The Cock Inn Shefford
6 to 8 Northbridge Street about 1960 [Z50/101/33]
Cock Inn: 6 Northbridge Street, Shefford.
The Cock is Shefford's, oldest known inn, indeed one of the earliest known in the county. Its first mention in any document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is on 12th December 1499 [O60] when it was conveyed by Stephen Lound and Agnes his wife to John Warner, Thomas Nixon, William Lucas, John Burrewell and John Baker. It was then described as: "a messuage called "le Cokke" in Shefford abutting one side on "leffordes" and the other side on the King's highway from Bedford to Hitchin".
In 1528 [O62] the Cock was conveyed by Robert Warner to George Flynders, William Hamelden, Francis Lewys and Robert Lucas. It was then described as "a messuage called "le Cokke" in Shefford between the messuage now in occupation of Margery Harryson and late John Burwell north [i.e. the current 8 Northbridge Street], the messuage of Alexander Symson south [perhaps the other cross-piece to the H shaped building, the part now formed by the porch]with one head abutting west on the highway and the other east on a place called "le ffordys""
By 1566 the Cock was described as empty when it was conveyed for £30 by William Wright of Shefford, yeoman to Thomas Cranfeld of Shefford and Margaret, his wife [O63]. In 1586 Thomas Cranfeild made his ownership more legally watertight by undergoing a tortuous process known as a common recovery [O64]. Interestingly the two tenants were given as Thomas Hanscombe and William Shakespere. It is, of course, unlikely that this was the great writer but may well be the same man as the William Shakespeare who was recorded as a former tenant of land in Upper Stondon in a deed of 1587. The fact that he was a tenant for the purposes of the legal fiction involved in a common recovery does not mean that he, or Thomas Hanscombe, were necessarily tenants of the inn
In 1594 [O65] the Cock was conveyed by Robert Cranfielde to John Goodcheape of Campton, husbandman for £55. A Campton parish register entry for 13th August 1630 records the burial of: "An ould woman which was mother-in-law to Wm. Rogers and dyed at the Cocke".
6 Northbridge Street January 2008
In 1636 John Goodcheape of Deptford [Kent], wine cooper (grandson of the John of 1594) conveyed it to Sir Peter Osborn of Chicksands [O66]. Records of the High Sheriffs Assizes [HSA] show that the Petty Sessions Court for the Hundred of Clifton was held at the pub during the 1670s. In 1727 Sarah Osborn, acting as guardian for her eleven year old son, Sir Danvers, leased the Cock "with brewhouse, barn, stables, yard, garden and appurtenances" to Thomas Faldoe of Shefford, clockmaker who was already in occupation. Thomas Faldo died in 1729, leaving no will; the administration of his estate [ABP/A1729/39] was granted to his widow Sarah Faldo.
There are no more references to the Cock as an inn. The first countywide licensing register, which begins in 1822 has no record of it. One can only state that it closed at some point between 1729 and 1822. The building, however, survives. It is 6 Northbridge Street, often called the Porch House after its most distinctive feature and it is now home to Barclays Bank's Shefford branch. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a stray deed on 1863 [X153] in which "a messuage in Shefford in a place late called Water End but now called Bedford Street [as Northbridge Street was known at the time] commonly known as "the Porch" whereof a part is built or roofed over the ground forming an entrance way at the northward, next to a messuage contracted to be sold to Charles Ferguson [8 Northbridge Street]". The Porch was being sold by Sir George Robert Osborn of Chicksands Priory and his son Henry John Robert Osborn of the 1st Lifeguards to Thomas Smith of Shefford, confectioner.
Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years. Thomas Smith is mentioned, variously as a baker or a confectioner in Northbridge Street in directories of 1850, 1853, 1854, 1862, 1864, 1869, 1871, 1877 and 1885. It therefore looks as if he was renting the property from the Osborns before he purchased it. He paid £220.
In 1927 the town of Shefford was valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Porch House noted [DV1/C289/12] that it was owned and occupied by H. S. Billingham. The building comprised a living room, kitchen and parlour downstairs with two bedrooms and box room "over pavement" above. Outside were a barn and washhouse ["large but poor"]. Billingham was a boot maker and the main part of the downstairs was given over to the boot shop, measuring 14 feet by 16 feet ["low room"], there was also a workshop measuring 14 feet by 15 feet "at rear". The porch ensured a "covered way in". Barclays Bank was, at that time, at 2 High Street.
In 1952 the former Department of Environment listed The Porch House as Grade II "buildings of special interest", it was already a branch of Barclays Bank. The Department's surveyor reckoned the building to be 16th century (only a little out, as we have seen it was in existence in 1499); he noted that it is of closely studded timber framing with a red brick infill. The shop front is, of course, 20th century though "in the early 19th century style". A plaque indicated that the building was reworked in 1919 when the ground floor studwork was removed from the cross wing (i.e. that part on the right hand side as seen from the front) and the porch created. Nikolaus Pevsner in his Buildings of England series for Bedfordshire notes, rather dismissively: "more picturesque than genuine".
6 to 8 Northbridge Street January 2008
- O60: conveyance of the Cock from Stephen Lound and Agnes his wife to John Warner, Thomas Nixon, William Lucas, John Burrewell and John Baker: 1499;
- O62: Cock conveyed by conveyed by Robert Warner to George Flynders, William Hamelden, Francis Lewys and Robert Lucas: 1528;
- O63: Cock conveyed by William Wright of Shefford, yeoman to Thomas Cranfeld of Shefford and Margaret, his wife: 1566;
- O64: Common recovery: 1586;
- O65: Cock conveyed by Robert Cranfielde to John Goodcheape: 1594;
- O66: Cock conveyed by John Goodcheape to Sir Peter Osborn: 1636;
- O70: lease from Sarah Osborn to Thomas Faldoe: 1727;
- ABP/A1729/39: administration of the estate of Thomas Faldoe: 1729
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:
1594: Henry Fisher;
1630-1633: William Rogers;
1636: Richard Worsley;
before 1726: Thomas Eades;
1726-1729: Thomas Faldoe