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The Thornton Arms Public House Everton

The Thornton Arms February 2013
The Thornton Arms February 2013

The Thornton Arms: 1 Potton Road, Everton

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Thornton Arms had been licensed for over a century. It is named for the family which were lords of the manor of Everton Mosbury. The earliest known owner is Captain Thornton of Margate [Kent]. Until the middle of the 19th century the pub was called the Black Horse. The first mention of the Thornton Arms is in a directory for 1853, the Black Horse is listed in directories of 1854 and 1862 and the Thornton Arms in 1864 and thereafter. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The information on the Thornton Arms notes that the present building dates from 1852, suggesting that it was the rebuilding of the premises which caused the change of name.

The owner in 1876 was Samuel Kettlewell of Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire]. He was succeeded by the trustees of S Ayres of Leeds and then by the trustees of the Everton Estate. Wells and Winch of Biggleswade are later listed as owners, they were taken over by Suffolk brewer Greene King in 1961. In 1966 Charles Wells bought the pub.

There have been a few criminal episodes at the pub. On 17th March 1853 John Levi Sharman, a Potton shopkeeper went to Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] market and bought a quantity of pork and other goods.  About half past six that evening, he packed the goods into his cart and set off home.  When he got to Everton, he went to the Thornton Arms public house “to have a pint of beer”, leaving his pony and cart outside.  He stopped for about a quarter of an hour, and during that time went outside several times to check on the pony and cart.  The last time he left the pub they were both gone. Supposing the pony would find its own way home, he immediately set off in that direction.  He met several people on the way, but learnt nothing of the pony.  On arriving home there was no sign of the pony, so he set off again in the direction of Everton.  As he was going out of Potton he met John Mace with the pony and cart.  Mace said he had found them and was bringing them home.  Sharman examined the contents of the cart and could not find “a vast portion” of the pork, consisting of the leg and prime cuts.  He told Mace it had gone and asked him about it, but he said he did not know.  Sharman offered Mace half a crown for information about it.  The next day Sharman went with Constable Wallis to Mace's house and Wallis found a quantity of pork which Sharman identified. In his defence Mace said he found the pork in the road between Everton and the Hassells Hall and took it home.

The gaol register for Bedford Prison [QGV12/1] tells us that John Mace was thirty in 1853. He was found guilty and sentenced to three months’ hard labour. There is a physical description [QGV10/3] which tells us that he was 5 feet 6 inches tall, with light hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His face was long and he his upper lip was “a little contracted”. He was married and uneducated. He had one previous conviction.

There are a number of entries in the gaol registers for a John Mace and it seems likely they were all the same man, though descriptions do vary a bit as does the number of previous convictions. The entries are as follows:

  • 1842: breach of Game Laws; aged 18; 5 feet 3 inches tall; light brown hair; hazel eyes; fresh complexion; stout with a mark on the left side of his neck; single - sentenced to three months’ hard labour at the Bedford New House of Correction; general remarks “orderly” [QGV11/2];
  • 1844: breach of Game Laws; aged 20; sentenced to six weeks’ hard labour at Bedford New House of Correction mill, presumably on the tread-wheel; two previous convictions; behaviour; general remarks “bad” [QGV11/2];
  • 1853: breach of Game Laws; aged 23 [this seems to be a mistake as this conviction is later referenced to a man born about 1823]; sentenced to one month’s hard labour in Bedford New House of Correction or a fine of £1/10/-; two previous convictions [QGV12/1]; 5 feet 4½ inches tall; sandy hair; grey eyes; fresh complexion; oval visage; labourer; uneducated; married with four children; one previous conviction [QGV10/3];
  • 1866: breach of the Game Laws and assault: aged 45; sentenced to two months’ hard labour in Bedford County Gaol for the Game Laws, or payment of 53 shilling fine and one month for assault, or payment of a 21 shilling fine; five previous convictions [QGV12/1];
  • 1874: assault; aged 55; one month’s hard labour in Bedford County Gaol; six previous convictions [QGV12/2];
  • 1877: want of sureties; aged 57; sentenced three months in Bedford County Gaol though he seems then to have found sureties making this void [QGV12/2].

In 1867 it was the landlord, John Brashier, who was the victim [QSR1867/3/5/20]. On Sunday 19th May he had a pig’s cheek hanging on a peg in the tap room of the public house.  Next morning William Roberts and another man were near enough to take it.  About four that afternoon Brashier was told by Thomas Tott that it had gone.  Tott, in fact, saw William Roberts take the pig’s cheek by putting it under his arm and walking out.  31 year-old Roberts denied the theft. However, he was convicted and received one month’s hard labour at Bedford County Gaol [QGV12/1]

In 1886 there was a fight at the pub [QSR1887/3/5/2]. On the night of Saturday 4th December William Russell had been in the Thornton Arms about 9.45 pm. He was in the tap room with Samuel Lawson and several more men. He and Lawson had words and Lawson knocked him down in the taproom. The landlord, Charles Clarke, then came in, stopped them and ordered them out. Russell left out of the tap room door and Lawson went out of the front door. Outside Russell was talking to our friend from 1867 Thomas Tott when someone came behind him and stabbed him on the back of the head and on his forehead.  He felt blood running and asked to be taken home.

Tott stated that he had been in the Thornton Arms with Lawson, Russell and others.  He heard Russell and Lawson have words and he saw Lawson strike Russell.  When they went outside he heard Russell shout that he had been struck by a knife.  Tott took hold of Lawson’s arm and was given the knife.  He handed the knife to Police Sergeant Vincent the following day.

The doctor who attended Russell was Samuel Edward of Potton. He found him to be suffering from punctured and incised wound to the back of the head and another of less size to his forehead.  The wound had been delivered with considerable force.  The wound on the forehead was a blunt wound and wound on the back of the head was incised down to the skull.  Lawson’s knife would have caused such a wound.  There was no great loss of blood and the wound of itself was not dangerous.

Lawson chose to say nothing. He was duly convicted and sentenced to six months’ hard labour in Bedford Gaol [PRIS2/2/5]. He was 5 feet 5½ inches tall with brown hair and an imperfect education. He was from Sandy.

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. The valuer visiting the Thornton Arms [DV1/C282/21] noted that it was owned by Huntingdon Brewery Company Limited and the tenant’s rent was £15 per annum including farm buildings.

The property comprised a bar, a tap room, a parlour, a kitchen, a scullery, a cellar and four bedrooms. Outside was a urinal, an earth closet, a coal house and a washhouse. Water was laid on. Trade comprised 1½ barrels of mild per week, a bottle of spirits per week and two dozen bottles of beer per week. Asked about the takings the landlord replied: “Cannot say”. The valuer noted that Mild cost £3/14/- per barrel. The farm buildings comprised a brick and tiled stable for one horse, a brick and tiled three-stalled stable, a brick and tiled chaffhouse, three brick and slate pigsties, a wood and tiled barn and a wood and slate poultry house. The tenant also paid £5 rent for 0.626 of an acre of market gardening land.

At the time of writing [2017] the Thornton Arms remains open. It is now a free house.


  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Licenses: 1822-1828;
  • QSR1853/2/5/3: theft of pork from a customer: 1853;
  • QSR1867/3/5/20: theft of a pig’s cheek from the landlord: 1867;
  • HF20/199/3: lease to John Brashier: 1871;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF147/1/421: John Brashier guilty of deficient weights and measures: 1874;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • QSR1887/3/5/2: fight at the pub: 1887;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • HF110/6/3: nomination papers for landlord to stand in School Board election: 1894;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • WW1/AC/OP1/1: objection lodged by J E Barnett to breaking up pasture for arable: 1917-1918;
  • PM2936/13/9: insurance policy: 1919;
  • PM2936/13/26: insurance policy: 1925;
  • PM2936/13/34: insurance policy: 1936;
  • PM2936/1/46/23: correspondence regarding rent: 1939-1941;
  • PM2936/1/47/48 and PM2936/1/50/48: rating assessment: 1940-1941;
  • PM2936/1/51/24: correspondence regarding war damage: 1941-1943;
  • PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • PSBW8/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: c. 1957-1995;
  • WL722/30: photograph in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1981

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: Mary Brewer (listed as Black Horse);
1823: Thomas Brewer (listed as Black Horse);
1823-1851: James Brewer (listed as Black Horse);
1853: George Reynolds;
1854-1881: John Brashier or Brazier (also a farmer - listed as the Black Horse 1854 and 1862);
1881: William Lunniss;
1881-1882: William Bailey;
1882-1883: Robert Gould;
1883-1899: Charles Clarke;
1899: Edwin Smout;
1899-1924: John Edward Barnett;
1928: Arthur Edward Barnett;
1931: John W Whymark;
1936: Charles E Butterfield;
1940: Arthur Alfred Greaves
1957-1966: Albert Whitfield;
1966-1973: Alexander Brodie;
1973-1992: Walter Thompson;
1992-1995: Frederick R. Green