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The Crown Public House Flitwick

The Crown about 1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Fli/C1]
The Crown about 1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Fli/C1]

The Crown Public House: Station Road, Flitwick

The Crown is first recorded in 1796 when Thomas Cook, a yeoman of Flitwick, leased to John Walker, victualler of Flitwick a “public-house called The Crown” with a close adjoining containing two acres; and commons for two cows, a bullock, and a horse; all in Flitwick, late in occupation of Robert Parrell, and now of said John Walker. This clearly suggests that the Crown was well-established by that date.

John Walker’s wife was buried at Flitwick on 17th May 1804, aged 47 [P59/1/6]. Walker himself died in 1832 [ABP/W1832/28]. On 23rd December 1815 the Northampton Mercury announced the forthcoming auction sale of: “All that well-accustomed public house, now in full Trade, known by the name of the Crown, with the Yard, Garden, out Buildings and Appurtenances  thereunto belonging situate in the pleasant Village of Flitwick, together with a Close of old inclosed pasture Ground, adjoining to the said public House containing by Admeasurement two Acres, little more or less, now in Occupation of Mr John Walker, part of the House is now used as a Grocer’s Shop”.

The buyer was the Ampthill Brewery, owned by John and Joseph Morris [WJ192]. In 1827 the brewery drew up an inventory of its possessions. The Crown was described as [Z1043/1] a freehold public house, occupied by John Walker, with a yard, stable, wood barn, piggery, cart hovel and sheds;  good garden and an enclosure of meadow land adjoining the house containing 2 acres, 9 poles, also 2 acres, 2 roods and 11 poles of arable land adjoining.

In 1874 there was a serious fire at the Crown. The Bedfordshire Times of 14th November tells us under the very Victorian heading “DISGRACEFUL PROCEEDINGS AT A PUBLIC HOUSE. On Thursday, the 5th instant, a fire was discovered about noon by a boy named Barnes, on the premises of the Crown Inn, occupied by Mr Noah Billington. The villagers and neighbours rendered all aid possible, but as water had to be conveyed some considerable distance the fire could not be arrested until the whole of the outbuildings, with their contents, were consumed. The dwellinghouse, although not burnt, was damaged by the end being pulled down. The property was fully insured in the County Fire Office, and Mr White, the assessor to the office, assisted by Mr H R J Swaffield, of Ampthill, the local agent, visited the scene on Tuesday last, and, with commendable promptitude, arranged the loss. In connection with this fire there are some facts not conducive to a favourable opinion of the merits of “neighbourly offices”. The landlord, it appears, was unfortunately away, at Elstow Fair during the fire, leaving his wife in charge of the house, and to this circumstance, doubtless, may be ascribed the lawlessness which prevailed. A number of ill-disposed villagers, together with a gang of platelayers from Luton, entered the premises, and in spite of the landlady’s remonstrance, stole a quantity of wearing apparel and household furniture, besides destroying a large number of articles by wantonly throwing them out of the windows. Not content with this, they broke into the cellar, stealing a quantity of brandy and gin, and broaching the ale casks, the contents being carried to the mob in pans. The consequence was a drunken, howling rabble, and at least one “distinguished” inhabitant of this “sweet auburn” had to be conveyed home on a shutter. The “cat” might possibly have a salutary effect on some of these gentry”. Despite this ill-usage Noah Billington remained at the Crown for 28 more years.

In 1907 Morris and Company became a limited company by the name of Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited [CCE5304/1]. In 1926 the company was bought by Luton brewer J W Green Limited [CCE5304/3].

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. The valuer visiting the Crown [DV1/C129/93] found that the tenant paid rent of £36 per annum to J W Green Limited; this included farm buildings and land. The valuer commented: “Very imposing looking place, good draw-up, modern buildings”.

The property comprised a bar, a tap room (“large”), a parlour (“good”) and a club room (“very good”), with private accommodation being a living room, a pantry and a scullery. There were four bedrooms upstairs and a basement cellar.

Trade was about 2½ barrels of beer, six dozen pint bottles of beer, five dozen bottles of minerals and a gallon of spirits peer week. Gross takings were about £25-30 a week(“say £45”).

Outside lay a weather-boarded and corrugated iron coal barn, a weather-boarded and corrugated iron general store shed and an occasional boot-repairing shop (“used by Cox junior” - i.e. the tenant’s son) as well as a urinal.

Farm buildings were sub-let to men named Finch and Fleming for £8 per annum - they made “poultry appliances, all galvanised work”. Buildings comprised: a weather-boarded and felt workshop (the tenants’ property) - “all principal work done here”; a weather-boarded and tiled packing shed and a weather-boarded and tiled lumber room - “sawing done here”. The valuer further remarked: “Only Firm that makes Poultry Feeders etc … Useful Buildings”.

The land comprised 4.342 acres. This included an orchard (1.653 acres) and an arable field (2.689 acres).

The landlord also owned some other farm buildings adjacent. These were let to G Crowe, the valuer noting: “Mr Cox says he charges no Rent. Crowe probably does odd jobs for him”. The buildings comprised: a weather-boarded and corrugated iron open cart shed; a weather-boarded and corrugated iron one-stall stable; a weather-boarded and corrugated iron kitchen; a weather-boarded caravan and a weather-boarded shed and a weather-boarded and corrugated iron barn and earth closet.

In 1954 J W Green merged with Midlands brewer Flowers, the new firm taking the Flowers name. In 1962 the firm was taken over by Whitbread. In 2001 Whitbread sold all its public houses but the Crown remains open at the time of writing [2017].

The Crown April 2017
The Crown April 2017

Sources:

  • WE86: 21 year lease: 1796;
  • Northamptonshire Mercury: notice of sale of the Crown: 23rd December 1815;
  • WJ192: conveyed: 1816;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822 - 1828
  • Z1043/1: listed in inventory of John and Joseph Morris: 1827
  • WE177: assignment of reversionary interest in will of Thomas Cook: 1828;
  • X21/629: conveyance of properties from Joseph Morris to devisees under the will of John Morris, deceased: 1828;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP1: Mortgage for £30,000 from John Morris to Mary and Catherine Morris of various properties: 1831;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • Bedfordshire Times: account of fire followed by looting: 14 November 1874;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP2: Mortgage from John Thomas Green to Susanna, Mary Jane and Sophia Morris of a number of properties: 1882;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: Abstract of Title of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited to various properties: 1900-1926;
  • CCE5304/1: conveyed, with other properties, to Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited: 1907;
  • CCE5304/3: conveyed, with other properties, to J.W.Green Limited: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/1: mentioned on list of properties of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited: c.1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/2: mentioned on list of properties of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited: 1926;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: Certificate of title of J.W.Green Limited to various properties: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of properties of J.W.Green Limited: c.1936;
  • Z1105/1: liquor licence traders survey form: 1941;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds to various properties owned by J.W.Green Limited: c.1949;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s
  • WB/Green4/2/16: list pf properties owned by J.W.Green Limited: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: Second schedule of trust deed showing properties owned by J.W.Green Limited: 1952;
  • WBGreen4/2/18: certificate of title to certain properties of J.W.Green Limited: 31 Mar 1954;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: lists of properties owned by J.W.Green Limited: 1954;
  • WB/Flow/4/5/Fli/C1-3: photographs: 1960s
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995

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

Before 1796: Robert Parrell;
1796-1828: John Walker;
1847-1864: Joseph Billington;
1869-1902: Noah Billington;
1902-1903: Alfred B Hern;
1903-1904: Benjamin Daniel Robins;
1904: James Thomas Hawkins;
1904-1908: George Hatcher;
1908-1912: Henry Merrem;
1912-1914: Arthur Claydon;
1914-1941: John Cox;
1941-1959: Horace Beale;
1964-1968: Richard James Gooch;
1968-1977: Alfred George Skipper;
1977-1981: Keith David Nicholls;
1981-1982: Roger Stuart Bushnell and Timothy Williamson;
1982-1983: Michael Richard Cowan;
1983: Michael Richard Cowan and Peter Vincent Wallace;
1983-1984: Michael Richard Cowan and Michael John Gregory;
1984-1985: Brian Dennis Marshall and Nigel John Smith;
1985-1986: Stephen Hook;
1876-1989: Stephen Hook and Richard Peter Motion;
1989-1990: Richard Peter Motion and Gary Alan Silk;
1990: John Nicholas Riddell and Keith Groundsell;
1990-1992: Richard Peter Motion and Michael Thomas Tombs;
1992-1995: Alistair James Moet and Graham John Bentham.