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The Blackbirds Public House Flitwick

The Blackbirds in 1935 [WB/Green4/5/Fli/B1]
The Blackbirds in 1935 [WB/Green4/5/Fli/B1]

The Blackbirds Public House: 27 High Street, Flitwick

The Blackbirds, also known as the Three Blackbirds, is a public house of longstanding. The earliest reference to it is in a document of Morris and Company, Ampthill brewers of 1831, which recites that John and Joseph Morris purchased the Three Blackbirds in Denel End with barn and stable from John Millard in 1791 [X1/629]. The present pub looks as if it is an 18th century building, albeit with later alterations.

In 1827 an inventory of John and Joseph Morris’ firm’s holdings noted that the Blackbirds was occupied by John Hensman and included a wood barn, a two-stall stable, a garden and a yard [Z1043/1].

In 1862 William Barton and John Simpson were accused of passing counterfeit coins [QSR1862/3/5/8-9]. There are a number of statements from people in the area who had been given the dodgy money. One was by Jane Brinklow, wife of George Brinklow of the Three Blackbirds (directories of the time describe the licensee as Robert Brinklow but it is possible that George was a relative who shared the burden of running the establishment). She stated that on 28th April William Barton came to the house and asked for a pint of beer.  He put down a five-shilling piece and asked for change.  She gave him the change and he drank his beer and left.  She put the five-shilling piece among the other silver.  There were no other five-shilling pieces.  Soon after PC Hillyard came in and wanted to look at the coin and she gave it to him.  The coin was marked in her presence by her husband.

Superintendent James Bates stated that on the morning of 26th April he was informed that some parties were passing bad money.  He came across Barton at Flitwick and took him into custody.  On being told the charge, Barton said that he knew nothing about bad money and a mistake had been made.  Barton said he had not been in a public house that morning and had come from Hitchin the day before.  He found 4s 11½d in good money on Barton.  On 27th April he was with Barton in the guard room at the lock up in Ampthill.   Barton said he had met a man at The Travellers Rest in Shefford on Thursday night who said he might go with him.  Barton said then went to Ampthill the following day and the man gave him a counterfeit crown which he changed at a public house. He had given the man the change and the man gave him another crown which he changed at another public house for a pint of beer and again gave the man the change.  They then went to a lodging house and had supper and went to bed.  On Saturday Barton said the man gave him another crown and he attempted to change it at a public house but the landlord bit it and said it was bad.  The man gave Barton another crown and a penny and told him to go over the hill and he would catch him up. Barton waited for the man at the running water and then went into a public house in Flitwick and changed the crown. They had planned to go to Toddington together.  They had changed a crown piece at a lone public house between Shefford and Ampthill.  Barton expected the man to be found at the lodging house at Toddington but it was no use taking the man in a house as he always hid the bad money before he went in.  Barton described the man as tall, lame with a black bag.

Samuel Odell said that on 26th April he saw Barton go into the Blackbird public house at Flitwick kept by George Brinkler.  A minute later Simpson passed by the public house with a black bag on his shoulder.  Simpson passed him and appeared to be waiting about and was walking slowly.  Shortly after, he saw Barton leave the public house and go in the direction Simpson had gone.  Barton asked him if he had seen a man with a bag on his shoulder and he told him he had been gone but a minute before him.  Simpson appeared to walk lame.

Barton and Simpson were convicted. The Bedford Gaol register [QGV12/1] tells us that Barton was 25 years old, and was sentenced to six months’ hard labour at the county gaol. John Simpson was 37, with a previous conviction and, as the mastermind behind the plot he was given four years’ penal servitude at Millbank Prison in London.

In 1907 Morris and Company became a limited company as Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited [CCE5304/1]. In 1926 Morris and Company was sold to Luton brewing firm J W Green Limited [CCE5304/3].

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 Blackbirds [DV1/C272/109] found that the tenant paid rent of £20 per annum to J W Green Limited, the valuer commented fo the tenant: “Been here18 years. Father was there before him”. Rent had been £12 in 1910 and £16 in 1915. The valuer commented: “Nice old-fashioned looking place, very clean inside, good draw-up”.

Accommodation comprised: a “good” club room; a “good” bar with two pulls; a private bar and a “small” bottle and jug department. There was also a living room and a combined kitchen and scullery. There were four bedrooms upstairs. Outside were: a weather-boarded brick and corrugated iron motor house; a weather-boarded and corrugated iron open cart shed and a brick and slate lumber room. Under the heading “Trade” the valuer noted: “Does not know how much beer he sells. Refer, he says, to Brewers for all trade done”. The valuer obviously did so as he has written that in the twelve months to March 1926 the following were sold:

  • 123 barrels of beer;
  • 725 dozen bottles of beer;
  • 154 gallons of spirits;
  • 284 bottles of minerals.

The valuer summed up: “Would be a little less this year. Domestic part bad. Good garden. I think some personality here but not much”. Another hand has noted: “Hoarding on end of cart shed”.

In 1954 J W Green merged with Midlands brewer Flowers and the new company took the Flowers name. In 1962 Flowers was taken over by Whitbread. Whitbread divested itself of its breweries and public houses in 2001. The Blackbirds Public House remains a public house, now owned by Greene King, at the time of writing [2017].

The Blackbirds April 2017
The Blackbirds April 2017


  • X21/629: conveyance: 1791;
  • CLP13: countywide alehouse licensing register: 1822-1828;
  • Z1043/1: inventory: 1827;
  • X21/629: Morris and Company deed: 1828;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP1: Morris and Company mortgage: 1831;
  • QSR1862/3/5/8-9: passing counterfeit coin: 1862;
  • SF20/17/1: sale of landlord’s possessions: 1862;
  • SF20/18/1: sale of landlord’s possessions: 1863;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • SF20/58/1: inventory of the effects of Joseph Swales: 1883;
  • SF20/60: sale of landlord’s possessions: 1883;
  • SF20/82: sale of possessions of Mary Swales: 1892;
  • CCE5304/1: conveyed to Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited: 1907;
  • WB/M/4/2/1: list of Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited properties: c. 1926;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: abstract of title of Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited to properties: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/2: particulars of Morris and Company (Ampthill) Limited properties: 1926;
  • CCE5304/3: conveyed to J W Green Limited: 1926;
  • WB/Green4/2/2: easement and quit rent for window: c. 1927;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • WN/Green/4/5/Fli/B1: photograph: 1935;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: list of properties of J W Green: 1936;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/9-10: schedules of deeds and documents: c. 1949;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter as to title: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of properties of J W Green: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: J W Green Limited trust deed: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: loose schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • Z1105/1: liquor licence traders survey form: 1958;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Fli/B1-2: photographs: c. 1960;
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1822-1826: Sarah Farrer;
1827-1831: John Hensman;
1853-1863: Richard Brinkler;
1869-1883: Joseph Swales;
1883-1889: Levi Odell;
1889-1892: Joseph Swales;
1892-1901: Joel Martin;
1901-1909: Mary Ann Martin;
1909-1931: Frederick Martin;
1931-1936: Joel Martin;
1936-1937: Claude Garrard Stokes;
1937-1953: Cyril Ian Clark;
1953-1958: Horace William Hartup;
1958-1979: Edith Isabel Hartup;
1979-1980: Norman Arthur Hards;
1980-1986: Harry Dobson;
1986: Jane Quelch;
1986-1987: Jane Quelch and Edward Stephen Begg;
1987: Jane Quelch and Christopher Clarke;
1987-1990: Peter Motion and Christopher Clarke;
1990-1991: John Nicholas Riddell and Christopher Clarke;
1991-1992: Christopher Clarke and Nicholas Craig Farrimond;
1992-1994: Alistair J.Mort and Christopher Clarke;
1994: Alistair J.Mort and Carol Yvonne Kendall;
1994-1996: Stephen Richard Haydon and Carol Yvonne Kendall;
1996: Kenneth Eric Boorman and Carol Yvonne Kendall