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Carpenters Arms, 14 Sundon Road, Harlington

Carpenters Arms Sundon Rd c1910 Z1306-53-7

Carpenters Arms, Sundon Road c.1910 [Z1306/53/7]

The Carpenters Arms was listed by the former Department of the Environment in 1985 as of special interest. At that time it was described as a row of cottages, with the left hand part a public house and the right hand (numbers 10 and 12) converted to a shop. The building was said to date from c.1700 and to have been reworked in the 19th century. Timber framed, the left hand part was encased in colourwashed brick, and the right hand part with colourwashed render and applied timber framing. The property had a clay tile roof, a four room plan, with one storey and attics, with various additions to the rear. The ground floor windows were described as a 2-light horizontal sash with glazing bars, a canted bay window, a 20th century bow window with glazing bars and a 20th century show window with glazing bars. The attic had four gabled dormers with 2-light casements with glazing bars. There was one plank door and two glazed doors. There was a tall red brick multiple ridge chimney stack to the centre [Heritage Environment Record 3493]. 

The Carpenters Arms is believed to have first been licensed in the late 18th century. A deed dated 27th December 1813 referenced in a later document relates to the assignment of a cottage in Harlington “formerly divided into two dwellings in the occupation of William Sam & Ann Rufford), then occupied as a public house called The Carpenter’s Arms”, occupied by Thomas Stanbridge, then by W. Payne and Robert Gudgion, together with an adjoining room and part of a stable and yard. This assignment between Thomas Stanbridge, Roger Juggins junior and Thomas Burr presumably effected the sale of the property to Burr’s Brewery, as it is recorded in a document relating to the Dunstable Brewery in 1844 [reference BH407].  

A sale catalogue for the Dunstable Brewery and its licensed houses in 1843 includes a public house in Harlington called the Rule and Compasses, which was described as having a tap room, a parlour, a bar, a large club room, a dairy, a kitchen, an underground cellar, and four bedrooms; outside were a yard with a well, a small piece of ground behind the club room and half of a detached stable for two horses. The premises were leasehold, with an 800 year lease from 1675, and in 1843 were occupied by Barnard Childs. As the coat of arms of the Carpenters’ Company is a chevron (the shape of a carpenter’s rule) and compasses it seems almost certain that this property was in fact the Carpenters Arms. 

In 1851 the census tells us that the Carpenters Arms was occupied by William Asbury, victualler, with his wfie Elizabeth, their sons Joseph (age 18), William (age 17), and daughters Mary Ann (age 19), Elizabeth (age 12), Fanny (age 6) and Martha (age 3). Both Joseph and William’s occupations were given as “huckster”, meaning someone who sold small items, either door-to-door like a peddlar or from a stall. Both Mr and Mrs Asbury and all their children had been born in Westoning, suggesting that William had only taken over the Carpenters Arms at some point in the three years since their youngest daughter Martha’s birth. The household also included a lodger, 18 year old labourer Henry Cartwright.  

In 1866 a man named William Northwood was tried at the Bedford Quarter Sessions on a charge of stealing 9 shillings and 8 pence from William Asbury. His wife described how Northwood had come into the tap room with his brother and asked for lodgings, to which she agreed. They drank some beer and Northwood gave her what he said was a half sovereign and she gave him change accordingly. She put the coin in her pocket and did not notice until later that it was only a farthing – she blamed this on her short-sightedness! When she went to Northwood’s room to challenge him, he pretended to be asleep and would not respond. At that point she sent for the local police constable, George Peddar. Northwood again pretended to be asleep until the policeman threatened to take him into custody; at that point Northwood swore and threatened to punch him. PC Peddar checked Northwood’s trouser pockets and found over 17 shillings in silver, which he insisted he had in his possession when he entered the Carpenters Arms. Despite his pleas of innocence Northwood was found guilty and was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment with hard labour.  

Under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on them. When Harlington was assessed in 1927 the Carpenters Arms was a tied house owned by the trustees of B. Bennett and leased by George Colwell, who had been there for 18 years. The annual rent of £12 had remained the same since before the First World War. The building was constructed of brick tile and thatch, and was described by the valuer as “old fashioned” and “rather attractive”. The layout was as follows:  

Ground floor: Bar and tap room (described as “poor”); club room (“good”); kitchen; private drawing room. 

Basement: Cellar 

Upstairs: Four bedrooms 

Outside: Brick and thatch barn; public urinal 

The Carpenters Arms sold 2½ barrels of beer a week and one gallon of spirits a week on average. The landlord did not know how many pint bottles of beer were sold.  

The Carpenters Arms has been connected with a number of breweries and licensed premises chains over the years, including Bennett of Dunstable, Mann Crossman & Paulin of London from 1938, and later Independent Estates. It is still trading as a public house at the time of writing [2020]. 


  • BH407: Abstract of mortgage with reference to assignment of premises in 1813, 1844; 

  • BH409: Sale catalogue of Dunstable Brewery, 1843 [Rule and Compasses]; 

  •  QSR1866/4/5/9: depositions in case of theft from innkeeper William Asbury, 1866  

  • Z1306/53/7: Postcard showing Sundon Road with The Carpenters Arms on the right, c.1910 

  •  Z385/22: Postcard "A bit of Old Harlington" showing old cottages in Sundon road, with the Inn sign and the front of the Carpenter's Arms, c.1910 

  • X991/2/2/1: View of High Street, Harlington looking south from James' Cleaver's shop towards the Carpenter's Arms, 1920s 

  • Z1306/53/8 - postcard view of The Carpenters Arms in Sundon Road, c.1950  

  • DV2/C251/15: Valuation book for Harlington, 1927 

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: 

  • 1790s: Thomas Stanbridge; 

  • Before 1813: W Payne; 

  • 1813: Robert Gudgion 

  • 1822: Roger Juggins 

  • 1828: John Stanbridge 

  • 1843: Barnard Childs 

  • 1851-1876: William Ashbury or Asbury;  

  • 1890: John Frederick Bladon 

  • 1898-1903: George Knott 

  • 1907: Sydney George Knott  

  • 1907-1908: Alfred Ernest Bradford  

  • 1908-1943: George Colwell  

  • 1943-1953: Percy John Colwell;  

  • 1961: Kate Colwell;  

  • 1961: Thomas Ashworth;  

  • 1986: Peter Robert Edwards;  

  • 1988: Haydn Edwards and Peter Robert Edwards.