Over the last few years the Nags Head pub building in London Road, opposite The Rye, has frequently appeared in the pages and website of the Bucks Free Press. 

This culminated in this week’s Property supplement with the news that the building’s conversion to flats was now complete.

The Nags Head had an iconic status in High Wycombe for the Blues and Punk concerts which took place there in the 1960s/70s/and 80s. 

In fact, its history is much more interesting than just hosting up and coming bands, and I say that as a Blues fan who in his younger days attended many gigs at the Blues Loft upstairs in the pub.

The Nags Head was first licensed as a “beerhouse” in 1842, although the name of the licensee is not known until 1865, that then being James East. 

Those up to 1939 are listed below, although it is not always known precisely which years each was the licensee:
- James East c.1865 to c.1877
- John Scott c.1877 to 26/8/1881
- Mr and Mrs Collins 26/8/1881 to 16/10/1885
- Alfred Dover 16/10/1885 to 18/2/1887
- William Pearce 18/2/1887 to c.1911
- Alfred G Meecham c.1911 to c.1915
- Mrs Matilda Ford 1915
- Joseph Bason 1915 to c.1924
- Arthur J Bason c.1924 to c.1935
- Mrs Lucy Bason c.1935 to at least 1939

It would seem that a new building for the Nag’s Head was constructed in 1885, there being a plaque commemorating that in the wall of the present building.

William Pearce has been the longest-serving licensee, for some 25 years. He was known as a genial landlord who was mad-keen on sporting activities, and played an important role in the early history of Wycombe Wanderers.

Formed in 1887, Wanderers used The Nag’s Head as their headquarters in 1889 after they had been enticed there by Bill Pearce.

He had offered the pub, which was directly opposite The Rye where the Wanderers then played, as a place to change and gather before games.

And of course a place to celebrate or commiserate after the game!

As support increased for the Wanderers, Bill Pearce went on to become the “official” treasurer of the Club.

The Nags Head remained their HQ until the start of the 1897/98 season.

The Club had moved to Loakes Park two years earlier and the Red Lion Hotel was then considered a more convenient location.

The next milestone in the history of the Nags Head came in March 1968 when local impresario Ron Watts organised his first Blues music gig there in the room upstairs.

This had its own bar and had a capacity of c.300, although that number was a “bit of a squeeze”! 

These Blues Nights quickly gained in popularity, particularly when Ron managed to bring legendary American bluesmen to the venue, such as John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. 

The Nag’s Head in High Wycombe then developed as a “must” for all aspiring British bands to play a gig at – including amongst many others Jethro Tull, Status Quo and Thin Lizzy, who all appeared there before achieving fame. 

As the Punk Rock movement developed in the 1970s Ron Watts brought these bands to the Nags Head. Gigs continued into the 1980s, until Ron moved to other venues elsewhere, thus ending some 20 years of live music there.

The Nags Head finally closed in 2012 and was then sold. Initial plans were to convert it into a hotel but these came to nothing and the legendary building was finally converted into apartments.