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The Cock Inn Battlesden

The Cock Inn: Watling Street, Battlesden

Given the tiny size of modern Battlesden it is, perhaps, surprising that the parish has ever contained an inn. The best evidence is that the Cock was on the east side of Watling Street very close to the Hockliffe boundary. This is suggested by the fact that Hockliffe glebe land included a small parcel of land in Battlesden "shooting upon Cock Field" as it was described in the glebe terrier of 1709 [ABE2 folio 400]. A mortgage of 1676 [T31/2] also describes the Cock as in "Hockley Street" - which suggests an amalgam of Hockliffe and Watling Street (the road from Woburn to Hockliffe was known as Hockley Lane and was not, at this time, particularly wide). It is possible that, following boundary changes in 1984, the site of The Cock (wherever it is), is now in the civil parish of Hockliffe.

Of the inn itself we know little, save that in an estate survey of 1724 it formed part of a holding of 113 acres; the inn was described thus:"An Inn, Barns, Gardens, Orchs and Stabling for 60 or 70 Horses". A description of the state of the property reads: "But in Indifferent repair though makes very little Complaint he wants a Great Barn, which is useless, to be Converted into a Malting which will Coast about 50£ there being none thereabouts. the Inn is reckoned at 30£ per ann which is dear and the Land makes up the whole Rent". The Cock Field is described a being divided into four parts totalling 60 acres. Sadly no map accompanies this survey.

The parish registers for Battlesden record a large number of burials of travellers and it is likely that most of these died at the inn rather than along the highway in the parish. The occurrences for 1602-1812 are as follows:

  • 3rd March 1614: "one Margery Abbott, a poor woman and a passenger by the waye together with hir child that was stille born";
  • 20th August 1615: "an unknown traveller";
  • 8th February 1624: "an unknown cripple";
  • 29th March 1624: "an unknowne passinger";
  • 2nd September 1625: "an unknowne passenger from London to Moulsoe";
  • 22nd October 1625: "an unknowne passenger from London to Lancasher";
  • 15th July 1635: Richard Taylor "a passenger";
  • 18th June1668: Edward Davis "a Welsh drover" who died at the Cock;
  • 22nd November 1669: "A Welsh drover boy who died at ye Cocke";
  • 13th May 1706: "A vagrant";
  • 9th August 1741: "a stranger suppos'd to be an Irish woman";
  • 9th June 1760: Thaddaeus O'Sullivan "an Irish Traveller or Harvestman, a papist as appeared by a Certificate from his pastor at Innishonane & a String of Beads"

Given that the last of the travellers'  deaths is 1760 this suggests that the inn was still in operation at this date, however, it had closed by 1822 as it is not noted in the countywide list of licensees for that year.

 Field 31 is Cock Ground shown in 1882

Interestingly the Tithe Apportionment Map of 1845 shows a piece of land called Cock Ground some considerable distance from Watling Street, at the end of a track leading south and west from the centre of the village, which was still, at that date, occupied by over 150 people. It is Field 31 in the map shown above (for a larger version please click on the thumbnail). No inn is described in the apportionment and the building at the entrance to Cock Ground is described simply as "cottages".

It is quite possible that the Cock Inn owned land some distance away. Other explanations might incude: that once the Cock on Watling Street closed the name transferred to a small beerhouse in one of the cottages adjoining Cock Ground; or that there was a beerhouse adjoining Cock Ground quite independent of its larger namesake on Watling Street. Battlesden seems at that time a large enough community to make a small beerhouse viable. Either way this putative beerhouse may either have closed before 1845 or was simply not listed as a beerhouse or beershop in the apportionment.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list ; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known:

1668 - 1705: Thomas Quinnee (will);
1718: Thomas Coot;
1724: William Reed. 

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

  • CRT130/Battlesden6: notes;
  • T9/3: conveyance by Robert Mylton to Richard Saunder; 1532;
  • T31/2: mortgage by William Duncombe to Sir Algernon May; 1676;
  • HSA1678/S/67: indirectly mentioned in evidence regarding sheep stealing: May 1678;
  • HSA1680W89: evidence against pickpocket caught at inn: 1680;
  • Bedfordshire Parish Register Vol.37: Thomas Quinny (see licensees above) married Sarah Dyer at Battlesden on 24 May 1686;
  • Bedfordshire Parish Register Vol. 37: Thomas Coot innkeeper buried in Battlesden 18 May 1718 (his wife Susan had been buried on 8 Apr);
  • T46/2: rental of Battlesden estate: 1724