The Railway Steamer Public House Shefford
Railway Steamer in sale catalogue of 1875 [GK295/9]
Railway Steamer Beerhouse: 142 Clifton Road, Shefford
This public house can trace its roots back to a cottage built by John Bushby about 1834 on a piece of land allotted to him during the inclosure of Clifton (this part of Shefford having been in Clifton until a boundary change in 1933) [GK285/4]. Three years later Bushby sold the cottage to James West who, the conveyance notes, had improved the property [GK285/4]. It seems quite likely that West opened the beerhouse as two years later he sold the property to Clifton brewer Samuel Wilson for £45 [GK285/5].
The deeds are confusing but it appears as if, in 1843 thirty two buildings and a number of piece of land were sold together in twelve lots; Lot 4 was "an established beer shop, brick built and tiled, in occupation of James West"; obviously he had stayed on as Wilson's tenant [GK285/9]. The beerhouse was bought by Joseph Ibbs and just two months later he was dead and Samuel Wilson bought it back again from his trustees! [GK285/14].
In 1865 Samuel Wilson sold the beerhouse to Ann Noble of Roxton, spinster; the deeds describes him as formerly a brewer, now a farmer [GK285/17]. By 1910 John Noble owned the property and in that year leased it for 14 years to Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch [GK285/18]. In this lease the beerhouse is first named as the Railway Steamer. He sold the beerhouse to the firm in 1923 along with two cottages and six acres of land for £1,150 [GK285/20].
In 1927 Clifton was valued under the terms of 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 Railway Steamer [DV1/C229/1] noted that the occupier was Miss Louisa West "Born here and family been here over 100 yrs"; the latter statement might not have been quite true but was near enough. The beerhouse was built of brick, plaster and tile and the valuer note: "Old ppy. Very low pitched. Very small bars". Accommodation comprised a living room, pantry, parlour and 3 bedrooms all private, with a cellar, tap room ["small"] and bar parlour. A wood and corrugated iron barn lay outside. Trade was quite good being two barrels and seven dozen bottles of beer and six dozen bottles of minerals per week for average weekly takings of £12. The valuer ended by noting: "Personality here. Smallest bars in the district"
A full licence granted was granted to the Railway Steamer on 9th March 1960 converting it into a public house. Evidently the present public house is in new buildings, presumably those "smallest bars in the district" had become a handicap to trade by the latter part of the 29th century.
Railway Steamer January 2008
- GK285/4: conveyance of cottage by John Bushby to James West: 1837;
- GK285/5: conveyance of cottage by James West to Samuel Wilson: 1839;
- GK285/9: sale catalogue: 1843;
- GK285/14: conveyance of beerhouse by devisees of Joseph Ibbs to Samuel Wilson: 1843;
- GK285/17: beerhouse conveyed by Samuel Wilson to Ann Noble: 1865;
- 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;
- GK285/18: 14 year lease of Railway Steamer from John Noble to Wells and Winch: 1910;
- Z1039/34/1: schedule of deeds: 1922;
- GK285/20: conveyance of Railway Steamer by John Noble to Wells and Winch: 1923;
- 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.
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:
1839-1876: James West;
1876-1904: Sarah West;
1904-1927: Louisa West;
1940-1945: Frederick Hunter
1957-1961: Edward John Patten;
1961-1964: William Herbert Christopher Higham;
1964-1967: Alan William Lawrance;
1967-1968: Charles William Matthews;
1968-1969: Winifred Grace Matthews;
1969-1971: Frederick Thomas Robbins;
1971-1974: John Frederick McDonald;
1974-1977: Thomas Ashley Gardner;
1977-1984: Trevor Rayner;
1984-1985: John Raymond Angell;
1985-1991: Derek Albert Monahan;
1991-1995: Martin Randall Quigley;
1995: Carl Stewart Batson and Susan Margaret Parrin