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The California Beerhouse Kensworth

The California Beerhouse shown on a map of 1901
The California Beerhouse shown on a map of 1901

The Historic Environment Record is a list of all properties, landscape features and find spots of interest in the county. Summarised entries can be viewed online. The entry for the California Beerhouse [HER 13865] reads: “A former public house [sic] it was built in the early 20th century. It is a large building with a tile roof and applies timber decoration. It has also been known as: The Inn, the Bell Inn and the California Inn".

The property lies on the left-hand side of the hill going out of Dunstable towards Whipsnade. The house is recorded in a licensing register as operating until 1908 [PSL6/1]. The California was always a beerhouse, never a public house.

In 1903 a countywide licensing register gave details of the California which, it stated, was a beerhouse which had been licensed prior to 1869. At that date Kensworth was in Hertfordshire, not being transferred to Bedfordshire until 1897 and so is not mentioned in earlier Bedfordshire directories.

The 1891 census lists licensee James Moore as being a 59 year old widower and farmer who had been born at Cleve in Somerset. He had two daughters living with him: Annie J. Nathan was 31 and had been born at Cardigan in Wales; Ellen Moore was 20 and had been born at Ingleton in Yorkshire, evidently the family moved around considerable. Also living with the family were Annie’s three children: Stanley J, aged 4; Gwendoline, aged 2 and Vera, aged 5 months, all of whom had been born in Brixton [Surrey].

In 1903 the beerhouse was owned by E. Parteeter of Ealing [Middlesex]. It was described as: “out of repair, wall cracked & shored up, dirty and unsatisfactory”. The nearest licensed building, the Rifle Volunteer in Dunstable, was 688 yards away. The situation was described as “Dunstable Downs” and the beerhouse had a front door and a back door.

Today [2013] 1 to 3 White Rock are built on the site of the California, which seems to have closed about 1908. 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. Kensworth, like most of the county, was largely valued in 1927 and the valuer visiting White Rock found two premises – Dunstable Golf Club’s club house and a house for the steward [DV1/C114/33-34]. The club house was built of brick, roughcast and slate and comprised a dining room, a bar, a urinal, two W. Cs. and a verandah with a locker room, ladies’ room, twp more W. Cs. and another verandah upstairs. A brick and slate motor cycle shed, two weather-boarded and let rooms “used for repairing and cleaning golf clubs”, a weather-boarded and felt caddy’s room, a weather-boarded and felt room for horses’ food and a weather-boarded and felt stable stood outside.

Further down the hill was the semi-detached steward’s house, occupied by L. Matthews. His accommodation comprised two living rooms, a kitchen and pantry downstairs with four bedrooms above and a brick and slate barn and earth closet outside.

Sources

  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1901.

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

1887-1908: James Moore.
Beerhouse closed c.1908