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The Oakley Arms Public House Harrold

High Street looking towards Oakley Arms about 1920
High Street looking towards the Oakley Arms about 1920 [Z1306/54]

Oakley Arms [formerly Blacksmiths Arms]: 100-106 High Street, Harrold

The Oakley Arms was listed by the former Department of Environment, which considered it to be a 19th century building. It is constructed, like most of the older buildings in Harrold, of coursed limestone rubble. It has a slate roof.

The property was not always called the Oakley Arms. The Sharnbrook Petty Sessions licensing register, which begins about 1901 [PSS3/3] has the Blacksmiths Arms Beerhouse struck through and replaced by Oakley Arms indicating that the house was renamed, probably between the tenancies of Richard Wright and George Daniel Orpin in 1919.

The countywide list of licences for 1876 notes three (unnamed) beerhouses in Harrold and states that all three were first licensed in 1869. The Blacksmiths Arms may, however, date to a few years before that. John Noble, brazier, is recorded as being a beer seller in a directory of 1864, being last mentioned in a directory of 1877. The next directory held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a Thomas Noble, tin, iron and zinc plate worker selling beer. Richard Wright, later clearly identified as tenant of the Blacksmiths Arms in a licensing register, is first recorded as a beer seller in the next directory held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service, that for 1890, in which Noble is recorded but no longer being mentioned as a beer seller, indicating that Wright may have succeeded Noble as a beer seller. Clearly the name Blacksmiths Arms is also suggestive of John and Thomas Noble's main trade.

The Oakley Arms May 2008
The Oakley Arms May 2008

In 1927 property in Harrold was valued under the Rating & Valuation Act of 1925; every piece of land and building in the country had to be valued to determine the rates to be paid upon it. The valuer visiting the Oakley Arms [DV1/C/70/99] noted that the owner was Charles Wells Limited, the Bedford brewers and the occupier George Daniel Orpin. The premises comprised a bar ("small"), a private bar ("small"), a smoke room, cellar, tap room ("fair") and private room ("good"), with three bedrooms upstairs. Outside was a brewhouse and workshop with a loft over ("all used as stores"). There was also a three stall stable with a loft over, an open end brick and corrugated iron cart shed and fowl houses.

The rent was £12 per annum, entered into when Orpin succeeded Richard Wright as tenant in October 1919. Trade was 1½ barrels of beer per week, on average, and six to eight dozen bottles of beer per week. Clearly at this date the Oakley Arms was still a beerhouse. The valuer remarked: "Looks good outside but poor inside". The business seems to have become a public house between 1936 and 1940, the former directory simply listing George Daniel Orpin as beer seller whereas the 1940 directory lists the Oakley Arms Public House.

102 to 106 High Street in 1962
102 to 106 High Street in 1962 [Z53/54/33]

In 1927 the row of thatched cottages leading west along the High Street was not part of the public house, as it is today. The row was also listed by the former Department of Environment, which considered it to be 18th century. The properties are built of coursed limestone rubble and have thatched roofs. In 1927 the row was owned by Charles Wells but let out to private tenants, the details being as follows [DV1/C/70/96-98]:

  • 106 High Street: occupier Mrs.Darlow, comprising a living room and kitchen with two bedrooms above, a barn and shared earth closet outside. The valuer remarked: "no garden, low roof";
  • 104 High Street: occupier Miss Hulatt, identical to 106, the valuer remarking in addition: "water from a pump";
  • 102 High Street: occupier Miss Foskett, comprising a living room and scullery with one bedroom above. There was no barn, the earth closet was, again, shared and there was no garden, again "water from pump".

Oakley Arms May 2008
Oakley Arms May 2008

References:

  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930;
  • WL800/3 p.36: photograph: c.1925;
  • WL801/6: negative of above: c.1925;
  • DV1/C70: rating valuation: 1927;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • BorB/TP/77/1941: toilet and storage improvement plans: 1977;
  • WL722/25: article on extension in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1979;
  • WL722/52: feature of food at public house in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1986;
  • WL722/93: article on 30th anniversary of Beatles singing "Hey Jude" in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1998;
  • WL722/96: mentioned in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1998;
  • WL722/100: feature on ghosts at Wells pubs in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1999/2000;
  • WL722/102: feature on bed and breakfast accommodation offered in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 2000

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:

1885-1919: Richard Wright;
1919 -1940: George Daniel Orpin
1965: Jean Harris Evans;
1965-1982: John Francis Evans
1982-1986: Stanley Cornwall Twyman
1986-1991: William George Bickley;
1991: Graham Stewart Walker and Bernard William Hobbs;
1991-1995: Richard Leonard Wildman