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The Bedford Arms Public House Toddington

The former Bedford Arms February 2013
The former Bedford Arms February 2013

The Bedford Arms Public House, 64 High Street, Toddington

The Bedford Arms was situated for much of its existence at 62 High Street, Toddington, eventually moving next door to 64 High Street where it remained until it closed in 2012. The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Bedford Arms beerhouse was first licensed in 1868. The register is not always accurate but this date may not be too far off the mark as the first reference to the Bedford Arms comes in 1867 when it appears in a list of properties belonging to the Luton Brewery [X95/304].   

It is not clear when the Bedford Arms moved from 62, High Street to number 64, but it is possible that the move took place at the time the former beerhouse was granted a full licence as a public house in February 1954. This property was listed by the former Department of the Environment in 1980 as Grade II, of special interest, when it was described as a two-storey 17th century building, timber-framed with red brick nogging (infill between the timbers) to the first floor, and with a red brick ground floor. It had an old clay tile roof, a gable to the right hand side, three modern three-light leaded casements and a modern porch. To the left hand was a one storey hipped extension and to the right a brick lean-to. This property was formerly known as Withington House.

In 1924, when it was put up for sale along with three cottages, it was described as "a brick-and-stud built, tiled and slated house containing:- Two Sitting Rooms, Kitchen fitted with dresser and stove, Scullery fitted with coppers and sink, Cellar, Coal-house, and Three Bedrooms. There is a Front Garden, also Barn, Stabling, other outbuildings, and a recently erected Motor House. At the rear is a walled in Kitchen Garden, and a Large Paddock planted with several fruit trees". The three cottages, each containing four rooms were let and produced rents of £15 12s per annum. This small terrace was set at right angles to Dunstable Road and has since been demolished. The property extended to one and a half acres [BML10/74/16].

When the 1926 valuation under the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 was carried out Withington House was owned and occupied by Frederick Clarke, who also owned the three cottages. The valuer described the property as a detached building constructed of brick, timber and tile, with a parlour, a living room, a kitchen and a scullery downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. Outbuildings were a brick and thatch stable, a brick and tile barn and a brick and slate coach house. There was also a condemned cottage and 1.143 acres of land. The valuer noted the property looked "like a farm house" [DV1/C85/11-12].

An article in Pint Pot, the Charles Wells brewery newpaper suggests that the Bedford Arms is haunted by the spectre of an unfortunate ship's captain. The sailor is said to have returned from a long sea voyage to find his wife and child had been murdered, whereupon he committed suicide [WL722/100]. A former pub manager reported that his dog had been extremely nervous of the upstairs of the building.

Proposals to develop the site of the Bedford Arms were opposed by Toddington Parish Council which fought to retain the public house as a community asset. At the time of writing (2015) the future of the property was still in doubt.

References:

  • BML10/74/16: sale particulars: 1924;
  • WL722/100: The "Pint Pot", Charles Wells brewery newspaper, 1999/2000

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees

1974: Leonard John Norman;
1989: Alexander Henry Henning and William John Bambridge;
1990: Mark Steele and William John Bambridge;
1992: Mark Steele and Keith Howard Cullimore;
1993: Ian Roderick McLeod and Barry James Warner;
2010-1012: Wendy Hardiman and Alan Hardiman