Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Cople > The Crown Inn Cople

The Crown Inn Cople

 Crown and Smithy shown in blue in 1903 sale catalogue
Crown and Smithy shown in blue in 1903 sale catalogue [RR15/21]

Crown Inn, Northill Road, Cople

The Crown stood immediately next door to what was the Smithy (on the corner of Grange Lane and Northill Road-- across from the church on its north side and from the Five Bells on the east side), and at one point they were joined as a single property, with a portion of building joining them.

According to the 1876 Return of Licensed Premises, the license for the Crown was first granted in 1746.  Rentals and other records that may help describe the property’s early history and tenancy before the Cople and Willington estate was sold by the Duke of Marlborough to the Duke of Bedford in 1774 will likely be found with the Marlborough estate papers in the hands of the Spencer-Churchill family at Blenheim Palace.  

Records amongst the Russell (Dukes of Bedford) papers relating to the Cople estates include maps and reference books to accompany the maps.  The reference book accompanying a 1779 map [R1/20], shows the ‘Crown alehouse, barn and small pightle’ with total land measurement at 1rood 26 perches  [R2/11, map. ref. no. 75].  Another reference book produced in about 1795 lists Henry Smith as the occupier and gives an annual value of £5 [R2/12].  Later, in about 1817, Joseph Freeman was the tenant/occupier, and the total area now given as 2 roods 30 perches, with an annual value of £6 10s (the rent for the house being £5) [R2/13].

In the reference book relating to a new map of about 1819 [R1/21, 22], the only change in information about the Crown is that the property’s number on the map is now 262 [R2/14].  The next reference book available is from about 1822 with later annotations, and shows Joseph Freeman crossed out and his widow Sarah’s name overwritten in pencil.  The Freemans had also added the tenancy of the close that was formerly the bakehouse’s (map ref. 260) [R2/16].  By around the late 1830s to early 1840s, Sarah was still at The Crown, and the new map reference was given as 221, which corresponds with its reference number on Cople’s tithe map and apportionment [R2/18].

The Bedfordshire Times of 24th February 1855 notes a change of licensee following the death of Sarah Freeman. The 1851 census reveals that she had been born about 1781 in Cardington, at that date she had her unmarried daughter Harriet, aged 47, a lacemaker, born in Cople and William Franklin, an unmarried tea dealer aged 73, living with her.

The changing tenancy of The Crown is likely traceable by using the surviving rentals for the Russells’ Cople estates [in subseries R5].  In the 1876 printed Return of Licensed Premises Mary Thorpe is the occupier, and the owner is the Duke of Bedford; she was the wife of Jeremiah, who had died that year.  The Crown probably ceased operation about 1876 or very shortly thereafter; it is not listed in the 1877 trade directory, nor in the 1891 licensing list, neither does it reappear under an eligible voter’s name in the Registers of Electors after its last appearance under Jeremiah Thorpe’s entry in the roll of 1875.  By the time of the 1881 census, Mary Thorpe, widow (recorded as aged 64), had moved on to be the publican of the Bedford Arms in Souldrop.

The Russell estate in Cople, including the site of the Crown, was sold by deed dated 14th November 1902 to George and Arthur James Keeble, Esqs., of Peterborough [R Box 55, vol. 7 Bun. DD]and the properties sold on again thereafter by auction on 6th December 1902.  The sale catalogue [RR15/21] shows that what was then the Smithy and the former Crown were one property - Lot 17.  Comparing the map prepared for the auction with earlier and current map evidence, the building footprints do show a connecting portion between the two properties.  The whole was described as ‘A valuable property… now in the occupation of Mr. Hart, comprising

a brick and tiled double-fronted House, containing 2 Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Scullery, Wash-house, Cellar, 3 Bedrooms, &c.  A board and tiled Blacksmith’s Shop, with Forge and Benches, adjoining.  A useful set of Premises, including boarden tiled Barn, Stable for 2 Horses, Chaff House, Cart Hovel, Cow House and Pigstyes; good Yard and large Garden’.  The measurement is 2 roods 17 perches ‘or thereabouts’.

Document References:

  • R1/20 and R2/11: Russell estate survey: 1779;
  • R2/12: Russell estate survey: about 1795;
  • R2/13: Russell estate survey: about 1817;
  • R1/21-22 and R2/14: Russell estate survey: about 1819;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • PSB1/1: licensees: 1829-1834;
  • R2/18: Russell estate survey: about 1830;
  • Bedfordshire Times: licence changed at Crown (Bedford Petty Sessions): 24th February 1855;
  • R Box 55, vol. 7 Bun. DD: sale of Duke of Bedford's estate to George and Arthur James Keeble: 1902;
  • RR15/21: ale catalogue of property of George and Arthur James Keeble in Cople: 1902

List of Licensees:

Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known 

1795 :  Henry Smith;
1817-1832: Joseph Freeman;
1833-1853: Sarah Freeman[widow];
1861-1876: Jeremiah Thorpe
1876:  Mary Thorpe
Inn closed about 1876 or 1877