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The Blue Orchid Restaurant Aspley Guise

Bell about 1900
The Bell and The Holt (now Moore Place) in the Square, taken in the early 20th century [Ref.Z818/8]

The Blue Orchid Restaurant: Bedford Road/The Square, Aspley Guise [formerly the Bell Hotel]

This public house served as various times as a posting house and hotel in addition. At the time of writing (2007) it is a Thai Restaurant called the Blue Orchid. The building has a large enclosed back garden and yard and this was used for hiring fairs (called "statty" or statutory fairs locally) until the early 20th century. The building, dating from the early 19th century, has been grade II Listed since 1961. It stands at a point where Bedford Road (previously called East Street) enters The Square and at this point the road narrows considerably, resulting in many knocks and scrapes from large lorries before the weight limit through Aspley Guise was introduced in 1986.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service holds surprisingly little information for so large a public house, mainly because it was never owned by one of the local breweries for which the office holds records. Its first mention comes in 1803 when owner Francis Moore of Eggington redeemed the Land Tax on it for ten shillings and tenpence [R6/2/10/4].

In 1823 an auction of land which later comprised part of the site of the Anchor public house was auctioned at the Bell. The next mention comes in 1841, when it was willed by Richard Ambrose Reddall, who also owned the Swan in Husborne Crawley and the Bell, Royal Oak and Sun in Woburn. The Bell is described as including a brewhouse, outbuildings and garden and was in occupation of Mary Addison, it was devised with two closes of pasture in Aspley Guise, one adjoining Bell garden and the other near the clay pit (i.e. below the Church near the modern Browns Way) also in occupation of Mary Addison.

The Bedfordshire Mercury of 20th April 1889 relates the unfortunate demise of one of the landlords: "Mr George Waite, late of Gold-street, Northampton, died on Monday morning, at the Bell, the licence of which hotel had only been transferred to him on the 5th. He had an epileptic fit last week, and never rallied from the effects".

In 1927 this part of Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and property was inspected to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer found that it consisted of a tap room, bar, smoke room, lounge, kitchen and scullery downstairs, with a cellar under; upstairs were six bedrooms (two being for letting), a bathroom and WC. Outside were a barn, garage, two bay barn and a brick and slate tea room. Mains water and gas were laid on. The pub sold around two barrels of beer per week and one bottle of spirits per month (though the valuer thought that two per month was more likely!). Eight dozen bottle of beer and stout were also sold per week. The place was obviously doing well as the rent was £25 per annum, up from £13 in 1914.

Blue Orchid Restaurant March 2006
The Blue Orchid in March 2006

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1803: Richard Randall;1822: John Asbee:
1847-1850: Mrs Mary Addison;
1853: John Thomas Assbee;
1854-1864: James Burton;
1869: Charles Konow (also posting house);
1876: Samuel Biscoe;
1877-1879: William Handscomb (posting office and nurseryman);
1879-1880: William Hayes;
1880: William Geary;
1880-1881: William Macdowell;
1881-1884: Thomas Parton Stevens;
1884-1886: William Dilly (hotel and posting house);
1886-1887: Henry Greenwood;
1887-1889: Jane Revel Simons;
1889: George Waite;
1889-1894: Francis Scannell;
1894: Henry Joseph Burgess;
1896: James Harris;
1896-1911: Charles Bishop;
1911: Martha Jane Bishop;
1911: Henry Charles Hislop Sanders;
1912-1913: Walter Carter;
1913-1914: Claude Mackenzie;
1914-1915[?]: Walter George Robinson;
1915-1951: Mrs Sarah Ellen Robinson [Sims from 27 Apr 1932];
1951: Robert Walter Sims;
1951-1953: Harry Clement Gill;
1953: Percy George Beavis

List of Sources Held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service:

  • WL1000/1/AG/3/8: auction sale held at: 1823; 
  • R6/29/2/8: devised in will of Richard Ambrose Reddall to Robert Reddall Williamson: 6 Jul 1841 (proved 31 May 1842);
  • Z1185/1: précis of diary of Joseph Procter of Leighton Buzzard, brewer: 1853-1865;
  • HN10/271/Turney3: auction held at: 27 Mar 1887; 
  • Z818/7-8: postcards: c.1910;
  • X21/755/3: photograph: 1911;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form: 1960;
  • Z53/3a/3: photograph: 1961;
  • X351/1 p.27: photograph: 1965;
  • PCAspleyGuise30/2, 4 and 6: transfers of licence: 1971-1974.