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The Five Bells Public House Cople

Five Bells 1960
Five Bells 1960 [Z53/33/2]

Five Bells Public House, 1 Northill Road, Cople.

Now the only public house in the Cople,  a license was first granted to the Five Bells in 1750 [according to the 1876 Return of Licensed Premises], however, there is some question of its actual operation as a public house consistently throughout that time.  There are no beer sellers listed in the Russell map reference books other than the Crown.  It is possible that the 1876 Licensed Premises register was just plain wrong, or that they had got their reference or records muddled with another Five Bells, or else that there was indeed a hiatus in its operation as a public house.

In 1876, the occupier was Eliza Smith, owner the Duke of Bedford. It may be possible to trace the tenancy of The Five Bells through its changes by using the surviving rentals from the Cople estate in the Russell papers [in subseries R5]. The Duke sold the Five Bells to George and Arthur James Keeble in 1902 and, later in the year, they in turn sold it to Bedford brewers Higgins and Sons Limited, the conveyance being effected in 1903.

The Five Bells Inn was described in the 1902 estate sale catalogue as Lot 8: "A valuable Fully Licensed Public House known as “The Five Bells Inn” situated in the centre of the Village, facing Cardington Road, now in the occupation of Mr. Edwin Smith, containing Bar, Tap Room, Parlour, Club Room, Kitchen, Cellar, 5 Bedrooms, &c., with convenient Premises, including Stable for 2 Horses, Loose Box, Chaff House, Cow Shed, Coach House, Carpenter’s Shop, Cart Shed, Coal Place, Pigstyes and Yard, and a Pasture Close adjoining, having a Building Frontage of about 115 feet to the Village street, containing in whole by Ordnance Survey 5 acres 0 roods 14 perches".

In 1927 the dwellings of Cople were value under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every building and piece of land in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Five Bells noted [DV1/C49/37-38] that it was a Higgins and Sons Limited house with the tenant S.Nicholls. It was a thatched premises standing in 1.122 acres. It comprised a lounge, tap room, smoke room, cellar, living room, scullery and, upstairs, four bedrooms, a boxroom and a loft. Trade was £1,746 in 1926/7 ("saw balance sheet") of which £400 was tobacco. Outside were a carpenter's shop, a store place, paint shop, granary, stable for two horses, a chaff house, trap house, coal barn, a two bay hovel, office, four loose boxes and three builders' sheds. The valuer commented: "Personal trade" and "V.nice man, personality".

In that year Higgins and Sons Limited was taken over by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch Limited. They, in turn were taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961.

The former Department of Environment listed the Five Bells as Grade II, of special interest, considering it a 17th century building. It is constructed of  colour-washed rough-cast over a timber frame with a clay tile roof. It has a four room plan with a single bay addition to the south gable end and has two storeys. It has 19th century and 20th century additions to the rear.

Five Bells February 2008
Five Bells February 2008

Index References:

  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • PSB1/1: alehouse licences: 1829-1834;
  • Bedfordshire  Times: licence transferred at Bedford Petty Sessions: 9th October 1852;
  • GK78/2: abstract of title of the Duke of Bedford to land, including Five Bells: 1861-1902;
  • R Box 55, Vol. 7 Bun. D.D: sale of Duke of Bedford's estates in Cople: 1863-1902
  • RR15/21 and GK78/1: Cople state sale catalogue, including Five Bells: 1902;
  • GK78/3: abstract of title of George and Arthur James Keeble to freehold land: 1902;
  • GK78/4: Five Bells conveyed by George and Arthur James Keeble to Higgins and Sons Limited: 1903;
  • GK4/6: schedule of deeds: 1903;
  • PSB9/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Bedford Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1935
  • RDBP1/1004 plan for alteration 1926;
  • Z1169/8/23/3 alteration plans 1926;
  • BTNegOB39/8a-c photo 1931;
  • GK297/1: conveyance of premises by Higgins and Sons Limited to Wells and Winch Limited: 1931;
  • BTNegW2157: Bedfordshire Times negative looking east towards the Five Bells public house with the church and cottages on the left hand side of the road: about 1935;
  • GK78/5: tithe redemption papers: 1940;
  • RDBP3/319 plans for drainage 1942;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • Z53/33/2 photograph: 1960;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • BorB/TP/90/1142/LB plans for extensions & alterations 1990;
  • Z1205/182: taped reminiscences of former landlady: 2002

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:

1822-1852: Robert Smith (also carpenter and  joiner);
1852: Ann Maria Smith
1864-1876: Mrs Eliza Smith;
1879-1903: Edwin Smith
1903-1904: Thomas Albert Thorpe;
1904-1930: Samuel Nicholls;
1930-1936: George Edmund Church
1940-1945:Arthur Dennis Robinson
1964-1966: Colin Bramwell Jenkins;
1966-1973: William Walter Gwin;
1973-1991: Terrance Robert Henderson;
1991-1995: Kathleen Henderson