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The White Horse Public House Eaton Bray

The White Horse about 1920 [Z50/39/41]
The White Horse about 1920 [Z50/39/41]

The White Horse Public House: The Green, Eaton Bray

The White Horse is the oldest known licensed premises in Eaton Bray. The earliest record of it is in 1810 when it was the venue for a court held by the Manor of Eaton Bray with the Members [BO316]. The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in September 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the construction to the early 19th century, raising the interesting possibility that it was purpose built as a public house. The building is clad in colourwashed roughcast and has a hipped slate roof. It has been extended to the rear.

The White Horse played a minor role in a felony. In 1832 Samuel Heley of Edlesborough [Buckinghamshire] and George Woodcraft of Eaton Bray were accused of stealing ducks from Eaton Bray farmer William Rollings. He went to Heley’s house and found one and a half ducks there, he also found two ducks at Woodcraft’s house. He then went to the White Horse where he saw two ducks' heads to one of which he identified because it had a blemish on the top of the eye, though the eye had been knocked out [QSR1842/4/5/61-62/a]. 30 year old Heley and 25 year old Woodcraft were both sentenced to six months’ hard labour [QGV10/2]. Woodcraft seems to have stayed on the right side of the law but Heley went to prison twice more – in 1845 for stealing apples and pears, when he received fourteen days’ hard labour [QGV10/3] and in 1876 when he served fourteen days’ for breaching the Factory Acts [QGV12/2].

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the owner was Annie Macnamara of Caddington, Lady of the Manor, she leased the property to Dunstable brewer Benjamin Bennett, meaning that the publican, James Bird, was the sub- tenant. By the time of the 1891 licensing register the pub was a free house, though still owned by the Macnamaras.

In 1898 the public house was put up for sale by auction by Arthur Macnamara. The sale particulars [BML10/22/8] read as follows:

Known as

Situate at the junction of the High Roads in the centre of EATON BRAY VILLAGE and within four miles of the towns of LEIGHTON BUZZARD and DUNSTABLE




Connected by covered way are


Stabling for Seven Horses and Barn,

And in field

Together with


0a. 3r. 35p.

Let on a Yearly Michaelmas tenancy to Mr. HENRY SELLS at the low Rent of £30 per annum.


The particulars are annotated to show that the White Horse was bought by Berkhamsted [Hertfordshire] brewers Lock & Smith for £2,000. Perhaps the rent was not as low as the sale particulars suggested because in 1901 the publica, Henry Sells, became insolvent and his possessions were sold at auction [BML10/22/12]. The pub was a favourite place for auction sales for the best part of a century, from at least 1858 [BO322] until at least 1944 [BML10/22/64].

The countywide licensing register of 1903 duly shows the White Horse owned by Lock & Smith. It is described as: “clean and in good repair” and was just 44 yards from the next licensed premises (The Five Bells); the property had one front, one side and one rear door.

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. Like most of the county, Eaton Bray was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the White Horse [DV1/C235/148] found that it was now owned and occupied by George Walter Shiers. The valuer commented: “Nice attractive looking place but looks larger outside than inside”

The property comprised a public bar (“good”), a tap room (“rather small”), a club room (“good, brick floor”), a kitchen, a sitting room and a large lobby with six bedrooms (“one a letting bedroom”), a dining room and a bathroom upstairs. A brick, weather-boarded and slated washhouse, a coal shed and a WC stood outside along with three brick, stone and slated stables (“disused”) and a weather-boarded and sheet iron two bay open shed.

The takings were said to be £12 per week in winter and £18 in summer. Trade consisted of four barrels of beer per week (“?? Halves?”), eight to twelve dozen bottles of beer per week, six gallons of spirits per year and eighteen gallons of wine per year. The valuer observed: “Good stock in cellar. Been here just over a year”. Evidently there was some uncertainty over the level of trade because another hand has written: “Mrs. Shiers says five barrels per month. Mr. Shiers in bed” and another person has written: “I think above trade rather underestimated”. The observation was made: “House faces small green, good position. Five Bells practically adjoins”.

The owner also had an orchard of just over half an acre (“few trees”) and a small plot with a weather-boarded and tiled meal house and store. In the orchard stood two weather-boarded and tiled piggeries and a weather-boarded and felt hen house (“good”).

The White Horse is now the only public house in Eaton Bray – the rest having closed and either been demolished, become private houses or, in the case of the Hope and Anchor and the Plough, Indian restaurants.

The White Horse December 2008
The White Horse December 2008


  • BO316: court of the Manor of Eaton Bray held at the White Horse: 1810;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • QSR1842/4/5/61-62/a: stolen ducks found at the White Horse: 1842;
  • BO322: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1858;
  • BO365: auction sale at the White Horse: 1858;
  • 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;
  • BH/2/78/8: altered tithe apportionment to be paid at the White Horse: 1875; B
  • ML6/6/3 (xxxiv): particulars of property and premises: 1884;
  • BML10/22/8: sale particulars: 1898;
  • BML6/1/15-16: allotment rents received at the White Horse: 1898-1909;
  • BML10/22/12: papers regarding the insolvency of Henry Sells: 1901;
  • Photograph in Bedfordshire Inns and Public Houses in Old Picture Postcards: c. 1910;
  • BML10/22/33: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1911;
  • BML10/22/34: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1912;
  • BML10/22/39: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1915;
  • Z214/2: smallholding next to the White Horse in Pedley Settled Estates sale particulars: 1915;
  • AO/C1/18: damage by a tree: 1916;
  • BML10/22/45: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1917;
  • BML10/22/46: auction sale of the Fountain Inn held at the White Horse: 1917;
  • Z50/39/41: photograph of a postcard including the White Horse: c. 1920;
  • PSLB4/2: Lists of Licensed Premises - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1922-1948;
  • BML10/22/54: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1924;
  • Z467/32: postcard: c. 1930s;
  • Z50/39/42: postcard: c. 1930s;
  • BML10/22/62: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1939;
  • BML10/22/64: auction sale held at the White Horse: 1944;
  • Z467/49: group photograph at a cricket supper: 1948;
  • X614/53/4: postcard: 1950s;
  • X614/52/5: postcard: 1960s;
  • PSLB4/4: Register of Licensed Premises - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1967-1992;
  • PCEatonBray30/1: changes of licensee: 1979-1988

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:

1822 - 1828: Richard Gadsden Thorne;
1847-1864: William Dobson;
1871: Richard Constable;
1876-1878: James Bird;
1878-1879: Alfred Taylor;
1879-1883: Henry North;
1883-1884: Charles Deye;
1884-1888: William Langston;
1888-1891: David Andrews;
1891-1892: Thomas Pridgett;
1892-1895: Harriet Pridgett;
1895: Philip Bird;
1896: Ann Bird;
1896-1901: Henry William Garrett Sells;
1901-1902: Walter Tompkins;
1902-1904: Thomas Hey;
1904-1906: Charles Walter Hemmerton;
1906: John Roffey;
1906-1907: Thomas Henry Merone;
1907-1908: John Lehman;
1908-1909: William Smithers;
1909: Stainton Moate;
1909-1911: Albert Samuel Underwood;
1911: Louis Powell;
1911-1912: Herbert Alfred Haines;
1912: James Lampard;
1912-1913: Henry John Vine;
1913-1921: Thomas Clinton;
1921-1922: Timothy Savage;
1922-1926: Ethel Mary Savage [Heley from 1925];
1926-1927: George Walter Shiers;
1927-1956: Percy George Reeves;
1979: Charles Joseph Patrick Sutcliffe;
1979: Bruce Edward Diggle;
1980-1985: Herbert Norman Williams;
1985: William E. Creasey;
1985-1988: William E. Creasey and Andrew Roger Billington;
1988: Mark D. Mason;
1988: David Cyril Sparrow and Jane Sparrow