The Crown about 1925 [WL800/2]
The Historic Environment Record for Bedford Borough records all historic buildings, landscape features and find spots. Summaries of the entries for each parish are now available online on the Heritage Gateway website. The record for Crown Cottage [HER 12039] states: “18th century cottage, rendered brick construction. 2 storey. Gabled tile roof. Bay window and casement windows”.
18th century deeds to the property show that the building dates to the early part of that century at the least. In 1722 a smith’s shop with a yard and a “great barn” standing between the house of Augustine Chester and ground occupied by John Cherry was conveyed by Elizabeth Purney of Dunnington [Lincolnshire], widow of John Purney, late of Lower Dean, gentleman, to John Mahewe of Lower Dean, collarmaker, for £60 [WG44-45]. The property had formerly been occupied by blacksmith Edward Basse, deceased and in 1722 was occupied by his son John.
In 1731 John Mahew mortgaged the property and a small adjoining close of land for £20 [WG46]. This mortgage was assigned to a different lender in 1747 [WG47].
In 1765 Thomas Mahew of Alconbury [Huntingdonshire], collarmaker conveyed the cottage, now divided into two separate dwellings, to John Askew of Lower Dean, grazier for £63 [WG48-49]. In his will of 1871 Askew left the two cottages to his nephew Richard Leach of Bedford, ironmonger [WG50]. Askew died in 1788. Meanwhile, in 1782 Askew mortgaged the property for £76 [WG51], the mortgage being assigned to a different lender in 1788 [WG52].
1788 is the earliest date that we know the Crown was trading. In that year Richard Leach and his wife Frances conveyed the cottage, described as formerly divided into two tenements with an adjoining orchard, and formerly occupied as a blacksmith’s shop but then known by the sign of the Crown, in the occupation of Janet Tebbutt, to William Fowler of Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire], brewer [WG53-54].
In 1800 William Fowler and his two sons William and George conveyed the business to trustees [LS37]. At this date it comprised the brewery in Saint Neots itself as well as licensed houses in eleven parishes in Huntingdonshire, four parishes in Cambridgeshire and one parish in Northamptonshire. There were also thirty houses in Bedfordshire in Bedford, Biggleswade, Chawston, Colmworth, Eaton Socon, Potton, Upper Dean and Wyboston.
In 1814 the trustees for sale under the will of William Fowler the younger and of George Fowler conveyed the business to John Day for £40,000 [WG331-332]. At this date the business comprised forty four licensed premises.
In 1840 the Saint Neots Brewery sold fifty of its licensed houses, including the Crown, by auction. The sale particulars [WG2526] note that the Crown was in the occupation of Samuel Tebbutt. Accommodation comprised a kitchen, two parlours, a cellar and two bedrooms. There was also still a blacksmith’s shop, a barn, stable, an open shed and an enclosed yard. The particulars were annotated to suggest that the purchaser was John Medlock, for £315. An adjoining field of arable land extending to 7 acres, 1 rood, 13 poles, also in the occupation of Samuel Tebbutt, was sold to someone named Woolston for £420.
The countywide licensing register of 1876 shows the owner as Samuel Barber of Kimbolton [Huntingdonshire]. The countywide register of 1891 shows the public house back in the ownership of Day and Son of Saint Neots. The Saint Neots Brewery was sold at auction in November 1919 to Wells and Winch Limited of Biggleswade. It is not clear whether the Crown was sold along with the brewery or sold to a separate buyer. The sale particulars [GK175/2] are annotated 325 W, clearly the property fetched £325 but whether W stands for Wells or Wells and Winch is unclear. The particulars describe the Crown as comprising a taproom, a sitting room, a kitchen, a store-room and a cellar with four bedrooms on the first floor. At the rear stood a brick and tiled hovel and stable, a timber and tiled chaff place and stable, a urinal, a timber, plaster and tiled barn, a timber and corrugated iron coal place, a timber and tiled cow place, a hay place and hen-house, a timber and tiled closet and a timber and tiled pigsty with a run. There was also a garden and a “large yard”.
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. It is likely that Lower Dean, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Crown [DV1/C150/14] found it owned by Charles Wells and tenanted by W. Bridges who paid £7 per annum in rent though this is amended “Says rent £10 fixed 1921”. This suggests either that Charles Wells bought the Crown from Wells and Winch some time between 1919 and 1921 or that Charles Wells bought the public house at the 1919 auction.
The house comprised a bar (“fairly large”), kitchen and cellar and four bedrooms. Barns and outbuildings stood outside. Trade was about 44 barrels and 112 dozen bottles of beer and 3¾ gallons of spirits per annum. This broke down into nine gallons of beer per week during winter and double that in summer. The valuer summarised: “Business poor. House situated in small village away from Main Road”. He further commented of the landlord: “Awkward man to deal with”.
The Crown clearly closed at some point between its entry in the last directory for the county of 1940 and 1961, for which year Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a licensing register for the north of the county which does not include the public house.
Directories reveal that there was a beer retailer in Lower Dean from at least 1847 to at least 1877. This was William Eaton, a carpenter. He would not necessarily have run an establishment like the Crown but more likely simply sold beer from his carpenters’ shop as a sideline.
Crown Cottage May 2011
- WG44-45: conveyance of a smith’s shop: 1722;
- WG46: mortgage: 1731;
- WG47: assignment of mortgage: 1747;
- WG48-49: conveyance of a cottage divided into two tenements: 1765;
- WG50: copy will of John Askew: 1781, proved 1788;
- WG51: mortgage: 1782;
- WG52: assignment of mortgage: 1788;
- WG53-54: conveyance of the Crown: 1788;
- LS37: conveyance: 1800;
- WG331-332: conveyance to John Day: 1814;
- CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
- WG2526: sale catalogue: 1840;
- GK175/2: in sale catalogue of Day’s Brewery: 1919;
- WL801/124: damaged negative image: c. 1925;
- WL800/2: photograph: c. 1925.
Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known
1788: Janet Tebbutt;
1822 -1828: Mary Tebbutt;
1840: Samuel Tebbutt;
1847: John Arnsby;
1854: Ekin Dickens;
1862-1876: Samuel Barber;
1877-1885: William Gale;
1890-1903: Isaac Lack;
1906-1921: Harry Chattle;
1921-1927: William Henry Bridges;
1927-1930: Ellen Caroline Bridges;
1930-1931: William Wilson John Russell;
1931-1934: George Gamblen;
1934-1936: Charles Henry Potter;
1936: Frederick John Fudge;
1939: Alfred Davis;
1939-1940: Stanley William Hazelton.