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The Saracens Head Inn

Read about the famous ‘Daventry calling’.

1 Brook Street, Daventry, Northamptonshire, NN11 4GG
Sited at the corner of Brook Street and High Street, this pub comprises The Saracens Head and stables to the rear. The building is dated by English Heritage as mid 18th century, since when it has been called The Saracens Head. An earlier Saracens Head had been on this site from at least the early 17th century.

Photographs and text about ‘Daventry calling’.

The text reads: In 1925 the newly created BBC constructed a broadcasting station on Borough Hill just outside of Daventry. On 19 December 1932 the BBC Empire Service (now the BBC World Service) began broadcasting. The radio announcement of ‘Daventry calling’ made Daventry well known across the world. The BBC director general, Lord Reith, spoke of the station as “a connecting and co-ordinating link between the scattered parts of the British Empire”. Six days later the first royal broadcast was made. King George V delivered a Christmas message from Sandringham, beginning a tradition that is still going strong.

Many pioneering developments in short wave broadcasting were carried out at Daventry. However, the world was changing. The Second World War saw new short wave transmitting sites appear. After the war, the Empire began to break up and other countries overtook Britain in broadcasting technology.

The station at Daventry closed in 1992 and only one of the radio masts now remains.

Top: Looking towards Tavern Lane, with the site of The Saracen’s Head on the right, and the BBC Club building on the left
Centre: right, the corner of Brook Street across the road from The Saracen’s Head, c1905, left, looking from Sheaf Street towards Brook Street, c1905
Above: High Street, looking towards the site of The Saracen’s Head and the BBC Club.

Illustrations and text about the Battle of Naseby.

The text reads: During the English Civil War – fought between the Royalists, led by King Charles I, and Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell – Daventry was the headquarters of the King and his troops before the Battle of Naseby in 1645.

The 10,000 strong Royalist army camped on Borough Hill. The King stayed at the Wheatsheaf Inn, where, legend has it, he received two ghostly visits from his former adviser and friend, Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, warning him he would not defeat Parliament by force of arms.

Meanwhile, Parliament’s newly formed new Model army, led by Sir Thomas Fairfax, was marching north from Oxford with instructions to force the King to give battle. Fairfax’s outriders clashed with Royalist outposts near Daventry on the 12 June. Realising his enemy was at hand, the King set off for Newark where reinforcements were waiting, but was advised by his nephew and cavalry commander, Prince Rupert, to turn and fight at Naseby, (approximately 14 miles northeast of Daventry).

The outnumbered Royalists were totally routed. The royal military machine was dealt a fatal blow. The war ended when Oxford surrendered in 1646.

Top: How the opposing forces lined up at Naseby
Left: The dashing but reckless Prince Rupert.

A photograph and text about Daventry’s history.

The text reads: The town was anciently spelled ‘Daintree’ and was originally a Saxon settlement. Daventry is historically a market town, with regular markets which date back over 800 years.

The town also held agricultural markets and hiring fairs called ‘mops’. This was a special day for people looking for new employment whilst enjoying the funfair and stalls. These traditions survived well into the 20th century.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed, Daventry’s status as an important market town declined. The new railway line (London to Birmingham) opened in 1838 which bypassed Daventry. The only indication that Daventry was once an important place for travellers to stop, were the numerous coaching inns that remained.

Photographs of Moot Hall.

Left and centre: The original Moot Hall was sited at the end of the High Street and was demolished in 1806. The new Moot Hall is situated in the Market Place and was originally built as a private house in 1769.
Right: Moot Hall in the Market Square, a place for the town’s people to gather on Peace Day.

An ariel view of the town centre in the 1950s, and a map showing the town in 1900.

Photographs of Market Square.

Top: c1930
Left: c1965

A photograph of Market Place and Moot Hall, Daventry, c1912.

A photograph of High Street, Daventry, c1910.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: