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The Red Lion Inn Woburn

Parish register showing burial of a coachman who died at the inn in 1743 [P118/1/3]
Parish register showing burial of a coachman who died at the inn in 1743 [P118/1/3]

Red Lion Inn: (also known simply as the Lion and the Old Lion). George Street, Woburn

Woburn had a bewildering number of public houses involving lions including the Black Lion, three White Lions (at different times) and this inn, the Red Lion. The deeds held in Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service begin in 1514 when seven cottages, including the later inn, were conveyed from Walter Stannard of Great Brickhill, yeoman to William Fossey senior of Houghton Regis, maltman and others [R6/63/1/1]. Fossey and the other trustees then conveyed it to Jacob Button of Ampthill and others in 1522 [R6/63/1/3]. It is then described as a messuage and adjoining close in Woburn with land of the Abbot of Woburn either side and abutting west on the King's Highway.

In 1582 the cottage's owner, John Style of Little Missenden sought to strengthen his title by levying a fine [R6/63/1/4]. The property is here described as a messuage in Woburn in which Anne Style, widow, dwelt with orchard, garden and close of meadow. In 1627 Thomas Style conveyed the premises to Lionel Taylor of Woburn, who was the current tenant, for £195 [R6/63/1/8]. Lionel then conveyed it to his son Simon in 1642, by which time its was described as a messuage in occupation of Katherine Founteyne and bordering the common street to the west [R6/63/1/11]. Simon Taylor used it as part of a settlement of 1643 when he married Johane Collins [R6/63/1/14]. It is at this date that it is first described as the "Reed Lyon", suggesting that the Taylor family may have turned the property into an inn around 1627 (descriptions in deeds were often out of date and only updated when something significant happened) or that Simon Taylor was responsible for the conversion in 1642 or 1643.

Curiously, the building is included in Sir Jonas Moore's survey of the Duke of Bedford's holdings in Woburn, despite the fact that Taylor, not the Duke, owned the freehold. It is described thus [X1/33/2]:

"THE LYON a very faire large howse being an Inn with very good roomes Stables, barnes, orchard, gardens, by the Street it is".

Moore's accompanying map shows the Red Lion lying south of the George Inn. The next building described is the George Farm which is described as being between the Lyon and the George. This position of the Red Lion in George Street is confirmed by the description of the inn in 1713 when once again it was part of a marriage settlement, this time between another Simon Taylor and Diana Gregory [R6/63/1/19]. It is described as: a messuage in Woburn formerly in occupation of Katherine Fountaine, now John Mosely and known by the sign of Red Lion fronting west on George Street also known as London Road.

Diana Taylor used the inn as part of the marriage settlement of her daughter by her first marriage, Catherine Gregory with Millbrook clergyman Edmund Williamson in 1742 [R6/63/1/22]. Edmund Williamson and his daughter by Catherine (who had died in 1752), called Christian, conveyed it to the Duchess of Bedford, Duchess of Marlborough and her trustee Robert Palmer in 1774 [R6/63/1/27]. A year later part of the Red Lion was pulled down, the site becoming part of the George [R3/815].  Finally the two duchesses, after the death of Palmer, conveyed the Red Lion to Francis, Duke of Bedford in 1787 [R6/63/1/30].

The last known date for the inn was 1789 in the book of tithes owed to the Vicar of Woburn [P118/3/1]. It seems likely that the Red Lion closed some time between then and 1802 as it is not mentioned in the list of premises licensed in Woburn at that date. Perhaps the remaining part of the inn was incorporated into the George which would explain the radically different architectural style of the southern part of the facia of the Inn at Woburn when seen from George Street.

The Inn at Woburn September 2006 - the part nearest the camera may represent a survival of The Red Lion.
The Inn at Woburn September 2006 - the part nearest the camera may represent a survival of The Red Lion.

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

  • R6/63/1/1: release: 1514;
  • R6/63/1/2: release: 1522;
  • R6/63/1/3: release: 1522;
  • R6/63/1/4: covenant to levy a fine: 1582;
  • R6/63/1/5: release: 1582;
  • R6/63/1/6: final concord: 1582;
  • R6/63/1/7: lease: 1615;
  • R6/63/1/8: feoffment: 1627;
  • R6/63/1/9: release: 1630;
  • R6/63/1/10: release: 1634;
  • R6/63/1/11-12: covenant: 1642;
  • R6/63/1/13: feoffment: 1643;
  • X1/33/1-3: survey by Sir Jonas Moore: 1661;
  • P118/3/1: parochial dues: 1709-1789;
  • W981-982 [and R6/63/1/18-19]: conveyance: 1713;
  • GA286-287: conveyance of adjoining land:1725;
  • QSR1727/83 and 95: baggage of Goar's Regiment of Dragoons to be conveyed from inn: 1727;
  • X21/4-5: minutes of Woburn Turnpike Trustees held at the inn: 1728-1821;
  • X254/28: account book including rent of the inn: 1733-1742;
  • W988-989 (also R6/63/1/21-22): conveyance: 1742;
  • P118/1/3: burial of a coachman who died at inn: 2nd September 1743;
  • X171/206: William Whittingstall licensee, hearing held at: 1748;
  • QSM various: Quarter Sessions held at inn: 1750-1751;
  • M10/2/65: letter from Richard How to Edmond Williamson asking to discuss letting inn: 1754;
  • M1/8/4: lease from Edmond Williamson to Thomas Hassall: 1755;
  • M1/8/5: lease from Edmond Williamson to Richard Massey: 1757;
  • M1/8/6: summons to Edmond Williamson to pay Land Tax: 1771;
  • R6/63/1/27: conveyed by Edmond Williamson and Christian, his daughter to Gertrude, Duchess of Bedford, Caroline, Duchess of Marlborough and Robert Palmer: 1774;
  • R3/815: part of Red Lion pulled down, site becoming part of George: 1775;
  • R6/63/1/30: conveyance of messuage by Gertrude, Duchess of Bedford and Caroline, Duchess of Marlborough to Francis, Duke of Bedford: 1787.

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

1643: Katherine Fountaine;
1712-1728: John Mosley/Mousley;
1728-1748: William Whittingstall;
1748-1757: Thomas Hassall;
1757: Holmes;
1757: Richard Massey;
1774: John Emmott;
1778-1789: Robert Martin;
1792-1794: Green
Inn closed by 1802