Tim Sheens, coach of the Australian Rugby League team, recently had a drink in the pub that had been run in the 1890s by his great-great-great-great-uncle in Leeds.
We’ve been researching Tim’s ancestry over the last few months, and he has some very colourful ancestors, with 14 convicts (at last count), and some publicans. We were hoping that, with Tim’s imminent visit to England with the Australian team, we could find an existing pub run by one of his ancestors that he could go and have a drink in while he was there.
His great-grandmother Emily Mann, who married George Sheens in 1902 in Sydney, was born at “The Dover Castle” in Lambeth, Surrey, the pub run by her father Robert Mann. Robert’s father, also named Robert, ran pubs around London, as shown by census records and birth registrations of children.
Unfortunately all of the pubs run by both Roberts, junior and senior, were gone – closed or demolished.
We had a breakthrough with the will of Robert senior, written in 1902. One of the executors of Robert’s will was a licensed victualler, and another was his brother Henry, described in the will as ‘a gentleman’. Tracing Henry through the censuses found him in 1881 in the Albion Hotel at 142 Briggate in Leeds, and in 1891 in The Oak Inn on Otley Road, Headingley, in Leeds.
A Google search found that the Oak Inn, now known as the Original Oak Inn, is still in business. In fact, it’s one of the most successful pubs in England, with ‘the biggest beer garden in Headingly‘, a centre for the student and sporting venue trade in the area. You can see from the satellite image on Google (below) how big the place is, with the rows and rows of outdoor tables. Tim was told that there used to be a bowling green there that had been used for championships at the time Henry was publican.
Tim was given a copy of a document tracing the history of the Original Oak Inn during his visit, and hopes to get back there on the team’s return visit to Leeds for the final of the Four Nations Championship to find out more about the history of the pub.
Tim was interviewed by the Yorkshire Evening Post during his visit to Leeds – you can see the article here: http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/Aussie-rugby-coach-finds-his.5801926.jp
The Sydney Morning Herald has picked up the story and expanded on it.