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The Red Sign Post Public House Shillington

The Old Red Sign Post April 2015
The Old Red Sign Post  April 2015

The Red Sign Post [also the Red Post]: 39 Upton End Road, Shillington

The Red Post, later the Red Sign Post, was a long-established licensed premises in Shillington, listed in the first countywide register of licensed premises in 1822 [CLP13]. When it became a pub is not known. The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in July 1975 as Grade II, "of special interest". It dates from the 17th century and is of timber-framed construction with colourwashed plaster infill and clay tile roofs, with some 20th century tiles. It is built in a T-plan and comprises two storeys. The lean-to porch at the junction between the main block and lower left-hand block is 20th century. A single-storeyed addition projects from lower block to the north and the main block has a slated lean-to within its angle.

The name is an interesting one. In 1976 The Bedfordshire Magazine (Volume XV page 171) had a short piece on it: "Until twenty years or so ago there was a public house called the Red Signpost at Upton End, Shillington – the building is still there, now converted to an attractive private house. In the magazine Country Life a few months ago a correspondent mentioned that in Dorset red-painted signposts marked the site of a gallows – can there be any connection with the Shillington name? We have not been able to discover any legends about a gallows on this corner – there is a Gallows Field in Shillington, but this is nearer to Apsley End. Does any reader know whether there was a gallows at Upton End or any other reason for this rather unusual name?" Sadly no one wrote in with an answer!

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. HER 9284 is an entry for Gallows Corner, which is about a mile away, south-west of Rosehill Farm between High Road and Shillington Road, Pirton. The spot is marked "Gallows peece" on a map of 1667 and Gallows Corner on the inclosure map and award of 1817 [Award Book L and MA43]. The county boundary with Hertfordshire makes a diversion at this point, running around three sides of a rectangle.

The licensing register of 1822 lists John Poulter as licensee of the Red Post and Betty Poulter at the Five Bells, but the remaining run of directories up to 1828 reverses this, suggesting either that they swapped or that the 1822 register was in error. Oddly directories from 1847 to 1862 inclusive have no mention of the Red Sign Post. In 1847, 1853 and 1854 a Mrs Sarah Ashton is listed as a beer seller in Upton End, so it seems likely she ran the Red Sign Post which, at that time, was a beerhouse. In 1862 Paul Limbey Poulter, a bootmaker listed as licensee of the Red Sign Post in 1864 is listed as being in Church Street and purely as a bootmaker.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 gives the owner of the Red Sign Post as Hitchin [Hertfordshire] brewer Joseph Lucas. In 1898 his firm was floated on the stock market as W and S Lucas Limited [WB/L4/1/VP1]. The firm was taken over by Luton brewer J W Green in 1923 [WB/Green4/1/VP8].

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 Red Sign Post in 1926 [DV1/C63/145] found that the tenant, John Briars, paid rent of £20 per annum to J W Green, it had been £10 before the Great War. The "Rather poor looking" property comprised a tap room, a private room, a cellar, a kitchen, a lumber room and a pantry with four bedrooms above. A wood and slate barn and wood and thatched hen houses stood outside.

The valuer commented: "Isolated position but nearer for smallholders". Trade consisted of one and a half 36 gallon barrel of beer ("maximum"), ten dozen bottles of beer and one gallon of spirits per week as well as five pounds of tobacco per fortnight. Takings in the previous year had been a healthy £600. In 1954 J W Green merged with Midlands brewery Flowers, the new firm taking the Flowers name. The pub is listed in the licensing register which runs up to 1959 [PSA5/2] but not that covering the period from the early 1960s, indicating that it closed around 1959.

Sources:

  • CLP13: register of licensed premises: 1822-1828;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • WB/Green5/5/1: register of successive tenants: 1887-1926;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of J W Green properties: 1897-1936;
  • WB/L4/1/VP1: conveyed by Samuel Lucas to W & S Lucas: 1898;
  • WB/Green1/6/5: Mortgaged, with others, by J W Green: 1923;
  • WB/L4/1/VP3: conveyed by Samuel and George Frederick Lucas to W & S Lucas: 1923;
  • WB/Green4/1/VP8: conveyance by W & S Lucas to J W Green: 1923;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: J W Green trade analysis register: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to J W Green properties: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/8: schedule of J W Green deeds and documents: c. 1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of J W Green deeds and documents: c. 1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter regarding J W Green properties: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: J W Green trust deed: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of J W Green licensed houses: c. 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: J W Green schedule of deeds: c. 1954;
  • PCShillington30/1: transfer of licence: 1959;
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995;
  • Z1062/4/18/1: colour photograph: 2005

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known

1822: John Poulter;
1823-1828: Betty Poulter;
1847-1854: Mrs Sarah Ashton;
1864-1876: Paul Limbey Poulter (and boot maker);
1878: John Poulter;
1878-1880: Thomas Francis;
1880-1918: Thomas Haynes;
1918-1932: John Briars;
1932-1938: Albert George King;
1938-1959: Ernest Walter Clark;
1959: George Albert Reed