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The Volunteer Beerhouse Eaton Bray

28 High Street July 2012
28 High Street July 2012

The Volunteer Beerhouse (formerly The Rifleman and The Rifle Volunteer): 28 High Street, Eaton Bray

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the beerhouse was first licensed, as the Rifleman, in 1860. The rifle volunteers were formed nationally in 1859/60 as a local defence force in case of French invasion. A number of newly opened licensed premises in the country were named after them in a small wave of patriotic fervour. The owner in 1876 was John Clemence of Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] and he leased it to brewers Hales & Company of Hemel Hempstead thus the publican, Thomas Davison, was a sub-tenant.

At some point after this the name changed to the Rifle Volunteer or just The Volunteer. The Rifle Volunteers became simply the Volunteers attached to the Regular army in 1887, the local unit becoming 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

By the time of the countywide licensing register of 1891 the property was owned by Chesham [Buckinghamshire] brewers T.& J. Nash. The countywide register of 1903 gives the owner as Dunstable brewer Benjamin Bennett. The beerhouse was “clean and in good repair” and lay 220 yards from the next licensed premises; it had one front and two back doors.The Volunteer finally closed on 24th June 1915.

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. Eaton Bray, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting 28 High Street [DV1/C235/89] found the property still owned by the executors of Benjamin Bennett. The tenant was G. Rollings who paid rent of 26/- per month.

The property comprised three living rooms, a washhouse and a cellar with three bedrooms on the first floor. The valuer commented: “Poor place” and “was pub, all passages”. Outside stood a weather-boarded and corrugated iron barn and two henhouses as well as a brick and slate WC.


  • PSLB4/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1949;
  • PSLB4/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1956.

Licensees: note that this is not a complete list and that dates in italics are not necessarily beginning or end dates, merely the first/last date which can be confirmed from sources such as directories and deeds:

1876-1878: Thomas Davison;
1878-1879: Wallace Gurney;
1879-1880: William Sharrett;
1880: William Jackson;
1885-1897: Thomas Brandon;
1897-1898: James Fountain;
1898-1901: Francis Gurney;
1901-1908: Frank Dyer;
1908-1910: Henry Thompson;
1910-1912: Frederick Greene;
1912-1913: Frederick Munday;
1913-1915: Charles White.
Beerhouse closed c. 1916.