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The Royal Oak Public House Chellington

The Royal Oak March 2009 
Royal Oak March 2009

The Royal Oak Public House: Bridge End, Chellington (earlier the Blue Ball and Royal Oak)

The Royal Oak first enters recorded history with the will of Richard Hood of Chellington, yeoman, made in 1695 [WL1000/1/Chell1/1]. He devised the cottage in which they dwelt to his wife Edith. The cottage was not yet a public house, beerhouse or inn, but did have an orchard adjoining and a rood of land in Church Field. In return Edith was to pay a thirty shilling annuity to their son Richard for his life. On Edith's death the cottage was to go to their daughters Elizabeth and Hester. Richard Hood the testator died in the following year.

In 1708 Hester Hood, spinster and John Killingworth of Chellington, yeoman and Elizabeth, his wife (Richard Hood's two daughters) conveyed the cottage to Anna Quinton of Carlton, spinster, for £45 [WL1000/1/Chell1/2]. It is then described as a cottage in Bridge End, Chellington, with barn, yard and outhouses in the occupation of William Ives with the common street lying to the west, ground of William Wharton to the east, ground of the Earl of Peterborough to the south and a cottage occupied by John Killingworth to the north. This latter cottage had once been a part of the cottage being conveyed.

By 1763 the cottage had become a public house, then called the Blue Ball and Royal Oak [WL1000/1/Chell/1/3-4]. It was now in the hands of John Clayson of Harrold, mason (presumably a relative of Anna Quinton's) and in this year he conveyed it to Thomas Crowley of Chellington, butcher, for £60. The premises, which now included the adjoining cottage which had once been a barn, was noted as having formerly been occupied by Elizabeth Estwick, then Elizabeth Woodward, now Simon Wright. Elizabeth Estwick's will was proved in 1747 [ABP/W1747/43] but gives no clue as to whether she was an innkeeper or not, she is simply described as widow, and leaves £90, a very healthy sum at the time, to be divide amongst her relatives. Thomas Crawley, in his will of 1774, [WL1000/1/Chell1/6] devised the Royal Oak and Blue Ball and the adjoining "little tenement", as it is called, to John, infant son of his nephew Thomas Crawley of Harrold. That same year Crawley leased the Royal Oak and Blue Ball and adjoining cottage to Uriah Ward of Chellington, alehouse keeper, for 21 years at £3/5/- per annum rent. Ward died in 1785, as his administration was granted on his estate in that year [ABP/A 1785/7].

In 1795 John Crawley of Harrold, butcher, mortgaged the Blue Ball and Royal Oak, now in the occupation of a man with the splendid name of Ruddy Britain. He also occupied the little cottage adjoining [WL1000/1/Chell1/8]. In 1803 Crawley conveyed the property to William Rey of Harrold, grocer, for £50, of which £25 was used to redeem the mortgage. [WL1000/1/Chell1/10].

Two years later Rey sold the Blue Ball and Royal Oak to Joseph Foster Palmer of Olney [Buckinghamshire], ironmonger, for £70 [WL1000/1/Chell1/11]. Palmer made his will in 1823 [WL1000/1/Chell1/12] and devised his real estate in Chellington, Harrold, Olney and Lavendon [Buckinghamshire] to trustees for sale, the proceeds to be added to his personal estate to be paid out in legacies. He died in 1827 and an agreement was soon after made for sale of the Royal Oak, as it was now known, to Joseph Brown or Browne of Bedford, wine merchant, for £235 [WL1000/1/Chell1/13]. The public house was duly conveyed the following year [WL1000/1/Chell1/14-15].

Joseph Browne conveyed the Royal Oak to Samuel Rogers of Oakley, farmer, in 1846 for £350 [WL1000/1/Chell1/17]. Three years later he conveyed it to Thomas Eyles of Carlton, maltster and innkeeper for £340 [WL1000/1/Chell1/18]. Eyles ran the Angel public house. Eyles immediately borrowed £240 from Browne on security of the premises [Wl1000/1/Chell1/19-21]. Eyles made his will in 1861 [WL1000/1/Chell1/22] devising the Royal Oak to his son Marshall Eyles.

Marshall Eyles, of the Angel public house, Carlton, innkeeper, conveyed the Royal Oak to William Wesley, its tenant, in 1864 for £300 [WL1000/1/Chell1/23]. Wesley died intestate in 1878 leaving two daughters, Mary Ann Heath and Margaret Anne Henman, who, in 1902, mortgaged the Royal Oak for £550 to rebuild it after the fire [WL1000/1/Chell1/25].

When one sees that the deeds to the Royal Oak go back to 1695 one expects an old building. What one gets is an early 20th century red brick and slate construction. The reason for this is that the old premises burned down on 29th September 1902 and was rebuilt the following year. The Bedford Volunteer Fire Brigade kept a scrapbook which included newspaper cuttings of fires they attended [AD1082/3]. The cutting for the Royal Oak reads:

The gutted Royal Oak in September 1902 [AD1082/3] 
The gutted Royal Oak in September 1902 [AD1082/3]

"ALARMING FIRE. - This place was rudely awakened in the small hours of Monday by a fire which broke out in the Royal Oak premises, and which threatened to sweep away many of the thatched cottages which line the main street in this twin village. As is well known the street is the boundary between the parishes of Carlton and Chellington, and it was on the latter side that the outbreak occurred. It was first seen about 1.30 a. m. by the family of the late Rev. G. Chandler, who are living now in this place and next door. They at once raised the inmates of the doomed building and then other neighbours, many of whom were quickly on the scene, rendering what aid they could in removing furniture, &c., to a safe distance. A messenger was despatched to fetch the Sharnbrook fire engine; by them the call was received at 2.15 and it is worthy of note that they arrived, under Foreman Newell, at 2.55 a. m. They at once got to work from a stream close by and did good service, though by this time the fire was a fierce furnace. Seeing the imminent danger to the rest of the street a second messenger was despatched to Bedford, where the call was received at 3.50 a. m.; quickly the steamer "Victoria" was manned and horsed, also the hose cart, and these left, under Foreman Corby and Foreman Shelford respectively, at 4.10, arriving at the fire, ten miles off, before 5.15, a most creditable performance. It was at once decided that the Bedford steamer should go near to Harrold bridge, and from the river Ouse lay a line of hose to feed the Sharnbrook manual. This was done, and the line of 1,800 feet of hose run out enabled the firemen to stay all danger, and, in a comparatively short time, extinguish the fire. The inn was a substantial stone-fronted house, but with a thatched roof, and an old interior, which caused it to burn very rapidly. A keen watch was kept on the flying sparks and embers, which were carried over a hundred yards. The fire originated from the back of the house, but from what cause we have been unable to ascertain. The occupier was Mr. Thomas Wooding, whose loss is, we hear, only partially covered by a policy in the Royal Insurance Company, with Messrs. Tebbs & Son, solicitors, of Bedford; the buildings were insured. By the efforts of the firemen, who worked most amicably together, the outbuildings, stable and shed were saved, and the fire confined to the originally attacked house. Mr. Wooding saved the greater part of his spirits, but the beer barrels were burnt and the beer lost. The Sharnbrook Brigade worked splendidly, and their engine threw a most effective stream of water. We regret to hear that Foreman Shelford sustained a nasty wound in the palm of his right hand which was cut by a jagged slate, and which necessitated surgical care. An incident which was in a way pathetic, was that next door but one to the burnt out house lay the dead body of Mrs. Nathaniel Martin (whose family come from Caldecote, near Higham Ferrers), who died here on Friday last".

The Royal Oak was put up for sale by auction in 1913 along with six adjoining cottages and 10 acres, 3 roods, 38 poles of land [WL1000/1/Chell1/27]. The public house was described as containing a smoke room, a private bar sitting room with a bay window, a pantry under the stairs, a living room, a kitchen, four bedrooms and a large yard with two earth closets, a pump and well, stabling with pigsties and a loft over the whole, a garden and an entrance through a covered gateway. It was leased to Bedford brewer Jarvis & Company on a lease to expire at Michaelmas that year and an annual rent of £45. The mortgage was redeemed a month after the sale [WL1000/1/Chell1/28], the Royal Oak having been sold to Jarvis & Company for £600. Jarvis & Company did not long own the Royal Oak, as the company was taken over by rival Bedford brewer Charles Wells in 1917.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and building in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Chellington was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Royal Oak [DV1/C227/20] noted: "Modern house. Built 1902" which was not quite correct, as noted above. The house comprised a bar, tap room, sitting room and two kitchens below with three bedrooms and a boxroom above. The valuer noted: "Covered approach to yard" as well as a barn and fowl house and stabling for three horses with a loft over outside. Electric light was installed. Trade consisted of 1½ barrels of beer per week with a gallon of spirits "or less" in the same period. Rent was £12 per annum, just as it was in 1912.

Charles Wells remained the owner of the Royal Oak throughout the rest of the 20th century. At the time of writing [2010] the public house is for sale.

The Royal Oak about 1912 [Z50-27-1]
The Royal Oak about 1912 [Z50/27/1]

General references

  • 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
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;

List of Sources:

  • WL1000/1/Chell1/1: will of Richard Hood: 1695;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/2: conveyance: 1708;
  • ABP/W1747/43 will of Elizabeth Estwick of Chellington: 1747;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/3-4: conveyance: 1763;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/6: will of Thomas Crawley: 1774;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/7: lease: 1774;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/8: mortgage: 1795;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/10: conveyance: 1803;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/11: feoffment: 1805;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/12: will of Joseph Foster Palmer: 1823, proved 1828;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/13: agreement for sale: 1827;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/14-15: conveyance: 1828;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/17: conveyance: 1846;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/18: conveyance: 1849;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/19-21: mortgage: 1849;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/22: extract of the will of Thomas Eyles: 1861;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/23: conveyance: 1864;
  • AD1082/3: detailed newspaper report of the fire: 1902;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/25: mortgage: 1902;
  • Z613/58: valuation list: 1903
  • Z50/27/1: photograph: 1912;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/27: sale particulars: 1913;
  • WL1000/1/Chell1/28: redemption of mortgage: 1913;
  • WL801/9: glass plate negative: about 1925;
  • WL800/4: photograph: about 1925;
  • Z1105/1: liquor licence traders survey form: 1961;
  • BorBTP/79/2384: plans for single storey extension to beer store: 1979;
  • WL722/36: feature on the Royal Oak in Charles Wells in-house newsletter Pint Pot: 1982

Thomas Wooding standing outside the gutted Royal Oak in 1902 [AD1082/3]
Thomas Wooding outside the gutted Royal Oak in September 1902 [AD1082/3]

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 (corrections made by Pamela Hider):

before 1763: Elizabeth Estwick;
before 1763: Elizabeth Woodward;
1763: Simon Wright;
1774-1785: Uriah Ward;
1795-1805: Ruddy Britain;
1822-1825:Bethia Ward;
1826: James Richardson
1827-1828: Joseph Baker
1828: William Skevington;
1843-1854: Joseph Hilton, bricklayer;
1861: Thomas Betts;
1864-1877 William Wesley;
1881-1887: Richard Bailey;
1890-1903: Thomas Wooding;
1905: Ann Wooding;
1908-1910: William Sawfoot;
1910-1911: George Ansell
1912: John Franklin;
1913-1934: John Spencer;
1934-1939: Robert Montague Rudd;
1940: John Malden
1961: James Kevin Grimes
1965-1976: Leslie Walter Stevens;
1976-1977: Brian Kenneth Pickford;
1977-1979: Edward Patrick Considine;
1979-1981: Bryan John Bluett;
1981-1983: Richard Freshwater;
1983-1985: John Joseph Wilcocks;
1985: David Michael Field and Michael André des Quesnes;
1985-1987: Richard John Saunders and James Charles Southern;
1987-1988: James Charles Southern and John Leonard Bygate Southern;
1988: Christopher Nicholson;
1988-2000: David John Kirby;
2001-2002: Joanne Curtis & Andrew Prior;
2002-2004: Patrick & Patricia Brennan;
2004-2005: Polly Goldsmith & Felix Thomson;
2005-2006: Marsh & Hicks Limited;
2006 -2009:  Ian Whiley & Andrea Lynch;
2009-2013: Charles Wells Limited;
from 2013: Emma Robinson.