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The Wheatsheaf Public House Harrold

Former Wheatsheaf from the west July 2008
Former Wheatsheaf from the west, July 2008

Wheatsheaf Public House: 46 High Street [formerly New Inn]

Early History

In the countywide licensing return of 1876 it was recorded that Henry Abrahams was tenant of the Wheatsheaf, the owner George Higgins of Bedford, it was first licensed "over 46 years ago" - it was considerably more than that as deeds held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service [GK79] tell us.

In 1751 Edward and Dinah Kempton of Souldrop conveyed "a messuage, cottage or tenement in Harrold, called 'The Wheatsheaf' heretofore in occupation of Thomas Davis Glover, his undertenants or assigns, late of Thomas Lambert and now of William Allen" to Elizabeth Bithrey of Carlton, widow for £55 [GK79/31]. She sold the Wheatsheaf to Richard Clapham of Harrold, innholder for £100 in 1786 [GK79/26].

The year after his wife Elizabeth died, 1817, Clapham sold the Wheatsheaf, in his own occupation, to John Rawlins of Bedford, wine merchant, along with a neighbouring cottage and a small allotment of ground for £460 [GK79/29]. In 1836 Rawlins sold the Wheatsheaf to Bedford brewer Charles Higgins for £740 [GK79/30]. Interestingly, this deed notes that Rawlins had pulled down the old Wheatsheaf and built today's structure. This may account for the date of around 1830 referred to in the 1876 licensing return. The 1830 and 1839 Pigot's Directories note that the Wheatsheaf was also the Excise Office.

The Misfortunes of Henry Abraham

The Bedfordshire Mercury of 24th August 1889 noted an unfortunate events befalling Henry Abraham, licensee of the New Inn, [this may be a mistake as later reports name the inn as the Wheatsheaf, unless the New Inn was an old name, still in circulation, dating from the inn's rebuilding around 1830]: "A DARING ROBBERY. On Thursday night, about 8 o'clock, a most impudent robbery was committed at the New Inn, kept by Mr Henry Abrams. Mr Abrams was at Sharnbrook Station on Wednesday, when he met with a "gentleman", about 25 years of age, who stated that he was an auctioneer from London, that he had come down to the country to see if he could pick up a few things to make a sale of, but he did not think he could do much at Sharnbrook, as he thought it was not much of a place. He asked what sort of a place Harrold was. Mr Abrams said he was going there, and a ride was accepted by the stranger, who engaged lodgings until Saturday. A room was provided for him, in which he slept on Wednesday night. On Thursday evening Mrs Abrams who was at work in the house saw something projecting from the lodger's pocket which aroused her suspicions, and, as he went out of the house, she sent a woman to his bedroom which was all right; but on going to the landlord's room the door was found as if wrenched open with a jemmy, and a pair of drawers forced from which the following articles were found to have been stolen, £28 in gold and silver, a lady's watch and gold chain, an old verge watch, tortoise shell brooch and ear-rings to match, a cameo brooch, bracelet, an old half-sovereign and a gold locket. The 'lodger' having gone just before the discovery an alarm was given, and the village was soon on the alert, a regular hue and cry being raised after the suspected gentleman. Inspector Cain from Sharnbrook was soon in attendance, and the police are on the look out for the visitor, but up to the time of our going to press he had not been arrested. It is said that he came to Bedford on Thursday night, and waited at the Midland Station three hours for a train to London, but Supt. Quenby closely watched every departing train until three o'clock in the morning".

More events were reported on 12th October: "Some few weeks ago Mr Abraham of the Wheat Sheaf Inn, was coming home from Sharnbrook Station when a person accosted him on the road and made enquiries where he could stay a night in the neighbourhood, as he wanted to try an establish an auctioneer's business. Mr Abraham very kindly took him to the Wheat Sheaf and lodged him, when the next evening he decamped with about £30 in cash and a quantity of jewellery and papers. Finding the papers no use to him, the thief returned them, and on Friday morning last Mr Abraham had the consolation of paying 3d. for their postage"

The denouement was reported in the edition of 2nd November 1889: "Supt. Webster , of the Kent County Constabulary, has succeeded in making a most important discovery of stolen property at 116 Camberwell Road, London. Two men were charged at the Dartford Police-court on Wednesday week with stealing property at Greenhithe, and they gave the names of William and George Frampton, the latter being alias Albert Wright; and, after making investigations, a cab-load of stolen property from Sidcup, High Wycombe, Hatfield and other places was recovered, the greater part of it having been pawned. The prisoners appeared to have made a practice of visiting hotels, ordering tea, and afterwards taking a room for the night. During the night they packed up all the valuables they could lay their hands on and left the premises. At the Pier Hotel, Greenhithe, they were unable to unfasten the door, so they cut away the lock but were unable even then to escape, as the landlord had a secret fastening to the door. Finding themselves foiled, and unable to get through the windows, they returned to the room again, but left their intended plunder strewed about. The landlord had them arrested, and this led to the recovery of the stolen property. The prisoners were remanded in custody, and on Saturday they were charged, on remand, at Dartford, with stealing numerous articles, value £40 at the Pier Hotel, Greenhithe, the property of the landlord Mr Henry Lyon, on the 19th October; and they were also charged with stealing jewellery value £40, at the Black Horse Hotel, Sidcup, the property of the landlord, Mr George Gregory, on the 16th. On searching at their residence in Camberwell-road, Supt. Webster found considerable valuable property, and a number of pawn tickets relating to robberies from hotels at Maidenhead, Sidcup, Hatfield &c. in one of the prisoner's bags were a dark lantern, matches, a screw driver, which exactly corresponded with a part found at the Pier Hotel, and £19 in gold. At prisoners' residence, pawn tickets had also been found relating to stolen property from hotels in Harrold and Luton, including Mr Abraham's gold watch. Supt. Webster stated that the prisoners had also been identified as the young men who recently committed a robbery of £110 in money and other property from the Army and Navy Coffee Tavern at Sheerness. Prisoners said there was a mistake about the amount of money at Sheerness, it was only £50. Supt.Webster asked for a further remand to enable him to continue his inquiries respecting the prisoners. They were then further remanded for a week".

The Pier Hotel, 6 High Street, Greenhithe, Kent is still in business. The Black Horse, Sidcup may well be the modern Ye Olde Black Horse at 43 Halfway Street, Sidcup, Kent, also still in business. In January 1890 William Frampton, 38, a painter and George Frampton, alias Albert Wright, 23, also a painter were sentenced to six months hard labour by Aylesbury Magistrates and 12 months hard labour by West Kent magistrates.

Sadly, two months later their victim, Henry Abraham was dead. He had been to Olney and was returning in a brougham; he had reached the Market Square when a shaft on the vehicle broke and he fell off, breaking his leg. He was taken home, then to Bedford infirmary but pneumonia set in and he died on Wednesday 5th March.

20th Century

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 Wheatsheaf [DV1/C/71] noted that the owner was Higgins & Sons Limited and the occupier: J Langford, the current rent was £1/15/- per month, set when Langford took the tenancy four years before.

The public house comprised a bar ("three pulls, good"), a tap room, a private bar, a private room, a scullery and larder, a mineral cellar, a club room, a dining room and a cellar on ground level. Upstairs were seven bedrooms and a drawing room as well as two letting rooms. Outside was brick & tiled stabling, coach house/garage ("stalls - unused") as well as a garden and two pigsties. The valuer remarked: "Long frontage. Kept spotlessly clean".

Trade averaged 1¼ barrels of beer per week and an average of six dozen bottles (pints & half pints) in the same period; a gallon of spirits was sold per month. Takings averaged £13 -14 per week. A small grass field of about one acre was included in the rent.

Higgins and Sons were taken over by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch in 1927. This firm was itself taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961, changing its name to Greene King (Biggleswade) in 1963.

The public house closed in 1974 and is now a substantial private house. In 2008 the property was put on the market, the description of the rooms being as follows [Z449/2/73]:

  • ground floor: entrance; sitting room measuring 5.3 metres by 4.9 metres; front hall; family room measuring 5.4 metres by 4.9 metres; inner hallway; dining room measuring 3.9 metres by 3.7 metres; utility room measuring 2.5 metres by 1.5 metres; shower room; rear hall and study measuring 5 metres by 3.8 metres; kitchen/breakfast room measuring 4.4 metres by 3.6 metres; conservatory measuring 2.8 metres by 2.4 metres;
  • first floor: five bedrooms; two bathrooms; separate wc;
  • outside: garage; stable office measuring 3.1 metres by 3.8 metres; stable room measuring 8.2 metres by 3.8 metres; stable loft room measuring 13.6 metres by 4.3 metres; courtyard garden measuring 10.7 metres by 5.2 metres; walled garden.

Former Wheatsheaf from the east July 2008
Former Wheatsheaf from the east July 2008

References:

  • GK4/1: schedule of deeds: 1742-1841;
  • GK79/31: abstract of title of Charles Higgins: 1751-1841;
  • GK79/25: Wheatsheaf sold by Edward and Dinah Kempton to Elizabeth Bithrey: 1751;
  • GA519: covenant by Thomas and Mary Harrison to levy a fine to Elizabeth Bithrey: 1752;
  • GK79/26: sold by Elizabeth Bithrey to tenant Richard Clapham: 1786;
  • GA1150/11: bill for Inclosure Commissioners stay at inn: c.1805;
  • GK79/27: burial register entry for Elizabeth Clapham: 1816;
  • GK79/29a-b: conveyance by Richard Clapham to John Rawlins: 1817;
  • GA1108/14: bills for dinners: 1820-1838;
  • CRT130HAR18: copy poster of new post coach travelling from public house to Bedford: 1821;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • GA2085: auction sale held at: 1830;
  • GA2087: auction sale held at: 1832;
  • GA2102: auction sale held at: 1835;
  • GA2107: auction sale held at: 1836 ;
  • GK79/30a-b: conveyance by John Rawlins to Charles Higgins: 1836
  • GA2120: auction sale held at: 1862 ;
  • GA2122: auction sale held at: 1864;
  • GA2132: auction sale held at: 1867;
  • GA2146: auction sale held at: 1872;
  • GA2148: auction sale held at: 1872;
  • GK4/2: conveyed, with other premises by executors of George Higgins to Laurence Read Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins: 1884;
  • Z50/54/21: photograph: 1897;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • GK4/4: conveyance, with other properties, by Laurence Read Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins to Higgins & Sons Limited: 1902;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930;
  • DV1/C71: rating valuation: 1927;
  • BTNegOB50/2: negative: 1931;
  • GK297/1: conveyed, with other properties, by Higgins & Sons Limited to Wells & Winch Limited: 1931;
  • PK2/3/1/31: auction sale of furniture and fittings of pub at: 1941;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/196: garaging of First Aid Party's car at public house: 1943

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:

pre 1751: Thomas Davis Glover;
pre 1751: Thomas Lambert;
1751: William Allen;
1786-1817: Richard Clapham;
1822-1825: John Standley;
1825-1826: Thomas Standley;
1826-1827: Benjamin Lee;
1827-1830: William Dunham, and excise office;
1836: Widow Smart;
1839: Benjamin Lever, and excise office;
1847: Thomas Humphrey;
1851: Manning Green;
1853: Elizabeth Green;
1854: Mrs Ann Green;
1861-1862: George Barwell;
1864-1869: Robert White, baker
1876-1890: Henry Abraham;
1891: Thomas Warboy;
1894-1903: Charles Crawley;
1904-1912: Robert Bayes;
1912-1923: Charles Amos Drage;
1923-1932: John Langford;
1932: Leonard Fuller;
1932: William Sparrow;
1936: John William Skirrow;
1940-1941: Benjamin Wright
public house closed 1974