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The Bedford Arms Public House Souldrop

The Bedford Arms April 2015
The Bedford Arms April 2015

The Bedford Arms was formerly Grade III listed, but that classification has been abolished meaning that the property, though dating from the 16th or 17th century, is no longer listed. The building may not always have been a public house, but it certainly was one in 1822 [CLP13]. The building was part of the Manor of Souldrop.

In 1922 the Bedford Arms formed part of the Colworth Estate, which was put up for sale by auction in that year. The sale particulars [Z1246/1] describe it as being let to Higgins and Sons of Bedford on a fourteen year lease from 1915. “The substantial old house built of stone with thatched roof, is stated to date from the XVIth century. It affords the following accommodation: Sitting Room, Tap Room with inglenooks, Bar Parlour with inglenooks, three Pantries, Beer Cellar, Club Room (about 24 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 9 inches), Scullery, Kitchen and three Bedrooms. The outbuildings include Workshop, Trap House, Coal House, Stable for three with Loft, Cow House for two, two Pigsties, hen House. Large garden and Paddock. This is the only licensed house in the village, and a steady trade is carried on throughout the year. By an Agreement dated November 8th, 1920, the Lessees covenant for the remainder of their existing Lease to keep the premises closed to the public on Sundays”. The pub included 3 roods, 39 poles of ground. The whole estate was withdrawn as not sold and offered again in 1924 [Z1323/1/4].

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 pub (in 1927) found that it was now owned by Bedford brewer Higgins and Sons Limited. The landlord, who had been there eleven years, paid rent of £2/5/- per month which included just under four acres of adjoining land.

The building was plastered (appropriately enough) and thatched and contained a living room, a kitchen, a saloon bar, a tap room and a large club room. Three bedrooms were upstairs. Outside was a small workshop a brick and thatched garage, a stone and thatched three-stall stable, a wood and a thatched store, barn and earth closet.

Trade comprised two barrels of beer per week and “practically no bottled”. Very little in the way of spirits was sold. The valuer noted that there were six barrels in the cellar, of which three were tapped as the pub was “getting ready for Feast” on 10th June. The landlord merely stated that the takings would be in books at the Brewery (landlords were always reluctant to reveal their takings for obvious reasons).

The Bedford Arms remains open at the time of writing [2016], having survived a burned roof in 1970. Newspaper reports [FSD/PC11] state that the pub was completely destroyed by a spark from a bonfire lodging in the thatch around 5.15 pm on 20th April. The fire was fought by four crews for more than four hours and water from the village pond had to be used. A temporary bar was rigged up the following day until repairs could be effected and the pub re-opened.

References:

  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • QSR1848/4/5/8: mentioned in a case for theft: 1848;
  • Z528/25 printed sale catalogue: c.1894;
  • GK4/10 lease by Higgins & Sons: 1894;
  • HF40/5/7/1-6: correspondence regarding lease: 1894-1925;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930;
  • X547/149-151: sale catalogue: 1924;
  • BTNegOB39/7: negative: c. 1931
  • PCKnottingandSouldrop18/1 plan of proposed alterations: 1967;
  • FSD/PC11: newspaper reports of a fire: 1970;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • PCKnottingandSouldrop9/2 Notice of transfer of licence: 1979 – 1980
  • E/YM4/5/1: patrons fighting with patrons of Castaways Night Club at the Village Hall: 1984;
  • BorBTP/90/0567: alterations and extensions. 1990

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1822: Susannah Pond;[will ABP/W1842/30];
1841 Joseph Bird;
1851-1875: William Mole (& farmer);
1881 Mary Thorpe;
1890-1894:  Henry William Randall;
1898-1903 Thomas Coombs;
1906-1913: Frederick William Wadsworth;
1913-1916: Charles Jaques;
1916-1930: Hezekiah Spavins;
1930-1940: William Harry Smith;
1964-1968: Joshua Stephen Ford;
1968-1980: Evan Morris Hedley;
1980-1988: Michael George Wilson;
1988-1990: Keith Heron;
1990-1991: Martin Francis Spearman;
1991-1995: Bryan Leonard Jones.