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The Rose Public House Bedford

The Rose billhead in 1824
The Rose billhead in 1824 [WG1379/1]

The Rose Public House: 45 High Street [previously the Rose Inn, later the Rose Hotel and Commercial Inn, later the Hogs Head, later Comptons before reverting to the Rose]

The Rose is one of the oldest public houses in Bedford, having been an inn since at least the early 16th century. The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1971 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing states that the building has an early 19th century stucco front and a Welsh slate roof but that the "main structure may be 17th century or earlier". The earliest reference the Department could find was 1672 but deeds from the archive of the Dukes of Bedford indicate that it was an inn by 1546 which raises the exciting possibility that the oldest parts of the public house are 16th century or even older.

In 1546 the owner John West conveyed the Rose to trustees for his wife Joan [R6/5/2/1]. In 1572 she enacted a series of deeds allowing her son Robert to receive £76 for his interest in the inn, presumably he had been left it after his mother's death in his father's will [R6/5/2/1-4]. Joan then conveyed the inn to herself and a Robert and Elizabeth Moorer. Again one has to presume that they were some relation of hers, Elizabeth was, maybe, her daughter [R6/5/2/2].

After Robert Moorer's death his son Richard inherited the property and in 1633 he mortgaged it [R6/5/2/6]. This mortgage was eventually redeemed when he sold the inn to William Browne in 1647 [R6/5/2/13]. In his will of 1647 Browne devised the Rose to his wife Joan and, after her death, equally between his children [R6/5/2/18]. He evidently died fairly soon after as in 1656 William Browne junior owned the property (his brothers and sisters having been bought out), conveying it as part of a marriage settlement in that year when he wed Susannah Steven alias Kenwarden [R6/5/2/19]. The next deed is a covenant to levy a fine to Simon and Francis Becket in 1659 indicating that Browne had sold the Rose to them [R6/5/2/19].

In 1674 Simon Becket the elder quitclaimed the Rose to his second son, also Simon [BC682] and in a hagable roll for Bedford of around 1700 a William Beckett is shown as paying tax on the Rose [Fac8/1]. In 1710 Elizabeth Beckett, William's eldest daughter, married Henry Lowen and the Rose was conveyed to trustees as part of the marriage settlement [R6/5/2/23]. Lowen made his will in 1717 devising the Rose to his wife and, after her death, to his sister Elizabeth, now married to Henry Horton [BC560]. He died shortly thereafter and the will was proved the next year. In 1725 Elizabeth, then a widow, sold the Rose to her son Henry [R6/5/2/24-25] and in his will of 1738 Henry devised the Rose to his cousin William Staines [R5/5/2/26]. Staines, however, died in Horton's lifetime and, on Horton's death in 1759 a case was brought before counsel to try to settle his estate [BC564]. The upshot was that Horton's legal heirs were deemed to be his cousins Margaretta Jackson and Anne Aldwinckle and, with their husbands, in 1761 they sold the Rose to the Duke of Bedford for £315 [R6/5/2/28-29].

Correspondence indicates that the Duke leased the Rose to Nash and Company. Peregrine Nash purchased Saint Mary's Brewery in Bedford in 1783 and in 1810 took his son George Peregrine Nash into partnership, the latter becoming sole owner in 1819. In 1835 the estate was considering improvements as the following letter [R3/3854] shows: "Is this not a good Time for improving these parts of the Duke's Estate in the Town which at present pays a very inadequate Rent to its annual value & first of all is the Rose Inn & premises which are in the most ruinous state & as the terms of the leasehold paid is just renewed the sooner the Repairs and dilapidations are got over the sooner we can expect a fair return for the outlay and as you will have £750 to spare from the sale of the Houses in High Street after deducting the subscription, would you feel inclined to expend this sum upon the Rose? I fear that that sum would not be sufficient but still it would go a great way".

A week later the following letter [R3/3855] noted: "I have no idea of getting into the work this year, I only want to prepare and for this purpose we must give notice to the Tenants, as in the case of the Rose Inn we must get quit of Nash altogether, the old Gent [Peregrine Nash] is now dead and any political feeling or connection there formerly existed is completely set aside …the improving of the property is a sufficient excuse for getting it out of the hands of a Man who actually injures the trade of the House by compelling his tenant to sell his bad Beer".

A letter of 1836 shows that the repairs were about to start or under way [R3/3949]: "If you give me £400 on account of the Rose Improvement I should not require anything in the present half year". These improvements are, presumably, those which gave the building its current frontage, noted by the Department of Environment as early 19th century.

 The Rose about 1965
The Rose about 1965 [WB/Flow4/5/Bedf/R1]

In 1841 the Duke of Bedford sold the Rose to Robrt Elliott the younger of Goldington House for £2,675 his father, Robert Elliott the elder acting as trustee [R6/5/20/1/17]. No sale particulars survive.

In 1870 a billiard room and other additions behind the public house were made for a James Corcoran [BorB/P273]. He was a wine and spirit merchant and in 1876 he leased the Rose to George Barnes on a yearly tenancy for £80 per annum rent [HN10/267/Rose1]. The tenant was to: "with good material and good workmanship paper and paint with at least three coats and whitewash and colour all such parts of the interior of the said demised premises as ought to be papered, painted, whitewashed and coloured and also grain oak and twice varnish such parts of the interior of the said demised premises as are now or have been previously grained..." and every sixth year the interior wood was to be painted with oil paint. A note at the bottom of the document reads: "Corcoran dead. Rent raised £10 as Landlord laid out considerable sum but no particulars. Smail acted for Vendors".

In 1882 a solicitor for Morris and Company wrote: "I have heard from Counsel that I cannot claim for your Father to deal with me for Beer Spirits &c so long as his tenancy lasts, for it appears that after the death of Mr. Corcoran the owners of the property accepted the Agreement as it stands. I will write to Messrs Corcoran and Company that the beer sent to your father from here under the erroneous impression that the benefit of your father's Agreement belonged to me". This makes it clear the Morris and Company were the owners, Corcoran their tenant and Barnes the sub-tenant.

Morris and Company evidently wanted George Barnes out of the Rose, presumably following the death of James Corcoran, as a letter of 1883 indicates [HN3/267/Rose3]: "I claim to go upon the Agreement which you handed to me, and that on those terms and conditions Barnes must leave. Mr. Stafford says no, and produced a letter from you in which you say "Counsel advises that you could not compel Barnes to purchase beer from you" and they argue from that that they are not under the Agreement at all"

It looks as if Morris and Company were entering into another arrangement with a tenant (Mann - perhaps Mann, Crossman and Paulin, rival brewers) and a sub-tenant: "Other items we shall agree upon, many of them are such as an incoming tenant should take. I do not know what arrangements you have made with Mann. If you can make him pay for some, it would be a guarantee for rent". The letter went on: "They offer to you the Billiard Table, another table which fits the recess, all balls, cues, marking boards &c. for the sum of £45. Also 5 long tables and tressels [sic] in the Club room for £5. I think these latter are worth the money and the former within £10 of what they have asked, perhaps within £5. As to the dilapidations I find they have painted and whitewashed in certain places and I should think the best way would be to give them notice to paint whitewash and color [sic] such portions of the property as have not been painted &c during the present year. Generally to touch up and paint look to the roof and drains and all other work necessary to leave the property in good repair and sound condition. And would it not be well also to call upon them to repair the barn as a safeguard?"

Barnes left the Rose in 1883 and put in a claim for £52/7/10 for his fitting left behind [HN10/2/267/Rose6]. A later letter [HN10/2/267/Rose7] noted: "Barnes is very impatient and frequently sends to know if you have sent a cheque". Morris and Company became a public limited company - Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited in 1907 [CCE5304/1] but in 1926 they sold out to J.W.Green Limited of Luton [CCE5304/3]. Green merged with Flowers Breweries in 1954 and the new company adopted the Flowers name; Flowers were then bought by Whitbread in 1962. Whitbread sold off its brewing business and public houses in 2001. At the time of writing [2009] the Rose remains a public house. For a short while at the end of the 20th century it was, for no very good reason, renamed the Hog's Head and later Compton's before returning to its ancient name.

 The Rose public house May 2009
The Rose public house May 2009


  • R6/5/2/1: conveyance of the Rose: 1546;
  • R6/5/2/1: conveyance to break entail: 1572;
  • R6/5/2/2: conveyance by Robert West of his interest: 1572;
  • R6/5/2/4: conveyance of the Rose: 1572;
  • R6/5/2/6: Rose mortgaged: 1633;
  • R6/5/2/7-10: assignment of mortgage on the Rose: 1640;
  • R6/5/2/12: assignment of mortgage on the Rose: 1646;
  • R6/5/2/13: Rose conveyed: 1647;
  • R6/5/2/18: will of William Browne devising the Rose: 1647;
  • R6/5/2/19: marriage settlement: 1656;
  • R6/5/2/19: covenant to levy a fine: 1659;
  • BC682: quitclaim of the Rose: 1674;
  • Fac8/1: hagable roll for Bedford owned by William Beckett: c.1700;
  • R6/5/2/23: marriage settlement: 1710;
  • C1239 and X548/2 and BC560 and R6/5/12/21: will of Henry Lowen devising the Rose: 1717; proved 1718;
  • R6/5/2/24-25: Rose conveyed: 1725;
  • QSR1727/35: baggage of the Duke of Bolton’s Regiment of Horse to be transported from the Rose to Turvey: 1727;
  • R6/5/2/26: will of Henry Horton devising all real estate: 1738 proved 1759;
  • QSR1751/42: alehouse licence: 1751;
  • CRT130Bed155: Lucy Hayes, licensee: 1752;
  • QST1753/31: alehouse licence: 1753;
  • BC564: case for opinion of counsel: 1759;
  • R6/5/2/28-29: Rose conveyed: 1761
  • X380/59-61: noted as an abuttal: 1797;
  • R4/534/13: noted as an abuttal: 1800;
  • X380/33: noted as an abuttal: 1806;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licenses: 1822-1828;
  • WG1379/1: billhead: 1824;
  • R3/3854-3855: Duke of Bedford’s estate correspondence – letters regarding improvements at the Rose: 1835;
  • R3/3949: Duke of Bedford’s estate correspondence – letter noting improvements at the Rose: 1836;
  • PSBB1/1: Charles Woolston licensee: 1840-1841;
  • R3/4392: Duke of Bedford’s estate correspondence – letter advising sale of the Rose: 1841;
  • R3/4399: letter mentioning a right of way at the rear of the Rose [the Rose Yard]: 1841;
  • R6/5/20/1/17: conveyance: 1841;
  • R3/4523: Rose bill for entertaining “a hanger on stated to be an agent” at the county election: 1842;
  • PSBB1/1: licensee John Bithrey: 1842;
  • PSBB1/1: licensee Charles Clarke: 1843-1844;
  • Z965/12/3: auction sale held at the Rose: 1863;
  • BorBP273/1-3: plans of alterations: 1870;
  • Z890/1: abuttal in a deed: 1876;
  • HN10/267/Rose1: lease of the Rose: 1876;
  • HN10/267/Rose2-8: correspondence regarding a tied tenancy with Morris & Company for the Rose and whether George Barnes would have to leave before it could be implemented: 1882-1883;
  • CDE28/1-2: plans of the Rose: 1882;
  • BorBP2574/1-2: plans of alterations to stables: 1892;
  • CCE5304/1: Rose conveyed to Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited: 1907;
  • BorBP 4885: plans of new W. C.:1907;
  • HN10/346/5/7: mention of the tenant of the Rose: 1909;
  • BorBP 5538: plans of alterations: 1912;
  • Z730/5: postcard of the High Street showing the Rose: c.1920;
  • Z1130/9/8/63: postcard of the High Street showing the Rose: c.1920;
  • WB/M/4/2/1: list of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited properties: c.1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/2; particulars of licensed premises: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: abstract of title of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited to various licensed premises: 1926;
  • CCE5304/3: Rose conveyed to J. W. Green Limited: 1926;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to various premises of J. W. Green Limited: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis ledger: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds and documents: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/20: list of buildings of special architectural and historic interest: 1950s;
  • WB/Green6/2/9: transfer book: 1950-1951;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of licensed houses: c.1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter as to titles: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: second schedule of trust deed to raise funds by J. W. Green: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: schedule of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • Z924/1 page 11: 1960s;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Bed/R1-2: photographs: 1960s;
  • Z1091/6/12A/37: photograph of the Rose Yard: c.1964;
  • WB/W4/5/Neg1: negatives of licensed premises: late 20th century;
  • BorB/PH3/102: negatives of the Rose: 1968-1972;
  • Z53/13/1: photograph of the High Street showing the Rose: c.1971;
  • PL/PH7/28: photographs of the High Street, including the Rose: 1974;
  • BorB/TP/76/900: plans of alterations: 1976;
  • BP65/52/31: photograph of the High Street showing the Rose: c.1980.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known: 

1546-1546: John West;
1633-1640: Richard Gale;
1647: William Browne senior;
1656: William Browne junior;
1674: Benjamin Rogers;
1710: Robert Clare;
1717-1725: Richard Boston;
1737: Benjamin Hayes;
1751-1752: Lucy Hayes;
1761-1785: John Hill;
1811: John Lilburne;
1822-1841: Charles Woolston;
1842: John Bithrey;
1843-1844: Charles Clarke;
1850-1869: Charles Lenox Clarke;
1876 Charles L Clarke
1876-1883: George Barnes;
1885-1907: John Lilley;
1907-1908: William George Cooke;
1908-1915: William Gardner;
1915-1927: Emma Theodora Gardner;
1927: Frank Wright;
1927-1932: Sarah Ellen Wright;
1932-1941: George Wright;
1941-1942: Percival William Hensman Lovell;
1942-1950: Victor Edward Howlett;
1952-1955: Albert Edward Taylor;
1956-1957: R. E. Goldsmith;
1956-1972: Arthur Charles Miller;
1972-1974: Doreen Miller;
1974-1975: Norman Arthur Hards and Royston Clifford Evans;
1975-1977: Norman Arthur Hards;
1977-1978: Robert Lester George;
1978-1979: Victor Thomas Bull and William Milligan;
1979-1981: David Roy Singleton and Robert Ernest Sapsford;
1981-1982: David George Bancroft and John Hedley Simon;
1982-1985: Peter Furness-Smith and Keith Morton;;
1985-1986: Colin James Trigwell and Francis George Brown;
1986-1988: Malcolm Doig Starling and Francis George Brown;
1988: Graham Payne;
1988-1989: John Paul Jackson and Paul Collingwood;
1989-1990: Ian Close and Kevin Murphy;
1990-1991: Ian Close and Peter Woolver;
1991-1992: John Phillip Jackson and Peter Woolver;
1992-1993: Nicholas Craig Farrimond and Alan Fountain;
1993-1994: Peter Charles Crabbe and Alan Fountain;
1994-1996: John Riddell and Alan Fountain