The house that Jeff built

Butchers Arms and Milton High Street 1920s

Butchers Arms and Milton High Street 1920s

Not many people spend forty years in the pub; Jeff did. Mind you, he built most of it. And while few present-day residents of the Wychwoods will have the privilege of seeing his masterpiece, most will know exactly where it is. Three quarters of the way up Milton’s High Street, a wide archway looks into a yard encircled by modern dwellings. A pair of black iron gates now guards access. While the past gives little away, a glance at the painted words across the arch unravels the mystery: Jeff’s house was a former pub.

This was the Butchers Arms, a brew house, victualler and wheelwright. Owned originally by the Clinch chain whose name can be clearly seen on the arch, it provided parish meeting rooms as well as its more traditional functions. (Incidentally, an almost identical arch can be seen on the way up into Charlbury from the station, a reminder of another Clinch pub). It was here that the Buffaloes met, a social club comprising mainly former military personnel. The yard contained stabling for two horses, but contrary to common understanding, this was never a coaching inn.

Jeff recognized the potential of this cluster of buildings. He was a skilled stonemason and builder by trade who had already built his previous house at East End, outside North Leigh. Here in Milton was a challenge right up his street, the perfect opportunity for a family home. So, in May 1986, he bought it for a princely sum not far short of £5,000.

Conversion was a huge task. Every working day, Jeff carried out his trade, every evening, alongside friend and fellow builder, Steve, he built his house, providing accommodation for Ann, his wife, and their three children. Looking into the yard, one cottage had to be demolished having fallen into disrepair. One of the remaining buildings had a thatched roof, apparently the last one in Milton before the arrival of the 2018 new-build ‘cottage’ on the way out of Milton!

Materials were gathered widely, including reclaimed stone from above Upper Milton, blue slates from Wales and a fireplace from a house in Shipton. This was home. As Jeff said, he loved living there. Living in a home that is virtually all your own work brought immense satisfaction. After the death of his wife in 2007, Jeff sold up and moved to Jubilee Lane and more recently to The Paddocks. There, taking pride of place above his T.V., is a painting of his life’s work, no longer a pub but a beautifully designed and built home for the present day.

All information provided by Jeff Broxholme

February – March 2019