The Falcon Public House Bletsoe
Falcon Public House in March 2007
The Falcon Public House: Rushden Road, Bletsoe
Until at least 1650 the site of the present Falcon Inn at Bletsoe, which belonged to the Saint John family, was Bletsoe Mill. The Falcon was listed by English Heritage in August 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. They considered it to be a 16th or 17th century inn with modern extensions. It has a timber frame, infilled with colourwashed plaster and a new clay tile roof. The original four bay plan extended to right hand with a modern wing to left. If the building really is 16th century it raises the possibility that it incorporates part of the old mill complex.
In 1727 the Bedford to Higham Ferrers road [A6] was turnpiked, and this would have resulted in much increased through traffic. The St.John family must have realised that to have an inn on the route would be profitable, and they owned a suitable site, the disused mill. The first mention of the Falcon Inn is in 1757 when the Lieutenancy meetings were held there, and the Falcon was the official meeting place for Lieutenancy in the area, for the early Petty Sessions, Bletsoe Highway Board etc. up until and throughout the 19th Century.
Hugh Lloyd, keeper of the Falcon Inn at Bletsoe was appointed Lord Saint John's gamekeeper in 1757. The following June a waggoner from Kettering gave information that he was selling game illegally. Lloyd petitioned James Cecil for mercy..."having no money to pay any penalty, or so much as a bed to ly on...for so soon as my misfortune was known my Brewer came upon me for a much larger dept than I was able to pay and forced me to grant him a Bill of Sale; and other creditors stand open Mouth'd to devour me….Alas I and my poor children are already ruined for Ever…" on 27th November 1758. There is no record of his prosecution in the Quarter Sessions records for that year, nor do we know whether he kept his post or was 'let go'. There is no record of him or his family in the parish registers after this date.
John Sawell married Elizabeth Coles at Bletsoe 23 Aug 1774. He is listed as licensee of the Falcon in the 1822 Alehouse Licence register, and may have held the public house prior to his marriage.
Robert Bennett took over the public house in September 1826. By the 1851 census he was running the pub and farming 150 acres with the assistance of 7 labourers. In the pub itself he lived with his wife Sarah, his brother John and his son John. Mary Hine lived in as a 'Bar Maid', Elizabeth Barrick was a house servant, Robert Norman was a farm servant and William Fallows was lodging there on the night the census was taken.
Robert died in May 1853 when his wife Sarah became licensee. She would have no doubt been pleased to hear of how satisfied her clientele were; in 1859 the poet Edward Fitzgerald wrote his famous The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám whilst he stayed there. In a letter he describes the Falcon as: "An inn, the cleanest, the sweetest, the civilist, the quietest, the liveliest and the cheapest that was ever built or conducted. On one side it has a garden, then the meadows through which winds the Ouse, and on the other the public road with its coach and horse hurrying to London, its market people halting to drink, its farmers, horsemen and foot travellers, so as one's humour is, one can have which ever phase of life one pleases: the quietitude or bustle, solitude or the busy hum of men". Sarah died on the 14th June 1872 aged 78, when her abode is noted in the burial registers as 'Bletsoe Falcon'.
John Sanders then took over. In the 1881 census he was listed as aged 39, an innkeeper and farmer of 170 acres, employing 5 men and 3 boys. He and his wife Maria ran the pub with the assistance of a general servant, Elizabeth Briars. In May 1886 Lord St.John listed the particulars of the Falcon Inn Farm 'in the occupation of Mr J Saunders at a yearly rent of £300' as security for a £6000 loan [Ref. SJ789].
By 1890 Robert Ross was in charge of the inn and farm. He was succeeded by his widow Emma. The 1901 Census records:
Emma Ross, Head, Widow, 54, Farmer & publican, born Saint Ives [Huntingdonshire];
Harry Ross, Cousin, Single, 48, Farm Manager, born Bolnhurst;
Amelia Cooper, Servant, Single, 16, Domestic, born Wootton.
The Kelly's Directory records Harry Ross as the licensee from 1910 - 1931. Emma Ross died, aged 84, in January 1925.
In 1927 the Falcon was valued under the 1925 Rating Valuation Act; the valuer found the public house consisted of a tap room, bar, living room and parlour on the ground floor with a cellar below and six bedrooms above; outside were two four stall stables used as stores. Business was hardly brisk and consisted of half barrel of beer a week and a small spirit and tobacco trade.
The Falcon Bletsoe about 1900 [Z1306]
List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:
1757-1758: Hugh Lloyd;
1822-1825: John Sawell;
1828: Robert Bennett;
1869: Mrs Sarah Bennett;
1877-1885: John Sanders;
1885: John Sanders;
1890-1898: Robert Ross;
1901: Emma Ross;
1910-1931: Harry Ross;
1934: Mary Dickenson;
1940: Mrs Agatha M Dickenson;
1983: Graeme Renwick Abbs;
1983-1986: Derek Charles Skingsley;
1986-1993: Eric Anthony Williams;
1993-1994: Richard Barry Daubney and Michael Alfred Porter
1994: Peter Oakes and Hartley Charles Bolton;
1994-1995: Timothy Webster and Hartley Charles Bolton;
1995: Christine King and Hartley Charles Bolton;
1995: Christine Astrid King and Hartley Charles Bolton;
1995-1996: John Alexander Gordon Lloyd and Steven Richard Elliott
- J1257-1260: Hugh Lloyd, innkeeper: 1757-1759;
- FN1253 page 125: Lieutenancy meeting at Falcon: 1757;
- SJ195-6: Falcon referred to in deed 1780;
- CLP13: Register of Alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
- X106/387: in sale Particulars: 1837;
- WL1000/1/STAU/1/3: Magistrates order: 1840;
- SJ789: Particulars of Falcon Inn Farm: 1886;
- SJ790: Plan of farm: c.1886;
- Z50/18/1: Photograph: C19th;
- X452/12/11: Photograph: C19th;
- Z195/3/3: Bill for ale and wine: 1901;
- Z924/1page 6: photograph: c.1930s;
- CCE1670/1(VI): Mary Dickenson of the Falcon Inn, party to a deed: 1935;
- BTNEG542/1-3: photograph of Oakley Hunt outside the pub: 4 April 1939;
- RDBP2/99: plans for additions 1931;
- RDBP3/430: plans for WC at public house: 1945;
- X495/29 menu card: 1974