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The Plough Public House Bolnhurst

The Plough February 2016
The Plough Febaruary 2016

The Plough is an ancient building. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1983 as Grade II, of special interest and the listing puts a 17th century date [but see below] to the structure, which is colour-washed roughcast over a timber frame with an old clay tiled roof. The building forms a T-shape and comprises one storey with attics.

The Plough Inn seems originally to have been the farm house of a farm called Brayes [FN109], held with the Manor of Backenho in Thurleigh. The manor was owned by Edward, Duke of Buckingham who was executed for high treason in 1521 by King Henry VIII (1509-1547). His lands were then confiscated by the Crown and the following year Backenho Manor was granted to Nicholas Harvey for life, the reversion, after his death, being settled on Robert Tyrwhitt in 1534. Tyrwhitt granted the manor to William Ryce in 1562 and he immediately alienated it to Richard Tyrrell. Two years later Brayes Farm. with its farmhouse, was sold to John Francklyn with farmhouse (today’s Plough), barns, Long Close of 2 acres, Taylors Pightle of half an acre, 2 acres occupied by Anthony Watson and 66 acres in the open fields of Bolnhurst occupied by Rafe Page [FN108-110]. In 1640 George Francklin sold the farm to John and William Halsy [FN111].

By 1688 the farm belonged to Edward Eastwell who died in that year leaving his estate to his son of the same name. In 1706 this Edward Eastwell mortgaged the farm to Thomas Baker of Bedford [BS1793-1794]. Eastwell sold the farm in 1713 to Richard Fisher of Colmworth [BS1800]. In 1740 Fisher and his eldest son sold it to William Knight, a Bedford grocer and tallow chandler for £470 [BS1807-1808]. Knight’s daughter Susanna married Thomas Eastwick, a farmer from Biddenham and the pair mortgaged the farm in 1787 for £400 then sold it the following year for £550 to Rev. William Pagett of Compton Winyates [Warwickshire], the tenant was then George Huckle. On Padgett’s death his trustees sold the farm to John Hale from London. His nephew was Colmworth Rector Robert Hele Selby Hele who sold it in 1813 to a Liverpool broker called Nicholas Waterhouse [BS1817]. It seems that the farmhouse was, by then, a public house as there is a notice of a public auction being held at the Plough in 1810 [WG2337].

A mortgage of 1830 refers to the Plough, which was leased by Bedford brewers Nash and Son [BS1827]. In that year the inn was conveyed to Henry George, Earl of Carnarvon.

For at least a century the Plough was synonymous with the Swales family. The first known licensee is John Swales in 1822 [CLP13]. The 1851 census tells us that John was 76 in that year, describing himself as a farmer of 27 acres and a publican. His wife Hannah was 81 and their children living at home were John, 35 and Elizabeth, 31. There were also seven grandchildren and a lodger! John Swales the elder died in 1857 and he was duly followed as publican by his son John, who died in 1890. The countywide licensing register of 1876 gives the owners of the Plough as Nash and Son, whilst the 1891 register states the owner was a Mr Munday of Eastbourne [Sussex].

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. The valuer found [DV1/C168/12] that the Plough was owned by A Jordan and that the tenant, John Wagstaffe, paid £25 per annum rent. He noted “Locked up at twelve o’clock 9th June 1927 – nobody about. Very old place, isolated”.

The property contained a bar, a living room, a kitchen and three bedrooms. He discovered, presumably later than his visit, that the pub sold about six gallons of beer per week. There were farm buildings as well as the public house; these comprised a weather-boarded and tiled lean-to stable for two horses; a weather-boarded and tiled barn and a corrugated iron shelter. The farm buildings were: “very old and most dilapidated”.

A disastrous fire took place at the Plough on 31st January 1989 after which it remained closed for some time. The Bedfordshire Magazine of Autumn 1992 reported: “Ye Olde Plough at Bolnhurst, severely damaged by fire in January 1989, re-opened last year after virtual rebuilding, which has retained the original appearance while conforming with current building regulations and providing modern facilities. The late 15th century building [see above] is timber-framed with wattle and daub infill, originally single storey but a floor was inserted in the 16th century. Water from firemen’s hoses aggravated the fire damage and the whole frame had to be taken down. Before it was re-erected new and deeper foundations were laid, some warping of the frame was corrected and many old doors and roof tiles were salvaged for re-use. Some new oak has been used in the restaurant upstairs, but, the licensee says, ‘we didn’t use stick-on plastic beams and any cobwebs are real ones’”. Ascribing the building to the 15th century runs counter to the date given in its listing, but clearly the deeds above suggest a building of at least 16th century date.

“Just before or during the Second World War the licence and name were transferred to a cottage nearby and the old farm became a private house for about twenty years. The licence returned to the old building in the early 1960s”. The Plough again closed around 2004 until 21st June 2005 when the present [2016] owners re-opened it.

General references

  • BS1794-1827: deeds to Brayes Farm: 1706-1816;
  • WG2337: auction sale at the Plough: 1810;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930;
  • RDBP2/14: plans for rebuilding: 1931;
  • PSB9/2: Register of Alehouse Licences – Bedford Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1955-1995.

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

1810: John Grant;
1822-1890: John Swales father and son;
1890-1921: George Swales;
1921-1930: John Odell Wagstaff;
1930-1936: George French;
1940: Harry Watkin;
1960-1975: George Reginald White;
1975-1983: Harold Heasman
1983: Sidney Johnson;
1983-1995: Michael John Horridge
public house closed c. 2004 and reopened 21st June 2005
2005-2016: Martin & Jayne Lee and Michael Moscrop