The Bushel and Strike Beerhouse Potton
Bushel and Strike Beerhouse: 8 Biggleswade Road, Potton
The site of the Bushel and Strike August 2013
The countywide licensing register for 1876 states that the beerhouse was first licensed in 1841 and was then owned by Benjamin Christy of Ashwell [Hertfordshire]. This brewery originated as Christy and Sale in the early part of the century but was sold to J. R. Page and Son in 1879. The 1891 countywide licensing directory therefore gives the beerhouse’s owner as Page and Company of Ashwell. The countywide directory of 1903 stated that the property was in good repair, had one front and two back doors and was 35 yards from the nearest licensed premises (The Shannon). Page and Son was sold to Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch in 1921.
The Bushel and Strike is mentioned a number of times in Quarter Sessions records in the mid 19th century, leading to the suspicion that it may have been a bit of a dive at that time. In 1848 a gold sovereign had been stolen [QSR1849/1/5/12/a]. A man named John Weller Line was in the beerhouse and, on getting up to leave he placed a sovereign on the table to pay. His companion John Yourby picked it up saying he would get the change but left by the back door. Line continued drinking and forgot about the sovereign. He was, clearly, either well off or very drunk. The next day he met Yourby again in the Red Lion and asked him about it about it and he refused to return it. The police constable, John Shaw, threatened to search Yourby who then threw the sovereign on the table. To compound his felony Yourby tried to bribe Shaw not to proceed with an action as he was being taken into custody at Biggleswade! The prison register [QGV10/2] tells us that Yourby was 38. He was acquitted at trial.
Two years later men named James Harman and Philip Balls were accused of theft from a man named William Randall at the King’s Head. Balls stated [QSR1851/1/5/42-43a-b] that he had met Randall before, at the Bushel and Strike. Randall had said that he had been robbed and the landlady then went out and found his purse. He was drunk. They were released without a trial [QGV12/1].
In 1857 William Rooney was accused of stealing 4/10 from Frederick Gascoine’s pocket whilst he was a passenger in Gascoine’s cart [QSR1857/4/5/2]. Gascoine searched him, with another man’s help, but did not find the money. Gascoine went on to Potton and gave the information to the police. The prisoner had been in the Bushel and Strike with Gascoine earlier and had seen him wrap the money in the rag to put it in his pocket. They left the house at the same time. Again, the prisoner was acquitted at trial [QGV12/1].
The last case is the most interesting [QSR1861/4/5/4-7]. On 19 September 1861 Thomas Franklin, from Shoeburyness [Essex] had been at Potton and was about to leave a little after 3 p.m. when he went into the Bushel and Strike. He had a glass with a friend, Peter George Kay. Four people (Samuel Church, Sarah Church, George Wright and Margaret Wright) followed them into the house and began the chatting to them. He told them he had nothing to say to them. The two men set on his friend and began to fight with him. He told them they were cowards as they set on one man. The bigger of the men said he would fight him and duly did until the man challenged him to go outside. He followed the man and the other prisoners outside. The man and the two women rushed at him and knocked him down. Whilst on the ground he felt a hand in his pocket and when he got up he missed £18. He thought £17 to be in gold and the remainder in silver. He accused the prisoners of taking his money but they denied all knowledge of it. He searched the ground but could not find it. The prisoners ran off. Franklin found a policeman, Alfred Mayes, and followed them and took them into custody. Whilst in the Bushel and Strike he had pulled out his money, which was loose, to pay for some ale when the prisoners were present so they would have seen he was a good target. When the prisoners were apprehended Samuel Church said they only had eighteen pence between them. Kay confirmed his friend’s story.
The policeman stated that when he arrested the four people he was accompanied by another officer, William King. After he had apprehended the prisoners he took the two men into a room and searched them but found no money on either of them. He instructed some women to search the female prisoners and they were taken into another room. A few minutes later he heard a great noise and he asked what the matter was. He was told one of the prisoners had some money which she refused to give up. He went in and saw Margaret Wright with her hands clenched and he forced her hands open and took out three sovereigns. Wright said they belonged to her and whilst he stood there another sovereign dropped from her dress. P. C. King elaborated that Sarah Church had asked for someone to take a pilot jacket she had in her hand and put it on her kit bag. He told her to give it to him but she said she would take it herself. On taking hold of it he heard something clink. He asked whose jacket it was and Samuel Church said it belonged to him but that there was no money in it. He examined the coat and found two sovereigns in the pocket.
Mary Ann Inskip (perhaps the wife of the licensee) had assisted in searching the female prisoners. She searched the smaller one, Sarah Church, first and found eighteen pence upon her. She searched Margaret Wright and found some silver in her pocket. She stripped her and when she was putting on her clothes again she saw Wright put her hand to her bosom. She accused Wright of having some money and said she should call in a policeman if Wright did not give it to her. Wright handed her three sovereigns and said it was all she had. She observed Wright’s left hand was clenched and she called to P. C. Mayes. Mayes took three more sovereigns from Wright. Before Wright left the room she found two more sovereigns under the looking glass close to where she had stood. Another sovereign fell from Wright’s dress.
Three of prisoners denied everything. Samuel Church said he knew nothing of where the money came from. Sarah Church said: “I know no more about the money than a child unborn”. George Wright made his denial but Margaret Wright said at the time the gentleman and her husband were having the row in the road, they all fell down in front of the house. She went inside and picked up her husband’s cap. As she stooped to pick it up she saw two shillings, a half crown, a shilling and some sovereigns. She thought they were eleven. She picked them up and put them in her pocket. She kept the gold in her hand. Her husband and the other man and his wife knew nothing about it and are quite innocent”.
All were found guilty [QGV12/1]. Samuel Church, 29, got two months’ hard labour and his wife, 32, six months. Margaret Wright, 35, also received six months hard labour. George Wright, 31, got the severest sentence, twelve months hard labour. He may have been the ringleader. He was released on 14th October 1862 and was re-admitted to prison the following day awaiting questioning about stealing a coat [QGV12/1], however, he was acquitted of this offence at trial.
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. Potton, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visited the Bushel and Strike just before the beerhouse closed [DV1/C9/31]. He noted "Tenant has purchased house for private residence". He found it had three rooms and a kitchen downstairs and three bedrooms above, with a cellar below. He found trade was, not surprisingly, slack - about 1½ barrels and ten dozen bottles of beer per week. Interestingly he noted "Only house in Potton where men can go out back way" - presumably this was in case their wives went in at the front.
The beerhouse had a small farm attached, also owned and occupied by Albert Charter and this contained a chaff house and small barn, a large two cart hovel, two stalls now used as a barn and two looseboxes and store. The former beerhouse was demolished during the building of The Ridgeway estate and the site is more or less where The Ridgeway meets Biggleswade Road..
- QSR1849/1/5/12/a: alleged theft: 1848;
- QSR1851/1/5/42-43/b: alleged thief seen at the Bushel and Strike: 1851;
- QSR1857/4/5/2: alleged thief seen at the Bushel and Strike: 1857;
- QSR1861/4/5/4,5,6,7: brawl and theft at the Bushel and Strike: 1861;
- HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
- HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
- HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
- HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
- HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
- HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
- PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915.
List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:
1864-1883: George Inskip;
1883-1887: David Manning;
1887-1888: Cornelius Foley;
1888-1890: Henry Harris;
1890: Arthur Westerman;
1891-1896: James Simpson;
1896: Thomas Stephenson;
1896-1897: William Norgate;
1897-1899: William Lake;
1899-1900: Henry Brinklow;
1900-1924: Frederick Charter;
1927: Albert Charter
Beerhouse closed 1927