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The Airman Public House Meppershall

The Barley Mow about 1925 [WL800/1]
The Barley Mow about 1925 [WL800/1]

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that this beerhouse, which then had no name, was first licensed in 1843. It stood at a spot known as The Hoo, close to a major brickworks. At the time of the register it was owned by Mansel Millard of Shefford. By the time of the countywide register of 1891 it was owned by Bedford brewer Charles Wells but still had no name.

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 beerhouse discovered that it was called the Barley Mow [DV1/C161/50] meaning that there were two licensed houses of this name in the parish, the other being in Meppershall village. Directories reveal that the name of the beerhouse was changed to the Airman by 1931, reflecting the presence of nearby RAF Henlow. The property was owned by Charles Wells and that its tenant, Alfred Dear had been there thirteen years, landlords in Meppershall seem to have been at their establishments for long periods around this time. His rent was £12 per annum.

The beerhouse was described as modern and comprised a parlour and kitchen with an underground beer cellar and four bedrooms on the first floor. The public areas comprised a tap room and serving room. The valuer commented: "Near brickworks but they leave at five o'clock and he opens at six o'clock. Trade was half a barrel and four dozen bottles per week on average and takings about £4 per week.

Dear rented a grass field of just under an acre adjoining the premises and had, in the beerhouse "good brick wall yard", an open two-bay shed, a two-stall stable, an open shed, a barn, a pigsty and a coal barn.

In February 1957 a full licence was granted to the Airman, turning it from a beerhouse into a public house. In 1989 the Shefford-Clifton-Henlow bypass greatly changed the road network in the area. The Airman had always stood at a cross roads where the road from Meppershall to Clifton met the road from Bedford to Hitchin but this road was now enlarged and a roundabout built right outside the pub.

References:

  •  HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  •  HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  •  HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  •  HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  •  HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  •  HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  •  PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  •  WL800/1 page 6 photograph of the Barley Mow: c.1925;
  •  WL801/94: negative of the Barley Mow: c. 1925;
  •  PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  •  PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  •  PC Meppershall9/13 Transfer of Licences: 1977-1983;
  •  PCMeppershall14/21: correspondence regarding car parking: 1977-1982;
  •  WL735/2a Improvements to Airman: 1983;
  •  Z50/30/33: photograph of Plowman's brickyard behind the Airman: 1985;
  •  Hi/PH18/4: photograph also showing surrounding countryside: 1989;
  •  Hi/PH18/55, 64 and 67: photograph showing progress of the Shefford-Clifton-Henlow bypass at this point: 1990;
  •  PCMeppershall18/33 Plans and elevations 1997

Licensees: note that this is not a complete list and that dates in italics are not necessarily beginning or end dates, merely the first/last date which can be confirmed from sources such as directories and deeds:

1874-1878: Joseph Palmer;
1878-1883: John Meikleham;
1883-1886: James Bywater;
1886-1887: John Powdrill;
1887-1894: Samuel Ibbott;
1894-1895: Maria Sharp;
1895-1896: Alfred Gilbert;
1896-1900: William Willis James;
1900-1905: George Bland;
1905-1914: Matthew Francis Drake;
1914: William Jeeves;
1914-1928: Alfred Thomas Dear;
1931: Arthur Charles Cooper;
1936 Ernest William Mabott;
1940-1969: Arnold Rainbow;
1969-1973: Arnold Howson;
1973-1975: Joan Muriel Howson;
1975-1977: William Charles Walter Hobson;
1977-1983: Edward John Pether;
1983: John Ernest Gibbs;
1983-1995: Robert Wheatley