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The Plough Inn Eaton Bray

The Plough about 1910 [Z50/39/43]
The Plough about 1910 [Z50/39/43]

The Plough Public House: corner of Harling Road and Tring Road, Eaton Bray

The former Plough stands a long way from the village of Eaton Bray on Tring Road, also known as Icknield Way, in an area known as Valance End. According to the countywide licensing register of 1876 the Plough first opened in 1830. It is certainly not listed in the earliest surviving countywide registers which date from 1822 to 1828 [CLP13]. It probably started as a beerhouse because it is first listed by name in a directory of 1864, those of 1847, 1852, 1853 and 1862 do not list it – directories at this date listed public houses by name and beerhouses simply by the name of the proprietor with the listing “beer retailer” or “beer seller”. As there were a number of beerhouses in Eaton Bray at the time it is not possible to say who the licensee was before 1864. If the Plough is not listed by name in 1862 but is listed in 1864 this suggests that it became a fully licensed public house in one of those years or in 1863.

The owner in 1876 was Ivinghoe [Buckinghamshire] brewer Roberts and Wilson. They were still the owner listed in the countywide register of 1891 but were then leasing the Plough to Dunstable brewer Benjamin Bennett, for £22/9/- per annum. The publican, the appropriately named John Farmer, was evidently the sub-tenant.

By the time of the countywide register of 1903 Roberts and Wilson were leasing the Plough directly to the publican again and the rent was £12 per annum. The place was, according to the register, “clean and in fairly good repair”. It was 1 mile, 352 yards to the nest licensed premises and the pub had one front and one back door with a side gate to a yard.

In 1922 [BH/2/77/10] Frances Wilson of Belmont Lodge, Stanmore [Middlesex], widow [of Roberts and Wilson] surrendered 31 perches of land in Street Furlong. The description of the land, which cannot have changed for over half a century, still refers to the Plough as a beerhouse and states that it was “formerly erected by John Varney” and had been formerly in the occupation of John Scott junior, then Joseph Wallace then James Pratt. Pratt was the licensee in 1876. We might infer from this that Varney was the first licensee but, of course, he may have built the premises which only became a public house at a later date.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Eaton Bray, like most of the county was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Plough [DV1/C203/52] found it still owned by Roberts and Wilson. He commented: "Rough cast. Kept exceptionally attractive”. The brick and slate building comprised a tap room (“very nice”), living room and smoke room combined, a kitchen and pantry. Three bedrooms lay upstairs. Outside stood a brick and slate shelter by the house (“can be closed as store) as well as a stable for two horses (“disused”). There were also three weather-boarded and slated barns used as stores and a large weather-boarded and corrugated iron barn used for lumber. The landlord also rented two grass fields – of 1.5 acres and 4.002 acres and an orchard of 3.994 acres.

The valuer commented: “Takings everything”; they amounted to £20 per week in summer but very little in the winter. Sales were a barrel and a half of beer per week in summer and about one per month in winter. Nine dozen half pint bottles of beer a week were also sold in summer along with twelve dozen bottles of minerals. Sixteen gallon of spirits were sold in the year 1926-1927 along with eighteen gallons of port. The valuer commented: “Takings include quite a lot of teas, minerals etc.” and “No village trade – all trade in summer from motorists etc.”

The landlord had “Been here just a year, working up a connection and Lounge. Tap room has only just been altered to its present state. A later valuer noted: “Now a tea place. No trade in winter. Lawn set up with tables, sheds for cycles”.

Benskins Watford Brewery took over Roberts and Wilson during 1927 and Benskins was, itself, taken over by Ind Coope of Burton-on-Trent [Staffordshire] in 1957 when the Watford brewery closed. In 1961 Ind Coope merged with Ansells of Birmingham [Warwickshire] and Tetley Walker of Leeds [Yorkshire] to form Allied Breweries.

By 2008 the Plough had closed and become, like any number of pubs in the county, a restaurant. In this case the restaurant is Indian and called Elachi, the name being a type of spice.

The former Plough Inn December 2008
The former Plough Inn December 2008

Sources:

  • PSLB4/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1949;
  • PSLB4/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1956;
  • Z50/39/43: postcard: c. 1910;
  • BH/2/77/10: admission to adjoining land: 1922;
  • PSLB4/2: Lists of Licensed Premises - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1922-1948;
  • WW2/AR/CO/2/2: high explosive bomb dropped 400 yards north of Plough Inn: 1940;
  • PLD10/190: land use map: 1948;
  • PSLB4/4: Register of Licensed Premises - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1967-1992;
  • Z50/68/12: photograph: 1974;
  • PCEatonBray30/1: notice of change of licensee: 1979;
  • PCEatonBray30/3: notice of change of licensee: 1991

Licensees: note that this is not a complete list and that dates in italics are not necessarily beginning or end dates, merely the first/last date which can be confirmed from sources such as directories and deeds:

1830: John Varney?
1847: John Scott junior;
Joseph Wallace;
1864-1869: Thomas Partridge;
1876:James Pratt;
1880-1882: William Pittam;
1882-1889: James Stanbridge;
1890-1898: James Farmer;
1898-1915: Charles Seaton;
1915-1921: George Hughes;
1921-1924: Edgar Thomas Meakins;
1924-1925: Robert McGhie;
1925-1926: Edmund Thomas Edwards;
1926-1938: William John Firek;
1938-1943: Harry Thomas Ashley;
1943-1950: James Henry Purcell;
1950-1951: Albert James Horwood;
1951-1956: Frederick Field;
1962-1976: John Tiverton Douglas Hutton;
1976-1978: Ronald William Wood;
1978-1991: William Birkbeck;
1991: Alan Alfred Johns.