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5 and 7 Bedford Road Wilshamstead

The Red Lion about 1925 [WL800/4]
The Red Lion about 1925 [WL800/4]

Today 5 and 7 Bedford Road are private houses but until the early 1930s they were the Red Lion Public House. The earliest documentary reference to the cottages is in 1671 when Thomas Beech, Lord of the Manor of Wilshamstead, already “sicke in bodie” made his will and left the Bell in Wilshamstead to his wife Ruth and, after her death, to their son Thomas. We know from later deeds that the Red Lion was previously called the Bell, then the Three Compasses. The occupier in 1671 was Grace Freelond, widow. Interestingly Thomas Beech the elder was a trustee of the Old Church House in 1639 [P22/25/1/1a] and his son Thomas was a trustee in 1676 [Z876/3/1].

In 1689 the Red Lion was mortgaged for £60 [BC18] by William Beeche of Brentford [Middlesex], perhaps Thomas Beech the elder’s grandson, or younger son. The occupier was then Thomas Stanbridge. The mortgage is endorsed to show that by 1700 the owners were John Warner of Westminster, gentleman, and Elizabeth, his wife and Joseph Dearmer of Wilshamstead and Mary, his wife – suggesting that Elizabeth and Mary were Beeche’s daughters.

There is then a gap in the historical record until 1785 [WL1000/1/Wils2/9] when John Haigh, Samuel Edgley and John Walker conveyed the premises to Sir George Robinson, baronet, of Cranford [Northamptonshire] for £126. Haigh, Edgley and Walker were acting as trustees for the creditors of James Somers, owner of the building, who had been declared bankrupt in 1778.

In 1802 Sir George Robinson conveyed a messuage, cottage or tenement formerly called the Bell, then called the Three Compasses, now called the Red Lion, together with an adjoining pightle of pasture of half an acre, several pieces of land totalling six acres, another cottage and an orchard and pasture of one and a half acres abutting south on The Green, to Rev. Thomas Gadsby of Bedford for £325 [WL1000/1/Wils2/6-7]. The public house was already known as the Red Lion by 1789 because in that year Thomas Tompion, a labourer, was recognised as being settled in Wilshamstead by virtue of renting the Red Lion for £10 per annum. He was married and had served for three years in the Bedfordshire Militia [P1/13/4/226].

In his will of 1st February 1840 Gadsby devised the Red Lion, now leased to Kempston brewer Sir William Long, to Rev. Thomas William Coventry Campion of Overstone [Northamptonshire] [WL1000/1/Wils2/9]. Gadsby died on 3rd May that year and on 23rd September Campion agreed to sell the property to Bedford brewer William Pestell, who had been Sir William Long’s business partner [WL1000/1/Wils2/10]. The property was conveyed the next year [WL1000/1/Wils2/11-12]. It was described as a public house formerly called the Bell, then the Three Horseshoes, now the Red Lion, with stable, and outbuildings and for many years in the occupation of Mary Cooper, now of John Groom as under-tenant of Sir William Long.

Pestell made his will in 1856, dying four days later [WL1000/1/Wils2/13] and in 1874 his devisees sold his brewery business, along with the Red Lion, to Bedford brewer Thomas Jarvis [Wl1000/1/Wils2/14].

The countywide licensing register of 1903 stated that the red Lion was in fair repair, clean and apparently sanitary. The nearest licensed premises was 80 yards away – the Woolpack. The property had a door at the front and two at the back. In 1910 Jarvis sold his company to rival Bedford brewer Charles Wells.

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. Like most of the county, Wilshamstead was largely assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Red Lion [DV1/C66/69] found it still owned by Charles Wells Limited and tenanted by F. Bennett who paid rent of £15 per annum, which also included a nearby grass field of 2.644 acres.

The pub contained a tap room (“poor”), a parlour (“very poor”) and a cellar. There were also a scullery and a parlour used as a living room on the ground floor and three bedrooms and a boxroom above. Outside stood two barns, a three bay hovel, a hen house, another barn, a two bay hovel and a store place.

Trade comprised eighteen gallons of beer and four and a half gallons of bitter per week. Half a gallon of spirits were also sold per week. By the 1930s the old property was evidently no longer suitable and Charles Wells decided to transfer the licence to new, purpose built, premises nearby, for which they received planning permission in 1930 [RDBP1/1472].

The old building was listed by the former Department of Environment in June 1974 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the structure, which is colourwashed roughcast over a timber frame, with an old clay tiled roof, to about 1700 (the evidence above suggests a date of at least 1671), noting that it was restored in the 20th century as there is a plaque reading: “W.B. 1932”, following the removal of the public house to the new Red Lion.

The listing states that Number 5 was the cottage, whilst Number 7 is a conversion of and addition to an outhouse block and has a pantiled roof. Number 5 is built in an L-shape and comprises one storey and attics, Number 7 has just one storey, as befits former outhouses.

5 and 7 Bedford Road March 2012
5 and 7 Bedford Road March 2012