Regional report

What makes Oxford a good place to own a pub?

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Strong as an ox: an in depth look at why Oxford may be the place for you
Strong as an ox: an in depth look at why Oxford may be the place for you

Related tags Oxford

Residence of many operators, including home-grown brewer Brakspear, Oxfordshire offers plenty to the on-trade with a growth in population on the cards.

Oxfordshire in numbers

  • Oxfordshire (the following six parliamentary constituencies: Banbury CC, Henley CC, Oxford East BC, Oxford West and Abingdon CC, Wantage CC, Witney CC) has 648 pubs, representing employment for 10,747 people (source: BBPA)
  • ­As of mid-2018, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate of the population of Oxfordshire was 687,500 (source: Oxfordshire County Council)
  • Oxford University was ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
  • By local authority district, the mid-2018 ONS estimate for population was:
    • Cherwell 149,200
    • Oxford 154,300
    • South Oxfordshire 140,500
    • Vale of White Horse 133,700
    • West Oxfordshire 109,800 (Source: Oxfordshire County Council)

No one can think of Oxfordshire without a mention of some of the amazing scenery in the region.

There are rolling meadows, historical sites with palace estates, and deer parks to name just a few of the worthy sites. And as well as spectacular views, there are great walks, cycling trails, posh regattas on the river as well as some famous designer shopping outlets.

And don’t forget the famous city of Oxford, with its beautiful views and university – which has made it the location of many TV programmes and movies. Who can forget the amazing pubs featured on beer-loving detective series Inspector Morse​?

On the market

The Green Man Mollington, Banbury
The Green Man, Mollington

Price: Offers over £600,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: £100,000

Wet:dry split: 100:0

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This village freehouse is in an affluent village. The business has been in the same hands for the past 32 years and trades limited hours on wet sales alone. It has an open-plan lounge bar and outside trading area with extensive grounds. There is also spacious five-room owner’s accommodation that could be adapted for letting bedrooms.

The Horse & Jockey Stanford in the Vale
Horse & Jockey

Price: £99,950

Tenure: Lease with nine years remaining

Rent: £54,000

Landlord: Greene King

Turnover: £586,904 (inc vat)

Wet:dry:accom split: 50:44:6

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This 16th century village inn and restaurant with letting bedrooms has a lounge bar/ dining area (circa 40 covers), restaurant/ function room (40c) and three external trading areas offering seating for about 100.

The Old Crown Inn Faringdon
Crown Inn (11)

Price: Guide price £1,000,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: £425,000 (net of VAT)

Wet:dry:accom split: 50:15:35

Agent: Savills 023 8071 3900

This 16th century grade II-listed coaching inn boasts 15 letting rooms over three floors. It also has planning permission granted to convert outbuildings to eight additional letting rooms. The building is arranged around a courtyard with cobbled tiles. There is a car park with 14 spaces.

Population growth

Oxford (4)

It is a region that has 648 pubs providing employment to almost 11,000 people, according to statistics from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

­The Office for National Statistics estimates that, in mid-2018, the population of Oxfordshire was 687,500.

The latest OCC housing-led forecasts (2017-based) predict a total population in Oxfordshire of 822,200 by 2027, a growth of 134,800 (up 20%) (source: Oxfordshire County Council).

Whichever stats you believe, the area is in growth. Oxford, which is the main city in the region, has a population of 154,600 (ONS 2017 mid-year estimate). And it has a high student population, with 33,640 enrolled for full-time studies at its two universities. Oxford also has a growing economy with 71% of jobs in knowledge-intensive industries and interestingly there are more jobs than residents – the ‘jobs density’ ratio is 1.23. Key sectors of industry are health, education, research, technology, tourism, car manufacturing and publishing. However, average house prices are 17.3 times the average earnings. And despite the positives, Oxford itself is not without its challenges - 10 out of 83 neighbourhoods are among the 20% most deprived in England.

Brakspear’s stomping ground

Oxford (2)

The region is a popular tourist destination with about 7m visitors making a trip to Oxford every year.

Like many other regions, Oxford attracts corporate operators with Young’s, City Pub Company, M&B and Stonegate being well represented. But there are also a raft of independent operators in the region as well as more gastro-type drive to premises in the surrounding towns and villages.

Brakspear operates around 130 pubs across the south-east, radiating out from its hometown of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, where it has 10 pubs as well as the Bell Street Brewery and its head office.

“Brakspear has a long heritage of brewing and running pubs in Oxfordshire; our roots in the county go back more than 200 years, when Robert Brakspear founded the original brewery in Henley,” says Tom Davies, Brakspear chief executive.

“We’re lucky to have some of the county’s finest pubs in both rural and town centre locations, including the Nag’s Head in Abingdon, an iconic Oxfordshire pub on its own island in the middle of the ­Thames, that we added to our managed house division this summer. For many tourists from abroad, a trip to one of our traditional Oxfordshire pubs and a pint of Brakspear ale are an essential part of their UK visit.”

He says it is a relatively affluent county and a good trading area for pub operators. Generally, employment and disposable income among residents is high, so they can afford to eat and drink out of the home, he confirms.

“We’re also close enough to London to attract residents from the capital in search of some fresh air, and many of our pubs do a brisk trade with walkers enjoying the beautiful countryside before a pint and a pub lunch – and, often, a treat for their four-legged friends,” Davies adds.

Oxford (1)

Star Pubs & Bars, agrees it is an affluent area and has 35 leased pubs in the region.

“We have some good-quality venues, ranging from high street pubs in Banbury, Bicester and Abingdon to Oxford suburban best-in-class pubs like the Cowley Retreat – popular with students – and the Magdalen Arms, which is on the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list, as well as quality food-led destination village pubs,” says regional operations director, Neil Convery.

“Oxfordshire is a stable, buoyant market, attracting really good operators and, as such, there’s little turnover of licensees and few available pubs. We recently completed an investment with new operators at the Bell in Banbury, which has been flying since it reopened and have another one under way at the Cockhorse in Banbury, with more planned in Woodstock and Witney in 2020.”

Davey Co managing director Paul Davey agrees the region has a very buoyant property market, with Oxford leading the charge.

“It has a very eclectic mix of independents, small privately owned multiples and all the majors,” he says. “­The licensed market is very vibrant, buoyant and strong, with independent specialist operators, particularly with cocktail bars such as Raoul’s Bar and Liquor Store, a privately owned concept, and trendy bar the Lighthouse on the riverside.”

But the brewery representation in the city has sadly disappeared.

“­The main reason is that the property values in Oxford are well ahead of the national average. A lot of the brewery house estates are worth a lot more as redevelopments as apartments,” he says.

Gastro-style sites take lead


The county is full of market towns and villages, which are generally affluent – meaning a strong pub destination market. Pubs are often sold on a confidential basis and “just fly out” he claims.

Davis Coffer Lyons executive director Paul Tallentyne agrees. “In the satellite towns and villages, the success stories are usually ‘destination’ gastro-led pubs – often with letting rooms for those visiting from outside the area (London particularly),” he says.

Oxford has seen a lot of change as a result of the new Westgate shopping centre taking trade from nearly streets, he argues. This has resulted in several corporate casualties and site closures along George St and surrounding area.

“­The increasing success of Bicester Village has also absorbed trade from other Oxfordshire locations, and the F&B side of Bicester is going from strength to strength with the opening of Café Wolseley and street food operators, providing another USP that Oxford and other towns in the region can’t compete with currently,” he says. Rents in the region are generally around £75,000 to £135,000.

“You would probably pay £125,000 to £135,000 for a good-performing city centre pub at the top of the market, slightly lower perhaps at £90,000 to £100,000 for free-of-tie, slightly out of town, and tied pubs lower still,” he adds.

Done deals

Saxon Inn Child Okeford, Dorset

Saxon Inn

Price: £575,000 (freehold) or £45,000 (leasehold)

Turnover: £312,000 (inc vat)

Wet:dry:accom split: 30:50:20

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This village inn with letting bedrooms is located on the edge of Child Okeford, north Dorset. This inn with letting rooms benefits from a lounge bar-restaurant (circa 30 covers), dining room (30c), public bar (20c), four en-suite letting bedrooms and a lawned beer garden (60c) and patio terrace area (25c). Craig and Emma Hasleden purchased the lease with the intention of purchasing the freehold within three years.

The Sun Inn Wheatley, Oxfordshire

The Sun

Price: £485,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover (annual): £90,000

Wet:dry split: N/A

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This freehouse has a daytime cafe-barbistro, occupying a prime central site that is only 10 miles east of Oxford. The former owners traded to only fi ve days a week and daytimes only, meaning there is massive potential. It could be readily utilised as pub-restaurant with 60 covers dining inside and lovely garden outside. There are two potential letting bedrooms with minimal work required.

To find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy visit our property site​.

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