Restoration reveals The Birdcage’s secret past

The Birdcage Inn
The Birdcage Inn

A PRISON, a ghost, a leper house and one of the town’s first buildings – these are just some of the details revealed about a popular town centre pub during recent restoration work.

The Birdcage, in the High Street, is a Grade II Listed building which has been restored to its former glory by a specialist company that works on historically important buildings.

During the work by experts Dunne and Co Limited, research was carried out on the pub’s unique past and some truly remarkable facts were uncovered.

When the building was listed in 1951, little was known about the place and it was dated to the early 16th century. Since then, research has uncovered its earlier origins from its medieval beginnings as an important market house instrumental in the founding of Thame through to its use as a prison, a leper house, and its conversion to an inn at around the time of Henry VIII.

It is now thought the building was the original Market House for Thame when the town was first given a charter in 1215.

It is thought the 13th century cellar, with its moulded stone doorway, was likely to have been the town’s prison, with the market building above.

It is understood that from 1805 the upper floors were used to house Napoleonic prisoners of war.

During some recent refurbishment works, a ball and chain dating from that period was discovered at the inn. The building was also used to house lepers and allegedly boasts a resident spirit.

The Ghost of the Restless Soul is reputed to be a leper who was stoned to death in the market square.

The origin of the name Birdcage is also speculative.

There are records dating back to 1529, when the property was known as ‘The Cage’.

Around 1600, it was held as copyhold by Philip Bird, so its likely that it then became known as Bird’s Cage.

The name Birdcage was probably an amalgamation of Phillip Bird’s Cage which over time was shortened and accepted into general speech.