taunton. He was described as "late of the Heart of Oak Inn, Porter's alias Hewish-lane, in Yeovil, in the county of Somerset, Beer Salesman, Schoolmaster, &c." It is not known how much time Edmund spent in Wilton but during the 1840s the family moved to London.

Louis Slade, who was born about 1825 at Stoke sub Hamdon, some six miles west of Yeovil. In 1851 Louis had been living in Chant's Path (off Brunswick Street) with his wife, Eliza, and their baby daughter. Louis' occupation was given as 'tayler' and Eliza's was 'tayleress'. In 1860 he was refused a spirit license for the Heart of Oak which infers that it had already been trading as a beerhouse for some years. By 1861 Louis was described as a grocer and innkeeper and was running this beerhouse in Huish Lane. In 1871 he was noted as running the Full Moon in Wine Street, but by 1875 he was licensee of the Chough's Tap but this was also the year he died. 

The next licensee was Edwin Ball, noted as the "keeper of the Heart of Oak" in September 1862 when he was summoned for selling beer after hours. A policeman had stopped a girl coming out of the premises after midnight with a jug of beer but Ball, in a classic faux pas, tried to argue with the Bench; firstly claiming it was vinegar and then accusing the policeman of searching the girl "in a very unbecoming manner". It transpired that he had been fined 5s a couple of months earlier and the Bench said he was "now fined 20s with 6s 6d costs" to which Ball replied that he didn't consider the policeman had proved his case, and the Bench replied "You have damaged yours!" Ball retorted "Well it isn't justice, and I don't know that I shall pay." The fine was, however, recorded as being paid.

James Parker who was born in Wincanton around 1823. In the 1861 census he was listed as a lodging house keeper at Lyme Regis, Dorset, with his wife, Eliza, and their baby son, George. Ten years later James was listed as the licensee of the Heart of Oak with Eliza and two sons. By the 1881 census James was the ostler for the Three Choughs Hotel and he and his family were living at the Choughs' livery stables on the corner of West Hendford.

There is a reference to Joseph Churchill, listed as a beer retailer in Huish in Kelly's Directory of 1875 although, to be fair, it doesn't specify the Heart of Oak. I could find no trace of a Joseph Churchill living in Yeovil in any census between 1851 and 1891.

The next licensee, William Bicknell, had enjoyed a career as a Royal Marine and in the 1861 census was listed as a Royal Marine private at sea aboard HMS Trafalgar, a 120-gun first rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 21 June 1841 at Woolwich Dockyard. She was the last to be completed of the successful Caledonia class. The ship was named by Lady Bridport, niece of Lord Nelson at the request of Queen Victoria, who with Prince Albert also attended the launch. The wine used was some kept from HMS Victory after returning from Trafalgar. Five hundred people were on board the ship at the time of its launch, of whom 100 had been at Trafalgar. William had been born in East Chinnock in 1827 and his wife, Elizabeth, was born in Haselbury Plucknett. In the 1871 census they were listed as living in Haselbury and William was described as a Plymouth Pensioner. By 1875 he was licensee of the Quicksilver Mail and in 1881 he was running the Heart of Oak in Huish. By the time of the 1891 census he was licensee of the Britannia Inn with Elizabeth. By 1901 William had died and Elizabeth was alone and 'living on her own means' in Orchard Street.

I couldn't find much information on Elizabeth Stagg other than she was born about 1818, was listed as a beer retailer at the Heart of Oak in Kelly's Directory of 1889 and she died in 1899.

Francis Sweet, also known as Frank, was born around 1843 in Yeovil, the son of agricultural labourer John Sweet and his wife, Maria, née Osborne. In the 1851 census Francis, at the age of 9, was also working as an agricultural labourer. By the time he was nineteen, however, the railway had come to Yeovil and Francis was employed as a locomotive fireman. In the 1871 census Frank, by now married to his first wife Sarah, had moved to Lambeth, London, where he was still employed as a fireman on locomotive engines. By 1891 Francis was back in Yeovil with his second wife, and was listed as the inn keeper at the Heart of Oak. He died in  1894.

William Brown took over the license of the Heart of Oak after the death of Francis Sweet. William was born in Yeovil around 1858, the son of glove sewer Ann Eliza Browne. Although William, his mother and siblings are traceable through the census records from 1861 onwards there is no mention of his father. In 1861 and 1871 they were living in Belmont and William's occupation in the latter was glover. By the 1881 census William was married to Mary, eight years his senior, and they were living in Addlewell Lane. William was employed as an engine cleaner. Kelly's Directory of 1895 listed William as the licensee of the Heart of Oak but he died in the summer of 1897 at the age of 39. After his death Mary took over the license and in the 1901 census is listed as an inn keeper.

Charles Giles, known as Charlie, was born in 1886, possibly in the Nag's Head Inn on Reckleford where his parents, Ebenezer and Mary Giles, ran the pub - certainly from at least 1889 until the 1920's. In the 1891 census 4-year old Charles was living in the Nag's Head Inn with his parents and four older siblings; Sophie, Samuel, Henry and Thomas. In the 1901 census Charlie, still living at home in the Nag's Head, described his occupation as 'Engineer motor car fitter' like his older brother Thomas. In January 1910 Charles married Florence in Yeovil, although there were several women called Florence married in Yeovil at this time and I was not able to establish which one married Charles. In any event, in the 1911 census Charles, Florence and baby Frederick were living at the Heart of Oak and Charles was listed as the innkeeper. 


Sketch Plan of the Heart of Oak


This is a sketch based on plans held at the Heritage Centre, Taunton. The original plans are dated 1932 when J Brutton & Son Ltd were the owners. The kitchen and toilets were single-storey lean-to buildings. Since the time of these plans, the building has been extended beyond to servery / smoke room, almost doubling the building in size.




This is an interesting photograph of the late 1920s taken from High Street and showing the newly-built bank building at left and the newly-widened Westminster Street ahead. Notice that very few buildings existed in Westminster Street at this time except the Heart of Oak (with its large sign on its flank wall) on the corner of Clarence Street. At right is the Mermaid Hotel without shops.


A 1928 aerial view of Westminster Street running from the bottom right corner towards the centre of the photograph with the Heart of Oak clearly visible at the junction with Clarence Street. The large building on the opposite corner was two houses, in the right hand one of which lived Mr Edgar of Petter & Edgar's Iron and Brass Foundry that lay behind it and pre-dated the Douglas Seaton building which, in turn, pre-dated Tesco's car park. Running from the centre of the photograph to the top left is Huish and the long terrace of small houses was Paradise Row where, it was reported in 1852, that there were only two privies for its eighteen houses.


As part of the official VE Celebrations in 1945 members of the Home Guard and other voluntary services march past the Heart of Oak, at centre of the photograph, and past Seaton's garage at left, into Huish on their way to a civic service held in the Yeovil Town football ground.


The Heart of Oak is at extreme left in this 1960's photograph of Westminster Street looking towards High Street.


From the Cave Collection (colourised), Courtesy of South Somerset Heritage Collection

The 1960's, when Yeovil had 'proper' double-decker buses. The Heart of Oak is on the corner to the immediate right of the bus. The large building with the tower belonged to Douglas Seaton Ltd, the main Ford dealership in the area (demolished as part of the Tesco redevelopment). Note at the far left Westminster Street continued directly into Huish.


The iconic Douglas Seaton's tower and the Yeovil Wine Bar, on the corner of Clarence Street in this colourised photograph of 1982.


A view of the Hearts of Oak seen from Westminster Street, looking along Clarence Street which seems so narrow compared with today. Douglas Seaton's showrooms are empty and boarded up awaiting demolition for the new Tesco store and car park.


Courtesy of Michael Ottewell

In its guise as the Yeovil Wine Bar during the 1970s. I remember seeing Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's poster of Aristide Bruant (in the top right window) as I had the same poster in my kitchen at the time.


Courtesy of Colin Haine

Still as the Yeovil Wine Bar when photographed in 1983.


Courtesy of Colin Haine

Photographed in 1983 in its wider setting of Westminster Street.


.... and in its guise as the Chopper Bar during the late 1980s.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

.... and again as the Chopper Bar.


Courtesy of Chris Rendell

As The Chopper Bar photographed in 1989.


An aerial view of 1994 shows the Heart of Oak as the Westminster. The entrance to Huish from Westminster Street has gone and Tesco's car park appears, on the other side of Clarence Street, at lower left - before it got its upper storey.


Now trading as the Westminster, this photograph was taken in 2009. (But even in 2015 it still doesn't sell real ale!). 


Now being renovated. Photographed 2 October 2023. Shame about losing the sash windows to the first floor but, let's face it, the original look of the facade was lost decades ago.


Lovely to see the red Yeovil bricks being exposed for the first time in many decades - they have certainly been painted over since the 1930s, if not earlier. Photographed 2 October 2023.


OK - I spoke too soon. Passing by two days after the previous photos, exposing the gorgeous red Yeovil bricks, they're only painting over it again!!! Photographed 4 October 2023.




1839 – Edmund Lewis Clark – Beerhouse Keeper (Robson's Directory) pub not named
1841 – Edmund Lewis Clark – Inn Keeper (1841 census) pub not named
1842 – Edmund Lewis Clark – Beerhouse Keeper (Pigot's Directory) pub not named
1844 – Edmund Lewis Clark – "of the Heart of Oak" (bankrupt and in Wilton gaol)
1860 – Louis Slade – Spirit license refused (Petty Sessions)
1861 – Louis Slade – Grocer & Inn Keeper (1861 census)
1862 – Edwin Ball, "keeper of the Heart of Oak", summons for after hours (Petty Sessions)
1871 – James Parker – Innkeeper (1871 census)
1872 – James Parker – Beer Retailer (Kelly's 1872 Directory)
1875 – Joseph Churchill – Beer Retailer (Kelly's 1875 Directory) listed in Huish
1881 – William Bicknell – Publican (1881 census) listed as Heart of Oak at 90 Huish.
1885 – William Bicknell – transfer of license (Petty Sessions, January)
1885 – James Giles – license transferred (Petty Sessions, January)
1887 – Henry George Giles – temporary license confirmed (Petty Sessions, March)
1889 – Mrs Elizabeth Stagg – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1889 Directory) listed as Heart of Oak
1889 – Mrs Staff – License transfer (Borough Petty Sessions, September)
1889 – Francis Sweet – License transferred (Borough Petty Sessions, September)
1891 – Francis Sweet – Inn Keeper (1891 census) listed as Heart of Oak
1895 – William Brown – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1895 Directory) pub not named
1897 – William Brown – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1897 Directory) pub not named
1901 – Mary Brown – Inn Keeper (1901 census) pub not named
1911 – Charles Giles – Inn Keeper (1911 census) listed as Hearts of Oak at 12 Huish
1914 – Frederick Giles – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1914 Directory) pub not named but at 12 Huish
1923 – George Matravers – Beer Retailer (Kelly’s 1923 Directory) pub not named
1936 – A Rankin (1936 Yeovil Directory) listed as Heart of Oak
1938 – A Rankin (1938 Yeovil Directory) listed as Heart of Oak
1939 – Arthur Rankin (Kelly’s 1939 Directory) listed as Heart of Oak PH. By 1947 Arthur was
            licensee of the Albion Inn.
1947 – FC Huish (1947 Yeovil Directory) listed as Hearts of Oak
1949 – FC Huish (Kelly’s 1949 Directory) listed as Hearts of Oak
1951 – FC Huish (1951 Yeovil Directory) listed as Hearts of Oak
1957 – HJ Edwards (1957 Yeovil Directory) listed as Hearts of Oak
1960 – HJ Edwards (1960 Yeovil Directory) listed as Hearts of Oak
1965 – Licensee not named (1965 Yeovil Directory) listed as Hearts of Oak
1970s - Traded as Yeovil Wine Bar
1987 – Licensee not named (Denton’s 1987 Directory) listed as the Chopper Bar
2012 – Still trading as the Westminster
2022 – Final closure