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Longs Hotel Woburn

The Magpie 1961 [Z53/135/7]
The Magpie in 1961 [Z50/135/7]

Long's Hotel [formerly The Woolsack, then the Magpie, then Magpies]: 18 Bedford Street, Woburn

This is a long established public house in Woburn. It is not mentioned by name in Sir Jonas Moore's survey of the Duke of Bedford's property in Woburn in 1661 but, judging from the relative positions of properties along Bedford Street it is almost certainly the inn identified as the Woolsack also known as Long's. It is described thus:

"TENEMENT called Longs or the Wolsack next the former [property surveyed] a faire bricke crosse howse with a Malting a stable and little garden". The tenant is noted as Rebecca Lawson.

The first mention of the Woolsack in a document in Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is in notes made of a dispute in 1650 over a will which was taken to the Court of Chancery. William Long had been urged to sign his will by Edward Staunton of Woburn, aged 63, who had newly come home from London. Long duly sent for his brother Christopher from London. The nub of the dispute was a "pretended will" of Long's which purported to devise the Woolsack to his niece Elizabeth, wife of Richard Tilcock. The landlord of the Woolsack at the time was another Tilcock - Michael who had already stood trial at the assizes in Bedford over validity of the will in the previous year. Two servants are noted as living at the Woolsack - Joyce Fenner, aged 20 and originally of Husborne Crawley and Alice, wife of Jeffery Smith - they are noted as "people of a mean and poor condition". Various townspeople are listed as giving statements, the most interesting being that of Lionel Taylor of Woburn, aged 76, which was noted at some length: he "was an intimate acquaintance of William Long; visited him the next day but one preceding his death [27th May 1647]. Found him sitting in his chair in the hall of his house at Woburn, and his wife [Sarah] on a pallet by the fire. Was unwilling to discourse much because his wife was so near, who had been but a cross woman to him. His wife presently arose and retired farther off in the room and the deponent asked him if he had made his will; whereto he fell a weeping, and holding this deponent fast by the hand said "No", he had not. Deponent after some little talk promised to come again, but the second morning after, Long departed this life and deponent saw him no more". At the 1649 Assize in Bedford the jury declared the will to be false and found in favour of Christopher Long aganist Richard Tilcock.

The Woolsack was described as freehold, only paying 2d a year quitrent to the Duke of Bedford and 4d charged on a death. William Long had held a victualling house and lands occupied by one Scarborough and leases to Crouch Close and Deadlands which also descended to Christopher Long. The Woolsack was "burnt about 5 or 6 years ago by the late Kings forces" [November 1645 - 27 houses were destroyed]. Sadly no record was made of the verdict of Chancery and who ultimately inherited the Woolsack.

The entrance to the Magpie Yard shown at the time of the relief of Ladysmith Mafeking and Kimberley in 1900 [Z50/135/64]

The entrance to the Magpie yard in 1900 during celebrations at the relief of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley during the Boer War [Z50/135/64]

The Magpie was Grade II Listed by the Department of Environment in 1961 when it was stated to be an eighteenth and nineteenth century reworking of an earlier building. In 1927 it had been valued for rates under the 1925 Valuation Act. At that stage P. Phipps & Company (Northampton & Towcester Breweries) Limited leased the pub from the Dukes of Bedford. The valuer noted "Back old but front fairly modernized". The property consisted of: a billiard room ("not much used. Good"), kitchen ("good), coffee room, tap room ("fair") and ("at back faor, 3 pulls 2 only used") downstairs with a cellar beneath. Upstairs were four bedrooms ("2 occasionally let") and a WC on the first floor and four attic rooms above ("he says useless"). Outside were two barns with loft over, a stable for six horses, garage with loft over, another garage, two pigstyes and 2 W. C.'s. Trade consisted of sale of 16 gallons of beer per week and one bottle of spirits and 4-6 dozen bottles of beer per month.

 Magpies Hotel February 2007
Magpies Hotel February 2007

The public house was later renamed The Magpies Hotel and became a free house. In October 2010 the Magpies was renamed Longs, with a commencement of date of c. 1649 displayed outside - someone evidently read this article!

List of Sources Held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service:

  • CRT100/3: suit over disputed will, Robbins v.Long: 1650;
  • X1/33/2: mentioned in Sir Jonas Moore's Survey of Woburn Estate: 1661;
  • P118/3/1: parochial dues: 1709-1796 [1759-1796];
  • R6/2/4/21: auction of land in Aspley Guise held at inn: 22 Nov 1793;
  • P118/28/2: parochial assessment book: 1802-1833;
  • R1/78: Thomas Evans' map accompanying R2/69: 1821;
  • R2/69: Detailed survey of Woburn made by Thomas Evans for the Duke of Bedford: 1822;
  • BML10/81/1: sale book, owned by J. B. Hill: 1886;
  • Z50/135/64: photograph: late C19/early C20;
  • X21/760/2: postcard: 1909;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form: 1959;
  • Z53/135/7: photograph: 1961;
  • Hi/PH5: photograph of pavement outside: 1966;
  • Z1205/244: oral history interviewee met her future at inn: 1966;
  • PCWoburn30/9: transfer of license: 1991;
  • PCWoburn18/2/7: pland and elevations regarding alterations: 1992.

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

1650: Michael Tilcock;
1661: Rebecca Lawson;
1759-1767: Sawells;
1785-1809: Catherine Taylor;
1810-1825: John Taylor;
1828-1886: John Hill;
1886-1888: John Farr;
1888-1901: James Facer;
1901-1910: Robert Weston;
1910-1911: Gregory John Faux;
1911-1926: Ernest Weston;
1926: Annie Weston;
1926-1953: Algernon Thomas Nicholas Pullin;
1959: William Smith;
1968: Frederick James Nash;
1972: Douglas Lloyd Evans;
1976: June Evans;
1980: Maurice McLaren;
1991: Dawn Lesley Coaker and Paul Ian Beswick

Buildings to the rear of Long's May 2012
Buidings to the rear of Long's May 2012